In an editorial, Hoboken 3rd Ward council candidate explains what he believes to be flaws in the city’s Vision Zero program and how they can be fixed.
I am a critic of Hoboken’s specific Vision Zero program for “pedestrian safety,” yes, but I still am very supportive of pedestrian safety in general.
As someone who does not drive, I cross streets in Hoboken all the time walking to work or to other spots in town, and it is very important to me that me and my neighbors are not run over by cars and possibly killed or maimed.
As a candidate running for City Council in the 3rd Ward in Hoboken, I especially care about pedestrian safety on the busy Willow Ave too, since it is the Eastern border of much of our Ward and the crossing by which most 3rd Ward residents make their way on foot to the PATH trains and New York ferries or the shops on Washington St.
However, I am also reasonable and understand that it would be utter madness to pursue pedestrian safety as an end goal without any regards to the costs.
Pursuing any policy goal to perfection is non-sensical. Consider a vision for zero crime that involved draconian security measures like metal detectors in front of every bodega and armed guards on every street corner.
Vision Zero is an urban planning movement seeking to reduce all serious traffic injuries and fatalities to zero, which originated in Sweden, a country whose politics I usually agree with on issues like sensible non-authoritarian COVID policies and having an expansive welfare state.
But this movement has some very questionable premises, which are clearly stated on its Wikipedia page, including that “Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society”, a rejection of traditional cost-benefit analysis.
The Vision Zero movement has of course spread to the USA and Hoboken in particular, bringing some good ideas and initiatives but also some wanton excess, exactly what someone would expect from an ideology that is extreme by design, sincerely pursuing a perfectionist goal with a stated disregard to cost-benefit analysis.
Now I don’t want to reject all that the Vision Zero folks in Hoboken have done to improve safety the past few years as some of it is sensible and an improvement for quality of life, but I think these folks working for safety in Hoboken should add an asterisk to their mission statement or change the name of their program to “Vision within Reason” maybe.
As a prime example of where I think the Vision Zero mindset shows both its upside and downside, I’d like to point out the situation with those bollard pole things that have popped up around town in order to block cars (and delivery trucks) from parking, dropping off, picking up, pulling over, or standing too close to a crosswalk.
These are installed in large part for visibility reasons. And clearly, they make sense at a lot of intersections in Hoboken where cars historically have had trouble seeing pedestrians or where one reasonably could imagine there would be such issues due to other factors impacting visibility.
Good job on installing bollards in those areas! However, even if it’s true there are laws in New Jersey against parking too close to crosswalks, surely it’s extreme to install these poles on as many potentially random 3rd Ward corners as they do, even when the flow of one-way traffic means there’s no benefit such as the southwest corner on the one-way Willow Ave that flows south when it intersects the westward-flowing one-way 8th Street?
Also, why install these on quieter streets where the minimal safety benefit causes meaningful inconvenience to residents needing quick drop offs and such?
And most seriously, in an example where pedestrian safety is valued to the exclusion of health in other areas, the blocking of cars from easily pulling over on Willow Ave creates a dangerous potential time waster for ambulances going down that road to the hospital, which of course is in the 3rd Ward on Willow Ave between 3rd and 4th.
I’ve seen so many cars stop traffic on that street for lack of pull-over areas, something we can mitigate if we were thoughtful about costs and benefits with those bollards! Just have common sense, not a zealous perfectionist vision!
Look, we can all work together to create a Hoboken that works for pedestrians, drivers, and bikers too.
We can likely find areas we all agree need change or additional work, such as eventually moving Washington St’s bike lane to be in between the parked cars and sidewalk not to the left of the parked cars adjacent to the flowing traffic.
What we cannot do, however, is engage in net-negative efforts that undermine some in the city in pursuit of impractical attitudes and / or fanciful ideological notions!
As a 3rd Ward councilperson, I would be a friend to car owners and drivers while also recognizing that pedestrian-only folks such as myself must be protected.
I would fight for common sense and not fanciful pursuits like the idea we can somehow “eliminate all traffic-related injuries and deaths by 2030.”
Think about how ridiculous that is, given that it is sincere and is influencing planners to actually make decisions without weighing the consequences properly?
Hoboken 3rd Ward City Council candidate 2023