Vision Zero is an international movement that acknowledges that all roadway deaths are preventable with improved street design, education, and enforcement. In January of 2014, BikeHouston and Mayor Parker launched the Goal Zero Fatalities Campaign that focused on eliminating cyclist fatalities in Houston. After the passing of a 3-foot Safe Passing law and the approval of the Houston Bike Plan, there is still along way to go, as seen by the 227 roadway fatalities in 2014. Vision Zero unites all people that use our roadways by accepting the fundamental fact that if our streets are safer for people walking and in cars, they will be safer for those on bikes as well.
The City of Houston should create a Vision Zero task force. This task force must include key stakeholders and have the power to implement proposed actions. BikeHouston is part of a group of community members, organizations (including the 35 member organizations of the Houston Coalition for Complete Streets), and City Council Members working to initiate a task force that Mayor Parker can then formally designate.
Immediate Action towards Vision Zero: BikeHouston, Ghost Bike, and other members of the cycling community know we need immediate action to make our streets safer. A stakeholder group met to develop a short list of specific, low cost actions that could be implemented immediately to improve safety. City of Houston departments including Houston Police, Planning, Public Works and Health were present to provide information and answer questions. Read the full memo here.
Two recommendations were selected as priority actions for immediate implementation:
(1) Analyze bicycle-related crashes to learn how best to prevent them in the future, and
(2) Raise bicycle safety awareness among all road users through education. Read the full memo here.
We are currently meeting with Council Members including CM Gonzalez and Robinson to advance the immediate actions, as well as, initiate a Vision Zero task force that will have the power needed to turn suggestions into reality.
In the coming weeks we will asking you to call you Council Member to voice your support for Vision Zero and immediate action. Please stay tuned.
Vision Zero Action Plan
BikeHouston supports a healthier, safer Houston and asks that the Mayor of Houston and all community leaders in the metro area adopt a Vision Zero Fatalities campaign by 2025 for all road users. Looking broadly at our roads we see that 227 people died in road violence in Houston 2014 (~ 2 people every 3 days) which is on par with our 239 homicides. Tragically, by 2009 Houston road fatality rates were 50% higher than in Austin, Dallas or Fort Worth. Unfortunately TxDOT data reveals that vehicles collided with people on bikes or on foot 940 times last year in Houston, a 63 percent increase from the 574 such accidents recorded in 2010.
We recognize that the same behaviors which reduce the hundreds of fatalities resulting from car crashes will also save countless pedestrians’ and cyclists’ lives. These are unacceptable and preventable injuries and loss of life. Houston can and must do better. BikeHouston is asking Mayor Parker to institute a “Vision Zero” policy to end all roadway deaths.
As a nonprofit representing Houston’s 1.5+ million cyclists, BikeHouston is focusing on the education of people who ride bikes and people who drive cars as well as elected officials and staff working for our citizens.
Working together we can change Houston’s reputation as a car only city:
(1) The number of recreational and commuter bicyclists on the road is increasing, along with the number of cars. Cyclists have a legal right to share the road safely.
(2) We must create a safer environment for all people regardless of transportation mode. Best practices are evolving rapidly across the country. Cities from NYC to San Francisco commit resources across departments – tackling the problem on many fronts. Houston must do the same.
(3) Houston has the potential to be a leading cycling city. People want to ride – 200,000 bikes a year are purchased here and 54% of Harris County residents wish they could ride more. Pro-active leadership on cycling issues will reduce obesity and the associated costly health conditions, reduce congestion, improve air quality, build stronger communities and make Houston a more desirable place to live and work, ultimately making it a more sustainable city. All road users will benefit.
On January 19, 2014, BikeHouston began promoting its Goal Zero Campaign focused on safe biking and driving. Shortly thereafter Mayor Parker announced that she was partnering with BikeHouston in pursuit of the goal. Since then, we have made progress; most significantly starting a new Bike Plan, our first major review in over 20 years.
While moving in the right direction, we must work harder. Cities who have embraced Vision Zero Policies across all modes of transportation are seeing success – fatalities have dropped to all time lows in NYC and Seattle. Working together on engineering, enforcement and education we can and must reduce fatalities to zero for all road users and implement a Vision Zero for Houston.
Actions for City of Houston and regional leaders to achieve Vision Zero Fatalities:
COMPLETE THE BIKE PLAN, THEN FUND AND IMPLEMENT THE RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Set aggressive targets, including times, for reducing crashes and eliminating fatalities.
2. Invest in measurement of bicycle and walking usage to understand patterns.
3. Prioritize and make infrastructure improvements.
4. Set policy and laws to support reduced collisions.
IMPROVE POLICY, PLANNING & TRANSFER OF LERANING
(1) Hire adequate experienced staff in Public Works and
Planning Department to lead the transition and demonstrate a commitment to best practices
(2) Integrate the Bike Plan recommendations into the General
Plan & Complete Streets
(3) Lower speed limits and re-instate the red-light cameras
(4) Add road fatalities to management score cards for Planning, PWE and HPD and review regularly with the Mayor.
(5) Ensure that senior staff are accountable for sharing lessons learned and reducing fatalities.
(6) Review the true causes of fatalities in attempt to capture and share street design improvements.
(7) Ban the use of cell phones while driving. The facts are clear. Distractions kill people.
(8) Reduce speed limits to 20 MPH in residential areas. Design streets for posted speed – including using narrow lanes, speed bumps, and raised crosswalks.
ENFORCE LAWS FOR MOTORISTS AND CYCLISTS TO REDUCE SPEEDING AND RECKLESS BEHAVIORS
(1) Other cities prioritize ticketing the top 5 most dangerous behaviors – like speeding, red light running, failure to yield, unsafe turning behavior, and not stopping at stop signs.
(2) Prioritize the enforcement of most dangerous offences, including the safe passage law.
(3) Use undercover police on bicycles as a standard practice using C3FT Devices.
(4) Implement stiffer speeding & DUI penalties, sobriety checkpoints and ignition interlock programs for drivers convicted of alcohol-impaired driving.
EDUCATE MOTORISTS AND CYCLISTS
(1) Provide financial resources to promote a public awareness campaign for Houstonian bicyclists and drivers.
(2) Review & improve integration with driver’s license test.
(3) Implement education for cyclists after violations through the online training module set up by BikeHouston and CCE, consider an equivalent for motorists.
(4) Help fund a communication campaign around cycling PSA targeting the public.
(5) Educate the next generation on being safe road users. NYC’s outreach team visits 500 schools a year.
– Follow the Law. Speeding and driving under the influence are killing us.
– Motor on, Cell Phone Off. Save a life. Refrain from texting or talking while your motor is on.
– Give cyclists a Wide Pass. Sometimes you may need to take an extra few seconds, but it is worth it. Road conditions often cause swerving. Houston law requires 3ft or more.
– Intersections require special attention. Always scan carefully before proceeding.
– Never open your car door without looking for passing traffic, including people on bikes.
– Follow the Law. You have the same rights and duties as drivers.
– Always ride with traffic, in the right most lane headed in the direction you are going. This may be the left lane if you are turning left. Stop when required.
– Be Predictable. Make your intentions clear to everyone on the road. Ride in a straight line and don’t swerve between cars. Signal and check behind you well before changing your lane.
– Be Extremely Visible. Use bright white lights on front of your bicycle and bright red lights on back in addition to reflectors.
– Wear bright, reflective clothing in low light conditions, but also during the day.
– Plan your Route. Plan your route carefully to avoid dangerous streets. Busy or fast streets are particularly dangerous. Ride outside the door zone and anticipate drivers’ next moves, as well as road hazards.
– Ride Ready. Check that your tires are properly inflated, brakes are working, chain runs smoothly and quick release levers are closed. Leave the earplugs and mobile phone off while on a bike.
– Fewer distractions and the ability to listen will reduce your risk substantially. Always, always wear a helmet.
Implementing these actions will lead to more people on bikes and make for a better road experience for everyone. As more people ride, health improves, and we raise the quality of life for all Houstonians.
LETTER & SUGGESTIONS SENT TO CITY COUNCIL AND MAYOR. PLEASE CALL OR SEND TO YOUR CITY REPRESENTATIVES HERE.
“Dear Houston City Official,
BikeHouston is calling for the Mayor and City Council, as well as leaders across the region, to adopt a Vision Zero Plan for all road users. Vision Zero seeks to end all roadway deaths.
A broad group of citizens, formed at the behest of City Council, with the input of government officials, recommends two immediate low-cost actions towards Vision Zero.
(1) Analyze bicycle-related crashes to learn how best to prevent them in the future, and
(2) Raise bicycle safety awareness among all road users through education.
We are are also calling on the City to to commit to Vision Zero and create a Vision Zero Action Plan. A Vision Zero Action Plan must include policy on:
1. Engineering – like implementing the bike plan recommendations and building safe sidewalks and crosswalks.
2. Enforcement – like a focus on ticketing the most dangerous traffic violations,
3. Policies – like creating a team to learn from fatalities and crashes,
4. Education – like committing to a PSA campaign, getting questions about vulnerable road user included in the driver’s license test and drivers education.
Please read BikeHouston’s full suggestions for a Vision Zero Action Plan here.
The health and safety of all Houstonians is a strategic priority for Houston and its elected officials. Taking the recommended immediate actions and committing to Vision Zero will reverse Houston’s current trend of more roadway fatalities every year.