City Council Member Kevin Reich, who chairs the Transportation and Public Works Committee, at a press event announcing plans to adopt a Vision Zero policy for eliminating fatalities and serious injuries resulting from crashes. Photo by Dylan Thomas

A plan for safer streets is in the works

Updated: September 19, 2017 - 10:15 am

Mayor proposes $400,000 for strategy to eliminate traffic injuries and fatalities

Minneapolis officials on Sept. 11 sketched out their vision for eliminating all traffic deaths and serious injuries on city streets in 10 years.

Mayor Betsy Hodges, who delivers her 2018 budget address at noon tomorrow, said she included $400,000 in her proposed budget to begin work on what has been dubbed the Vision Zero policy. That policy would set out specific steps to bring the number of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from traffic crashes to zero by 2027.

A Vision Zero Network of U.S. cities already taking the steps Minneapolis will soon consider includes Chicago; Austin, Texas; Portland, Oregon; Boston and New York City, among others. Those cities are pursuing strategies that include lowering speed limits, redesigning streets, implementing campaigns that aim to change the behavior of road users and using data to drive traffic enforcement strategies.

Hodges announced the plan in a press event held near the intersection of 18th & Johnson in Northeast Minneapolis, where she was joined by City Council Member Kevin Reich, chair of the Transportation and Public Works Committee. That committee was scheduled to consider a Vision Zero resolution Tuesday morning. According to the language of the resolution, next steps would include assembling a Vision Zero Task Force made up of city department heads, developing an action plan to carry out the policy, tracking the results of the plan and reporting annually on those results.

Hodges said Minneapolis “is a good place to live for pedestrians” and noted Minnesota overall ranks fourth in the nation among states with the lowest pedestrian fatality rates. The city has also invested in a significant expansion of on- and off-street facilities for bicyclists — including protected bicycle lanes — and is in the process of painting more-visible markings at 3,000 crosswalks.

But Hodges also noted challenges for maintaining safety on Minneapolis streets, including distracted driving and the city’s population growth, which is adding more road users to the grid. There were 106 fatalities on Minneapolis streets from 2006 to 2015, a total that includes 35 people walking or using wheelchairs, 14 people riding a bicycle and 57 people either driving or riding in a motor vehicle, according to city data.

A man walking in downtown Minneapolis was struck and killed by a driver on Hennepin Avenue Sept. 7. In another recent incident, a woman riding a bicycle was struck and killed Aug. 17 by a person driving a car at the intersection of 2nd & Lowry in North Minneapolis.

Public Works Director Robin Hutcheson said city data analysis already has hinted at where safety improvements might be targeted. Seventy percent of crashes occur at just 13 percent of all city intersections and 80 percent occur on just 10 percent of Minneapolis roadway miles, Hutcheson said.