Lessons from our Vision Zero Speaker Series

On May 19, 2020, we held the first event in our Vision Zero Speaker Series.

Illustration by Jake Lee of the key points discussed at the first Vision Zero Speaker Series event. 

We were blown away that over 220 people registered and over 140 people participated via Zoom. You can watch a video of it here.

The hour-long virtual event focused on “What Vision Zero Means to Nashville.” We first heard introductory remarks from three local leaders working to implement Vision Zero policies, Erin Hafkenschiel at Vanderbilt University, Faye DiMassimo at Mayor Cooper’s Office and Preston Elliott at the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT). Faye DiMassimo shared that she expected work on the Vision Zero Action Plan for Nashville to be complete by the end of the year. Preston Elliott shared that TDOT is very interested in improving safety along state highways in urban areas in Nashville and has allocated highway safety improvement funding to start addressing top crash spots.

We then went into a panel discussion with our very own Nora Kern, Bob Murphy of KCI Technologies, Inc. and Andy Clarke of Toole Design. Panelists were asked a few questions by Lindsey Ganson of Walk Bike Nashville, and then participants were asked to submit questions for the panelists via the chat function on Zoom.

Here are the top four lessons we learned from the discussion. Walk Bike Nashville will formulate these into more formal recommendations and share them with the Mayor’s Office to help inform their Vision Zero Action Plan process.

  1. We need to think about our streets as a system and work to make that system safe. 
    • Traditionally we have looked to human failings to explain crashes, assigning blame and fault to individuals who crossed outside of the crosswalk, for example. When you have crossings that are a half mile apart, you can't expect people to walk a half mile or more to cross the street.
    • Education has to follow the infrastructure. Education is a great way to change culture once you have the infrastructure in place.
  2. Speed kills. Speed management needs to be a central part of our Vision Zero program. We need to prioritize safety over speed.
    • At 45 mph drivers are not going to stop when they see someone in the crosswalk. It is not our nature to stop when we are going faster than 25 mph. We need to make travel speeds on streets with pedestrians below 25 mph and then people will stop and yield to pedestrians.
    • Enforcement is a key part of Vision Zero, yet we live in a time when some communities do not trust the police and Vision Zero policies need to be incredibly sensitive to that distrust. Automated enforcement options should be considered.  
  3. Mayor Cooper’s Vision Zero Plan needs to be a collaborative, interagency plan and be structured to exist for years after Mayor Cooper is no longer in office. Every department needs to own their part of the solution.We should not think of Vision Zero as a separate, new, or add-on program but rather as a different way of doing business.
    • In these difficult times for the city, Vision Zero should not be thought of as a new budget item but rather a framework to change the way we spend every transportation related dollar -- even dollars not explicitly meant for traffic safety.
  4. Vision Zero policies need to be data-driven but also need to include the “data” of lived experiences and be informed by a robust program of community engagement activities. Implementation of Vision Zero policies should be shaped by what people experience on the street.

At the end of the event we asked participants what they were most interested in learning more about and “intersection and crosswalk design” came out on top. We will be hosting our next event in the Vision Zero Speaker Series focused on this topic this summer. Make sure you sign up for our emails or follow us on social media so you get the details.

Want to learn more about Vision Zero in the meantime? There is a wealth of information and resources available on the Vision Zero Network’s website here.