After one of the deadliest years for traffic fatalities in San Jose, the City Council on this week decided to invest nearly $7 million over the next year-and-a-half to make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
In 2015, San Jose took the Vision Zero pledge—a global initiative to eliminate traffic fatalities by focusing on street design, education and stronger safety enforcement. But the number of deaths by drivers in recent years have been staggering, with 2019 tying the recent record of 60 set back in 2015.
For Walk San Jose Program Manager Nikita Sinha, the $6.8 million allocated from Building and Structure Construction and the Construction Excise tax funds shows that the city is finally taking traffic fatalities seriously.
“I think the council and the mayor really understand the gravity of the situation,” she said in an interview with San Jose Inside.
Prior to Tuesday vote, Sinha said she hoped the council would increase the funding to $20 million since San Jose hasn’t historically thrown a whole lot of money at Vision Zero. She said she’d also like the council to implement rapid-response projects in the future.
The so-called quick-build projects, which use cheap fixes like posts and paint instead of more permanent materials concrete, would be constructed immediately in an area where there was a traffic fatality. For the time being, San Jose is focusing its quick-build projects on 17 priority safety corridors—56 miles of city roadways where the most traffic fatalities and serious accidents occur.
Sinha applauded the investment as a positive first step, but said she wants the city to expand those safety measures beyond just the deadliest spots. “Fatalities unfortunately happen all over the place, not just on the priority safety corridors,” she said.
Brandon Alvarado—a Vision Zero advocate who chairs San Jose’s Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee—agreed that the city needs to up its investment in traffic safety.
“I think that more funding would allow for things to go at a faster rate which is kind of what we need,” he said. “We need to be hiring more pavement maintenance construction crews to be creating more than double the amount of protected bike intersections.”
San Jose also decided to launch its first-ever Vision Zero Task Force, which will bring together city and county leaders and road safety advocates. The group plans to meet quarterly. Its first priorities are to discuss fatality and severe injury trends and traffic enforcement strategies. Downtown Councilman Raul Peralez will chair the task force.