On March 31st, WABA hosted the region’s first Vision Zero Summit at the Milken Institute on the campus of The George Washington University. The summit was presented by the AAA-MidAtlantic and The George Washington University Hospital. The event was sold out with a waiting list. 170 people attended.
The morning plenary featured an opening welcome by Dr. Babak Sarani, Associate Professor of Surgery and the Director of the Center for Trauma and Critical Care at The George Washington University Hospital.
Greg Billing, the Executive Director of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, spoke about the why Vision Zero is so important in our region and that we need commitments from Maryland and Virginia to make Vision Zero a reality in our region.
Dr. Yang, from AAA Foundation, presented his topic about major issues that affect road safety. Dr. Yang discussed issues such as distracted driving. Distracted driving includes texting while driving. Although 93% of drivers find it unacceptable to text while driving over ⅓ admit to doing it and 40% admit to answering a text while driving. One of the other issues with affecting road safety is impaired driving which includes marijuana use, drinking and driving drowsy.
The final speaker of the morning was Emiko Atherton, Director of National Complete Streets Coalition who spoke about the role of equity in Vision Zero. Three important points from Emiko’s presentation were:
- Focus on education and reduce the burden
- Focus on engineering and roadway design
- Don’t just invest in downtown and business districts. Invest in people
After the morning plenary, attendees went to one of three breakout rooms. The sessions included Opportunities for Cross-jurisdictional Cooperation, Public Health Case Studies and Vision Zero and High-Risk Road Users.
Opportunities for Cross-jurisdictional Cooperation was moderated by Robert Thomson of the Washington Post. It was his last day at the Post before retiring and he graciously spent it with us. His panelists were Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer, DC Department of Motor Vehicles Lucinda Babers, KLS Engineering owner, Leverson Boodlal and Prince George’s County Pedestrian and Bicycle Manager, Karyn McAlister.
Panelists discussed the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and their role as the channel that we’ve traditionally used for regional coordination. Although it is a vehicle for coordination, the quality of the products that come out of that coordination is debatable.
Public Health Case Studies was moderated by WAMU reporter Martin Di Caro. Panelists Kurt Erickson, CEO of Washington Area Alcohol Program (WRAP), Erin Thomas, Tobacco Cessation Manager at DC Department of Health and Jeff Michael from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration spoke about what Vision Zero can learn from other public health campaigns.
Vision Zero and High -Risk Road Users discussed how was can make roads safe for those with disabilities, youth, pedestrians, bicyclists and the elderly. The panel was moderated by Michele Blackwell, Chief of Staff for Councilmember- At- Large, Elissa Silverman. The panel consisted of Susie McFadden-Resper from the Office of Disability Rights, Sterling Stone, Executive Director of Gearin’ Up Bicycles and Melissa McMahon, transportation planner for Arlington County. Unfortunately, DDOT hasn’t always paid attention to curb-cuts and sidewalk access to stay in accordance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Susie McFadden-Resper has only been in her role for 2 years and is starting to change the behavior of DDOT when permitting takes place. Her work on this area will definitely help make it safer for those with disabilities.
During lunch, Mayor Muriel Bowser spoke about how DC can do work on Vision Zero but it won’t be successful if the 5 surrounding counties aren’t on board with Vision Zero as well. She also spoke about her commitment to bike and pedestrian safety as an important part of DC’s plan for the future.
After lunch, the second breakout sessions began: Vision Zero and Public Health, Human Impacts of Traffic Fatalities, and Vision Zero and Enforcement.
Vision Zero and Public Health was moderated by Phronie Jackson, a fellow with Walk America’s Walking College and included panelists Dr. Chikarlo Leak from the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Anneta Arno from the D.C. Department of Health and Kate Robb from the American Public Health Association. Panelists discussed why and how we should treat traffic fatalities as a health epidemic much like we would treat diabetes or obesity. Dr. Leak shared the fact that we have lots of stats about who is being affected. Drugs are included in approximately 60% of the fatal car accidents in the region. Dr. Arno added, “are we trying to trick people into acting a certain way, or fostering a culture where they WANT to act that way?” This is a discussion that we definitely need to continue having as we move forward with educating residents about Vision Zero.
The Human Impacts of Traffic Fatalities put a very human perspective on Vision Zero. Moderated by DC Department of Transportation’s Jonathan Rogers, there was discussion about how serious injuries and fatalities take a person out of a household and what that means to a family. Panelist Christina Quinn shared her personal experience of losing her father to a bicycle crash. The Bike Lawyer, Bruce Deming and Melissa Shear from the Office of the Attorney General discussed the legal implications of traffic fatalities. During this panel, we learned that participants found to be at fault in causing death through a car crash can walk away with only a fine of $700. This is what happened in Christina’s family’s case. Bruce discussed underinsured coverage and shared that many states across the country don’t have any legislation in place for the minimum amount (if any) of insurance that an individual needs to have in order to operate a vehicle. His conclusion is that all of us should make sure that our under-insured limit is higher.
Vision Zero and Enforcement included panelists Lamont Hinton from Metropolitan Police Department’s Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, Sgt. Charles Seckler from the Alexandria Police Department and Joanne Thomka from the National Association of Attorney Generals. It was moderated by D.C. Pedestrian Advisory Councilmember Eileen McCarthy. The panel discussed the role of law enforcement in Vision Zero. The main takeaway was speeding fines aren’t for generating revenues, it’s to change behavior by hitting people’s pocketbooks.
The final breakout sessions of the day were Winning Over the Public to Vision Zero, Infrastructure: Designing Safe Streets, and Driver Training and Accountability.
Winning Over the Public to Vision Zero panel was moderated by Washington Post reporter Martine Powers and included panelists Caroline Samponaro from Transportation Alternatives in NYC, Marieannette Otero from Safe Routes to Schools, Moira McCauley from All Walks DC and rounding out the panel was Christine Mayeur from Nspiregreen. This all female panel discussed how we can’t lose control of the messaging and allow traditional media use Vision Zero as a reason that fines go up if we do then we are at a deficit with the public. We have to make Vision Zero about HUMAN stories, putting families front and center is the way to go. People who complain about fines will look silly when you compare their complaints to someone who has lost a family member.
Infrastructure: Designing Safe Streets panel kicked off with moderator urban planner and writer, Dan Reed. Panelists included Hillary Orr, Special Assistant to the City Manager with the City of Alexandria, VA Erv T. Beckert, planning engineer with Prince George’s County, David Aspacher, transportation planner with Montgomery County and Andy Clarke, Director of Strategy for Toole Design Group. The panelists discussed the difficulties with redesigning roads when the public sees parking spaces taken away. Hillary Orr led a successful campaign in Alexandria a year ago by going door-to-door and sitting down and talking with the neighbors about the plan and listened to what they had to say.
Erv T. Beckert of Prince George’s county kept referring to DC as having it easy. Prince George’s streets were originally designed for 55 MPH speed limits. Slowing that down now is a great challenge and one that is being examined all the time. Not to mention, the county doesn’t own many of the problematic roads, the state does, and that is another challenge all in itself.
The final breakout of the day was Driver Training and Accountability with panelists Aaron Landry, general manager of car2go, Brian Sherlock from the Amalgamated Transit Union, Mike Heslin Baltimore Market Manager for Lyft and Laura Richards transportation planner for D.C. Department of Transportation. She specializes in freight and goods movement. The panel was moderated by Will Schafer of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance. Lyft shared a video of how they are educating their drivers and during the panel and car2go made a huge announcement. They are fully committed to Vision Zero and Vision Zero in DC!
The Vision Zero Summit wrapped up with Lessons Learned. This diverse panel shared how they have implemented Vision Zero in their cities. The panel consisted of Natalie Draisin from the FIA Foundation, Eva Hunnius Ohlin from the Embassy of Sweden, Sam Zimbabwe of D.C. Department of Transportation, Carrie Sanders from the City of Alexandria, Sabrina Sussman from the NYC Mayor’s Office and rounding out the panel was moderator Caroline Samponaro from Transportation Alternatives. The big take away from this panel was simple: traffic fatalities can be cured. The vaccine is slow down.