Safe Streets JC on Vision Zero and Bringing Safer Streets to Jersey City
Safe Street JC was founded in June 2016 by Paul Bellan-Boyer and Kara Hrabosky. It started as an outgrowth of the work they had done within the Duncan Avenue Neighborhood Association. In 2013, Stephen Clifford, a neighbor, was killed by a driver speeding at 60 mph while crossing Kennedy Boulevard. Their work began with Kennedy Boulevard and ensuring it was safer for residents but, “as [they] worked for improvements there, [they] quickly saw that the problem was bigger than just one road or one type of fix.”
Before Vision Zero was a thought in their mind, they engaged the county in road audits of Kennedy Boulevard, “leading to some immediate changes and $5.3M in grants with first construction to start this Spring or Summer (last we heard).” They also worked with the Mayor to build a traffic safety unit within the Police Department. The Police Department focuses on safety-related enforcement: speed, red light infractions, double parking. As of now, that unit is still small and focused principally on Kennedy Boulevard as explained by Bellan-Boyer and Hrabosky. This all came to fruition because safe streets is an issue people care about and is part of our daily lives. “Everyone in Jersey City is a road user. Everyone has stories of how traffic safety affects them, even if it is (thankfully) near misses. Getting people to notice has been the first victory,” said Bellan-Boyer and Hrabosky.
Over the past year, Safe Streets JC has educated Jersey City residents and government officials about the value of Vision Zero as a way to reduce traffic deaths and injuries. While the City has consistently averaged about 9 deaths per year, 2017 saw a spike with 14 dying on the roads, and over 300 pedestrians struck by vehicles. Already in 2018, 5 people have died in crashes in Jersey City.
So, on February 13, Mayor Fulop signed the executive order committing Jersey City to Vision Zero, an action plan to eliminate traffic deaths in seven years and greatly reduce the number of serious injuries. Jersey City is the first municipality in New Jersey to commit to Vision Zero principles and will join New York City as the second Vision Zero city in the metro area. This is the biggest win for Safe Streets JC to date and they “are excited the city has committed their attention and resources to solving traffic safety problems.” Photo provided by Obie Caraballo
First implemented in Sweden in the 1990s, Vision Zero is a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. Vision Zero acknowledges that traffic deaths and severe injuries are preventable and sets the goal of eliminating both in a set time frame with clear, measurable strategies such as lowering speed limits, redesigning streets, implementing meaningful behavior change campaigns, and enhancing data-driven traffic enforcement.
A task force is in place with Bike JC and Safe Streets JC each contributing a member to the task force. “Vision Zero sets the expectation that traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable.” With the task force using the Vision Zero methodology, “a plan will be created to begin preventing those injuries and deaths. Ideally, it looks at crash data to identify problem roads and types of incidents, and then takes corrective action. A Vision Zero plan must find a way to manage speed.”
The goals for Vision Zero and continuing to build safer street in Jersey City isn’t grandiose, “It is simple: save lives. Every crash is costly. Every serious injury or death prevented is a win for the people involved and for our City. The expectation is that the money spent on safety has a big return: lives lived fully, pain and suffering avoided, and as a side benefit, you often get improved traffic flow and more workable streets.”
“We love Jersey City. Transportation built this city and is one of our key assets. Getting around town safely and efficiently is one of the things that will help make Jersey City more attractive, productive, and liveable for the next 10-20 years and beyond,” said Bellan-Boyer and Hrabosky.
For more information, reach out to Safe Street JC on how you can contribute to making this city safer.
Information for this interview was provided by the co-founders of Safe Street JC, Paul Bellan-Boyer and Kara Hrabosky, through interview questions and their press release. Bellan-Boyer has since left Safe Streets JC to help advance safety policy in local government.