Commentary: City Makes Strides Toward Vision Zero

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The City installed a "Z Crossing" on Broadway Street in early 2016 to improve safety for pedestrians. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

In September 2015, the City of San Antonio launched Vision Zero, an initiative championed by City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5), with unanimous support from City leadership and elected officials. The purpose of Vision Zero is to educate pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists on the importance of traveling safely.

San Antonio recently struggled with an alarming number of traffic-related fatalities. In 2014, 54 people died while walking in San Antonio and 94% of those killed people 18 years or older, with the average age being 49. Seventy-four percent of those fatalities occurred between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.


A worker installs a pedestrian crosswalk sign. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

The City of San Antonio has created a plan, and strives for zero traffic related fatalities through the implementation of education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement and evaluation elements. New funding has been allocated to enhance engineering components, and community awareness has increased through educational outreach, billboards, messages on bus shelters and VIA buses traveling city wide.

Program enhancements have included $1 million toward pedestrian safety improvements for school zone upgrades and pavement markings in 2015, plus an additional $1 million for school zones in 2016. $15 million was allocated in 2016 to add new sidewalks, $10 million more than the typical budget amount of $5 million. Innovative tools such as overhead pedestrian flashing signals have been installed city wide, and Z-Crossings on streets such as Broadway, Culebra, and Commerce are also being constructed to further enhance pedestrian safety.

All of the various improvements being implemented complement past bond programs voters approved in 2007 and 2012, which are designed to enhance facilities for people who bike and walk. The City’s aggressive approach to Vision Zero is also an important part of the SA Tomorrow multi-modal transportation plan being developed with the community.

These projects and programs are recent, but the City has worked to improve the safety and quality of life for several years. In 2011, the City of San Antonio adopted a Complete Streets policy ensuring all future capital projects be assessed for multi-modal capabilities. The Safe Passing Ordinance was also passed, which is aimed at protecting vulnerable road users. In 2014, the Hands Free Ordinance was adopted preventing people from using their cell phone when operating a vehicle.

Most recently, San Antonio was named as a Vision Zero Emerging City by the Vision Zero Network.

“I am pleased and proud of San Antonio’s selection by Vision Zero Network as a member of the newly formed Vision Zero Emerging Cities program,” stated Gonzales. “City leaders, staff and our local partners are committed to eliminating traffic deaths and fatalities in San Antonio, and participation with peer cities will help us find the practical solutions to achieve that high goal.”

The City of San Antonio, along with transportation partnering agencies, is committed to enhancing safety in San Antonio because every person matters. Visit to learn more about Vision Zero and to learn more about the SA Tomorrow multi-modal transportation plan.

 *Top Image: The City is dedicated to improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists throughout San Antonio, including the Broadway Reach. Photo courtesy of the City of San Antonio.

Related Stories:

A Broadway Crosswalk at the Pearl, At Least For a Day

Reflection on the MLK Day March and Transportation Equity and Social Justice

San Antonio Calls for Safer Streets With Vision Zero

Councilman Nirenberg: SA Tomorrow and the Road Ahead

8 thoughts on “Commentary: City Makes Strides Toward Vision Zero

  1. “Program enhancements have included $1 million toward pedestrian safety improvements for school zone upgrades and pavement markings in 2015”

    This is helpful, but what do you do about drivers who just don’t care? We walk the 0.3 miles to school every day, crossing two somewhat busy streets with crossing guards. At least weekly, someone runs the red light – even when the guard is in the middle of the street blowing her whistle. Drivers either speed up to try to make the light or just continue on through it like it’s not even there. It’s bad enough during school times, but at least there’s a crossing guard. My kids want to walk on their own, but given the idiotic drivers, I’m hesitant.

  2. “In 2014, the Hands Free Ordinance was adopted preventing people from using their cell phone when operating a vehicle.”

    Not to be unnecessarily pedantic, but the ordinance *penalizes* people who are caught using their cell phones while “driving.” And it’s such an effective deterrent that SAPD hands out a citation for it every 40 minutes.

    It doesn’t, however, *prevent* them in the slightest. If the fine were two thousand dollars instead of two hundred, maybe it would. But then, in this town, a DWI is a misdemeanor, with most people having their “sentence” be 1-2 years probation; people in trucks can murder bicyclists and not even get charged with a crime; and the average ‘safe following distance’ is two car lengths at 60 mph… so it’s pretty clear there won’t be any real effort to put any obstacle–including living human beings–in the way of any “driver.”

    Want to make a difference? Stop auto-renewing drivers’ licenses. Change the renewal time frame to every 2 years from ages 26-64, and every year from 16-25 and 65 and up. Or make DWI and distracted driving–both of which are arguably manslaughter-level idiocy–felonies, to more accurately represent the flagrant disregard for human life both of these crimes entail.

    Putting up signs and painting lines isn’t going to make a damned difference when people are too busy checking facebook, or too blind drunk, to see them.

  3. An education/enforcement campaigns so motorists are aware that pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks, marked or unmarked. This means motorists must stop and allow someone to walk across the street at intersections, and pedestrians, just like motorists, may complete their movement even if the light changes before they are completely across the street.

  4. I am an avid cyclist and mostly use the great greenways provided by the city. Two things that needs bringing up is the use of headphones while cycling and texting while cycling. I’ve almost had several accidents on my bike with cyclists either not paying attention where they are on the trails (basically weaving all over the trail) because they are texting on their phones. Cyclists wearing headphones do not hear you coming up from behind them as they do not hear your bell or you shouting out, “On your left!” I know this will be hard to enforce, but at least make it known that it’s hazardous to other cyclists that are serious about biking and exercising.

  5. What I don’t see with this Vision Zero update (hopefully now there will be monthly updates) is a map of where improvements have recently been made. Particularly in relation to where pedestrian deaths and accidents have occurred in San Antonio – in the recent past as well as in the last few weeks:

    A key take-away message from late 2015’s Health and the Built Environment Conference ( is that City officials need to recognize in a timely manner the exact spots where pedestrians are killed and injured in San Antonio, walking these stretches (including with those affected) and then making concrete improvements in these areas.

    Simply as example, I have not noted any City recognition of or improvements to the bus waiting area downtown on Commerce Street where a 71 year woman was killed in January (trying to flag down a departing bus – including as there’s no real time signage at that key bus stop to easily alert passengers to the next buses, headways can be long and waiting conditions are poor and congest the sidewalk)

    I have also not noted any City recognition of or improvements to Hildebrand near West Avenue and Fredericksburg Road – where a 58 year old man was struck in December crossing near a VIA bus stop and HEB; in fact, quite the opposite as traffic lanes have been re-striped on some of these streets but pedestrian crossing areas have not yet been repainted and are deeply faded at key intersections around the HEB site and near bus stops

    With each of the pedestrian death and injury stories in San Antonio that I’ve read recently, mapping them almost always reveals proximity to a VIA bus stop or other key draw, poor crossing conditions, poor sidewalk conditions including poor pedestrian scale lighting (which TCI has been quick to say is not their responsibility) and posted speeds through intersections that are 30 mph or greater.

    Generally, the local press has done a lousy job of following up with these stories – which tend to follow a discourse of blaming the victim (dressed in dark clothes, etc).

    It seems that San Antonio is struggling with pedestrian deaths and injuries primarily because the City is not responding with basic maintenance or simple improvements to the areas where deaths and injuries have taken place.

    Local press can help by including with coverage of pedestrian deaths and injuries an assessment of the surrounding pedestrian environment and by following-up with the City to make sure some (any) physical improvements are made in these spots in a timely manner.

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