Jersey City Achieved Zero Traffic Deaths on Its Streets. Here’s How They Did It.

Jersey City made headlines in 2022 when it accomplished what Vision Zero advocates have been championing for years: zero traffic deaths on city streets. For Mike Lydon of Street Plans, one of the city’s longtime consultants, reaching zero was less a matter of luck and more likely evidence that the city’s approach is working. That approach involved giving tactical urbanism a chance.

When Street Plans was first recruited by Jersey City in 2016, the former proposed bringing conversations about the streets to the streets. Street Plans convinced the city to permit community engagement by means of walking tours, pop-up parklets, and “tactical interventions.” For Lydon, a celebrated urban planner and the firm’s co-founder, the advantage of this method was that conversations about street use and safety were thrust into the physical realm, rather than just the theoretical one.

Thus, Jersey City became a laboratory. Embracing an iterative process—one wherein mistakes aren’t avoided but learned from— made the key difference.

There was no bureaucracy to overcome because the city was willing to experiment. Their openness to tactical urbanism was refreshing and in 2016 especially, it was practically unheard of.

Mike Lydon, attributing the speed of Jersey City’s transformation to committed local leadership, especially Barkha Patel, Director of Infrastructure, as well as Mayor Steven Fulop

In the end, Jersey City doesn’t need to be an anomaly. It confronted the reality of traffic deaths occurring on city streets and decided it’s not enough to say that it’s unacceptable, but that action needs to be taken immediately. For Lydon, a lot of it boils down to the will to change:

Change is always scary. However, continuing the way we have been has resulted in far too many deaths on our streets and that alone should catalyze the will to experiment.”

Mike Lydon – Principal, Street Plans

Above are excerpts from the Strong Towns article by Asia Mieleszko, June 2023

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