Whether arriving to school by foot, bike, bus, or car, many Berkeley High School (BHS) students have either been victims of traffic collisions or have witnessed near misses. According to the City of Berkeley website, from 2010 to 2019, 2 percent of all collisions in Berkeley were fatal, and many more resulted in severe or minute injuries. Over 80 percent of fatal collisions happened on the same 15 percent of roads in Berkeley, which also happened to be the busiest ones. The City of Berkeley needs to update its infrastructure on these streets and follow the lead of other cities that have already successfully reduced their number of fatalities and overall traffic collisions. This is where Vision Zero, a non-profit organization that started in Sweden but is now active in over 45 cities and approximately 20 states, becomes incredibly important.
With only 2.3 fatalities per 100,000 people, Sweden has the lowest fatality crash rate out of any country that consists of more than 300 square miles. In comparison, the United States has 10.6 fatalities per 100,000 people, a drastic difference compared to Sweden. More surprising is Berkeley’s number of casualties per 100,000, almost three times the national average: 29.2. Vision Zero was created with the intent to share the success of Sweden’s extremely safe road system and make sure that the only number of deaths acceptable in collisions is zero. This, or at least a similar program, is what is needed in Berkeley.
In Sweden, street infrastructure is built with special protection for cyclists and pedestrians. Vision Zero implemented this ideology in the fairly new biking lane barriers along Milvia Street from Hearst Avenue to Blake Street. This is a very popular biking route, especially for BHS students, as it connects Central Berkeley to basically all of North Berkeley. Additionally, inside a four-block radius of BHS and Washington Elementary School throughout the 2010s, there have been over 25 severe injury collisions and 3 deaths. This shows how dangerous Downtown Berkeley is, despite two schools being in the near vicinity.
Another way to help create a safer environment for Berkeleyans would be to change crosswalk designs. Although Berkeley’s current crosswalks work, they aren’t the most efficient. One of the main types of safe sidewalks that are seen all over Berkeley is called the zebra crosswalk. This crosswalk helps give drivers a sense of depth perception at night due to the semi reflective paint and lines that cross in between the two main ones. Presently, many of the crosswalks surrounding BHS are up-to-date on Vision Zero’s standard, but not all. For example, at the intersection of Martin Luther King Junior Way and Bancroft Way, the crosswalk doesn’t consist of a zebra pattern and has peeling paint. This spot not only connects students walking from the south to BHS, but also Washington Elementary students. This is one of the three major crosswalks on Martin Luther King Junior Way for BHS students and the closest to the street entrance to the G-Building and H-Building.
Although there are many solutions to the issues discussed in this article, there are still unsolvable problems. It is impossible to make anything completely efficient in this world due to human error — in this case, jaywalking, faulty car parts, and more. In the end, Vision Zero will never be able to truly get to their goal, but they will save lives and are definitely worth the investment.