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Providence adopts Vision Zero Resolution with aim of eradicating traffic fatalities by 2030

Resolution comes after three deaths on North Main Street in the past year

On Feb. 21, Providence Mayor Brett Smiley endorsed Vision Zero, a commitment to “redesigning city streets for the safety of all who walk, bike, ride and drive,” via a City Council press release. The mayor seeks to eradicate “traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030,” Press Secretary Josh Estrella wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Ward 3 Councilwoman Sue Anderbois said that the endorsement came after three “likely preventable” pedestrian fatalities on North Main Street during the last year alone. “That is an unacceptable … lack of safety, and we need to address that immediately,” she said.

Anderbois said she created the North Main Street Task Force in October 2023 to address the “immediate safety issues” plaguing Providence roads, she said. But the issue of traffic safety isn’t particular to North Main Street — “it’s happening all across the city,” she added.

In an October 2023 task force meeting, Anderbois called on the Providence Streets Coalition, an organization advocating for “people-friendly streets,” to present data they collected on crashes in Providence. The Providence Crash Data project spanned the years 2010 to 2022 and recorded over 3,600 crashes. 


Anderbois attributed the passing of Vision Zero to the presentation, which she described as “compelling.” The resolution was developed in cooperation with the “mayor’s chief of policy, as well as the Sustainability Office and the Planning Office,” Estrella wrote. 

Funding for Vision Zero “will come from a wide variety of sources, including federal Safe Streets and Roads For All funding,” according to Estrella.

Since passing the resolution, Providence has begun installing leading pedestrian intervals — which allocate a separate time for pedestrians to cross the street without cars turning right or left — throughout the city, Estrella wrote. 

Liza Burkin, the Coalition’s lead organizer, said retiming the signals this way allows the traffic patterns to be “more responsive to the needs of pedestrians rather than the convenience of drivers.”

Estrella added that the Smiley administration is investing in additional pedestrian safety improvements, including “multimodal infrastructure” and enforcement of traffic laws. 

Anderbois noted that  the increase in ticketing across the city is not “the long-term solution,” but that she appreciates “that folks are trying to use whatever tools that they have right now.” 

Burkin, on the other hand, said that increasing enforcement is “not an equitable approach,” adding that funds used to pay police officers to “sit on the side of the road” and issue speeding violations could be better used elsewhere. 

According to Estrella, “there will be many opportunities for community input into the plan through the Green and Complete Streets Advisory Council” and additional engagement opportunities.

The North Main Street Task Force is also interested in improved street lighting, according to Anderbois. Burkin is interested in collecting data on pedestrian volume, but said she recognizes logistical and privacy concerns associated with implementation.

Burkin also described herself as a “big supporter of daylighting,” which involves “removing street parking near crosswalks and intersections with physical barriers that prevent parking,” and has been associated with a decrease in traffic deaths in some cities.


Both Anderbois and Burkin highlighted the importance of redesigning roads to incentivize compliance with the speed limit “If it’s comfortable to drive fast, you’re going to drive fast, and if it’s uncomfortable to drive (fast) — if you’re going to hit a speed bump, or there are trees overhanging or parked cars obscuring your view, you’re going to drive slower,” Burkin said. 

North Main Street in particular “is a very complicated street,” Anderbois said. She explained that the road itself and the traffic lights are owned by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, but the streetlights are owned by the city and the road is zoned for city businesses. She also added that the median strip is managed by the Providence Department of Parks.

Because of this “complicated patchwork of stakeholders,” implementing interventions can be difficult and require jumping through multiple hoops, she said.

Burkin pointed to the state Department of Transportation as the “main barrier is the political will” for implementation.

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“The City Council and Mayor Smiley both seemed sincerely interested in fixing this problem and following the federal guidance and best practices, whereas the state has shown zero interest in doing anything to resolve the crisis, which is taking place mostly on state roads in the city,” Burkin said. 

Charles St. Martin, RIDOT chief public affairs officer wrote in an email to The Herald that “RIDOT invests tens of millions of dollars annually statewide in engineered safety improvements, public service messaging and the funding of dedicated police enforcement efforts to address many specific highway safety concerns, including impaired driving, speeding, distracted driving and failing to buckle up.” 

“This includes funding more than 100 community organizations devoted to reducing fatalities and serious injuries caused by crashes,” St. Martin added. “In the past year alone RIDOT budgeted approximately $30 million for these efforts.” Martin additionally shared that RIDOT has a representative on the North Main Street Task Force. 

According to Anderbois, RIDOT will collaborate with the task force in April to conduct “a road safety assessment” of North Main Street. “Even though this is a state road, the city making the city-wide commitment to Vision Zero is going to have a direct impact on our work on North Main Street,” she said.

Burkin also highlighted the importance of “making walking, biking and transit more competitive with driving,” and added that “the ultimate goal is to just increase the choices that we have.”

A car-dominant system is “also a big environmental issue,” Anderbois said, adding that if driving remains the only real option for getting around, “we will continue to see transportation being the highest source of carbon emissions in the state.”

Burkin stressed that shifting away from a car-dominant system is beneficial to local economies, public health, equity and the environment.

Injy El-Dib

Injy El-Dib is a metro staff writer at The Brown Daily Herald. She has previously covered activism and public health in the Providence area. In her free time, Injy enjoys playing volleyball and crocheting stuffed animals.

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