For anyone who regularly walks or bikes in Chicago, you likely know about the serious risk of injury in a pedestrian accident. While there are crosswalks throughout the city, as well as speed and red-light cameras at certain intersections, serious and fatal accidents continue to occur. According to a recent article in the Chicago Sun-Times, a new “Vision Zero” campaign for the city aims to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities and serious but nonfatal injuries by the year 2026. As the article suggests, the plan sounds very ambitious. Can it be accomplished?
What will the Vision Zero campaign entail, and how exactly will it work to prevent injuries to pedestrians and bicyclists in Chicago? There are a number of things that the campaign aims to do, including but not limited to:
By early summer 2016, traffic fatalities had risen by 79 percent from the last year, according to Rebekah Scheinfeld, the Transportation Commissioner. Each day, in fact, traffic collisions result in approximately five serious injuries. Every three days, on average, car accidents lead to a fatality. As such, Chicago really needs to take steps to prevent serious and fatal pedestrian accidents. To do this, the Vision Zero campaign will focus on what it calls “high-crash areas.” These high-crash areas include the following:
Financial investments will be funneled to those areas, with a goal of reaching 70 miles of streets within those neighborhoods that have been identified by the city as “high-crash corridors.” The city believes it can reduce the rate of serious accidents by about 40 percent and the rate of fatal crashes by about 25 percent.
The goal of the Vision Zero campaign is to change the way in which motorists use Chicago’s streets with regard to pedestrians instead of merely ticketing those who have violated a traffic law. Yet some pedestrian safety advocates have voiced concerns about whether these goals will be sufficient to reduce pedestrian deaths. According to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the campaign is designed to tackle accident rates as “a public health and equity issue,” given that “African-Americans are more than twice as likely to die in traffic accidents than whites,” the article indicates.
Indeed, a recent study showed that “drivers are less likely to brake for African-American pedestrians trying to cross the street.” To put the study’s results another way, it seemed to confirm that “walking while black” is a serious issue that shows we need to address implicit bias head-on if we want to change pedestrian accident statistics in Chicago and throughout the country.
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