Thad Williamson is a professor, writer and civic activist teaching at the University of Richmond. His work focuses on the connection between theories of democracy and social justice and the practice of public policy and public administration.

Fifty Fixes for the Fifth, #5: Slow Down! (Vision Zero)

Fifty Fixes for the Fifth, #5: Slow Down! (Vision Zero)

We hear it and see it everywhere we go in the 5th District: cars need to slow down and drive safer. A voter on Semmes Avenue told us “the posted speed limit is 30 but cars go 45 and up” as cars whizzed past in the early evening. Multiple voters have remarked that some drivers don’t seem to realize the Richmond International Raceway is in Henrico County, not on our streets. And voters throughout the district have talked about the need for speed tables or establishing enhanced penalty speed zones in their neighborhoods.

On the average day in Richmond, there are 12.4 car crashes and 3.3. injuries. As of May 31, there have been eight fatalities on Richmond roads this year. Too many Richmonders know a friend or neighbor who has been killed by a motor vehicle in our city. I’m one of them.

The good news is that the City of Richmond has established a compelling plan to reduce traffic fatalities to zero, Vision Zero. The plan encompasses executive action, legislative action, and cultural change. Michael Sawyer of the Department of Public Works, a superb public servant who spearheaded this plan, has received national professional recognition for his work putting this approach together.

This is promising, but obviously much more work must be done to bring the vision to life—and to make our streets safer. Members of City Council have important roles to play in all three components of the vision: making sure the administration follows through on its stated commitments, adequately funding the initiative and passing other supportive legislation, and working with community groups and residents to build a culture of safety.

I am prepared and eager to champion the Project Zero vision as aggressively as possible if elected to represent the 5th District, in cooperation with Council colleagues.  I will support concrete steps such as allocating more resources to enforce speed limits, adopting anti-distraction legislation, adding more crosswalks and where needed more traffic lights, identifying and mitigating dangerous intersections, assuring construction projects don’t create dangerous situations, aggressive public service announcements and signage to promote traffic safety., and more.

I also will champion and work with any neighborhood that wishes to become an enhanced penalty speed zone or to establish speed tables or other mechanisms to create safer streets—and assure that approved speed tables are fully funded. We need to pay special attention to streets around our schools, especially those (like Patrick Henry) on or near high traffic volume streets, to be sure that all kids and families can get where they need to go safely at all times.

We need to fund and implement the administrative and policy components of the Vision Zero plan, but there is no substitute for cultural change. Cultural change means driving within the speed limit, putting away the distractions, being alert to pedestrians and vehicles at every moment, and practicing defensive driving.

In a society and city that prides itself on being busy and always on the go, it can be hard to take a step back and remember to slow down. But that is what we have to do, with the support and assistance of law and policy.

I look forward to working with residents and community organizations in the 5th District to bring about the changed laws and changed habits needed to make the loss of life on our streets a thing of the past.

Authorized by Thad Williamson for Richmond City Council

Fifty Fixes for the Fifth #4: Time to Pair Up!

Fifty Fixes for the Fifth #4: Time to Pair Up!