Sadly, another bicyclist died as a result of a traffic collision in South San José earlier this week, bringing the city’s total traffic fatalities to 34 – higher than we were at this time last year. The death is a sad reminder that we still have so much work to do to make our roads safe for everyone.
Fortunately, San José continues to make progress toward its Vision Zero goals. Eleven of the seventeen Priority Safety Corridors have safety improvements completed, in progress, or planned for the near future. Upgrades include new crosswalks, additional bike lane buffers, and reduced speed limits on Monterey Road; a lane reduction with buffered bike lanes on Branham Lane; and, thanks to the city’s partnership with VTA, a new High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon (HAWK) on Alum Rock Avenue. You can visit the City’s Vision Zero web page to explore the map of safety projects yourself.
Though highly important to the goal of making crashes non-fatal, infrastructure improvements alone aren’t enough to make our streets truly safe for all. To that point, San José’s Department of Transportation is working closely with the San José Police Department to see that limited traffic-enforcement resources are deployed carefully and armed with educational resources. The Police Department is focusing its remaining eight-officer Traffic Enforcement Unit on the Priority Safety Corridors. Officers are encouraged to discuss Vision Zero with people they pull over, and share an educational brochure with safety tips.
Officers can also point to Vision Zero San Jose banners, currently marking ten intersections in the Priority Safety Network. Messages like “Speed Kills, Slow Down” and “It Takes All of Us” dispel the notion that safety is something that bicyclists and pedestrians alone need to keep in mind. Another ten intersections will soon receive similar banners thanks to another new grant the City has secured.
Adding an educational aspect to SJPD’s work is important for reasons beyond the immediate benefit sharing information. Fully conscious of the tensions stepped-up enforcement can create, SJPD has proactively been working with the University of Texas, El Paso, to examine internal bias. Chief Eddie Garcia spoke candidly about the challenges his and all police departments face when trying to eliminate bias from their work while building trust among the communities they serve. By giving officers another tool to use in addition to punitive measures like citations and arrests, San José’s Vision Zero program is hoping to avoid a cure that turns out to be worse than the disease.
Other strategies for achieving Vision Zero, like greater community engagement and the use of technology, are outlined in the San José Vision Zero Two-Year Action Plan, a draft of which was approved last May. We anticipate the final Plan to be released early in 2018. As a member of the advisory committee for Vision Zero San José, SVBC is eager to see the Plan released and put into action. In the meanwhile, we’re hopeful that the City’s current and future efforts begin to make a dent in the public health crisis facing all of us as we try to travel safely around our community.