Rochester launches Vision Zero initiative

Print More
Mayor Malik Evans speaks at the June 6 news conference, flanked by, from left, Rochester City Council Vice President LaShay Harris, Council Member Mitch Gruber, and Council President Miguel Melendez.

Rochester plans to become a Vision Zero city, aimed at eliminating traffic-related deaths and severe injuries.

At a June 6 news conference at the Lake Avenue Fire Station, Rochester Mayor Malik Evans began his remarks by recalling the hit-and-run death of 19-year-old Jarod Jones in August 2022. Jones was hit near the intersection of Lake Avenue and Burley Street, just south of the station. The driver of the vehicle that struck him has not yet been identified.

“Vision Zero is not just a goal, it is a commitment—a commitment to ensuring that every individual can move safely throughout our city, whether they are walking, cycling or using public transportation,” Evans said.

First used in Sweden in the 1990s, the Vision Zero traffic safety strategy has been increasingly adopted in Europe and a number of U.S. cities. A nonprofit initiative, the Vision Zero Network, helps communities work to make changes to prioritize safe mobility.

City Council member Mitch Gruber, who has been spearheading Vision Zero planning here (citing the city’s Active Transportation Plan), notes that Rochester has the “highest overall rate of fatalities per crash per 100,000 residents of any midsize city in New York, from 2017 to 2021.” Reconnect Rochester tallied a record-high 15 deaths to pedestrians and bicyclists within the city of Rochester in 2023, said Mary Staropoli, executive director.

Edgar Santa Cruz

As troubling as these statistics may be, personal stories motivate many of the plan’s supporters. City Council Vice President LaShay Harris recounted the 2021 death of her great-uncle, Milton Harris, killed by a drunk driver on Genesee Park Boulevard. Gruber recalled the 2022 death of community activist Edgar Santa Cruz, hit in a Park Avenue crosswalk by a driver running a red light.

City Council Member Bridget Monroe’s son was hit by a car after getting off his school bus on Dewey Avenue; he survived.  Kecia McCullough, founder of the Rochester chapter of Black Girls Do Bike, told of the death of a young coworker, Bettina Ford, who was run down in a cross walk on St. Paul Boulevard in 2009.

The Vision Zero action plan envisions a range of actions including extensive public engagement on street design and traffic safety policies; physical improvements aiming at sidewalks, bike lanes, intersections, crosswalks and bus shelters; enhanced snow and ice removal, including bike lanes; and a 63-mile connected bike network, adding 44 miles to what has already been completed.

The plan envisions imposing a citywide 25 mph speed limit, recently authorized by the state. Automated traffic enforcement—speed and red-light cameras—will be pursued in cooperation with New York State.

Miguel Melendez

Finally, the plan includes a targeted focus on Lake Avenue, including the creation of a rapid bus transit corridor.

Melendez summarized his support, echoing comments of other participants: “This Vision Zero plan is the start of a commitment. We know that it’s going to take time, it’s going to take many deliberations amongst Council members, and is certainly going to take the community buying in to all of the strategies and opportunities to change the culture around driving and reckless driving in our community. Achieving safer neighborhoods will require that all of us be in.”

See the Vision Zero plan for more information.

Kent Gardner is Rochester Beacon opinion editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *