Vision Zero...Without the Enforcement

As a leading bicycle advocacy organization withdraws support for police enforcement of Vision Zero plans, the discretionary practices of traffic enforcement come under rejuvenated scrutiny.

2 minute read

June 11, 2020, 12:00 PM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia announces that it is adjusting its stance on Vision Zero—the term used to describe the global movement to eliminate traffic fatalities. 

Vision Zero is a policy which emphasizes the “5 Es” of planning: engineering, education, encouragement, evaluation, and enforcement. “Enforcement” has always been the most controversial of the Es, and many organizations which focus on safe streets, like the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, have cautiously chalked up armed police enforcement as necessary to save lives.

But that was wrong.

According to the announcement, "armed police enforcement" has negative impacts for public safety, including in the process of reducing collisions on roadways. The announcement comes in response to calls by advocates, like Tamika Butler and Destiny Thomas, calling for a reconsideration of transportation planning innovations given the realities of public safety and policing for BIPOC. 

The announcement also follows a newly rejuvenated discussion about the role of enforcement in policing the behavior of motorists. An article by Aaron Gordon ties data about traffic enforcement, to the doctrine police discretion and the public backlash against automated traffic enforcement (i.e., speed and red light cameras).  

Gordon writes:

Regardless of which policy you personally prefer, any effort to eliminate racism in American policing must figure out what to do about traffic enforcement, which is the leading cause of interactions between police and the public, according to the Department of Justice. And, by law, it is almost entirely up to the officer whether to let the person go with a warning, give them a ticket, ask to search their vehicle, or escalate the situation even further. It is an interaction intentionally designed to let the officer do virtually whatever he or she wants, reflecting the inherent biases of our legal system.

That discretion favors white drivers, according to data cited by Gordon, which automated systems like speed and red light cameras short-circuit: "Today, we can still see how elemental discretion is to traffic enforcement, because we have an alternative, one many Americans loathe to the bone precisely because it had no discretion: automated enforcement cameras."

Wednesday, June 10, 2020 in Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia

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