On Sept 11, 2:30 pm, please join SBBIKE and COAST at SB City Council (City Hall, 735 Anacapa St) to support zero traffic deaths / serious injuries.
PHOTO: "Amsterdam Sam" Franklin brought the language of Vision Zero to SB
It was an idea that came to us by way of our then Advocacy Director Sam Franklin, five years ago. We called him Amsterdam Sam, after his native city, where he had served as a borough representative (a district the same size as a county supervisor district) for the Green Party, before moving with his wife to California.
Sam just couldn't understand how blasé our government was about bicycle and pedestrian injuries and deaths. It really got under his skin, and sometimes in public meetings I felt like I had to hold him back when elected officials or staff were cavalier about safety gaps that affected real people. I had to act as his cultural translator. He spoke a language that started in European cities, where families stood up and demanded safer streets when heavy automobile use in cities spiked collision injuries and deaths. They organized and said No, and the crazy part is that the streets got safer—much, much safer. Many such communities now have roadways that are several times safer for bicyclists and pedestrians when compared to US cities.
Vision Zero is a multinational road safety project that first originated in Sweden—its aim is to achieve a highway system with zero deaths or serious injuries related to traffic.
Sam spoke the language of Vision Zero. He started a campaign here in Santa Barbara and quickly engaged Goleta and Santa Barbara. Our partners at COAST got behind it in a big way. I'm a nuts and bolts kind of guy, and like a lot of people, the aspirational nature of Vision Zero somewhat eluded me. I didn't speak the language.
But that changed when I was invited to the County of Santa Barbara's Traffic Safety Committee. I thought we were there to discuss safety, but the reality was it was a perfunctory group to validate speed limits. And the speed limits were high. Did you know that 55 mph is the default speed limit anywhere there isn't a posted speed limit? What beguiled me, however, much in the same way it had Sam years ago, was how we treated collisions. If the injury rate wasn't significantly higher than the state average there was no problem that would qualify for lower speed limits or other interventions. I was shocked. In the state with the second most traffic deaths, at 3,751 in 2016, average injuries and deaths are okay and don't warrant further response.
After a young woman was hit on her bicycle three weeks ago in front of our storefront on Haley, while navigating a very precarious intersection with Olive St. I felt deeply that this is not okay. She could have been killed and will face lifelong repercussions from a preventable collision. I felt like I finally understood that Vision Zero language that Amsterdam Sam was speaking and that I was translating for.
We have to change our perspective on roadway safety. No preventable injury or death is simply okay. Many communities around the world, including in the United States, have adopted Vision Zero policies and are seeing major gains in safety in our neighborhoods and roadways. It's time for Santa Barbara to do the same.
Next Tuesday, September 11, at 2:30 pm, please join SBBIKE and COAST in coming to Santa Barbara City Council at SB City Hall, 735 Anacapa St. Let’s all say no more and make our roads much, much safer too. Let's help those we elected to make our decisions learn the language of Vision Zero.
Please note that Bici Centro will be closed Tuesday afternoon so that all can attend.
To Support Vision Zero in Santa Barbara, on Tuesday, let's fill the balcony and extra room at City Hall, like we did for the BMP. Let's share the language of Vision Zero.