Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales speaks today at a press conference to launch Vision Zero. The 54 people behind her each represent a pedestrian killed in a traffic accident in San Antonio in 2014.
Dozens of pedestrians and cyclists in San Antonio die in traffic accidents each year. A newly launched initiative by the City of San Antonio aims to change that.
City officials, led by Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales of District 5, kicked off an effort today to eliminate pedestrian fatalities called Vision Zero.
Gonzales said she began to study the issue when “outraged” constituents confronted her over the number of pedestrian deaths on the West Side, which she represents.
“These fatalities are preventable, they are not inevitable,” Gonzales said. “We suffer human losses because of culture and public policy decisions that have resulted in the built environment we have today.”
In 2014, 54 pedestrians in San Antonio died in traffic accidents. Although reducing that number to zero will be a huge challenge, Gonzales pointed to Tokyo, one of the world’s densest metropolises, as an example to follow. Tokyo has just 1.3 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 residents each year, according to a report by the World Resources Institute
The city will partner with a number of other organizations through the program, including the Alamo Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Texas Department of Transportation, Bexar County and area school districts.
There’s no timeline to reach the goal, and Gonzales said it could take decades to totally eliminate pedestrian deaths. The press conference’s speakers, which also included Mayor Ivy Taylor, City Manager Sheryl Sculley and City Engineer Mike Frisbie spoke generally about the city’s commitment to Vision Zero but offered few specific details for the plan.
Sculley highlighted the newly-approved budget’s additional $15 million allocation for sidewalk installation and repair, $10 million more than the previous fiscal year. The city’s sidewalks still need over $1 billion worth of work though, Sculley said in an earlier budget hearing.
But any funds allocated to making the city more pedestrian-friendly are vital in order to stem the tide of pedestrian deaths. Though San Antonio has been engineered in a way that sometimes tragically puts pedestrians at odds with motorists, those design decisions can be fixed, according to Gonzales.
“A culture of indifference to traffic fatalities and injuries, and a dangerous environment are not fate or misfortune. We have built these things. We control them,” Gonzales said.