On Thursday, January 26th, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) released the Vision Zero Action Plan. The plan outlines the city’s strategy to reduce traffic fatalities by 20 percent by the end of 2017, with the ultimate goal of eliminating traffic deaths by 2025. In 2015, Mayor Garcetti signed an executive order making Los Angeles a Vision Zero city with safety as L.A. streets’ highest priority.
Building on the four E’s of the Vision Zero model—engineering, education, enforcement, and evaluation—the Action Plan outlines four key outcomes that it aims to achieve by focusing on priority corridors and intersections. The outcomes include: safe streets for all, a culture of safety, new policies and legislation to strengthen safety, and the incorporation of relevant data.
The release of the Action Plan marks a significant milestone for the Vision Zero initiative. The plan represents an important step in the City’s commitment to delivering on its promise to protect the safety of all road users—especially people who bike and people who walk. It also serves as a baseline for evaluation and a critical component to cultivating transparency and accountability.
“The City of Los Angeles now has a plan of action for achieving safer streets,” says Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC). “We applaud the City and LADOT for releasing this plan for all to see.”
However, LACBC has some serious concerns with the Action Plan. First, while the plan refers to High Injury Network project examples and benchmarks, it lacks a clear vision for making the streets safer for people who ride bicycles. Bike lane installation in the City of L.A. has slowed over the years, but the Action Plan does not deliver bold goals for expanding the bicycle network, except to identify bike network gaps, develop a system for repairs, and repair existing bikeway facilities. The plan also mentions adding cycle tracks to priority corridors, but nothing of implementation.
“Studies show that quality bike infrastructure, like protected bike lanes, improve the safety for all road users,” says Butler. “The Action Plan misses a key opportunity to describe and set benchmarks for how the City of Los Angeles will improve street safety for all by not committing to innovative bike projects. City leaders and elected officials must pledge to implement quality bike projects to improve street safety if they truly hope to achieve Vision Zero.”
Moreover, the Action Plan incorporates enforcement as an essential pillar for achieving the goals of Vision Zero. LACBC cannot support such a strategy so long as the language to describe enforcement and policing remains ambiguous. Echoing the perspective of the national Vision Zero Network, LACBC strongly believes that word choice matters, both in terms of building public support and trust for the initiative and in terms of holding agencies such as the Los Angeles Police Department accountable for their implementation of a critical aspect of the plan. If the plan prioritizes enforcement, the City cannot claim to be committed to equity unless it is willing to explicitly address race, racial profiling, and enforcement without racial profiling.
“The City’s commitment to unbiased policing falls short in explicitly addressing racial profiling in policing and fails to acknowledge the disproportionate enforcement that is presently aimed at communities of color,” says Butler. “The City and LAPD need to acknowledge that there is a problem with racial bias in policing before they are able to find a solution to something they won’t name. There is a sentence in the plan that says race ‘may’ play a role in the safety of people of color. But people of color know that race does in fact play a role in our safety as we move about our communities. An action plan that fails to explicitly, affirmatively, and positively state this is a plan without true vision, honesty, and an ability to take into account the very real realities that people of color in this country face.”
LACBC looks forward to continuing to work with the City and LADOT as a member of the Los Angeles Vision Zero Alliance to improve upon this plan. Together, our streets can be safer for all Angelenos.