Vision Zero PHX, was: PD: Driver kills man on sidewalk

The “Brown Cloud”, unhealthy air pollution, is a frequent visitor to Phoenix.

4/23/2019 ~ 11pm victim Thomas Taraba and another person were walking on the sidewalk along McDowell Road near 37th Street. Police say river 20-year-old Zachary Showers was the driver; he was arrested on suspicion of DUI

“According to court documents, Taraba was thrown 75 feet” indicating the driver’s speed was very fast, perhaps too fast for any city street.

Vision Zero

Ironically, a few hours before Taraba was killed, the Phoenix city council rejected a plan to simply study how to make city streets safer. Councilperson Sal DiCiccio voted to reject the plan, in a sense cast the deciding vote (since it was 4-4). DiCiccio, staying true to form, issued inflammatory, and misleading, rhetoric Phoenix wants to make streets safer. But councilman sees hidden motive:

But Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio posted an “urgent alert” about the street-safety plan on Facebook before the vote, warning that government is coming for your car.

“Proponents of this insane scheme,” he warns, “want to … make driving as difficult as possible and slowly force people out of their cars” by “slowing traffic to a crawl.”
DiCiccio claims Phoenix will follow the lead of Boston, where that city’s Vision Zero plan cut speed limits to 25 miles per hour.

DiCiccio’s posted this along with a picture of a 15mph speed limit sign; along with the claim that taxes would likely double. Double!? Which taxes are those? the gas taxes that already, for decades, can’t pay for the roads? As mentioned before, DiCiccio seems to hate anything in transportation that’s not a private automobile (“Light rail brings nothing but crime and blight to our neighborhoods“). He sees a sort of cabal at work, a “… handful of ‘Urbanist’ social engineers” who are “pushing this mess”. He also, oddly, claims the spike in pedestrian fatalities since 2014 is caused by Phoenix’s “crumbling” roads — which is probably the opposite of true, but in any event has no basis in fact.

In another bit of spin (not sure by whom?), the claim was the plan, vision zero, would exclusively improve pedestrian traffic safety, which is not true; Vision Zero seeks to minimize all traffic injury and deaths, not just pedestrians. The majority of those killed and injured on Phoenix streets are motorists. So obviously all road user modes will benefit from a traffic safety improvement:

2010-2017 (Phoenix city only, excludes Freeway/DPS)
motorists killed 646; non-motorists (mostly peds) killed 558
motorists injured 97,555; non-motorists (again, mostly peds) injured 7,943

As a note, the City of Tempe adopted a vision zero resolution (that is, a plan to plan; much like the resolution before the Phoenix City Council) over a year ago. Speed limits in Tempe remain above 25, in fact no speed limit has been changed; and the only result in the draft plan would be for street’s staff to evaluate existing limits, which is of course something street staff does anyway. Arterials in Tempe, like Phoenix have 40 to 45mph speed limits.

Pollution & Speed

As shocking as over a thousand fatalities just on Phoenix city streets over the past 8 years as noted above, unhealthy air like leads to far more deaths from respiratory, and heart disease that otherwise would not occur…

Meanwhile it was recently reported that Phoenix Air Gets an ‘F’; Phoenix has a long-standing, ongoing, worsening amount of unhealthy air. In case it needs to be pointed out, vehicle toxic emissions (from burning fuel) are a significant contributor

The toxic gas forms when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react in the sunlight. Combine a high volume of vehicle emissions — cars make up the biggest source of NOx and VOCs in Phoenix — with the Arizona desert’s plentiful sunshine and the result is a recipe for ozone.

DiCiccio’s master plan seems to involve getting more people into more cars; and simultaneously cutting congestion (presumably by making street ever-wider) which will result in faster drive-times; elements of the plan are keeping pesky pedestrians, scooters, bicycles, and light-rail (maybe buses too?) out of the way so ever-more drivers can, driving alone of course, get where they’re going in their internal combustion engine powered vehicle ever-faster. Of course cutting congestion, if that’s really a problem (and it certainly is most obviously on freeways at ‘rush’ hours — which are not under the control of city of Phoenix), doesn’t eliminate toxic emissions; they emit whenever they are running; they emit at a lower rate when running optimally, but still emit.

VZ isn’t about a blanket speed reduction; it’s about reducing peak motorist speeds; vehicles on surface streets can’t be driven at constant speeds in any case; higher peak speeds undoubtedly leads to more toxic emissions from ICE due to the additional acceleration invovled (which is when ICE emits most toxics). City surface streets are unlike highways, there are frequent causes of slowing due to turning traffic, entering traffic, slow traffic (e.g. buses, trucks, bicyclists), pedestrians crossing, and traffic signals. Lowering peak motorist speeds also results in lowering CO2 emissions (if you care about that) / fuel consumption for the same reasons (the acceleration burns more fuel).

To put it more briefly: the claim that the most efficient speed for any particular car is, say, 40-60mph, is a red herring because that is only true at a steady speed, which isn’t possible on a city street.

Full disclosure: I drive a zero tailpipe emission car (it’s electric), and my other ‘car’ is a bike.

So the question or issue of toxic emissions (thus creating smog) is an inherent problem with  ICE (internal combustion) emitting toxic pollution; it’s apparently true that “you can’t build your way out of congestion” though DiCiccio seems to want to try.

A commonly-heard claim about 85th percentile speed as being “proven” to be safest, and a corollary that it’s actually ‘slow’ traffic that ’causes’ unsafe conditions related to speed. These are cannards related to the mis-interpretation, perhaps willful?, of Solomon’s U-shaped curve. ; which relates relative crash risk to speed on rural highways, where there are few intersections, and few road users other than motor vehicles. When adjusted for condition common to city streets, like traffic entering/leaving the road, and turns the effect “largely disappears”; and the riskiest group are the ones traveling fastest.

Anyway, the sort of divisive rhetoric that DiCiccio indulges in isn’t helping anyone.

References to the Council Vote 4/23

  • Video of the meeting on ( video on youtube ) DiCiccio’s pothole comments are around 1:25:10, though he mentions it more than once.
  • Press release on Councilman Nowakowski’s ‘no’ vote: “I am supportive of Mayor Gallego’s efforts to address pedestrian safety throughout the city of Phoenix…” I thought his vote-explanation around 2:13:20 was quite thoughtful; a true fence-sitter. He needs to be corrected in thinking this is a pedestrian-only problem. As mentioned above, it’s an all road-user problem; pedestrain safety is only the most acute problem.
  • streetsblog had a pretty good synopsis: “But rather than address the problem, the City Council caved to conspiratorial line of attack from bombastic Council Member Sal DiCiccio, who said that the Vision Zero plan would lead to lower speed limits across the city. He also argued that slower driving would (somehow) raise taxes. (Phoenix’s Vision Zero plan did not call for lowering speed limits across the city.) DiCissio also, without any evidence, said the whole problem could be blamed on potholes.”
  • Here is the Arizona Republic article DiCiccio is complaining about: On Phoenix’s most dangerous streets, little has been done to address the pedestrian death toll

DiCiccio’s facebook post

Retrieved 4/25/2019; i prefer to let people read what he said without giving him clicks (trolls love clicks), his full post is reproduced below; the image was from his post; the statement “The council is set to lower speed limits on every road in Phoenix to 25 mph or lower” This was just not true; this was never on the council’s agenda… and posted along with a picture of a sign that reads Maximum Speed 15mph; so, adding a layer of deception.

Councilman Sal DiCiccio
April 22 at 2:23 PM · 36
URGENT REMINDER: The council is set to lower speed limits on every road in Phoenix to 25 mph or lower. We need your help tomorrow to stop this bad policy!

We need YOU to come voice your opinion at the council meeting tomorrow at 2:30pm at 200 W Jefferson St. If you can’t make it to the meeting, you can still make your voice heard! Call/email your councilmembers now!

Vision zero failed at the City Council today. What has also failed is a lack of leadership to fix our crumbling and dangerous roads. If you want to save lives, fix the potholes and pave the dangerous roads. It’s not a coincidence that our roads started to crumble in 2014 and the number of pedestrian deaths went up. That is a fact. What is also a major failure is the media reporting on this. The Arizona Repubic didn’t even understand the debate and have put together a pathetic and biased report. We should be shocked, but I am not. This has been par for them to put their own individual bias into their reporting. So incredibly lame. Message to Arizona Republic: is there any possible way you guys can put a veteran into this position?

UPDATE: The motion to approve Vision Zero failed 4-4. Thank you to everyone who made your voices heard. Your efforts made the difference.


With zero public notice, the City of Phoenix has put a plan on agenda called “Vision Zero”. The major policy focus of this plan is a massive reduction in speed limits across ALL city streets.

Boston adopted this program a few years ago and reduced all City streets to 25MPH. When that didn’t work – and by “work” they mean eliminating ALL roadway fatalities – they developed a plan to reduce the speed to 15MPH throughout their City core, and massively increase fines on drivers.

This is a horrifically bad idea for the City of Phoenix. Here’s why:

1. First, and foremost, even the short walks to public transit in many East Coast cities are not something most people want to do in 100 degree heat – and a fair lot of people (the elderly, those with disabilities, people with medical conditions, etc.) cannot do here.

2. We lack the density, and are still decades away from achieving it, to make mass transit an effective option for most people on both a cost and infrastructure basis.

3. The infrastructure spending required (a huge number of elevated pedestrian walkways and barriers between the street and sidewalk) to keep even a single City street accessible to vehicle travel above 20MPH is money we don’t have.

4. We already have massive, basic needs that we don’t have the funding for – like paying off our unfunded pension liabilities, maintaining our current infrastructure, hiring more cops and firefighters, etc. So Vision Zero will come with a massive tax increase.

5. Slowing all traffic to a crawl will result in price increases for just about everything, as the time and resources needed to get products on the shelves and food on plates goes up and is passed along to you.

Proponents of this insane scheme are clear: it can only be passed by filling Council chambers with the victims and family members of accidents, and by lying about the intent of the program. They want to force everyone out of cars. They can’t sell their REAL vision to the public, so their goal is to make driving as inefficient and difficult as possible and slowly force people out of their cars.

If you don’t think their plan is a good idea, Council needs to hear you, they need to see you. Call your Council rep and let them know you think this is a terrible idea. Come to the meeting and stand up to the handful of “Urbanist” social engineers pushing this mess who think they have a right to dictate how your city operates to everyone. Let Council know they don’t speak for you.



In case you are curious, here are the requirements of this program, from the Vision Zero Website:

Type of infrastructure and traffic – Possible travel speed (km/h)

Locations with possible conflicts between pedestrians and cars 30 km/h (19 mph)

Intersections with possible side impacts between cars 50 km/h (31 mph)

Roads with possible frontal impacts between cars, including rural roads[6] 70 km/h (43 mph)

Roads with no possibility of a side impact or frontal impact (only impact with the infrastructure) 100 km/h (62 mph)+

Whither ‘Complete Streets’?

Complete Streets emphasize the importance of safe access for all users, not just automobiles”.

Some years ago (~ 10?) City of Phoenix passed a ‘complete streets’ ordinance — if i recall correctly DiCiccio voted against that, at the time, too.

DiCiccio mentions the plan in a statement he made during his feud with City Manager in 2018:

Complete streets: Oddly enough I think this plan has some really cool ideas for the future of our city. I normally do not agree with some of the group who put together this plan, but it does have merit. Unfortunately, the manager completely threw out their ideas and you saw a mass resignation of hard-working citizens who put many hours away from their family to try and help our city. My plan: I have proposed using my district as a model for this, but the manager to date has refused to even place it up on a formal agenda for a vote and discussion.

Here’s a news item about the mass resignations: Mass Resignations Hit Phoenix’s Complete Streets Advisory Board

ITE Focus on Speed Management to improve traffic safety

The ITE, Institute of Transportation Engineers, a organization for professional traffic engineers, as described in the latest SSTI newsletter, is focusing on safe speeds to improve traffic safety:

…However, Canada is taking a very different approach to speed, as detailed in the April issue of ITE Journal, which is dedicated to safety through speed management.
This month’s ITE journal is focused on Vision Zero and speed management and describes Canada’s Safe System’s Approach to Road Safety, which has been very successful in deterring crash rates across the country. The approach involves implementing evidence-based measures on four different levels: drivers, safe speeds, safe roads, and safe vehicles, with safe speeds being the most critical player. It is an important issue, especially when a number of states in the U.S. are considering increasing speed limits to match the 85th percentile. [the last bit referring exclusively to limited-access highways]

Is Traffic Safety a Partisan Issue? (#partisan)

Well, you would think not, but… Officially speaking, Phoenix city government elected officials are “non-partisan”; without parties. All that means is there are no primary elections for city council seats.

Here’s a list of Phoenix City Council, along with the party affiliations of the members. Here is a map of council districts.

Voting ‘no’ were the three Republicans: Thelda Williams, Sal DiCiccio, and Jim Waring; along with Democrat Michael Nowakowski.

I’m at the moment confused about the vote count, which was 4-4. There are eight Districts; plus the mayor. So where’s the loose vote?

Then there’s this tidbit about how DiCiccio’s office requested “The Patriot Movement AZ” to publicize DiCiccio’s position against studying traffic safety:

On April 19, DiCiccio constituent services representative Merissa Hamilton asked a Patriot Movement AZ leader to promote the council member’s Facebook statement against a proposal to study pedestrian deaths in Phoenix, according to messages obtained by Phoenix New Times through a public records request. DiCiccio opposed the proposal in his post, claiming it was nothing more than an attempt to lower speed limits citywide.
…”They are trying to force everyone to use public transportation by making the speed limit on every road 25 mph,” Hamilton said.
Vision Zero would not have implemented any policy changes. It only would have required the city to study pedestrian deaths and make recommendations for improvements.
… Hamilton responded with the link to DiCiccio’s statement. “I need that blasted,” she said.
“Oh yeah I saw that. I’ll put it out,” said Jaffe, who was arrested for assault during a November protest in Tucson.
“And people to show up on Tuesday to the city council meeting,” Hamilton added.

.Hamilton was a former Arizona gubernatorial Libertarian party candidate; and has since switched to the Republican party; referred to as a “local Republican political figure” in this recent statepress piece.

One thought on “Vision Zero PHX, was: PD: Driver kills man on sidewalk”

  1. Below was transcribed from comments made at the Phoenix City Council Policy Session 4/23/2019:
    DiDiccio ~2:05: why not go and select three or four hot spots. As Councilman Nowakowski said go to each council member and asked us what we like to see done in our districts or even in the city; mine’s easy fix the potholes, make the streets less dangerous, repave all the streets in my district that’s what I’d like to see done. I don’t want to see any lowering of speed limits. I don’t want to see any narrowing of the streets. I want traffic to go through, the quality of life to go up that’s what I’d like to see done. I don’t think it be fair to cram this down the throats of people like myself and don’t want to see this in our district so I think every council member here can literally work with staff, Kini’s been amazing to work with like incredible work with him to find out what your needs are in your own district I think we know and hold those committee meetings do what you need to do rather than creating an overwhelming plan that doesn’t fit each of our own areas, so from my end of it I just like to have us at least get more data get more information in the way to do that is to meet with staff and come up with some ideas thank you mayor.

    Kini Knudson is Phoenix Director of Street Transportation, relatively new as of 11/2018

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