Imagine a place with no roadway fatalities, where children and seniors can safely walk on the streets. There is a place in New Jersey that has achieved the Vision Zero goal of no traffic fatalities for four consecutive years: Hoboken. Located directly across the Hudson River from New York City, this city of about 60,000 people exemplifies what can be achieved when a community focuses on eliminating roadway fatalities . Hoboken is recognized as one of the most walkable cities in the country, where people of all ages and abilities can walk, bike and drive safely.
About 43,000 individuals died in traffic crashes in the United States last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) . That figure is the highest since 2005. So how did Hoboken bring its number to zero as fatalities were rising around the nation?
We must enact bold, safe streets policies so no one has to endure the experience of being put in harm’s way while crossing a street. –Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, City of Hoboken Vision Zero Action Plan 2021
Hoboken has adopted and aggressively implemented countermeasures that are proven to make travel in cities safer for everyone: high-visibility crosswalks, bike lanes, raised intersections, bus lanes, and curb extensions. These measures not only cost relatively little and can be implemented quickly but can also have a significant impact on reducing the frequency and severity of crashes on our roadways.
Between 2014 and 2018, there were 376 traffic-related injuries and three fatalities on Hoboken’s streets . All three of the people killed were pedestrians. Moreover, 88% of the crashes in those five years occurred at intersections . In response, Hoboken took some simple and low-cost actions to reduce conflicts at intersections. To improve visibility at street corners, parking spaces were removed within 25 feet of crosswalks.
Another measure that the city adopted was the leading pedestrian interval (LPI). Traffic signals were programmed to give pedestrians a head start of a few seconds during the pedestrian crossing phase so they can establish their presence in the crosswalk, increasing their visibility to the drivers of turning vehicles.
The mayor of Hoboken, Ravi Bhalla, is a champion of these efforts. He noted that the majority of young Hoboken residents walk or bicycle to school, and that the city has the highest percentage of public transit users in the country. In addition, electric scooters have recently become more prevalent, adding another mode of transportation to the streets of Hoboken. Keeping all these things in mind, Mayor Bhalla supported the adoption of a Vision Zero Action Plan for the city and has overseen implementation of the plan’s recommendations. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when much of the country slowed down, Hoboken not only continued to install curb extensions and high-visibility crosswalks, but increased its pace. In 2020, the city installed eleven curb extensions and 150 high-visibility crosswalks, up from nine and forty the previous year. .
It’s important to highlight the fact that throughout your day, you’re likely to experience to Hoboken as a vulnerable road user, even if it’s just walking from your car to your home or office. Moreover, street improvements, such as daylighting intersections or adding curb extensions, not only make the street safer for people crossing on foot, but they improve visibility for people driving and biking. –Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla, City of Hoboken Vision Zero Action Plan 2021
Mayor Bhalla launched the Vision Zero Action Plan 2021 to make Hoboken a safer and more livable city for all residents and visitors. The plan is centered around the Safe System Approach, which aims to make streets safer by anticipating human error and accommodating human injury tolerance. Hoboken’s Vision Zero Action Plan calls for a variety of investments, including introducing the Citi Bike bike-share system, increasing city-wide bicycle parking, “daylighting” street corners, and installing new high-visibility crosswalks, painted curb extensions, raised intersections, new pedestrian signals and dedicated left-turn lanes for bicyclists.
Another reason Hoboken was able to reach its zero-death goal is its time- and cost-effective implementation strategy. Hoboken realized that an easy way to improve a dangerous corridor is to do so when it is time to repave the road. The city takes full advantage of their pavement program to implement road diets, install bike lanes or provide wider medians.
By 2020, Hoboken had installed a bike lane network of 16.3 miles, which covers almost half of the city’s 33 miles of streets . However, most of these lanes are unprotected. The city’s Vision Zero Plan provides recommendations to amend bike lane design guidelines to ensure that future bike lanes are well-protected and located between parking and the curb, not next to the motor vehicle lanes. The city will also ensure that all future bike lanes adhere to the buffered bike lane standards published by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).
The City of Hoboken recently announced the reduction of the citywide speed limit from 25 mph to 20 mph. As a result of this change, users of all types of transportation will be able to travel on safer roadways. The reduced speed limit is an action item set forth in the Vision Zero Action Plan, which aims to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and injuries by 2030. The city will also install speed radar signs at Hoboken’s entry points, new 20 mph speed restriction signs, signage indicating the “citywide” limit, and 20 mph pavement markings in specific areas. In addition, the city will start an education and enforcement effort to alert drivers about the decreased speed limit in collaboration with the Hoboken Police Department and the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office.
Hoboken is not the only city in New Jersey adopting initiatives to improve road safety. In an effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and severe injuries on city roadways by the year 2026, Jersey City adopted its Vision Zero initiative in 2019. Last month, Atlantic City began work on the long-planned Atlantic Avenue Road Diet. Cities are also addressing motor vehicle speeds head on. As per the New Jersey Statutes, the speed limit, unless otherwise posted, is 25 mph when passing through a school zone, a business district or a residential area. However, municipalities are able to do more. The Cape May City Council is looking at the possibility of reducing speed limits to 20 mph on their local roads. Metuchen has reduced the speed limit on all local roads to 25 mph and has worked with Middlesex County to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph on county roads passing through Metuchen. And last year in Ocean City, the City Council reduced the speed limit for an alleyway to 15 mph.