An initiative aimed at eliminating traffic-related deaths and serious injuries in Lancaster city got the green light this week when City Council passed a resolution adopting the Vision Zero transportation safety plan.
The plan, which is the product of a process that began in March, was approved by a unanimous 6-0 vote Tuesday. Council member Pete Soto was not present for the virtual meeting.
Vision Zero is an approach to traffic safety that grew out of practices first adopted in Sweden during the 1990s. The underlying fundamental is a belief that traffic deaths can be prevented by designing roadway systems that encourage drivers to operate vehicles more safely and at slower speeds.
Proponents of the approach, which has been adopted by cities throughout the U.S. and internationally, point to Sweden’s experience, saying it has cut traffic fatalities in half there, making Sweden one of the safest places to travel in the world.
Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace’s 2019 strategic plan identified safer streets as one of the city’s four priorities. State Department of Transportation statistics show an average of more than 1,600 people are involved in crashes in the city each year, killing or severely injuring an average of 15 people annually. The Vision Zero plan looks to identify where most of those accidents occur and to prioritize the city’s traffic safety projects on areas shown to be the most dangerous.
“Too often we accept crashes to be something that just happens,” said Cindy McCormick, the city’s deputy director of public works for engineering. “Vision Zero says no, that is not the case. We can do better.”
The city has already begun the process of applying for grants to help fund a project to improve pedestrian safety along South Queen Street near Carter & Macrae Elementary School, one of the focus areas identified in the Vision Zero plan. The plan, which can be found on the city’s website, also calls for identifying both “rapid implementation” and long-term projects as well as upgrading all crosswalks in the city at a rate of 50 per year.
In another matter at Tuesday’s meeting, council approved a zoning change for a property at 213 College Ave. that will be the site of some of the affordable housing planned as part of the redevelopment of the former St. Joseph’s Hospital. The change will allow the construction of multifamily housing on the site.
Council also amended the ordinance it passed earlier this year to facilitate outdoor dining and retail sales. The change extends the program until terminated by council. Previously it had been set to expire at the end of the year.