It’s been two weeks since I joined the Vision Zero team as a Student Professional Worker, and as with any new job, there’s a lot to process: acronyms, names, workflows, strategic plans, and so on. I’m studying how decisions are made inside local government and in consultation with communities, reading up on what parts of the city are most at risk for traffic fatalities, thinking about how Los Angeles can link its Vision Zero program up with those in other cities — in short, there are a lot of moving parts and we have a lot of work to do in the year ahead. I’m excited to be a part of it.
Around the office I frequently hear my new colleagues use the phrase “culture change” to describe what we’re trying to do. In other words, Vision Zero isn’t just about redesigning streets and painting stripes on pavement (though that’s certainly part of it) — it’s about changing the way Angelenos view streets, shifting our worldview away from “roads are for cars only” and towards “roads are public spaces for everybody.” At a meeting last week I had the opportunity to see this culture change happening in real time. For a couple hours, transit planners and LADOT engineers gathered to discuss how to improve safety on one of the City’s 40 Priority Corridors (identified in the Vision Zero Action Plan as streets with the greatest need for safety improvements). The proposed street safety improvements were laid out on huge sheets of paper, and marked up with notes and symbols that I hope I’ll be able to instantly recognize sometime soon. Engineers and planners explained the changes they thought might make each street safer, debating among themselves and swapping ideas back and forth. And that’s only one step of the process: Once the technical studies are done, we’ll be working with community organizations and City Council offices to gather input and ensure our plans meet the needs of Angelenos who use these streets everyday.
Watching the discussion unfold over each crosswalk or protected left turn, I marveled at the combination of technical and policy expertise that got us to this point. Projects like a Leading Pedestrian Interval at one intersection and a scramble crosswalk at another may seem small in isolation. Taken together, though, they reflect an important truth about our work: Transportation isn’t just about moving vehicles, it’s about moving people. So I’m excited to be a part of a team that’s dedicated to this vision and helping Los Angeles become a safer, more sustainable city.