Vision Zero should be called ‘zero vision’

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

(Emma Lee/WHYY)

Vision Zero is a total disaster, and I will explain why. Its supporters use ad-hominem attacks, non-sequitur arguments, cherry-picked data, and inaccurate information, and have a willful blindness to facts.

Maximum safety on roads occurs when we have speed limits set to the 85th percentile free-flowing traffic speed, yellow traffic lights set to actual approach speeds with realistic perception and reaction times, and stop signs only where needed. When do the exact opposite, you will cause crashes and ticket safe drivers. Decades of real data has shown this to be true.

The speed camera is the most outrageous aspect of Vision Zero. Where these are used, the speed limits are artificially low and tickets go out for speeds just barely over the limit. This is designed to ticket average drivers for profit. Ignored is the fact that speed cameras have been shown to make significant errors. The readings have been wrong, stopped cars were supposedly speeding, and incorrect cars have been cited. All speed-timing devices and cameras may potentially have errors that might not be obvious. In Washington, D.C., their own data suggests that speed was a factor in a scant 3.1 percent of crashes and that cameras of all types have not improved safety there. This is not rare, as speed cameras worldwide have been shown to lead to more crashes or have no effect upon crash rates. Data can be manipulated to claim anything.

Another component of Vision Zero is red-light cameras. It was reported multiple times that crashes increased at red-light camera intersections in Philly. Will Vision Zero in Philly be run by people who supported red-light cameras but now know more crashes resulted? What if yellows are too short, or if people are cited a split-second after the light changes, for stopping beyond the stop line, or for an incomplete stop on a right-on-red turn? Every city using these may have different criteria, but the basic premise is the same. If you want real safety at traffic lights, all you need are speed limits set to the 85th percentile free-flowing traffic speed, longer yellows, realistic length all-red intervals, and sensors to keep an all-red if someone enters late. Cities can also synchronize lights and use sensors to know where cars are and change the lights as needed.

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Municipal police radar is yet another plank of this. Again, low speed limits, tickets for speeds barely over the limit, and a pile of possible errors. Radar cannot tell cars apart.

Vision Zero also calls for narrower vehicular lanes. What would this do, except cause more congestion, air pollution, road rage, and crashes? Isn’t that what supporters are trying to stop? I have read bicycle advocates say that they want to make driving a car more annoying in order to promote bike usage. Speaking of this, why must bike lanes always be on the busiest roads, not the side streets?

How many of the crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists are the fault of these people, not the cars? The answer is quite a few. It is time for pedestrians and bicyclists to be fully aware of all laws, pay attention, and use common sense to avoid conflicts.

Look at a Vision Zero utopia of New York City. Many people there are fed up and results have not been very good.

When you look at real data without any preconceived notions, you see that Vision Zero is a flop. Many people stand to profit from it in some way, it harasses drivers, and it attempts to keep cars out of the city. Supporters care about safety? It is a false argument when crashes will likely spike. What will actually happen is that cars will be diverted onto side streets not designed for lots of traffic or trucks, or drivers will avoid the city entirely. Before celebrating, remember that drivers pay for the roads in ways that cyclists don’t, through federal and state gas taxes, tolls, and various fees. Philly already keeps people away with its red-light cameras, high sales tax, and soda tax.

Also consider that people associated with the camera industry are facing criminal charges or have pleaded guilty to them. Is this what we want?

We need to strive for proper traffic engineering based upon sound science. When you combine poor traffic engineering with predatory enforcement, you create a total disaster. Many Vision Zero supporters will not even talk to people they disagree with. Supporters assume they are completely correct and only read materials they agree with.

I strongly urge all residents of Pennsylvania and the people who drive here to say no to Vision Zero. Philadelphia started out as a shining example to the world, but a policy like this will embarrass the city. Do the right thing!

James Sikorski Jr. is the Pennsylvania Advocate for the National Motorists Association, a grassroots group advocating for best-practice traffic engineering and enforcement.

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