Somerville Releases Draft 5-Year Vision Zero Plan to Create Safer Streets

City calls on community to help shape aggressive plan to strive for Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic-related deaths and serious injuries in Somerville

Today, Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone announced the release of an ambitious 5-year draft plan to work toward the City’s Vision Zero goal, which aims to eliminate traffic crashes in Somerville that result in severe injuries and fatalities. Curtatone is calling on the community to review the draft plan, which was prepared by a community task force working with City staff and regional advocacy organizations. The plan is posted online for comment and will be discussed at upcoming public meetings (see below).

Somerville is one of roughly 40 U.S. cities to join the international Vision Zero movement. The core principle of Vision Zero is that the loss of life on our streets is unacceptable and that communities have the power to reduce and ultimately eliminate crashes that have severe consequences. 

“Since the late 1940s, American streets have generally been designed to move motor vehicles as fast as possible, with little regard for public health and safety,” said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone.  “Our society became convinced that crashes with terrible consequences were inevitable, and today roughly 40,000 Americans are killed on our roads every year.  The Vision Zero approach turns that logic upside-down.  Communities like Somerville commit themselves to systematically reducing the operating speeds of motor vehicles because we believe that a human life is more important than a few moments of delay for people driving.”

Extensive scientific research shows a direct relationship between vehicle speed and the prevalence of severe injuries and fatalities when crashes occur. Formally adopted in Somerville by Mayor Curtatone in 2017, the Vision Zero strategy has since guided numerous safety initiatives in Somerville ranging from lower citywide speed limits, crosswalk and lighting improvements, and intersection redesign to the introduction of separated bike lanes. The Draft Vision Zero Action Plan details further actions the City will take over the next five years to work toward the long-term goal of Vision Zero.

“We have a monumental challenge before us: we must undo a century’s worth of car-centric transportation design that is unnecessarily putting today’s multi-modal residents in peril. So it will take time, resources, and smart solutions. But we cannot shy away from this responsibility. Somerville must do all it can to prevent any further loss of life or serious injury on our roadways,” said Mayor Curtatone.

"Last year, three pedestrians were tragically killed by motorists in Somerville. Vision Zero is truly a matter of life and death,” said Mark Niedergang, Ward 5 City Councilor and Chair of the Council’s Traffic and Parking Committee. “Mayor Curtatone wrote that 'we must treat traffic safety like the public health crisis that it is.' I believe we can win the battle to make our streets safe, especially for pedestrians and bicyclists, but for motorists as well, and when we do, there will be many additional environmental, health, and economic benefits."

Both Mayor Curtatone and the City Council have recently called for greater investment in traffic safety, with Curtatone announcing in his January 6 inaugural speech that in the coming term, he is calling for an "unprecedented investment" in transportation staff and resources to help achieve both the community’s Vision Zero goals for safer streets and its carbon neutrality goals set forth in the City’s Climate Forward Plan.

Vision Zero: A Closer Look

A Vision Zero approach recognizes that users of the transportation system will sometimes make mistakes and that crashes will continue to occur. Given that reality, it focuses on designing our roadways and transportation policies so that these mistakes do not result in serious injury or death.

The implementation of Vision Zero in Somerville is also grounded in equity considerations. The City recognizes the disproportionate burden of traffic crashes on people of color, low-income households, people with limited English proficiency, and persons with disabilities or mobility impairments, and transportation safety improvements will be prioritized for these populations.

The City invites public comments on the draft plan through Monday, February 10, in any of the following ways:

Open House #1
East Somerville Community School, Cafeteria
50 Cross St, Somerville
Tuesday, January 21, 6-8 p.m.

Open House #2
Somerville Community Baptist Church
31 College Ave., Somerville
Thursday, January 30, 6-8 p.m.

Open House #3
Somerville Public Library, Auditorium
79 Highland Ave, Somerville
Wednesday, February 5, 6-8 p.m.

 

Individuals with disabilities who need auxiliary aids and services for effective communication, written materials in alternative formats, or reasonable modifications in policies and procedures, in order to access the programs and activities of the City of Somerville or to attend meetings, should contact Nency Salamoun, at 617-625-6600 x2323 or [email protected]