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Like Chicago, Los Angeles Struggles To Reduce Traffic Deaths

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Vision Zero Launch Day

Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld speaking at the Vision Zero Chicago launch event last year.

City of Chicago

Chicago recently marked one year since it launched a so-called Vision Zero campaign to reduce traffic fatalities and pedestrian and cyclist deaths.

As the Chicago Tribune reported, the results have been mixed: Pedestrian deaths in the first five months of 2018 were up 31 percent over the average from those months between 2012 and 2016, thought motorists deaths still accounted for the largest number of deaths overall.

Chicago is one of ten American big cities chosen to model Vision Zero practices in the United States. 

Another is Los Angeles, a city that’s also struggling to make much progress toward its Vision Zero goals.

Morning Shift explores the dynamics of the situation in Los Angeles with an eye for challenges we share here in Chicago.

Tony Sarabia: The mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti, launched Vision Zero in 2015. What prompted him to take part in this campaign?

Meghan McCarty Carino: Traffic in general, anything that has to do with traffic, is always top of mind in Los Angeles, and we’re at a moment in LA where city officials and agencies are attempting to kind of change the way we perceive ourselves in Los Angeles and encourage more walking and biking. We’ve had these massive transit investments and so trying to kind of re-align ourselves with alternatives to driving.

Sarabia: How safe generally is it to be a pedestrian or a cyclist in LA these days?

McCarty Carino: There’s the perception that it is very unsafe. The perception I think is greater than the reality on the ground, but certainly, so many of our arteries are wide streets. California did a great job designing for cars during our period of maximum growth in the 50s and 60s, so we don’t have the kind of dense, urban cores with tiny, narrow streets that you might see in traditional, older cities, and so we have definitely designed for cars and it makes for an experience walking and biking that feels very harrowing….We had kind of a burst of biking infrastructure during the early 2000s where they kind of picked off all of the low-hanging fruit, putting in bike lanes where it wasn’t too much trouble to do so, where they didn’t have to take lanes of traffic away, but in general, our bike network is very disconnected and disjointed.

Sarabia: Is there growing support to fix that problem, in terms of the way bikes lanes are set out?

McCarty Carino: There’s definitely a growing community of walking and biking advocates that are becoming increasingly vocal. I would say starting in kind of the mid-2000s, this biking community kind of coalesced and became a political voice in city politics. But it’s definitely in the minority.   

GUEST: Meghan McCarty Carino, commuting and mobility reporter for KPCC in Los Angeles

LEARN MORE: FAQ: What Is Vision Zero? Understanding LA’s Plan To Eliminate Traffic Fatalities (KPCC 4/19/18)

Their Friend Died In A Hit-And-Run. Can They Take On Car Culture In Los Angeles? (New York Times 6/23/18)

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