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Posted on: February 16, 2021

Mayor Brown Announces “Safe Streets” Initiative to Help Curb Dangerous Driving Behaviors in Buffalo

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Mayor Byron W. Brown announced that the City of Buffalo is launching a “Safe Streets” initiative as part of his Administration’s ongoing efforts to improve pedestrian, bicyclist, and motorist safety on City streets. The initiative will receive $500,000 of dedicated revenue from the School Speed Zone Safety program to hire a dedicated person with experience in traffic safety, conduct public outreach, and expand the City’s ability to sustain traffic calming measures—like crosswalk striping—beyond the use of any one-time federal capital funding.

Mayor Brown said, “As part of our ongoing response to residents to find ways to slow traffic down, my Administration announced the School Zone Safety Program over two-years ago, I have said from the beginning our highest priority was the safety of children in neighborhoods throughout the entire City. The school zone cameras are a complement to my Administration’s other traffic safety initiatives which include Complete Streets design planning, the creation of hundreds of miles of bike lanes, the neighborhood Slow Streets program, and the implementation of the Downtown Access Parking Plan that promotes the use of transportation alternatives other than personally owned vehicles. With the launch of the Safe Streets initiative, we will develop a comprehensive approach that encompasses all of these different elements into a single strategy for making our streets safer in the most equitable fashion possible.”

In addition to improving street safety, the “Safe Streets” initiative is designed to lower the insurance rates for drivers in the City of Buffalo. The average car insurance rate is approximately $150 higher in the City of Buffalo than the national average. These higher insurance rates have a long-term negative impact on low-income motorists and can be lowered by reducing the number of accidents and promoting safer driving.

As part of the $500,000 allocation from the School Speed Zone Safety Program to the Safe Streets initiative, the City’s Department of Public Works will hire a Complete Streets Coordinator. This position will be responsible for overseeing the various aspects of Buffalo’s traffic safety strategy while also monitoring the implementation of future design initiatives. The Complete Streets Coordinator will also serve on the Bicycle/ Pedestrian Advisory Board.

Other things this revenue will help fund include pedestrian crosswalk striping, traffic safety studies in high- traffic density neighborhoods, and community outreach and education efforts.

Other cities, including Pittsburgh, New York City, Chicago, and Philadelphia that have adopted “Vision Zero” or “Complete Streets” initiatives, which are similar to the Mayor’s “Safe Streets” program, have highlighted these five principles as critical to the success of the program:

  • Employ street design principles that promote multi-modal transportation and keep a variety of road users safe;
  • Engage in community education and outreach activities to promote the benefits of safer streets;
  • Reduce speed limits in high-foot traffic areas and place adequate signage to alert drivers to those changes;
  • Encourage human interactions with motorists through the use of crossing guards and traffic guards rather than police traffic enforcement units;
  • Employ automatic enforcement tools like speed cameras to ensure compliance with traffic control measures.

 These principles are also at the core of the City’s “Safe Streets” initiative and have already been employed to varying degrees in Buffalo.

Mayor Brown is also announcing that any street infrastructure project funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, and other future City capital bond funded projects, will incorporate “Safe Street” design principles. Based on a variety of reports from Congressional leaders on the amount of funding Buffalo stands to receive, this commitment has the potential to transform transportation infrastructure on an unprecedented level.

“My commitment to protecting children in every neighborhood of this City will not waver,” said Mayor Brown. “Incorporating new ideas to ensure the maximum effectiveness as well as the highest degree of equity and integrity in our existing efforts is something I have always worked to do; adopting the Safe Streets initiative as an umbrella for our other traffic calming efforts is in line with that governing philosophy and something I think the City must do at this critical juncture.”

“I welcome this important traffic calming initiative that will help keep our children safe on the way to and from school,” said Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash. “Drivers must be much more aware and careful of our children getting on and off school buses and crossing busy streets. On behalf of the Buffalo Board of Education, our parents, and our children, I thank Mayor Brown for instituting these critical Safe Streets measures.”

Pastor Mark Blue, President of the Buffalo Chapter of the NAACP, said, “The Mayor’s Safe Streets Strategy is a shift in the right direction for the City of Buffalo at this time. Speed cameras need to be part of a larger plan that includes investment in our streets, striping, public outreach, and the promotion of different mobility options. Today’s announcement, along with the elimination of the Buffalo Police Traffic Unit Mayor Brown announced earlier, will make traveling on City streets safer, help slow traffic down, protect children, and ensure equitable enforcement of the traffic law.”

Justin Booth, Executive Director of GOBike Buffalo said, “Truly safe streets are created through community-centered design, not armed traffic enforcement. When we use Complete Streets design principles, we make our communities safe for people of all ages and abilities, genders, races and ethnicities. These investments are critically needed in neighborhoods facing disproportionate rates of traffic violence. We look forward to continuing to work with residents and the City to monitor and expand this commitment. Together we must ensure these programs are implemented equitably, and that we meet our shared goals of enhancing opportunity, access and well-being for every Buffalo resident.”

Pastor James Giles, President of Back to Basics Ministries, said, “The Mayor’s approach, involving streets that are designed to accommodate every kind of traveler, committing money to stripe our crosswalks, and educating people about the need to slow down around schools, will be vital to making the speed camera program work for all of our City’s residents. Slowing down around schools is a basic, common-sense step that every driver should take and cameras—with the proper signage we now have in place and the investment in public education Mayor Brown has pledged—will ensure that drivers follow this course of action. This a great step in adding to the safety of our community; especially our children.”

Ellen Harris-Harvey, President of the Trinidad Neighborhood Association, said, “Whether people want to walk, ride their bike, take a bus, or drive their car on a City street; with Mayor Brown’s Safe Streets plan in place they will be able to do it safely. Cameras, complete street designs, public outreach, and school crossing guards all work together to help remind drivers to slow down around our schools and be mindful of the children and adults who study and work around those buildings.”

For more information on the efficacy of automatic enforcement strategies, like speed cameras see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site examining their effectiveness at: https://www.cdc.gov/ motorvehiclesafety/calculator/factsheet/speed.html

For information on how automatic speed enforcement devices impact motorist behaviors while also decreasing disparities in an examination of County studies see: https://www.countyhealthrankings.org/take-action-to-improve-health/what-works-for-health/strategies/ automated-speed-enforcement-cameras

For an overview of other cities’ strategies to reduce biased traffic infraction enforcement through the use of automated camera enforcement and other Complete Street design principles see: https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2020/10/21/vision-zero-cities-removing-police-from-traffic-enforcement-and-self-enforced-streets/


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