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Columbia’s New Vision: Zero Traffic Deaths and Serious Injuries

December 18, 2016

Dear Constituent:

Tomorrow evening, the City Council will decide whether to adopt a Vision Zero Policy and set a goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

The Resolution will also establish the following guiding principles for future transportation planning, design, and operations:

  1. Safety is the most important factor in all decision-making processes;
  2. Traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable and, therefore, they are ethically unacceptable;
  3. Transportation systems should be designed and operated so that user errors are not fatal.

The unfortunate truth is that these are not the principles that guide transportation planning at the present time. In the last ten years, 68 people have lost their lives on Columbia’s roads and 454 have suffered serious, life-changing injuries. Thousands of family members and friends of these individuals have been impacted by these tragedies.

Columbia’s Vision Zero Policy - modeled after similar policies adopted in New York City, San Francisco, Denver, Austin, Ann Arbor and a dozen other cities - will deliver a clear statement that traffic safety must be a priority. By implementing well-documented, successful strategies in the areas of education, enforcement, and engineering, Columbia can dramatically reduce the number and severity of vehicle crashes, as these other communities have done.

Adopting a Vision Zero Policy was the principal recommendation made by the Mayor’s Task Force on Pedestrian Safety in its Final Report and Recommendations, which was delivered to the City Council in April. It is fully consistent with the City’s strategic priority to improve social equity because people of color, people with disabilities, and families living in low-income neighborhoods are all disproportionately affected by traffic violence.

I hope you agree with me that this is an important step forward in improving public safety, health, and welfare, and I hope you will support the adoption and implementation of Columbia’s Vision Zero Policy.

Community Policing

Congratulations to the Columbia Police Department (CPD) and grantwriter, Lt. Eric Hughes, on winning a $500,000 grant to fund four new officers for CPD’s Community Policing program. The funding will come from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), and the new positions must be filled with post-Sept. 11, 2001, military veterans.

CPD’s Community Policing program is operated by the Community Outreach Unit, which was established about a year ago and currently consists of just six patrol officers. Public reaction to the new community policing philosophy has been extremely positive, even though implementation is limited to just three neighborhoods at the present time. It is my belief that Columbia would benefit in many ways by expanding this program - evidence from other cities suggests crime rates will go down, community-police relations will improve, and detectives will receive more support in solving crimes when they occur.

Based on your feedback on my proposal for a comprehensive collaborative visioning process for CPD and community residents, I am currently working to build support from Council colleagues and City staff for a Public Forum on Community Policing.

MKT Trail

The closure of a section of the MKT Trail for several months this summer and fall for a sewer project was an inconvenience for me and for many of you!

Nevertheless, I want to thank the City’s Sewer Utility and its contractors for completing a quality job, designing a safe and pleasant detour, and providing excellent communications throughout the process. Columbia’s Parks and Recreation Department is now moving forward with an ecological restoration project that includes planting approximately 180 trees alongside the trail. A public input meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25th, 5:30 - 7:00 pm at the Daniel Boone Regional Library to discuss additional proposed trailside enhancements for restoration areas.

The next phase of the sewer project will start soon and will cause the closure of the trail from Elm Street to Stewart Road. As before, a trail detour will be sign-posted - guiding pedestrians and cyclists along the sidewalks on the south side of Elm Street and east side of Providence Road, and across Providence on the crosswalks at the intersection with Stewart. The trail is expected to be re-opened around January 27th, weather permitting.

Constituent Conversations

Finally, next month’s Constituent Conversations will be on January 15th and 29th, 2-4pm at Dunn Brothers Coffee.

Cheers, Ian