Two local non-profits have had it with unnecessary traffic deaths.
Rachel Heiligman, the executive director of the transportation advocacy nonprofit Ride New Orleans
and Naomi Doerner, the executive director of the bicycle advocacy group Bike Easy
, went before the New Orleans City Council's Transportation and Airport Committee today to propose a Vision Zero
initiative for cyclist and pedestrian deaths for the city of New Orleans.
According to a study by the Center for Planning Excellence
and the Louisiana Public Health Institute
, Louisiana has the fifth highest pedestrian death rate in the country. New Orleans takes the lead in the state, with 1,500 pedestrians involved in vehicle crashes between 2008 and 2012.
On the bike front, things aren't any less grim. This year alone has seen the death of 52 year-old Geric Geck, who was killed in an accident with a truck on St. Claude Avenue earlier this summer. "We don't want to see these headlines anymore," Heiligman said.
Heiligman and Doerner pointed out that New Orleans has made real strides in getting residents to explore the city without a car, but now it needs to take time to make sure its roads are safe enough to support the steadily rising number of walkers and bikers.
The plan calls for educational programs for drivers, bikers and pedestrians, as well as increased enforcement for those who don't obey the laws of the road.
The Vision Zero initiative started in Sweden in 1997 and has reduced traffic deaths and injuries there by 30 percent. Earlier this year, Houston, Texas adopted a Vision Zero policy and built a bicycle master plan, and in New York and San Francisco such policies include education and training for all roadway users and increased fines for traffic law violators.
Doerner said she hopes the city will consider creating a City Council committee for Vision Zero to draft an initial policy. District "D" Councilman Jared Brossett, chair of the Transportation Committee, said that his staff had already started to circulate the idea. District "A" Councilwoman Susan Guidry praised both Bike Easy and Ride for imparting so much information on the council. "It's amazing how the nonprofit organizations in our city have allowed us to gather so much data," she said, "to learn more, faster." Guidry added that bicycle and pedestrian safety is an issue her constituents have raised often. "We need to put in front of people all the time what the rules are," she said.