Anchorage is joining a global campaign to eliminate traffic-related deaths. The muni is gathering public comments from drivers, bikers, walkers, and everyone else to try to achieve Vision Zero.
Vision Zero started in Sweden in 1994 with a simple goal: eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by improving education, road design, vehicle technology, and law enforcement. And it’s working. Their fatality rates dropped 30 percent even though road usage increased. The same is happening in New York and other US cities. Chelsea Ward-Waller, who is coordinating Anchorage’s initiative on behalf of the city and Bike Anchorage, says they’ve used a variety of solutions.
“They’ve redesigned intersections, they’ve brought communities together to work on education, and brought people out on group rides. Doing walk assessments of streets.”
She says it’s a participatory process and she’s working with community groups and residents around Anchorage to see which solutions will work here. During the first town hall meeting, 30 people gave suggestions like making sidewalks better lit, enforcing speed limits, and providing educational materials in multiple languages.
Community member Michele Mcmanus attended the meeting because she’s known multiple people who have been injured or killed by vehicles. She says part of the solution is simple — people need to notice each other.
“Respecting each other’s space, common courtesy, being aware,” she lists. “People wearing reflectors or lights so they are seen. Drivers just being aware and taking that extra moment to double check that there’s not somebody walking or riding a bike.”
In Alaska, the Department of Transportation says that in general, statewide, there’s been a noticeable decline in serious injuries for pedestrians and bicyclists since the mid-1990s. That’s when state policies started actively considering the needs of non-motorized users. But in Anchorage, municipal data says total traffic-related fatalities have been on the rise for the past decade.
Vision Zero is hosting another town hall meeting this week, have an online survey, and will present its initial information gathering report in early May.