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San Diego’s Vision Zero Program To Eliminate Traffic Deaths Behind Schedule

A pedestrian crosses a street in City Heights, June 19, 2017.
Nicholas McVicker
A pedestrian crosses a street in City Heights, June 19, 2017.
San Diego’s Vision Zero Program To Eliminate Traffic Deaths Behind Schedule
San Diego’s Vision Zero Campaign To Eliminate Traffic Deaths Behind Schedule GUEST: Joshua Emerson Smith, environment reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

>>> I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It is Monday, February 12th. Our top story on the "Mid-Day" addition. The first month and half of 2018, there have been nine pedestrians killed in traffic accidents and San Diego. That number puts the city on pace for what may be a record year for pedestrian traffic deaths. That is exactly what the city pledged to work against by joining a nationwide effort called "vision zero." The aim is to reduce all traffic fatalities by the year 2025. As reported by the San Diego Union Tribune, San Diego's participation in the program is apparently stalled. Joining me as Joshua Emerson Smith from the San Diego Tribune. Welcome. >> Good to be here. >> Did these nine pedestrian deaths take place all over the city or is there an area of special concern? >> These deaths did take place all over the city. But advocates have focused in on a number of particular corridors as the areas of most concern. Alcohol Boulevard, University Avenue, Garnet Avenue -- there are a number of them that they feel like are responsible for -- they say one out of three fatalities or injuries. >> Overall, how many traffic -related deaths were there in San Diego last year? And how many pedestrians were killed? >> I believe it was 36 last year, traffic related deaths. And 17 pedestrians were killed. Like you said, we had nine already this year. Of course that is on top of the roughly 500 people a year who are injured. Many of them, very significantly. Life altering injuries. >> In what ways is the city behind and lagging on the 'Vision Zero' campaign? >> The city signed a resolution in support of'Vision Zero' back in 2015 saying -- by 2025, they were going to end all traffic deaths. So far, we have not seen a lot of the progress or a lot of the particular efforts that we have seen in other cities such as a website that tracks traffic deaths and injuries and locations, as well as updates the public on different projects aimed at limiting these kinds of accidents. >> Isn't there supposed to be a task force related to the visions of the campaign? >> There was a task force that was meeting quarterly. However, as far as we can tell -- and the city won't give us any information -- but as far as we can tell, they have not met since the summer of 2017. The advocates we talked to are also kind of scratching their heads and wondering why this has stalled. >> Do you have a sense, as to why this vision zero effort seems to be stalling or not moving forward at any pace anybody can recognize? >> It is hard to say. The city has been overwhelmed with one issue after another. Homelessness, hepatitis A. You name it. It has been one issue after another. It may be the case that this just got put on the back burner. >> Is it perhaps a funding issue or something along those lines? >> We are going into the budget cycle. A number of councilmembers have said they want more money put into efforts to reduce these traffic related fatalities, including hiring someone specifically to write grants for these types of programs. As I understand it, there is state and federal funding for these types of projects. Especially now with the new gas tax money coming down. There is money available. The city just test to be aggressive and going after, according to members of the City Council. Of course there is just funding in general toward these types of projects which would include creating more visible crosswalks -- with signage. The crosswalk -- the countdown and timers. A number of different things, in an effort to reduce speed. Cities that have had major victories in the 'Vision Zero' campaign like New York City, have done so largely by limiting the speeds that cars drive. >> I am interested in reading in your article -- a lot of people that have suffered injuries or have been killed actually have been crossing the streets in the wrong places or in places that are actually marked, no pedestrian crossing. What you advocates say about that. >> That is a really good point. It is about 50/50, in terms of -- the responsibility in these particular situations. About half the time, it is the pedestrian's fault. What advocates will say is that if you have a heavily trafficked area where people are crossing illegally, then we should build a crosswalk there. And the public is sending us a message about accessibility in specific areas. >> What sort of response have you received from the city about this? >> That is interesting. The city -- basically declined to discuss any of this last week. They sent us an e-mail statement -- basically an e-mail statement one hour before the deadline. We don't really know where they stand on this. There are some members of the City Council who are outspoken. Chris Ward and Barbara Bree. They seem to be very bullish on this -- when we are going to these budget negotiations this spring and summer. In terms of where Mayor Kevin Faulkner stands on this, your guess is as good as mine. >> I have been speaking with an environment reporter at the San Diego Union Tribune. Thank you. >> You are welcome

Since January, there have been nine pedestrians killed in traffic accidents in the city of San Diego. That number puts the city on pace for what may be a record year for pedestrian traffic deaths.

The city has already made a pledge to prevent these deaths by joining a nationwide effort called Vision Zero. The aim is to reduce all traffic fatalities by the year 2025.

But, as reported by The San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego’s Vision Zero effort is apparently slowing down. The city is behind schedule on the launch of its Vision Zero website and a task force created to kick off the program has been inactive in recent months.

RELATED: Where Is San Diego Spending Money On Traffic Safety?

Joshua Emerson Smith, environment reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune discusses the status of the city's Vision Zero program Monday on Midday Edition.