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Vision Zero: LA embraces ambitious plan for road safety

Logo for San Francisco Vision Zero initiative, launched in 2014.
Logo for San Francisco Vision Zero initiative, launched in 2014.

As the Los Angeles City Council takes up a blueprint for the next 20 years of transportation projects, Mobility Plan 2035, part of the discussion will include  an ambitious concept for safety known as Vision Zero.

The zero refers to zero traffic deaths. The concept originated in Sweden and has expanded to the UK, the Netherlands and several U.S. cities including New York, Chicago, Portland and San Francisco.

Vision Zero is a planning philosophy that makes protecting human life on roadways the top priority. All decisions about road modifications, design and enforcement must be made with safety as the guiding principle.

Biking and walking advocates have been pushing for its adoption, saying roads are too often designed to allow more cars to go faster, putting other road users at risk.

"It's really a paradigm shift," said L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin, who chairs the Transportation Committee. "Los Angeles is a city strongly addicted to the automobile, but we have to make some of our streets with pedestrian safety in mind." 

The Mobility Plan 2035 was approved by a joint meeting of City Council Committees last week with the goal of Vision Zero intact. The full City Council will vote on the proposal Tuesday.

Bonin cited statistics showing 36,000 people are hurt or killed by colliding with cars in Los Angeles every year.

To cut down that number, the city could employ a number of "traffic-calming" strategies for certain roads, including curb bulb-outs and protected bicycle lanes, which slow car traffic down.