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Vision Zero sets sights on safer streets

Albuquerque motorists have been urged via public service campaigns “Share the Road” and “Look for Me” for decades. Yet an uptick in pedestrian fatalities over the past year seems to indicate that many drivers haven’t gotten the message.

“It’s a car culture,” says Lee Ann Ratzlaff, organizer of BikeBurque. “One that insulates people from others once they get on the road.”

Ratzlaff has recently started bringing together cycling organizations, neighborhood associations, transportation planners and anyone else who will listen to urge the city to develop and enact a Vision Zero plan.

“We are aiming to develop strong support to let everyone in the community know that we will not tolerate fatals,” she said.

Vision Zero, which started in Sweden, is a safety project that involves a variety of community entities and aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic.

“We believe that all of us – whether driving, walking, bicycling, using a wheelchair, or riding transit – have a right to safe mobility,” according to the coalition’s website, visionzeronetwork.org.

A petition urging Albuquerque city government to adopt a Vision Zero strategy can be found by going to change.org and searching for “Vision Zero Albuquerque.”

Start of a mission

Ratzlaff said her efforts to build a local coalition to promote the Vision Zero agenda began after the March death of Eliza “Justine” Almuina near Cleveland Middle School.

“There was absolutely no reason for that,” she said.

Unlike other programs that focus only on public service announcements, billboards and other education, Ratzlaff said Vision Zero promotes physical changes in the roadways that lead to behavioral changes.

“For example, we know that excessive speed contributes to fatalities,” she said. “So one of the things that has to be considered is managing speed to safe levels.”

That may mean removing traffic lanes, reducing speed limits and installing traffic furniture.

She cites the work done by a neighborhood association to improve San Pedro NE between Copper and Interstate 40 as a step in the right direction. “Nobody knows the issues in any given neighborhood better than those who live there,” Ratzlaff said. “The catalyst for this work was the neighborhood association.”

Ratzlaff is hoping more organizations will get involved. “Vision Zero Weekend of Action” is planned for the weekend of June 2-3 and will ask residents to take to the streets near where they live and take photos and videos of problem areas and then send them to the city.

Details are still being developed but will be posted on Facebook and can be found by searching “Vision Zero Albuquerque.”

Bike to Work Day

A more established effort to inform motorists that “bikes belong” and urge commuting to work as a way to stay healthy, avoid traffic and go easier on the environment is Friday’s 23rd annual Bike to Work Day.

There will be 15 stops around the city where cyclists can pick up free coffee and other refreshments on their way to work from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. A celebration on Civic Plaza will take place at 8:30 a.m.

City officials say that nearly 1,400 cyclists participated in last year’s Bike to Work Day, and they are hoping for 2,000 this year.

“The idea is that these roads are not just for cars,” Johnny Chandler, the city’s public information coordinatorn told KOB-TV news earlier this week. “They are also for bicyclists.”

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