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Rahm Says He's Still Committed To Eliminating Traffic Fatalities

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 6, 2016 9:01PM

It’s been over four years since Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Transportation issued their “Chicago Forward” agenda, a plan that included the goal of eliminating traffic-related fatalities within 10 years. In an effort to see that goal through, the city more recently signed onto the Vision Zero Chicago initiative—the local version of a broader, international movement that urges the development of action plans toward that objective. What those plans and recommendations entail exactly still remains to be seen, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel reiterated on Tuesday that an action plan of some kind is just around the corner, set to be released this fall.

In a press release sent by the city on Tuesday, Emanuel doesn’t outline any new specifics or concrete dates, but the fact the statement exists is noteworthy nonetheless. According to Streetsblog’s fatality tracker, 18 pedestrians have been killed this year; and four cyclists were fatally struck over the summer—all of which has built heavy anticipation for the Vision Zero report and reignited safety concerns and vigorous debate. And Rahm is well aware of that fact, the release would appear to indicate.

“Every day someone is injured or worse as the result of a car crash on Chicago’s streets—and that is simply unacceptable,” Emanuel said in the release. “These crashes are preventable, and that is why we are stepping up our efforts, developing partnerships with communities and private industry. We are going to use all the resources at our disposal to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries in Chicago.”

The plan is being developing between 10 local departments and agencies (including law enforcement, public health and the CTA); and it includes the input of local transit/cycling advocates. Aside from enforcement and health recommendations, Vision Zero will utilize CDOT’s crash data for engineering projects, among other TBD initiatives.

One of the most intriguing nuggets of information is the following line: “Education of all roadway users is another important component of the Vision Zero Action Plan. The initiative will encourage community engagement on traffic safety and outreach to private industry partners.”

All four of this summer’s cycling fatalities were notably at the hands of commercial-vehicle drivers. If and how Vision Zero addresses that issue is of key concern. (The release does not allude to roadway obstructions, another topic which has become regrettably important in 2016.)

Mike Claffey, CDOT Director of Public Affairs, declined to offer a firm date on when to expect the report last week, and could not elaborate as to whether commercial-driver education would be included. He told Chicagoist in a statement:

"Traffic safety is a top priority and the city has multi-departmental team that is developing a comprehensive plan that will enhance our ongoing traffic safety efforts, using a data-driven approach that includes engineering improvements, education and enforcement. Our efforts are aimed at eliminating all fatal and serious injury crashes with a special focus on protecting the most vulnerable users of the right-of-way, including bicyclists and pedestrians."

As other cities bear out, the action plan will not be an immediate panacea. But as Jim Merrell, Advocacy Director of Active Transportation Alliance, told Chicaogoist earlier this week, it will provide a data-driven corrective to a problem that is too often approached anecdotally. The city's statement today shows the administration is keenly aware of that necessity. Like everybody else, we're looking forward to seeing how exactly that manifests.