Local “Vision Zero” leaders discuss efforts to make streets safer

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Local “Vision Zero” leaders discuss efforts to make streets safer

The “People, Places and Perspectives” event on June 14, 2017 kicked off with a conversation between Beth Alden, Executive Director of the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and Whit Blanton, Executive Director of Forward Pinellas (formerly Pinellas MPO). The conversation was moderated by Bike/Walk Tampa Bay Board Chair Jane Castor, and centered around Vision Zero, the goal to bring traffic deaths down to zero.

Alden spoke about the journey Hillsborough took to Vision Zero, starting with the crash that claimed the life of a Chamberlain High School student back in October of 2015. She spoke about some of the many challenges, such as ensuring equity for all. She stated that low income communities have fewer sidewalks and higher speed roadways that run through them. She also addressed some of the calls for expanding transit in the region, saying “a robust transit system won’t work if you can’t safely cross the street to the bus stop.”

Alden added that Hillsborough County was fortunate to have people raising the profile for the issue of Vision Zero, and promised that it was not just a catchy phrase. There are concrete action steps to their Vision Zero program, and timelines for completing those steps.

Whit Blanton commented that they were working hard on the issue in Pinellas. He stressed the point about connectivity. “Having a complete street is nice, but how do you get to that street?” he said, “You have to connect the networks, fill the gaps.” He gave the example of a trail alignment study they just completed along Joe’s Creek in Lealman, which will connect people to job opportunities, grocery stores and transit.

Blanton spoke about the concept of the “20-minute neighborhood”, asking if a person can get to all their needs and services in that period of time, regardless of the mode they use. He also spoke about regional connectivity, saying that connecting Hillsborough and Pinellas via the Gandy Bridge was a priority of both of the agencies.

To learn more about Vision Zero in Hillsborough County click here.

To learn more about Vision Zero in Pinellas County, click here.

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