A New Vision Zero for St. Paul: Part 2 – Evaluation

In part one of this Vision Zero advocacy piece, I outlined “five Es” of implementing the plan: Evaluation, Engineering, Enforcement, Education, and Encouragement. In this part, I will briefly touch on Evaluation, as well as how quickly it intersects with implementation and some of the other Es.

Evaluation

Saint Paul has taken important first steps in the Evaluation component of Vision Zero, with the inclusion of pedestrian and bicycle planners in City Hall, as well as the corresponding plans. The draft of the new pedestrian plan can be found online, and Fay Simer, the new pedestrian advocate, is getting underway with public outreach, as well as securing a contractor for a comprehensive pedestrian study. Saint Paul’s publicly available crash-data is also admirable, though causality could be more pointedly and bluntly outlined. Additionally, the City’s District Council program brings a diverse array of voices to the table.

Data Transparency

As mentioned, Saint Paul has a pretty good program of data transparency and information sharing, displayed at various levels on the city’s web domain. However, the consolidated Vision Zero data portal for New York City is an entirely different level of data gathering and display…data with a clear purpose…and is a useful model to mirror in Saint Paul.

Public Counters

Saint Paul might consider public counters to advertise current mode-share within the city, or even easy to find online counters. These counters could be tailored to celebrate forms of transportation other than private automobile, which kind of benefits one of the other “Es”: Encouragement. Goal-oriented displays are often used in public venues as a form of social encouragement for recycling utilization, fundraisers, and safety campaigns; why not utilize one to not only document, but encourage forms of transit other than the car? Furthermore, insofar as the data collection goes, Saint Paul’s current method of cyclist counting is done by human volunteers in a several-hours block, once per year. And while that’s better than many cities (who do none) and the historical norm for places even as bike-friendly as Portlandia, it’s possible that counting and traffic planning could be done better and more accurately with technology.

Targeted Planning

Most buildings in Saint Paul come equipped with the “Saint Paul Standard Bike Rack”, pictured here. It’s even more awesome in winter.

It’s one thing to draft a plan that claims to have pedestrians and cyclists at the core. It’s another to set actual measurable, and ambitious-but-achievable goals for mode-share beyond just statements and platitudes. After adopting Vision Zero, San Luis Obispo modified its circulation plan to target numbers of no greater than 50% private vehicle, 20% bicycles, 18% walking, and 12% transit. This gave actual figures for planners to design around. In Saint Paul, the mere establishment of concrete goals suggests some immediate changes in order to achieve similar numbers to San Luis Obispo’s targets, particularly with our winter in mind. These immediate changes include crossing signals that change on-demand for pedestrians, rather than having pedestrians wait in the cold and snow for the convenience of cars, as well as expanded bicycle protected zones and bicycle lockups other than the standard St. Paul bike rack (that’s “plumbing” in other places) or even worse, Highland’s highly decorative but functionally near-worthless and extremely scarce bike racks. Then cyclists aren’t prowling in the cold and dark for a lockup that is much farther away than Saint Paul’s abundant and, dare I say, sacred car parking.

Highland’s bike racks are like Highland; very decorative, and extremely difficult to actually utilize with a bike.

Saint Paul has started the process already with some good groundwork for Evaluation, and in this segment are a couple of ways in which Evaluation becomes a form of action where the most elementary findings are translated into real world application. The next short installment will cover, briefly, a source of constant debate and consternation: Engineering.

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