By Chris Casacchia, California Business Journal.
It’s no accident that improving street, sidewalk and bike path safety became a priority for Edward Reyes.
Before entering law, Reyes owned a medical office that treated nearly every type of injury—most due to negligence. The experience left an indelible mark.
So Reyes sold the business and went back to school, earning an associate, bachelor and law degree. Then he established, in 2017, the Law Office of Edward J. Reyes, P.A., a boutique firm in Tampa, Fla. that specializes in personal injuries, accidents and wrongful deaths.
Reyes is part of a growing national movement to create more pedestrian-friendly cities, while trying to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries. Reyes knows these crossroads all too well. He is an avid cyclist and a member of Tampa Bay Mobility Alliance, a nonprofit advocating greater mobility options in the area, having implemented safety measures in its transportation grid, including highlighting intersections and cross-walks with brightly-colored, muraled art and increasing the size of traffic signals and other road signs.
The alliance partners with Oakland, California-based Vision Zero Network, which helps communities across the nation prevent traffic fatalities and injuries, while increasing safety, health and equitable mobility.
The Association for Safe International Road Travel in Maryland estimates that more than 38,000 people die every year on U.S. roadways and another 4.4 million sustain injuries that require medical attention. The economic impact eclipses $870 billion in the U.S.
In early 2016, Vision Zero launched a city-focused program to boost collaboration among mayoral offices, and transportation, police and public health departments in 10 early-adopter cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles has implemented more than 50 Vision Zero projects. Several corridors throughout the sprawling city have installed new traffic signals, crosswalks with flashing beacons, bus boarding islands, protected bicycle lanes, and pedestrian islands. Others have improved passenger loading zones with curb ramps.
In another example, Los Angeles Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez, Streets LA, and Los Angeles Department of Transportation are transforming Sepulveda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley into a thriving thoroughfare with beatification and greening projects that improve community safety, health and environmental quality, while expanding transportation options and providing a higher quality of life for local residents and businesses.
San Francisco, which adopted Vision Zero as a policy in 2014, has launched more than 55 projects to build better and safer streets, educate the public on traffic safety, enforce traffic laws, and prioritize resources for effective initiatives that save lives.
In 2018, Bay Area city crews concluded a two-year project on Turk Street, near San Francisco’s Theater District next to the mural-crazed Tenderloin neighborhood, adding a protected bike lane, high visibility crosswalks, painted safety zones and signal improvements. The area, over a five-year period before the project, had 174 traffic collisions. More than half, 92, involved pedestrians and bicyclists.
The statistics placed Turk Street on the city’s “High-Injury Network,” the 13% of streets that account for 75% of all traffic related injuries and fatalities in San Francisco.
The Vision Zero city program has since expanded to more than 45 cities nationwide and several in California, including San Diego, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Fremont, San Luis Obispo, Watsonville and La Mesa.
Conceived in 1994, Vision Zero and its tenets were first included in the Road Traffic Safety Bill passed in Swedish Parliament three years later. Its philosophy has been adopted across the globe, and particularly in the European Union, which reports about 25,000 traffic deaths a year over a landscape that includes 27 member states and 446 million residents
Stateside, the recent push to boost pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods has been fueled by the economic and health effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Cities and towns from coast to coast are increasing bike lanes and outdoor space as more residents exercise and enjoy the outdoors in the wake of mass stay-at-home orders enacted to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Others are closing streets, building make-shift canopied areas and building outdoor patios to boost commerce at bars, restaurants, breweries and other businesses.
“This trend,” Reyes says, “will continue well after the outbreak is over.”
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