Below is an edited letter to the Vision Zero Team from Tom Martin, a Bike West Hartford board member, highlighting some of his individual comments on how to improve the West Hartford Vision Zero Draft Action Plan.
Hi Vision Zero Team,
Thank you for the thoughtful presentation the other night, and for allowing the community to review the draft Vision Zero Action Plan. It is evident that a lot of time and effort has been put into this process, and I am hopeful and encouraged that this will lead to some swift changes starting in 2024 from both low cost quick-build trials and from a flurry of grant applications. I hope that the few comments I have can help to strengthen our Plan. Here’s to the next 10 years of putting this to work!
- Add Action to Section B: Commit annual budget for roadway safety design improvements during routine repaving, and for quick-build projects not necessarily within the High Injury Network.
On Boulevard during 2023 repaving, for instance, dashed green paint along bike lanes were said to be too expensive. Raising crosswalks or adding speed tables to slow vehicle speeds near Sedgwick Middle School were not within scope.
- Add Action to Section B: Review and recommend improvements to our laws/policies
E.g., Ban right on red, abolish parking minimums, establish a street tree program in our “tree belt” throughout town, and allow e-scooters on our streets
- Add Action to Section B: Create funding source and strategy for implementing X number of quick-build trials per year using the Capital Region Council of Government’s (CRCOG) excellent guidance
Not everything can wait for an Road Safety Audit or a study, and not everything should be in the HIN. Sometimes we need to implement something quickly and be willing to iterate based on observations.
- Add Action to Section B: Add the creation of a neighborhood traffic calming program
Purpose is to reduce the number and severity of crashes on residential streets not necessarily within the High Injury Network. These programs are designed to allow residents to identify their own problems and nominate themselves for projects. We want ALL of West Hartford’s streets to be safer.
- Existing Action E2: Update Bicycle Facility Plan
Add an action commitment to “10 miles of protected bike lanes by 2027, trails network expansion.” This is our chance to set some serious goals!
- Existing Action E3: Develop a Bicycle Facility Design Guide
Our Complete Streets Policy lists guidance, but the guidance cited is out of date and the section should be made more prescriptive and list which guidance takes precedence so that there is no ambiguity. Smart Growth America recommends AASHTO, NACTO, FHWA, and others.
- Existing Action B2: Reducing speed limits
I think it’s important to identify in the Plan that speed limits across town should really be consistent. Different speed limits from one residential street to another is confusing. On the majority of our roads, 20 is Plenty. Please also add that to our marketing campaigns.
- Existing Action B4: Pedestrian Safety Zones
This currently only prioritizes commercial areas. Please also include schools in this action.
- Section G: Make Infrastructure Improvements that will make roads safer
Great title, but most of these are dependent upon Road Safety Audits, which only seem to be identified for the High Injury Network (HIN). There are so many quick-build solutions that could be implemented across town with nothing more than paint and flex-posts in residential areas not on the HIN (e.g., curb extensions, corner radii treatment) . This section should reflect that.
- Existing Action G2: “Implement quick-build recommendations locations within two years of conducting the Road Safety Audit (RSA).”
First we need an RSA, and then we need to wait potentially 2 years for a quick-build according to this action. This is not a quick-build. Quick-builds are supposed to be tactical, cheap, overnight, and iterative. They’re quick and dirty while we decide on–and gather money for–a more permanent solution. Please revise this to 3 months.
- Existing Action G8: “Upon completion of the Bicycle Facility Plan, identify goals and a schedule of expansion of the bicycle network that includes continuous low-stress north-south and east-west connectivity.” Urgency: Low
First, in my opinion this should be “high.” Second, the Bicycle Facility Plan–once revised, as a “plan”–should identify the goals and schedule of expansion. Please remove G8 add the goals/schedule to Action E2 with a high priority.
- Existing Action I1: “Expand school zone speed limit program, including reducing speeds 20 MPH, flashing school zone speed signs, and speed feedback signage.”
Add an element of road design here, please. This is important. Raised crosswalks, speed tables, pedestrian islands. Our crossing guards are saints, but as a father of two school-age children, crossing the street near Sedgwick and Duffy (my only two reference points) is terrifying.
- Existing Strategy M: “Promote non-motorized travel as a viable alternative to driving.” Priority: Low
For numerous reasons–climate, social, safety–please bump this to Priority: High.
- Allow Community to Review VZ Performance Indicators
Without the performance indicators — a critical part of any action plan — that were notably absent from the Actions list, it is difficult to weigh in on some of the draft Actions. What standards are we going to hold ourselves to to claim success on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis? What constitutes “quality”? If we set the bar too low, then the VZ Action Plan will carry little weight. A good general measure of success, in my opinion, would be higher rates of non-motorized road use following completion of actions (e.g., more kids walking and biking to school).
Again, thank you! I can’t wait to see the results of your efforts next year.