A sport-utility vehicle struck and seriously hurt a pedestrian crossing Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis last week — just the kind of incident city leaders want to eliminate.
Mayor Betsy Hodges joined several City Council members Monday to announce the city's goal of ending pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and serious injuries on Minneapolis streets by 2027. To do so, the city plans to join Vision Zero, an international traffic safety effort pushing for roads that are safe, healthy and offer equitable mobility for all.
"We can and we must do more, and we are," Hodges said during a news conference at 18th Avenue NE. and Johnson Street announcing the campaign. "Even one preventable death on our streets is one too many."
Between 2006 and 2015, 35 pedestrians, 14 bicyclists and 57 people driving or riding in motor vehicles died in crashes on city streets.
Over the next year and a half, city leaders will develop a plan to bring those deaths down, said Robin Hutcheson, the city's public works director. The department will draft an engagement and education plan and talk with residents about Vision Zero and how to better protect the most vulnerable users of the roadways: pedestrians and bicyclists.
The city will also study data that show 76 percent of fatal and serious injury crashes occur at just 13 percent of the city's intersections.
Hodges said the 2018 budget she will propose Tuesday includes $400,000 for Vision Zero and continues efforts to make streets safer by repairing crumbling roads, installing protected bike lanes and better marking crosswalks.
"It's another step forward in putting our values into action," the mayor said.
Vision Zero began in Sweden in 1997 with the idea that traffic deaths and injuries can be eliminated with clear, measurable strategies, including lower speed limits, redesigned streets, behavioral changes and data-driven traffic enforcement.
Vision Zero has been adopted in several U.S. cities, including Austin, Texas, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Council Member Cam Gordon, chairman of the Health, Environmental and Community Engagement Committee, said Vision Zero will prompt a review to see if patterns exist in Minneapolis crashes. The city can't reduce speed limits below 25 miles per hour on streets without permission from the Legislature, he said, but it may ask for the flexibility to do that in places where it deems speeds to be too high.
City leaders also implored drivers to put down their phones, a leading cause in pedestrian and bicycle-vehicle crashes.
Council Member Kevin Reich, chairman of the Transportation and Public Works Committee, said Minneapolis' Vision Zero effort will involve multiple agencies. Policies or practices adopted through Vision Zero will be quantifiable and measurable, he said, both in terms of dollars spent and in "the number of people who are safe and not injured."