This week, once again, we learned that yet another person had fallen victim to traffic violence in San Jose. The victim was an 87-year-old man.
Our streets are becoming increasingly dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, with 23 of them slain in San Jose this year alone.
Looking at the way our roads were designed, it’s not hard to figure out why.
I bike on Bollinger Road and De Anza Boulevard, where the recent collision took place, fairly regularly, and I’ve had my fair share of near misses. These ranged from a semi-truck drifting into the bike lane, to impatient right-turners, and I’ve nearly been T-boned several times by distracted left-turners.
It’s hard to feel safe when the only thing separating you from massive vehicles roaring past at 40mph is a 2-foot strip of paint.
Even for pedestrians, our roads, including where the collision occurred, there is a lot to be desired. Crosswalks are few and far between (often forcing pedestrians to cross mid-block) and are poorly lit wherever they exist.
These roads were not meant for people to traverse. They were meant to move as many cars as possible, as fast as possible—everyone else be damned.
This latest death, like countless others, was inevitable. It was also preventable.
If we want to truly live up to the goals of our Vision Zero promise (which can certainly be accomplished), then we need to radically reimagine who we design our streets for and how we get around. Yet San Jose is still proceeding with a plan to push Charcot Avenue, a mini-highway, right through a school.
Further, while cities across the country have democratized miles of streets and opened them to pedestrians, cyclists and playing children, San Jose has refused to do so much as consider it. Creating people-centered streets would make our neighborhoods far safer than they are now, with vehicles roaring at 30 miles per hour on small streets.
Yet our city is still stuck in the past, and Vision Zero is looking more like Zero Vision
Passing out “20 is plenty” signs and moralizing “pedestrian education” do little to help if our city is too feckless to do things that actually save lives: reducing traffic speeds and building streets that are truly safe for pedestrians.
We must, and we absolutely can, do better.