Vision Zero Task Force formed to reduce traffic crash injuries, fatalities

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Traffic accidents claimed the lives of three pedestrians and injured 78 people in Princeton between 2015 and 2019 – but if the Vision Zero Task Force has its way, pedestrian deaths and serious injuries will be a thing of the past.

The Princeton Council has authorized the creation of the Vision Zero Task Force, which aims to present a set of specific improvements to roadway design standards, traffic signal policies, street lighting policies and enforcement activities by the end of this year.

Princeton is one of New Jersey’s most bikable and walkable communities, including children who walk or ride their bicycles to school, according to the resolution that created the task force. The resolution was approved by the Princeton Council at its Feb. 16 meeting.

Children, people of color, people with limited English proficiency and senior citizens – many of whom rely on walking or riding a bicycle to reach their destination – are more susceptible to crash-related injuries, the resolution said.

While some say that traffic crashes and injuries are unavoidable, proponents of Vision Zero take the opposite stance.

“Vision Zero is a philosophy of traffic and roadway management,” Princeton Councilman David Cohen said. “Vision Zero believes accidents and clashes are avoidable. With proper design and policies, we can eliminate deaths and serious injuries on our roadways.”

Vision Zero, which is a global model that traces its roots to Sweden, is made up of five core principles – starting with the premise that municipalities can prevent traffic deaths and severe injuries.

Its other principles include the belief that while human error is inevitable, the entire system – not just individuals – is responsible for safety. Saving lives is not expensive, according to Vision Zero.

Vision Zero campaigns to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries have been adopted in New York City; Philadelphia; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Hoboken, the resolution stated.

The move to create Princeton’s own Vision Zero Task Force was greeted with support from several members of the public who attended the Princeton Council’s virtual meeting – including Laura and Richard Fredericks of the New Jersey Vision Zero Alliance.

The East Brunswick Township couple, whose 24-year-old daughter was riding her bicycle on her way to work in Philadelphia when she was killed by the driver of a trash truck, applauded the Princeton Council’s decision.

“We have become advocates for safe streets – not safer streets, but safe streets. Thank you for saving the lives of all people who use the streets,” Laura Fredericks said.

John Boyle of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia also praised the Princeton Council. The group is grateful that Princeton is leading the way by example, he said. Vision Zero is one of the coalition’s main campaigns.

Lisa Serieyssol, who chairs Princeton’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, said the committee was thrilled and is looking forward to establishing the task force. The task force will look at policies to promote Vision Zero’s goals and apply them to Princeton, she said.

The 17-member Vision Zero Task Force will include two Princeton residents, as well as Mayor Mark Freda, and Princeton Council members David Cohen and Mia Sacks.

Representatives from the Princeton Police Department, the Princeton Engineering Department, the Princeton Planning Department and the Princeton Board of Health will serve on the task force.

Two representatives from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, as well as one representative each from the town’s Department of Infrastructure and Operations, the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education and the Princeton Senior Resource Center will serve on the task force.

Rounding out the membership on the Vision Zero Task Force, there will be a representative from the Princeton Human Services Commission, Princeton University and the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association, according to the resolution.