Let Schools Choose Speed Limits

Ensuring that cars travel slowly near schools should be a priority for San Jose. Local governments should embrace tools that make streets safer for pedestrians, especially when those pedestrians are overwhelming children walking and biking to and from school.

In 2008, Assembly Bill 321 (AB321) was signed into law with support from the national organization, Safe Routes to School. AB321 allows cities the flexibility to lower speed limits adjacent to public and private schools. Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania have already implemented lower school speed limits successfully. 

Reduced school speed zones in California were quickly implemented in Goleta, Santa Barbara County, Lompoc and Santa Maria among other cities. In 2010, I proposed implementing AB321 on Dana Avenue in front of Trace Elementary and Lincoln High School. Parents, teachers, principals, residents and the school superintendent have proclaimed the reduced speed on Dana Avenue a great success. As a result, this issue is coming back to the council on Tuesday, Nov. 15th. 

Allowing schools to choose if they would like to have a 15-mph speed zone for their school—if their school meets the criteria—would then allow for an easy and affordable way to reduce accidents and the degree of injury. This is timely as funding for crossing guards may be eliminated in next year’s budget. 

Lowering the speed limit is also a benefit to residents and neighborhoods adjacent to schools. If we look back at history, we know that former schools in San Jose are closed like Belden, Camden, Cory, Kirk and Lincoln Glen. That means student population at remaining schools has increased. As a result, residents who live by an elementary school that was designed for 350 students may live next to an elementary school with over 800-1,000 students, thus higher car volume. By lowering the speed limit, we will bring piece of mind to the residents who live by schools. Also, it will offer the opportunity for more kids to walk or bike to school. 

Unfortunately, city staff is proposing as a pilot program that we lower speed limits at only three schools out of over 200. Still, there have been some who think that it’s OK to not lower the speed limit near schools and instead rely on grandparents and parents to walk their kids to school. However, Mayor Reed, Councilmember Don Rocha and I disagree with staff’s proposal and instead we are asking the Council to support allowing schools the autonomy to choose for themselves.

The cost to procure and install new 15-mph speed limit signs per school in San Francisco is approximately $1,500. It may be less if we simply put a 1 over the 2. Even with our budget woes in San Jose, this is affordable and I have already heard from school parent groups and residents that they would be willing to pay for the cost of implementation.

A special thank you to all those who stood in the rain to support the Veteran’s Day parade Downtown. The Brigadier General spoke about the 1 percent—the other 1 percent. The 1 percent of the population that is dedicated to our nation’s security. Thank you to all veterans for the freedom we enjoy.


  1. Why are comparing apples to oranges.  What is the cost for San Jose?  I still believe you could post 5 MPH signs and people who drive fast are still going to do so.  Besides do we even have any officers left to enforce these changes.  Patrol officers are going call to call and have no time for this.

    Now you want a March ballot measure to attack pensions of both retirees and current officers which will be challenged in courts that will cost us millions.  Even the state was told trying to change the current employee and retirees benefits is illegal.

    So come this month when the city holds a “closed meeting”, Chuck will come out and declare a “fiscal emergency”  to change the city charter to attack those who have already paid into the system for 30 years.  Yes, PAID in and now you want to take it away.

    thanks for all your support (not)

    • Challenging the benefits of current retirees “is illegal”?  So would ending welfare, revising rules for social security, and spending more money than you take in also not all be illegal unless the law makers change the law the recognize a combination of neccessity and political expediency?

      As far as the speed limit around schools, 25 mph is okay and enforcement stings can remind neighborhood speedway drivers of the high cost of selfish law breaking behavior as they speed through school and neighborhood streets sipping their lattes and yaking on their “I” phones.  Even stupid rich people will have to notice a few $350 dollar tickets.

      As far as going lower, 15 mph is common in some hospital zones (cause seniors wander around with walkers, oxygen tanks, alzhemeirs or whatever and are easy to hit if you aren’t going really slow.)  Traffic Abatement and Traffic Calming basically are measures to push commuters out of neighborhoods where they don’t belong back onto main streets (even if they are moving like molasses with gridlock).  Rather than ridiculously slow speed limits that invite abusive enforcement efforts, I’d say do some traffic calming where you put some traffic circles, street closures at intersections (where only bikes and one way traffic can proceed) and other measures that are only a minor annoyance for locals living there but really drive away and annoy commuters who create their own back street commutes and blow past stop signs and speed limit stuff recklessless and probably contribute more to traffic fatalities than drunk drivers.

      • If the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office is correct, it leaves Brown in a difficult bind as he seeks to contain a rapidly escalating expense blamed for many of the state’s budget woes. Once pension benefits are granted, the LAO said, workers and their unions cannot lose them unless they agree to give them up.

        Many of Brown’s proposed rollbacks would affect only new employees. The new benefits would

        combine a modest pension with a 401(k)-style savings plan and Social Security. The governor also wants to raise the retirement age to 67 from 55 for all new public employees who are not public-safety workers.

        But the most controversial part of his plan is to eventually require both current and new employees to pay for half the cost of their pensions.

        The LAO credited Brown for proposing a “bold, excellent starting point” to overhauling the state’s pension system.

        But the LAO, whose findings are influential with lawmakers, said that there are many unresolved questions that could be better left to collective bargaining.

        The report was immediately embraced by labor groups, which have argued that exact point for months.

        “The LAO’s mixed assessment of the governor’s pension proposals hits the nail on the head when it says that the Legislature should move forward in a deliberate and reasoned fashion to craft solutions to California’s complex pension systems,” said Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition representing 1.5 million public employees in California.

        A key hurdle to Brown’s 12-point proposal is the “legal and collective bargaining minefield” likely to emerge, particularly over his plans to raise the contribution levels of current workers, the LAO said.

        “Our reading of California’s pension case law is that it will be very difficult — perhaps impossible — for the Legislature, local governments, or voters to mandate such changes for many current public workers and retirees,” said Deputy Legislative Analyst Jason Sisney, the author of the report.

        “What that means is that it will be very difficult to get much short-term cost savings as the governor seems to want to achieve,” Sisney said. “Instead, we think the Legislature will probably be advised to think over the long term and how costs can be brought into a more manageable framework over that time frame.

        “And that will mean pursuing solutions that deal primarily with future workers.”

        Low agreed. “Those proposals that impair the negotiated benefits of current employees are a legal dead end,” he said. “As the report points out, these are matters that should be settled at the bargaining table, not in courtrooms.”

        Low promised to work with the Legislature to achieve the “spirit” of the governor’s reforms “without taking a wrecking ball to the retirement security of California’s teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public workers.”

        The governor’s office chose to focus on the positive aspects of the report.

        “Today, the LAO joined a growing group of local government officials, business leaders, editorial boards and legislators on both sides of the aisle who believe the governor’s plan is a ‘bold starting point,’” said Evan Westrup, a spokeswoman for Brown. “We welcome the LAO’s analysis as we move forward to achieve these critical reforms.”

        Proponents of a pair of initiatives to roll back pension benefits criticized the LAO’s report, saying it hadn’t gone far enough in taking Brown’s proposal to task.

        “It is disappointing that the LAO omits the most critical flaw of the governor’s proposal: By his own admission his plan only solves $4 to $11 billion of what is at least a $240 billion unfunded liability,” said Mike Genest, a finance director under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and a chief figure for California Pension Reform.

        “While the governor’s plan has merits, it solves less than 5 percent of our problem,” Genest said. “We need bold, comprehensive reform now and cannot continue to wait as politicians debate the issue and tinker around the edges.”

        The pension reform group has said it will decide in January whether it will begin gathering signatures for a proposal for a hybrid system or a 401(k)-style plan.

        Some analysts have said the Legislature could take the wind out of the sails of the initiative drive if it approves some significant pension reforms.

        Many government leaders and pension reform advocates have asserted that while court decisions make it difficult to lower pension benefits for current public workers, they leave openings to increase the employees’ share of the cost. Labor lawyers, however, have noted that that depends on the extent to which cost-sharing is defined in existing labor contracts or statutes.

        San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has proposed a March ballot measure that would increase contributions from employees who don’t switch to a reduced benefit.

        Despite some misgivings over Brown’s plan, the LAO said his proposal to raise retirement ages and require new public employees to accept hybrid 401(k)-style pension plans would lessen the liabilities facing the state.

        “His proposals would shift more of the financial risk for public pensions — now borne largely by public employers — to employees and retirees,” Sisney said.

        “These proposals would substantially ameliorate this key area of long-term financial risk.”

        “Those proposals that impair the negotiated benefits of current employees are a legal dead end.”

      • On Friday, November 18 the Council has scheduled a special closed session meeting.  “fiscal Emergency”  Gee, guess how that vote will go?  See you at the March 2012 special election. Take away millions that retirees have already paid into the system.

        They have served their time, lets throw them to the curb. 

        Thank you mayor for my 30 years of service.

  2. ‘The cost to procure and install new 15-mph speed limit signs per school in San Francisco is approximately $1,500. It may be less if we simply put a 1 over the 2.’ 

    I like it Council member Oliverio! In addition to saving money, it’s a way to re-use an existing sign -a very green suggestion. grin

    Personally, I think speed limits should be reduced around ALL San Jsoe schools with signage to reflect the speed limit. Effective immediately. This issue has non-compliance consequences that are potentially too tragic to warrant simply piloting a few of our schools.

    The trick is going to be getting people to comply with whatever speed limit is posted. Behavior change can be tricky and even with limitted enforcement resources I would hope the City will continue with a school crossing program—perhaps a new business model could be worked out, something more cost effective.

    Thank you for a great, thoughtful post.


    • Tina, while improving safety around schools is a laudable endeavor, lowering the speed limit, as things stand today, will likely be ineffective. There are two reasons for this:

      1. The worst offenders violating school zone limits are parents of children attending schools and who are either dropping off or picking up their students. If people who ought to be so aware of the consequences of speeding are so recalcitrant when it comes to moderating their driving behaviors around schools, other drivers are unlikely to be any more moved by lowered speed limits than parents in school zones presently are.

      2. In order for speed limits and many other traffic laws to be effective, law enforcement needs to be visibly present as both a deterrent and a consequence for violating these rules of the road. The Police Departments resources are presently spread far to thin for any lowered speed limit to be genuinely effective. Law enforcement presence is THE means by which compliance is gained. No law enforcement presence = no compliance.

  3. I live in the vicinity of an elementary school AND a middle school.  Stop signs are run constantly, people dropping off kids are making blind u-turns in the middle of traffic, and of course the speed limit seems to be an afterthought.  I have contacted both San Jose Police and Campbell Police regarding these issues, and they said they A)don’t have the resources to monitor these areas (not a complete shock as we all know the SJPD has been cut severely) and B)Because there have been no accidents there yet, it’s not a high priority.  I’m just wondering how these magical 15mph signs that come from San Francisco(?) are going to curb any of these behaviours?

  4. So, Pierre the Fathead, please explain.

    If I live near Trace School, and they set the speed limit at 100 mph, it affects me, doesn’t it?

    How did you get elected, proportional representation, there were not enough fatheads with tapered sweatpants represented?


  5. Mothers racing in their minivans and SUVs to either drop off or pick up their kids at school drive way too fast. Not just in the school zone, they put anyone in danger who happens to be walking or standing anywhere along their entire frantic, distracted journey.
    Speed traps. Lots and lots of speed traps. Make ‘em feel it in their wallets.
    And their spoiled kids should be walking to school anyway.

  6. Put Pete Constant out near the schools in his “Constant Mobile” to enforce the speed limits.  He could use his expertise in law enforcement to stop all the speeders around schools.  No need for cops right!?  More vehicle vs ped fatalities to follow… Oh wait we need that new damn ballpark instead of cops and fire fighters.

    Old Frank

  7. If you spend about 10 minutes around any SJ public school during the morning “drop off” times you will see why this idea is being proposed. The (parental) driving is absolutely insane.

    It’s a good idea, and long overdue. But why it should cost $1500 just to put up a sign?

    • “But why it should cost $1500 just to put up a sign?”

      Any public project, even if performed by private contractors, will always have a price tag 3X-5X the cost of a private project, due to endless process, union featherbedding and work rules that promote inefficiency and sloth, etc..  Are you old enough to remember the $900 hammers purchased by the Dept. of Defense?
      Observe any public construction project for a day.  What do you see?  An hour plus for two guys to put up cones and signs, while the other fifteen guys assigned to the project are standing around on the clock;  some use of the hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of heavy equipment for an hour or two, while three or four “supervisors” talk to the cop who is supposed to be controlling traffic, but really doesn’t do squat; a couple of hours of the entire crew standing around watching “Jose” digging in a hole with a shovel; lunch hour; more work for “Jose” and more standing around by the other guys; and another hour plus to remove the cones and signs.

    • Yes. Operators of bicycles must follow the rules of the road in the same way as cars and motorcycles.

      See CVC section 21200.  (a) ( )1 A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division, including, but not limited to, provisions concerning driving under the influence of alcoholic beverages or drugs, and by Division 10 (commencing with Section 20000), Section 27400, Division 16.7 (commencing with Section 39000), Division 17 (commencing with Section 40000.1), and Division 18 (commencing with Section 42000), except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application.

  8. Laws without enforcement are less than useless, and they engender a disrespect of and disregard of all laws.

    For instance, last week as I sat in line at the Tamien Station onramp to northbound 87, 16 cars passed me in the diamond lane of the onramp.  Ten of those cars had one occupant.  No cop anywhere, nor has there ever been a cop there enforcing diamonfd lane restrictions, even before the layoffs.

    Enforcement of diamond lanes is virtually non-existent, enforcement for seat belts is virtually non-existent, enforcement for a non-hands-free phone while driving is virtually non-existent.

    Get where I’m going here?  Enforcement for the current 25mph limit is virtually non-existent, and so will the enforcement of the 15mph limit.  It might make a few deluded folks happy, but it will not solve the problem of parents in a rush to drop their little nippers off at school.

    One way to reduce the problem—let the little nippers walk to school.  Then maybe fewer of them will be obese.  Two problems solved…no, three—savings on gasoline consumption.

    • One problem with the kids walking is that crossing guards have been cut at many schools. So, combine fast drivers with pedestrians and we know what happens. Plus many of the speed violators are not parents dropping off kids. Just watch how many blow past the school at high speed—they aren’t dropping off anybody.

      • I lived in Inglewood, CA from 3rd grade through high school.

        As a third and fourth grader walked 1.2 miles to and from a catholic school, accompanied by an older kid my Mom paid a small sum to each week for his service.  Fifth through eighth grades I walked 2.1 miles to the same school after we moved.  I was unaccompanied.  I crossed several significant intersections without incident, since my parents had ingrained in me the proper way to do so.

        Now we have a Nanny State, filled with obese kids who can’t cross a street properly, who are driven to school in many cases by folks who should never have been granted a drivers license.  Progress????

        SJ has passed yet another law with no funding for either signage or enforcement.  Progress??

        And Blair, don’t talk about traffic “calming”.  Most of the measures do nothing but infuriate already dangerous drivers.  Traffic slowing perhaps, but no way calming.

  9. Pierluigi,

    Can you break down the $1,500 that it costs to put up a speed limit sign? Who manufactures the sign? How much do they charge us for it? How about the pole and the clamps- how much are they? Is this a job that gets subbed out?- It doesn’t seem like it ought to be. So if it’s done by our own City Public Works Department, then does the $1,500 include the cost of our own employees’ labor? Don’t we have to be paying these guys anyway whether they’re doing something useful or not? How long does it take to erect a sign on average?
    Generally, I’d guess most of us are a little incredulous- yet not surprised- at the high cost that the City pays to get anything accomplished, and I think it might be educational to get a breakdown of just where our money goes in this particular instance.

    • Mr. Galt… You are right on your point!  BUT, asking PLO or the Mayor for a “cost analysis” or breakdown that would involve ANY mathematical function is like asking a pig to fly. Mayor Greed and his sidekick PLO couldn’t give you that information if they tried. They prefer to simply pull a figure out of their collective butts and defy you to challenge the validity of their made up number. A major problem in this city is the lack of financial accountability for expenditures and thus accountability wanes significantly hiding any possibility of truth.  Yes, it might be educational to get a breakdown… especially for PLO. He hasn’t been accountable for anything since he was elected!

  10. “This will not assist every school in San Jose, because it may not be practical,” said Councilman PO”  (todays mercury news)

    Thanks PO for wasting everyones time including the councils and everyone under you who had to research this worthless pile of steam.

    This mayor and council are pathetic, can you people do some real work. Can’t wait to hear your results of closed door meeting.  Of yes, forgot “Fiscal Emergency” see you at the special ballot in March, then in court where the city will lose a few more million dollars.  But this is how the city works.

    Hey chief of police,  got no answers?  Boy did the city manager shut you down.  Guess this is why SJ inside gave up on the weekly questions.  Chris, you should cash out while you still can.

  11. This is timely as funding for crossing guards may be eliminated in next year’s budget.

    This was one of the things I proposed during my run for d9.  I’ve never understood why we went from having adult supervised volunteer students doing crossing duty like we did when I was a kid.

    I’d imagine there might have been an accident somewhere that ended student crossing guard duty.  One bad incident to completely dismantle all the programs in public schools.

    Sad thing is though, by dismantling it, I think it’s part of what contributed to the overall diminishing of “school spirit” 

    As a kid, I remember watching those crossing guards get out of class 15 minutes early.  They took their job very seriously, and in a lot of ways I sort of looked up to those older kids with their lance like stop signs on poles.  They were the knights that ensured our safe passage across the street.  They were one of us.

    Compared to these days where I see only affluent neighborhoods getting crossing guards.  It sort of makes me ill knowing the the CSJ has crossing guards in neighborhoods with lower crime and accident rates, instead of the ones with more problems, the ones that really need them.

    Heh.. Oddities of my life… Every day I take my daughter to private school in the east side, though I live in d9(private school still uses students for guards). 

    I see 3 adult guards at the intersection of Brahnam and Cherry, but I see 0 guards near Pala or James Lick on White and Alum Rock.  It absolutely blows my mind that there is this much disparage between the two areas.

    WTF. <—mod if you don’t like this line, just delete it, tnx.

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