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.

Vision Zero’s Community Partnership Grant Kick-Off Event

This was a huge week for Vision Zero Los Angeles! On Wednesday, City Council Transportation Committee recommended that Council endorse our Vision Zero Action Plan! You can read the Action Plan here. This recommendation brings us one step closer to citywide adoption of the Action Plan.

We’re already getting to work! On Tuesday, we held a Kick-Off meeting with the recipients of the Vision Zero community-based education campaign with over 40 community-based organizers, artists and leaders.

Eight teams of community organizations were awarded up to $32,000 to develop a traffic safety education campaign to promote road safety.  These partnerships are part of Vision Zero’s commitment to traffic safety education and equity. Traffic violence is an incredibly personal and visceral experience. As such, traffic safety education should be developed in a language and style that reflects the personal experiences of each community.  And who knows better about the history and culture of an area then the people and organizations that live and work there? By taking this localized, door-to-door approach, our community partners will help us communicate Vision Zero’s core principles across Los Angeles’ many diverse communities.

At our kick-off event, we walked through the goals of Vision Zero: zero fatalities by 2025 and a 20% reduction in fatalities by the end of this year. We also discussed our four-pronged approach to reaching this audacious goal: enforcing speed and traffic laws, engineering safer streets and intersections, evaluating fatality hot spots and our progress towards Vision Zero, and educating communities about traffic safety—all working in a coordinated, strategic effort.

We then got to hear from each of the teams about what kind of activations they are thinking about.  Here are some of their exciting working ideas!

Multicultural Communities for Mobility (MCM), the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC), and L.A. Commons are working on Hoover Street from Vernon Avenue to Manchester Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Vernon Avenue.  On Hoover, they are planning an event that commemorates the 25th anniversary of the LA Uprising to focus on how road safety has changed in the area.  On Crenshaw, they will work with local artists and young people to tie Vision Zero goals into the Annual Day of the Mask activation on Juneteenth.  It will be an interactive, multi-generational event with a theme of “balance, creation, unity”.

The Cornerstone Theater Company, Power to Pedal and Dignity Health Hospital are working on Vernon Avenue from Western Avenue to Central Avenue.  Their plan includes holding story circles regarding the impact of traffic injuries in people’s lives.  They will also work with visual artists to design installations along the corridor.  Workshops will be held with the community and input from these meetings will be interpreted into the visual art which will appear in the corridor throughout the week.

Los Angeles Walks, Gabba Gallery, the Pilipino Workers Center, and Public Matters are working on Temple Street from Beverly Boulevard to Beaudry Avenue.  Working with local churches and schools in the area, their event will include installation of murals, performance art, dancing events, and other forms of engagement with the community.

Ave 50 Studio and L.A. Neighborhood Initiative are working on N. Figueroa Street from Avenue 43 to York Boulevard.  They plan on a series of temporary installations along parts of the corridor which will lead to a cumulative poetry event.

Central City Neighborhood Partners are working on 6th Street, Alvarado Street, and 7th Street.  In partnership with Art Division and an Artist in Residence and with community input, they will install a series of mural installations along the corridor on utility boxes, benches, and other temporary places that incorporate Vision Zero messages.  Other ideas for this corridor include a street mural on the scramble intersection and a telenovela at Levitt Pavilion.

C.I.C.L.E., Blacklist and artist, Alan Nakagawa are working on Pico Boulevard from Western Avenue to Union Avenue.  They want to place manikins along the corridor posed as people taking part in active transportation.  They will be wearing t-shirts with safety messaging on them.  All of these manikins will direct people to an info hub with educational materials.

Pacoima Beautiful, Leyna, Kaiser, and Cottonwood are working on Roscoe Boulevard from Van Nuys Boulevard to Woodman Avenue.  In partnership with the JC Decaux, they are going to take the bus stops along the corridor and create four permanent art installations that will remain after the activation.  They also want to roll out temporary installations to create monuments along the street during a week-long intervention program.

LA-Más and Parents, Educators/Teachers & Students in Action are working on Adams Boulevard from Hauser Boulevard to Crenshaw Boulevard.  They are planning temporary installations over a one mile stretch.  The community and local high schools will be involved in outreach, actually putting in the installations, and the big unveiling event.

We are excited to continue our partnership with these teams and see their projects take place.  Stay tuned for more updates throughout the year!