If you’ve noticed more people on our roads over the past two years, the reason is simple – Huntsville is now the largest city in the state of Alabama.
Not only do we have more residents than ever before, but we’re also attracting millions of visitors each year. That’s thousands more cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians moving around the Rocket City than a decade ago.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize more people on our roads equals more crashes. To help reduce accidents, Huntsville’s Planning Department is taking a close look at how to make roads safer for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, wheelchair users, public transit riders and other forms of mobility.
“Last year, we passed a resolution committing to Vision Zero, or zero roadway fatalities and serious injuries by the year 2055,” Mayor Tommy Battle said. “And while 32 years in the future seems like a long time, we have to start planning now to achieve that goal.”
About Vision Zero
Vision Zero was first implemented in Sweden in the 1990s. As of August 2022, there are more than 50 Vision Zero communities in the U.S.
Southern cities that have committed to Vision Zero include Atlanta and Macon in Georgia; and Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Hillsborough County in Florida.
Dennis Madsen, Huntsville’s Manager of Urban & Long-Range Planning, said safety is top of mind as the City expands its transportation infrastructure to meet the demands of a growing population.
Here are three reasons to support the initiative:
1. A growing concern
According to the Vision Zero Network, 42,000 people die each year in traffic crashes in the U.S. Alabama experienced a steady increase in traffic fatalities over the 10-year period from 2011 to 2020. Traffic fatalities jumped by 3.67% from 2011 to 2020, though serious injuries declined .04%. Total crashes rose by nearly 5%.
2. Safety for all
The City is already taking steps to improve multimodal safety and access for everyone, including those who use Huntsville’s transit and paratransit services. Sidewalks are being improved and upgraded for wheelchair users. The City is also adding more crosswalks, pedestrian islands and bike lanes to busier streets.
Most of those improvements are prescribed in Huntsville’s master plan, The BIG Picture. Madsen said, however, there’s still plenty of miles to go and work to be done between now and 2055.
“When we focus on vehicle infrastructure, we also want to make sure we don’t forget considerations for pedestrians or those who ride bikes,” he said. “If we don’t pay attention to our other modes, it opens us up to more safety challenges.”
3. Your voice matters
An online Vision Zero survey is available in English and Spanish. Public feedback will help guide planning efforts to improve safety now and in the future.
“When you walk or take the same route in your car or on a bike each day, you pick up on patterns or notice safety issues that need to be addressed,” Madsen said. “It might be a simple infrastructure fix or something more challenging. That’s why we hope people will complete the survey and let us know where we need to be taking a closer look.”