Council approves Vision Zero program

Terry RogersGovernment & Politics, Headlines, Milford Headline Story

The City of Milford recently adopted Vision Zero, a national initiative designed to reduce injuries and deaths among pedestrians and cyclists

Milford City Council recently approved a resolution that would include the city in a national Vision Zero program. The main goal of the program is to focus on safety, especially for pedestrians and cyclists, on roadways. The resolution established a goal of January 1, 2030 to meet zero injuries and deaths in the city.

“The main aspects of the Vision Zero plan are to promote safety, equity, sustainability, some economic benefits and promote public health. It’s still in draft form, so there’s still some things that needs to happen there. We’re looking at applying for a grant in July and this would just give us some extra points on the grant but also establish that council is willing to proceed forward with increasing the safety on our public roadways, improving access, ADA, pedestrian access, lightweight vehicle access,” James Puddicombe, City Engineer, said. “We have a plan to report back to council on our progress with the plan and how we’re improving safety wise. Basically, a look back at accidents over the last period since we began this and looking to see how we’re improving and where we can continue to improve. One of the other big items in there is the establishment of a task force which would help guide staff on basically public input on our plan. And we would adjust our plan going forward based on that feedback from the task force.”

Councilman Andy Fulton felt that using the word “zero” was not accurate, as there would always be accidents.

“One time the state tried to do a zero plan and they changed that name to reduction with goal statements because of grants and everything else. Because when you say zero, that means zero,” Councilman Fulton said. “And I’m just going to pop the bubble, I mean I wish it could happen. It’s not gonna because somebody’s gonna get hurt. They will fall off a bike, they will run into a car, into something, they will fall asleep, they’ll be texting, something will occur. Have you thought about the name of reduction to zero or toward zero? Instead of saying zero? That’s a really big statement.”

Puddicombe explained that the name Vision Zero was more of a long term goal. He stated that the name could be adjusted, but most of the grants the city would apply for require “lofty goals.” The overall goal was to reduce injuries and fatalities year by year with the ultimate goal being none by 2030. Councilman Katrina Wilson was confused as to why this program was necessary, wondering if it was simply checking off a box.

“It’s a great question. So basically, we already are doing this to some extent. So somewhat, it’s checking the box. But the big thing that we’re trying to do here is we’re trying to kind of combine everything that’s in the capital plan that fits this Vision Zero goal and kind of lay it out for council in a clear pathway,” Puddicombe said. “So Council can see how a bike path on South Marshall connects to a bike path down through the Rookery and how all of these things can come together to make the city better. So, I don’t know if that quite answers your question, Councilman, but I can elaborate a little more if you’d like or if there’s a particular area you have a question on.”

Councilwoman Wilson stated that she simply didn’t have a visual for what this program would do for the city.

“James has put a lot of effort into basically taking existing programs that we have and either fine tuning specifics on those or adding small details where there might be gaps and suddenly, he’s been able to structure this thing in such that we can fit the requirements of a grant that will have a substantial impact for us,” Mike Svaby, Director of Public Works, said. “And the cost of basically doing that as structuring what are mostly existing programs in the capital effort on the city’s part. And, with adding a little bit of oversight and structure to that submitting for the grant will end up getting a large contribution toward the capital effort back and I mean, we can adjust it however we want to in terms of the visual thing you might be looking for. There is an effort underway by James and I’ll turn it back to him to describe that in detail. It’s in a beta phase right now. So, we didn’t feel comfortable bringing it to council because it would have to be made public. And it’s still very rudimentary, but it will ultimately be part of this so that you’ll be able to see all these efforts coming together toward that common goal.”

Councilwoman Wilson stated that Svaby’s explanation helped her see the bigger picture but wanted to know if statistics were coming from the police department as part of the process.

“Yes, we did. Chief was able to identify some resources from public outreach that she did for PD. And then we also looked at statistics gathered,” Puddicombe said “PD provided me their traffic statistics and then we’re told the grant we’re looking at actually requires us to pull from Department of Transportation. So, we pulled those as well and kind of shared information back and forth with chief.”

Councilman Fulton was still concerned that the goal of zero injuries or death was too ambitious.

“I just did a quick lookup of the of the State of Delaware, the DelDOT Safety Plan and they use the terminology “towards zero.” Something like that would work really well for you,” Councilman Fulton said. “If you said something like “the City of Milford Vision Towards Zero Plan” or something, it just doesn’t make that a finality. It just makes it a goal statement to reach it. Doesn’t make it the final number you have to reach.”

Councilman Jason James thanked Councilwoman Wilson for her question as he also was not understanding the need for this program.

“So this ticked the box to satisfy what’s needed to meet the needs for a grant so it’s really important. I guess it could be material, but I would like to work with Vision Zero vision in itself,” Councilman James said. “In the case of the aspirational, this is aspiring to zero if you want to. I think it was fine as long as, as you mentioned, James, as the body speaks to a reduction here and a reduction there. I think Vision Zero is aspirational. I think it speaks to the proper language and aspirational goal.”

Chief Cecilia Ashe explained that Vision Zero was actually a branded trademark.

“But I think also just for clarification, just because I sit on Highway Safety, Vision Zero is a trademark. It’s a national initiative. It’s a world driven initiative of doing exactly what Councilman James is saying which is to reduce and have the vision of zero,” Chief Ashe said. “Just as a police chief, I always have the vision of having zero crime. Is it likely? I don’t know. Hopefully. Right. But I think just clarifying that the actual term Vision Zero is its trademark. It’s a national initiative that’s taken on New York City, has taken this in other areas to reduce injuries and death, exactly to Councilman Fulton’s point.”

Councilman Dan Marabello agreed with Councilman James, believing that Vision Zero was aspirational.

“Anytime you have a vision, whatever it might be, it’s the reaching toward the ultimate goal,” Councilman Marabello said. “And you have to continually aspire to reach that goal even though you might not get there, so I think just Vision Zero is sufficient and adequate.”

Councilman Mike Boyle was concerned that the wording of the resolution left out council. Puddicombe explained that the language came directly from the City of Salisbury who had adopted the program, noting that they received a $14 million grant last year after adopting Vision Zero. He explained he tried to keep the language close because they had received an award, but that it could be adjusted. Puddicombe also explained that most of the people listed in the resolution were already part of the Bicycle Advisory Committee so there may be some overlap. Councilman Boyle was also concerned that there were too many people listed which could result in a lack of progress.

“I agree with Councilman Boyle. Where it says City of Milford and administration should say City of Milford and council because that’s technically the body and then if you want a separate line for administration, that’s fine,” Councilman James said. “Because then you start getting down into when you start naming all departments or you’re getting into the city managers group. Administration, it should just say City of Milford mayor and council if it was going to read properly.”

Earlier in the evening, council voted to move forward with recommended downtown streetscapes. Councilman Brian Baer asked if those changes were incorporated into Vision Zero. Puddicombe assured him they would be included.

“May I just ask a question before we get in the resolution? Do we need to clarify this a little more? You had question about the whole idea of the task force. And then Councilman James also has some questions. I’m concerned about either not having us involved or having too many people involved in achieving a reachable goal,” Councilman Boyle said. “I guess my question to council is do we do need to work on this a little more, this resolution, a little bit further. It’s a great idea. And the idea that we’re actually pulling everything together that we already have in the works in one way or working towards a goal probably achieved a lot more than other towns on this journey. We don’t want to just check the box. They’re just doing it because it’s a good thing to do, but with no real intention of achieving anything. meaning the vision plan is only gonna make an impact if we pull it off. So, do we need to clarify the resolution a little bit, or are we happy with the term vision zero, but I have no problem. The number of people involved in the committee would be become unwieldy after a while. He couldn’t get them all to come together at one meeting anyhow.”

Councilwoman Wilson pointed out that there may be no need to bring all of the parties together for one meeting and Puddicombe agreed. However, there was a time constraint on adopting the program.

“The language is actually directly from Salisbury minus some departments that we don’t have that Saulsbury has,” Puddicombe said. “The one thing that I’m cautious of is the grant is due July 10. And we do not have another meeting between now and then. Is it possible to amend the resolution or would Council be in favor potentially amending the resolution? Just to say that the task force will be established and then we come back in the new year, new fiscal year rather and establish the details of that.”

Councilman Boyle made a motion that the resolution be adopted with the understanding that council designate a chair or responsible two co-chairs to actually run the task force and then determine the scope of participation which would then have the authority to request from city administrators and others input to help support the plan and submit information to council. The motion was approved unanimously.













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