Pursuing Roadway Safety South of the Border – Vision Zero in Mexico City

This blog post was written by Ribeka Toda, a Student Professional Worker in the Vision Zero LA office and a Master’s student in Urban and Regional Planning at UCLA.

Vision Zero is an international effort. Since it was first introduced in Sweden in 1997, the Vision Zero initiative has been adopted by cities and countries across the world. While the programs vary in their processes, policies, and plans in order to reflect the local context and needs, the objective is the same – to eliminate fatalities on roadways.

As a graduate student in urban and regional planning at UCLA, roadway safety has been a personal and professional interest of mine. I’ve had the opportunity to work on roadway safety projects outside of school as a Student Professional Worker with the LADOT Vision Zero team. For this summer, I wanted to gain some perspective on international approaches to roadway safety so I decided to go to Mexico City to work on pedestrian safety projects. I am currently interning for Laboratorio para la Ciudad, a creative department within the Mexico City government focused on innovative planning projects, specifically working on their Vision Zero program called Programa Integral de Seguridad Vial (PISVI).

 

Pedestrians and cars in Mexico City

 

With a population of 8.8 million people in 573 square miles, Mexico City is the largest city in Mexico and has over twice the population of the City of Los Angeles (the entire Mexico City metropolitan area has more than 20 million residents). While Mexico City is significantly more densely populated than LA, I have found these two megacities to be rather similar in their size, urban design, and culture. Like LA, Mexico City strives to be multimodal in its transportation planning and offers various forms of transit such as subway, trolleys, bus rapid transit, and microbuses, as well as pedestrian and bicycle facilities and even a bike share program called Ecobici. Though most people are pedestrians, the walking experience can make one feel vulnerable when confronted with aggressive cars that drive as though they own the street and rarely grant right-of-way to crossing pedestrians.

PISVI was published in May 2017 and is still in its initial stages. It is the result of two years of collaboration between various departments of the city government, NGOs, and members of the public. Now the real work of saving lives begins, and the Laboratorio has their work cut out for them. Of the 10 priority actions that were identified in the PISVI, the third is the development of an information system and the monitoring of roadway safety. This is the current area of focus for the PISVI team, as the largest and most immediate problem facing the program is the availability of data, or lack thereof.

When I came to work for the Laboratorio, I thought that I would be analyzing safety data, something that I have enjoyed and am comfortable doing after years of working as a transportation engineering consultant. However, I have suddenly found myself in the middle of a political battle for open data, as I attend meetings and review reports strategizing how to obtain the data we need in order to plan for a safer city. The problem with roadway safety data in Mexico City is twofold: first, when a crash happens, police may not arrive, and if they do, they may document little to no information regarding the crash; second, this imperfect information is included in a database that is tightly guarded by the government entities that have access to it and are hesitant to share with the PISVI team. In addition, there are other sources that have data – academics, insurance companies, hospitals, and others – but those databases are equally inaccessible, despite the fact that Laboratorio is part of a public agency. We even joke that the media may have a better database of roadway safety than we do, given the almost daily coverage of crashes across the city, often accompanied by gruesome photos that would not be published by the media in the US. The fact is, we have incomplete data from various sources that provide inconsistent information, with the annual number of roadway fatalities ranging from 200 as cited by one source to over 1,000 from another source.

Mexico City Vision Zero Team with VZLA swag!

 

I have to admit that while the data that we work with in LA may not be perfect, I have taken for granted the fact that we have easy access to such a plethora of information from various sources, from geocoded information regarding crashes to public health data, transit data, socio-economic data, and so much more. It has never occurred to me that Vision Zero could be attempted without data, because how would we know where we have problems if we don’t have data?

I am looking forward to seeing the progress that we achieve here at Laboratorio over the course of this summer. I have presented information from Los Angeles as an example of what can be achieved with access to good data. After all, the high-injury network would not have been developed if we had not discovered that 64 percent of the fatal and serious injury crashes in LA occurred on just 6 percent of city streets. Data is such a powerful tool, as it provides insight into the what, where, when, and even how of crashes, which can then help us identify countermeasures that are specific and effective. I am heartened by the amazing people that I have met working on the PISVI in Mexico City. Despite the political challenges facing this initiative, the people working on the PISVI are incredibly passionate, bright, and determined to create a safer city for chilangos (residents of Mexico City), just like the wonderful team at LA Vision Zero. The past few weeks in Mexico City have been an invaluable learning experience for me and I’m excited for all the learning ahead and to return to Los Angeles with more knowledge and experiences as we continue toward a safer city, and ultimately, a safer world.  

Celebrating a Safer Westlake-MacArthur Park

Between Monday, June 5 and Saturday, June 10, LADOT partnered with Central City Neighborhood Partners (CCNP) to present “20 Miles Saves Lives — 20 Millas Salva Vidas,” a traffic-safety campaign to publicize and celebrate improvements to the MacArthur Park-Westlake area. A week of art, music, education, and participatory planning culminated in a street festival on Saturday, featuring traditional Latin American dancing, an appearance by Council Member Gil Cedillo, and a march down 6th Street led by the famous activist Peatonito. When the improvements are finished, 6th Street between Rampart and Beaudry, Wilshire Blvd. between Rampart and Valencia, and Alvarado Street between 6th and 7th, will feature new designs that improve visibility and safety for all road users.

Council Member Gil Cedillo addresses the crowd.

All week long, neighborhood residents had access to a newly created pocket park at 6th Street and Columbia, where there was a daily art workshop with recycled products. Daily walks through the neighborhood alerted residents and business owners to the exciting changes coming to the area. On Saturday, a daylong festival and resource fair brought civic organizations, neighborhood groups, and local artists to MacArthur Park. Attendees could look at plans to improve the streets and pick the kind of crosswalk they wanted to install at the intersection of 7th and Alvarado, and a dance troupe performed traditional dances from various regions of Mexico.

At the end of the day, the famous pedestrian superhero Peatonito also came by, to participate in a telenovela about street safety and ten lead a march through the neighborhood. Residents walked from MacArthur Park to the pocket park at 6th and Columbia, waving signs and chanting “20 Millas Salva Vidas! 20 Miles Saves Lives!” to the cheers of onlookers.

Thank you to our partners at CCNP and all the local community organizations that helped to make this event a success!

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This post was written by Jordan Fraade.

Announcing Ballona Creek Bike Path improvements

Starting on Monday June 26, for a period of about 3 weeks, the Ballona Creek Bike Path in West LA will undergo important repair work. All repairs will take place Mon-Fri, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What are the plans?

LADOT, the General Services Department of the City of LA, and Culver City are working together to make scheduled repairs on the Ballona Creek Bike Path. Asphalt and concrete removals, root trimming and removal, and restriping will take place at 23 locations along the bike path, from Sepulveda Blvd. to Lincoln Blvd.


Repairs will take place from Sepulveda Blvd. (#5) to Lincoln Blvd. (#11).

Will the bike path be shut down entirely?

No, the bike path is scheduled to remain open. Repairs will take place starting at Sepulveda Blvd. and going westbound, but only on one side of the path at a time. This will allow cyclists to continue using the route, and flaggers and advanced warning signs will be placed at strategic locations to guide riders towards space they can use.

In the unlikely event that a full shutdown of the path becomes necessary, a detour plan will be provided.

How long will this take?

We hope to complete the project in about 3 weeks (from June 26 to about July 17). If that changes, we will provide ample notice.

Thanks for your understanding as we improve this crucial piece of bike infrastructure on the Westside.

If you have questions throughout this process, please contact Abbass Vajar at abbass.vajar@lacity.org or 213.972.4965.

Bringing Improvements to West Adams Blvd.

 

Between Saturday, May 6 and Friday, May 12, LADOT partner organizations LA-Mas and PESA (Parent Educators, Teachers & Students in Action) produced “X-ing on Adams,” a Vision Zero traffic safety education campaign and creative installation on West Adams Boulevard between Fairfax and Rimpau.

At the sites of collisions involving people walking or biking, LA-Mas wrapped nearby light or utility poles in red and indicated the number of crashes with a triangular marker. For example,a “7” marker would indicate that 7 car crashes that injured pedestrians or bicyclists had occurred at that location since 2013, including 1 fatality. Crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists were also marked with a red “X” on the pavement, with informational text printed in temporary chalk paint in both English and Spanish. Throughout the corridor, light poles were also wrapped in yellow and black to simulate “Caution” tape, encouraging drivers to slow down and be careful. Check out this great video from the point of view of a driver heading down West Adams through the installation:

Throughout the week, PESA connected with Dorsey High School and John Adams Middle School, local nonprofit organizations, neighborhood councils, and faith-based organizations to deliver presentations and host discussions on Vision Zero. Student volunteers from Dorsey and John Adams served as ambassadors for the design installations along the boulevard throughout the week, explaining the purpose behind them and conducting surveys related to the community’s experiences of traffic safety.

On Friday, May 12, LA-Mas and PESA hosted a culminating event at West Adams’ Cafe Fais Do Do, where community members came together to share their experiences of traffic collisions, serious injuries, fatalities, and how important street safety is to the community. LADOT was on site to share proposed traffic-safety improvements for the street and solicit community feedback. Attendees ranging from young children in strollers to senior citizens enjoyed homemade chili and cornbread and music spun by a local DJ.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.