In a timely but unfortunate coincidence, Oak Park’s village board discussed taking steps to develop a plan to eliminate traffic injuries Nov. 8, only a handful of hours after a Longfellow Elementary School student was struck by a vehicle while leaving school. While that student was taken to a local hospital it does not appear injuries were life-threatening.
During a discussion of the recommended 2022 fiscal year budget, village staff brought forward a recommendation to put $25,000 toward hiring a consultant to help the village create a Vision Zero plan in Oak Park.
Vision Zero is described on its website as a multi-disciplinary approach to creating safer streets by building leadership, collaboration and accountability among stakeholders, along with collecting and analyzing traffic data. The Vision Zero strategy prioritizes equity and community engagement, as well as managing speed to safe levels and setting a timeline in which to achieve zero traffic deaths or serious injuries, according to the Vision Zero website.
“Given the staffing challenges we have in engineering, we thought that it could help us get a consultant in to at least talk about what some of the elements would be, what needs to go into the plan,” said Public Works Director John Wielebnicki.
“This wouldn’t be the plan; it would be how to get to the plan.”
Wielebnicki added that the Vision Zero plan is already a part of the 2022 work plan of the Transportation Commission, which Trustee Art Walker-Peddakotla said the commissioners were very excited about.
Referencing the child who was hit by a car earlier that afternoon, Walker-Peddakotla told the board she thought the initiative was “super important.”
“A Vision Zero plan aims to reduce pedestrian and bicycle accidents to zero in a community,” she said. “I think it’s something that this village should absolutely do.”
While she agreed with the proposed $25,000, she wanted confirmation that the Transportation Commission was aware of the amount and believed it sufficient to cover the costs of the first phase.
Echoing Wielebnicki, Village Engineer Bill McKenna said the $25,000 would be used to explore implementing a Vision Zero plan, but the dollar amount could change, depending on what would be in that plan and putting it into action.
“If there is a desire to do robust public engagement while formulating a plan, that dollar amount would certainly go up,” said McKenna.
Vision Zero is initiative unrelated to Greenways, a plan to make streets safer for walking, bicycling and other outdoor recreational activities. No funding for Greenways would be diverted toward Vision Zero.
Aside from Walker-Peddakotla, village board members did not appear to have a complete understanding of Vision Zero. To allow the board more time to research the Vision Zero movement, Village President Vicki Scaman moved to table the discussion until the board’s next budget meeting on Nov. 22.