An NJ city that limited parking on the street hasn’t had a road death in seven years

In the densely populated city of Hoboken, New Jersey, a remarkable transformation has taken place. Once plagued by the common urban issue of traffic fatalities, Hoboken has now become a national example of road safety success.

This change was spurred by a tragic event: the death of 89-year-old Agnes Accera, hit by a van while crossing a street. This incident propelled city leaders, including Mayor Ravi Bhalla, to take decisive action, leading to a citywide embrace of the Vision Zero initiative.

Vision Zero, a strategy initiated in Sweden, aims to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all. Hoboken’s adoption of this policy has led to a significant and impressive outcome: for seven years, there have been zero deaths related to traffic accidents within the city.

This achievement is not just a statistic; it represents a fundamental shift in how the city approaches transportation and urban planning.

The success of Hoboken’s safety measures is multifaceted, but one key strategy stands out: daylighting. By removing parking spaces near intersections, daylighting improves visibility for both drivers and pedestrians, significantly reducing the risk of collisions. This approach, combined with other measures such as lowering speed limits and optimizing traffic light timing, has been instrumental in the city’s achievement.

Despite the clear benefits in terms of safety, these changes have not been without their detractors. Local businesses, accustomed to ample street parking, express concerns about the impact on customer accessibility and, consequently, their bottom line.

Yet, the city’s transportation director, Ryan Sharp, emphasizes that there is no “magic” solution to road safety. Instead, it’s the result of persistent efforts and the layering of various strategies over time.

Hoboken’s approach reflects a broader trend towards reevaluating the dominance of cars in urban spaces and prioritizing pedestrian safety. This shift is evident in the growing number of U.S. cities adopting elements of the Vision Zero initiative.

New York City, for example, has expanded its efforts by promising to improve visibility at 1,000 intersections annually, and other cities are exploring similar measures.

The move towards safer urban environments also extends beyond local initiatives. In California, for example, new legislation prohibits parking within 20 feet of intersections statewide, aiming to enhance visibility and safety for all road users.

This move towards standardizing safety measures reflects a growing consensus on the importance of prioritizing human life in urban planning.

While Hoboken’s journey to zero traffic deaths is commendable, it also serves as a reminder that such achievements require a balance. Urban design expert Jeff Speck warns against the potential for overzealous application of safety measures, which can sometimes lead to unintended consequences like increased speeding.

The challenge, then, is to implement safety improvements while maintaining the functional and aesthetic aspects of urban environments.

In conclusion, Hoboken’s story is one of tragedy turned into proactive change, serving as a powerful example for cities worldwide. It demonstrates that with commitment, community involvement, and thoughtful implementation of safety measures, urban areas can significantly reduce traffic fatalities, transforming them into safer, more livable spaces.

As cities continue to grow and evolve, Hoboken’s experience offers valuable lessons in the pursuit of safer, more inclusive urban environments.

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