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Vision Zero for Eugene: 'No fatalities or serious injuries are acceptable'

The bus passed through double red lights on either side of a sign that reads "Crosswalk. Stop on Red." (SBG)

EUGENE, Ore. - A public bus ran a red light Monday, just missing a pedestrian - exactly the kind of incident the City of Eugene is working to eliminate.

The traffic campaign is called Project Zero, an effort to reduce traffic-related fatalities and critical injuries to zero on the streets of Eugene.

That pedestrian was a news photographer on assignment covering the initiative's progress.

The Eugene City Council gave the green light last year for Vision Zero.

Money from an Oregon DOT grant arrived this summer, and a 16-member task force has started meetings to make the city's busy streets less dangerous.

"No fatalities or serious injuries are acceptable on the transportation system," said Matt Rodriguez, Eugene's traffic engineer. "It's prioritizing that safety piece."

Rodriguez said Vision Zero ideas are gaining ground in many U.S. cities.

In short: street designs must be safer - and traffic speeds must come down.

"We have a strong correlation between the speed, especially of cars, and anything that happens with a crash with another car or with vulnerable users like pedestrians or bicyclists," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez pointed out the corner of 30th Avenue and University Street, near Camas Ridge Elementary School, as an example of how technology is being used in an attempt to improve safety.

"In the foreground here we have a pedestrian hybrid beacon, which is basically a type of signal," he explained. "It's used for the school crossing at Camas Ridge Elementary."

As a news photographer shot video at the crossing for this story, he used the signal as intended.

The signal is equipped with an audible notification to pedestrians, which said "Wait, wait, wait" before indicating "the crosswalk is on over 30th Avenue."

As the camera moves toward the crosswalk, an LTD bus blows through the solid red light at the crossing.

The photographer saw the bus coming: He had kept his camera pointed across the street but turned his head to look to the left before stepping into the street.

"We as human beings make mistakes," Rodriguez said of the Vision Zero effort. "So that's the foundational piece of it."

Edward McGlone, LTD's director of public affairs, issued this statement Monday afternoon: "LTD shares the City of Eugene's commitment to Vision Zero goals, including safe driving. This is a good reminder for all drivers to slow down and be safe, especially near crosswalks and schools. We take these incidents seriously and are conducting appropriate review."

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