Albuquerque City Council’s Land Use, Planning, and Zoning Committee (LUPZ) will begin the City’s formal consideration of Councilor Benton’s proposed “Downtown Safe Zone” resolution this Wednesday in a meeting at 5:00 p.m. The resolution calls for “replacement of existing speed limit signs, installation of new speed limit signs, and adjustment of traffic signal timing” toward achievement of a maximum 20 mph speed in the following defined zone:
Bounded To The North Up To Lomas Boulevard But Not Including Lomas
Boulevard, The BNSF Railroad Tracks To The East, Coal Avenue To The
South, And 8th Street To The West
While limited in terms of scope, both geographically (i.e., just downtown and not including Lomas Blvd.) and financially (just signs and adjusted signal timing), the resolution brings the concept of “20 is plenty” to formal local attention, following actions to slow driving speeds in other cities including Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and, possibly, Nashville (to 25 mph from 30).
If passed, the resolution might serve as de facto pilot project to possibly extend implementation of such zones to other areas of town, including residential areas and other “non-arterial streets,” as is the case now in Seattle:
Central to arguments favoring lowered speeds is the simple fact that chances for serious injury and death from crashes lower in correlation with speed, particularly for those walking:
While a simple truth, incorporating that truth into roadway design and traffic enforcement would be a fundamental shift from decades of focus on getting drivers to their destination as efficiently as possible. Perhaps just as important as creating a Downtown Safe Zone is the inclusion of “Vision Zero” language in the “Whereas” sections of Councilor Benton’s resolution:
Many locally, including those of us at Better Burque, continue to advocate that Mayor Keller’s Administration formally commit the City to Vision Zero goals and precepts, as have cities across the country, including Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Inclusion of Vision Zero thinking directly in the Downtown Safe Zone resolution is a small, yet potentially important step in moving toward such a commitment. While a search of regional governmental documents does show reference to Vision Zero as part of the recent resolution approving the Regional Traffic Safety Action Plan, the Safe Zone resolution would be the first time Vision Zero has made it into City of Albuquerque code.
“Small step” also well-defines Councilor Benton’s Downtown Safe Zone resolution itself. Yes, it should include funding for more than changing a few signs to 20 mph. Yeah, the Zone should definitely include Lomas Blvd., a corridor that sees the highest rate of injurious and deadly downtown crashes.
But we have to start somewhere, and a small step in an extremely car-centric city is better than an overreach. And yes, I rather dislike having to write the previous sentence, but it’s reality. And the Downtown Safe Zone resolution is a start, a small, yet important start, toward changing that reality.
The LUPZ meeting is this Wednesday afternoon starting at 5:00. Address is: Council Committee Room 9th Floor, Suite 9081, across from Civic Plaza at 5th and Marquette. Maybe I’ll see you there.