Protecting pedestrians: How this innovative program is creating safer streets

Both the cities of San Antonio and Austin have implemented several countermeasures to curve traffic deaths

SAN ANTONIO – Traffic has taken a deadly turn around the nation, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there is no sign it’s slowing down. The country experienced a surge in deadly crashes from 2019 to 2021.

However, several cities across the county have adopted programs like “Vision Zero” to help curve traffic tragedies.

Vision Zero San Antonio

The city of San Antonio has implemented several countermeasures to address the issue on the roads. In 2015, local leaders adopted the Vision Zero program, which aims to reduce the number of serious injuries, and deaths on area streets and roadways.

“Folks tell us it’s a lofty goal. Yes, it is, but every life matters, as you know. The folks who use this road, all users, whether it’s in a drive, whether they’re driving or whether they’re on a bike or they’re pedestrians. This is your mother, your grandmother, your father, your brother and we want to make sure they’re safe when they’re using the road,” said Joe Conger, with the city of San Antonio’s Transportation Department.

The program measures analytics and success rates based a number of resources, including crashes reports from San Antonio Police and TxDOT’s Crash Record Information System.

“We come in here and we’ll look at some of these places that we consider to be hotspots for crashes, what we call conflicts between pedestrians and bicycles and cars and we try to mitigate it,” Conger said.


Vision Zero Austin

The city of Austin adopted Vision Zero in 2015 and relies on a number of sources to determine problem areas. The teams work with local EMS and hospitals in an effort to understand the injuries associated with crashes.

Joel Meyer, who is a transportation planner with Vision Zero Austin, said “You know, one example of that is, you know, working with our public health department to look at hospital data around scooter crashes and, you know, realizing that there’s a lot of incidents that go unreported, but also a lot of injuries that are happening as well that we don’t know about.”

Meyer said the team reviewed five years of crash data to determine where street design and behavior change could reduce severe crashes. Vision Zero determined 13 High-Injury Roadway sections, where over 350 Austinites were killed or seriously injured.

“We went in with our engineers and looked at different low cost, quick safety countermeasures that we could implement, things like changes to traffic, signal timing, looking at reducing lane widths and things like that, things that we could do really quickly,” Meyer said. “Over the last year or so, we’ve actually seen a 17% decrease in the number of severe crashes on those roadways where we’ve made investments. We need to understand the more systemic factors about our street design that are leading to crashes and being able to understand the factors that can prevent those crashes before they happen.”

Both cities are part of a network of other cities around the country that have adopted the program. Conger said it’s important to utilize all resources to mitigate safety concerns.

“We have we have a lot of tools at our disposal,” he said. “It’s just finding out which tool fits and which situation any depending on the owner of the road, the possession, the maintenance and the traffic count, the traffic volumes -- you look at that stuff and you’re able to go, ‘Ah-ha.’”

About the Authors

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.

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