Encinitas to join Vision Zero traffic fatality prevention movement

The city will need to produce a regular fact sheet
The city will need to produce a regular fact sheet for Vision Zero with information about recent fatal and severe injury collisions involving bicyclists or pedestrians.
(Karen Billing)

San Diego, Los Angeles among dozens of communities already participating in program


By 2028, Encinitas officials want to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injury accidents within the city.

To make that goal a reality, the city will participate in a national program known as Vision Zero, the City Council unanimously decided Wednesday, Sept. 22.

Begun in Sweden in 1990s, the Vision Zero network of participating communities now contains about 45 U.S. cities, including San Diego and Los Angeles, the program’s web site notes. The Vision Zero program calls for using a range of strategies — everything from improving communication between roadway designers, police and public health officials, to collecting and assessing traffic collision data in new ways — with the goal of eliminating severe injuries and deaths by a certain target date.

Councilwoman Kellie Shay Hinze and Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who jointly brought the Vision Zero proposal to the council, stressed Sept. 22 that there is no membership fee to participate and said much of what’s recommended by the organization is already being done by Encinitas. Blakespear said belonging to the Vision Zero network will give the city’s current traffic accident-reduction efforts an overarching goal, essentially formalizing and giving “a voice” to what’s already going on.

“The fact of the matter is the city’s already doing so much,” Hinze said as she echoed Blakespear’s comments about what will be required and said the city’s grant funding prospects might even improve by participating. “My hope is we’ll be able to do even more.”

Hinze mentioned that the city will need to produce a regular fact sheet for Vision Zero with information about recent fatal and severe injury collisions involving bicyclists or pedestrians. A staff report produced for the Sept. 22 meeting also indicates that the city manager will form a group of city employees to create a “Vision Zero Action Plan” to achieve the zero deaths goal.

Councilman Tony Kranz, who has served on the council since 2012, noted that the council initially considered participating in Vision Zero in 2019. At that time, the council decided to use the group’s goals as inspiration to make roadway improvements, but not become an official Vision Zero member. He added that he’s glad the city is joining the network now.

“We’ve been heading in this direction for quite some time,” Kranz said.

Councilman Joe Mosca agreed, saying, “It’s kind of a logical, formal next step to adopt the policy.”

Several bicycling safety advocates also told the council that they thought joining Vision Zero was a great idea. Jesse O’Sullivan of Circulate San Diego said that one little-recognized issue with traffic fatalities is that they disproportionally impact people of color, people with disabilities and older residents in a community. Thus, a city’s goal to have zero traffic fatalities can have a significant societal benefit, he said.

On its web site, Vision Zero reports that more than 40,000 people are killed on American streets a year, or as it puts it, “the population of a small city.” It also advises cities to stop viewing fatal collisions involving pedestrians and bicyclists as “accidents,” saying such a mindset leads people to accept them as “inevitable side effects of modern life.”

Encinitas averages several dozen collisions involving pedestrians or bicyclists a year, a fact sheet attached to the Sept. 22 council agenda indicates. During a three-year period starting in 2014, the city had no pedestrian or cyclist fatalities, but that ended in 2017 when the city reported having three. The following year, Encinitas had four fatalities.

During the 10-year period between 2008 and 2018, two intersections of Coast Highway — the D Street one and the Chesterfield Drive one — had the highest number of crashes involving bicycles and pedestrians. The third and fourth top spots on the collision list were Encinitas Boulevard intersections — the one at Interstate 5 and the one at Vulcan Avenue.