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The first virtual version of our annual Vision Zero Conference wrapped Friday, March 26, with over 220 community members and advocates joining the 50+ speakers for a week of learning and conversation.

Robin Hutcheson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Safety Policy at USDOT (also known as notorious bike enthusiast Secretary Pete’s right-hand person) kicked off programming by talking about how an investment in traffic safety is “an investment in equity, climate and prosperity,” and how the Biden Administration plans to commit to this investment.

Charles T. Brown, transportation researcher at Rutgers and self-proclaimed “pracademic ” (practical + academic, for the uninitiated) closed the week with a presentation on his theory of arrested mobility, then a discussion with Philadelphia Register of Wills Tracey Gordon, Councilmember-At-Large Isaiah Thomas, author Angie Schmitt, and founding member of Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia Latanya Byrd about the the ways in which structural and institutional racism create the conditions for the more severe traffic violence experienced by communities of color—and what can be done to remedy these inequities.

Because this was a virtual conference, we were able to host speakers from around the country and around the world, with folks joining us from Barcelona, Paris, and Mexico City as well as Oakland, Cambridge, Denver, Atlanta, and Dallas. We were also able to find a way to create a virtual space that allowed folks to talk and connect outside of the formal presentations, which has been an important element of our in-person Vision Zero conferences in the past.

If you missed Vision Zero PHL Week but want to learn more (or if you attended and want to refresh or dive deeper!), read on for brief summaries of the topics covered each day, plus links to recordings, presentations and additional resources.

MONDAY, MARCH 22: Vision Zero in Philadelphia and Peer Cities

On Monday, we heard from representative of the new Biden Administration Robin Hutcheson and explored different Vision Zero successes and challenges experienced in Philadelphia, Oakland, Cambridge, and Atlanta.

Keynote by Robin Hutcheson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Safety Policy
Philly’s Vision Zero Implementation and Future Potential
Peer Cities’ Varied Approaches to Urban Traffic Safety
  • Ryan Russo, Director of OakDOT, talked about some restorative justice initiatives and community healing efforts co-built by Oaklanders and OakDOT in response to traffic violence
  • Joe Barr, Director of Traffic, Parking & Transportation for the City of Cambridge, introduced the key elements and initiatives in Cambridge’s Vision Zero Action Plan
  • Betty Smoot-Madison, Mobility Director at ATLDOT, shared her experience with helping to create a new City of Atlanta Department of Transportation that had Vision Zero in mind from day one
  • Watch the panel discussion
TUESDAY, MARCH 23: Exploring Innovations and New Concepts to Help Cities Recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic

Tuesday’s panels focused on inter/national visions for the future of transportation, planning and transit.

Keynote by Salvador Rueda, President of the Urban Ecological and Territorial Foundation
International and National Innovation for Safety and Recovery
How Transit Can Increase Traffic Safety and Help Rebuild Greater Philadelphia
  • Leslie Richards, SEPTA General Manager, reviewed SEPTA’s Strategic Plan, zooming in on the Comprehensive Bus Network Redesign and the Trolley Modernization Program
  • Chris Puchalsky, Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives at oTIS, introduced Philadelphia’s Transit Plan and discussed the City’s perspective on why transit matters: because transit is a tool to address racial and health inequities; a tool to help Philly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic; and a critical element in tackling the climate crisis. Check out the full Philadelphia Transit Plan here.
  • Kristin Gavin-Wisniewski, Indego General Manager at Bicycle Transit Systems, gave an overview of how Indego ridership has shifted in response to the pandemic (e.g. more Philadelphians using Indego than ever, 100% more Access passholders than 1 year ago!), and how bike infrastructure is the key to creating a safe and lasting mode shift
  • Watch the panel discussion
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24: Regional Issues and Solutions for Vision Zero

Many jurisdictions in Greater Philadelphia are facing challenges to making their roadways safer and inviting more people to bike and walk. Wednesday’s speakers dug into what what those challenges are, and what tools state agencies can provide to communities who want to make their roadways safe for residents and visitors.

Keynote by Melissa Batula, Deputy Secretary for Highway Administration at PennDOT
Understanding Speed Management in PA and NJ
  • Bob Pento, Manager of Traffic Engineering and Permits at PennDOT, taught us about PennDOT’s new Multimodal Traffic Calming Guidance that is context-based, intentionally flexible and can be applied across the Commonwealth
  • Lou Belmonte, Traffic Engineer for PennDOT District 6, joined Bob for further discussion of these updates to the Highway Design Plan that are expected to be completed by later this year
  • Linda Koskoski, Borough Council President of Metuchen, NJ and Jaime Oplinger of NJDOT shared how their partnership brought a reduction in traffic speeds to the Metuchen borough
  • Watch the panel discussion
How We Can Implement a Safe Systems Approach
  • Wes Kumfer of UNC Highway Safety Research Center inspired us with research-backed guidelines for reimagining our roadways: 1. adapt the structure and function of the transportation system to the complexities of human behavior; 2. manage the kinetic energy transferred among road users; 3. treat road user safety as the foundation of all system interventions; and 4. foster the creation of a shared vision and coordinated action
  • Robert Henry of Greater Valley Forge TMA and Patrick Farley of Cross County TMA discussed the challenges of an auto-centric system and how both transportation management agencies creatively work around these challenges. For example, implementing pedestrian infrastructure improvements is a way to improve safety, safeguard the environment, and shape equitable development
  • Watch the panel discussion
THURSDAY, MARCH 25: The Power of Communities to Advance Vision Zero

Vision Zero projects can truly represent a bottom-up approach to traffic safety—they’re not limited to just projects implemented by transportation agencies. This day was devoted to highlighting community-driven Vision Zero approaches that are ready to be replicated around the country!

Keynote by Andrew Howard, co-founder of Team Better Block
Tools for Community-Driven Vision Zero Projects
  • Mel Price, Principal at Work Program Architects in Norfolk, Virginia, detailed OpenNorfolk’s ongoing COVID-19 response that upheld healthy businesses, healthy transportation, healthy creative culture & recreational opportunities, and healthy and accessible places to socially distance
  • Ashwat Narayanan of Our Streets Minneapolis discussed the historical inequities in street design and the consequences that ripple through marginalized communities. Since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis this summer, Our Streets has worked to move the city toward justice in strategic street design
  • Tara Woody covered Philly’s Safe Routes program, the transportation safety education program that supports and trains schools and communities on street safety. She shared sobering data about the necessity of Safe Routes, including the fact that one child is involved in a traffic crash each week, on average. Read more about Philly schools’ adaption of Safe Routes curriculum here
  • Watch the panel discussion
Local Examples of Vision Zero Community Projects
FRIDAY, MARCH 26: The Disproportionate Impact of Traffic Violence on BIPOC Communities

Friday was devoted to exploring how traffic violence, its impacts and remedy approaches, challenges the goal of creating a more equitable, sustainable and safe city and region for everyone no matter how they wish to or must travel. In particular, this day focused on the disparities and injustices faced by communities because of decades of institutionalized racism in transportation planning, and how intentional equity work can work to overcome those impacts.

Keynote by Charles T. Brown, researcher at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy at Rutgers University and author of the forthcoming book Arrested Mobility
Perspectives on the Inequities in Traffic Violence and Countermeasures
  • Latanya Byrd, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets Greater Philadelphia, spoke about her work bringing automated enforcement to Roosevelt Boulevard after she lost her family members to traffic violence. She called for more transparency and community involvement in the City’s process for awarding maintenance work and safety improvement contracts in communities of color
  • Angie Schmitt, author of Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, added to Latanya’s point about transparency in contracting with examples from Seattle and other cities, asserting that “when policies are designed to be ‘neutral,’ they end up being racist”
  • Philadelphia Register of Wills Tracey Gordon played the video she made demonstrating the dangers of Cobbs Creek Parkway in Southwest Philadelphia, and illustrated how citizen documentation (plus social media) can work to move entities like PennDOT to finally make the changes communities have been calling for for decades
  • Philadelphia City Councilmember-At-Large Isaiah Thomas spoke about the blatant civil rights violations that occur when police use motor vehicle code violations as a “tool” to stop gun violence, and called for more sophisticated, humane, and anti-racist efforts to address the issues of gun violence and traffic violence in Philadelphia
  • Watch the panel discussion
Diving Deep into Equity Through Public Use Bike Share
  • Waffiyyah Murray (oTIS), Brenda Hernández Torres (Bicycle Coalition), Stephanie Ridgeway (oTIS) and Riley Titlebaum (Bicycle Transit Systems) had an informative conversation about all of the ways in which the Better Bike Share Partnership works to ensure equitable access to bike share. “Indego comes with more than just a bike..it comes with resources”
  • Watch the panel discussion
Closing remarks by Mayor Jim Kenney
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