Op-Ed: In San Jose, ‘Vision Zero’ Seems More Like ‘Zero Vision’

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.

Gil Rodan is a San Jose resident, writer and activist. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].


  1. > 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.

    True dat. I don’t see a problem.

    > 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 . . .

    I think I’ll just stick with the radical reimagining by the guys who imagined that cars would be better than bicycles and horse-drawn wagons.

    > while cities across the country have democratized miles of streets and opened them to pedestrians, cyclists and playing children,

    We have democratized streets. Democracy is majority rule and the majority wants the streets to be used for motorized vehicles.

  2. “Traffic violence”?
    Okay fine. You wanna play that way?
    Well I’M offended at this velocipede fascist stalking innocent readers like me, infiltrating our cyberspace, maliciously and irresponsibly sowing apprehension and doubt about our cherished infrastructure, thus murdering our chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

  3. all of you are weak and sad if an article about how terrible the streets are in sj causes you to rail against the idea and the poster.

    its pretty simple: sj leaders talk big, dont do anything tangible, and then you all suck them off just for existing.

    take a good hard look at the city and tell me we dont have massive problems. lol!

  4. > SJI will giv3 over their fine newspaper to just about anybody.

    Based on my expeditions to some of the more exotic corners of the internet, I think that the SJI reality is “probably not”.

    SJI’s Comments Policy constrains me to seem to be more well behaved than I really am.

  5. The Bay Area has some of the worst drivers in the country. Ranging from the slow and unaware drivers to the fast and careless drivers. It doesn’t help that we voted for the county to ban traffic cameras.

    Oregon has a driving culture that we should look up to. Bad drivers stick out like sore thumbs and will be honked at.

  6. > Antisocial personality disorder, sometimes called sociopathy, is a mental disorder in which a person consistently shows no regard for right and wrong and ignores the rights and feelings of others. People with antisocial personality disorder tend to antagonize, manipulate or treat others harshly or with callous indifference. They show no guilt or remorse for their behavior.

    Trump supporters can testify that there is a huge epidemic of antisocial personality disorder, which is often misdiagnosed as “Trump derangement syndrome”.

  7. All of the “ vision zero “ , “ending homelessness by 2020” and the rest are pure government BS. Virtually every one of these programs have made the issue worse. They are just there to pay off political cronies and make it look like the Government is actually doing something. They are never held to account.

    All the Government needs is a dozen or so braying jackasses to rush in and complain and they will throw millions at a problem that is either imaginary or unfix able. Most of the traffic mitigation installed downtown has made things more confusing and less safe.
    Here is the bad news, when a driving jackass, who is tweeting, intersects with a pedestrian jackass, who is tweeting, someone will be injured or killed. Here endth the lesson.

  8. > Why not jump to the end and make cars illegal?

    > Isn’t that where this is designed to end?

    An excellent insight.

    Stepping back and looking at the issues that progressives/postmodernists attach themselves to, it is abundantly clear that they are opposed to personal mobility.

    And the more modern and enabling the mobility, the more the p/p’s oppose it.

    Airplanes? Long distance travel for people without supervision? BAD! Global warming. Leaded fuel. Close Reid-Hillview.

    Cars? BAD AGAIN! Too much personal freedom! Traffic. Pollution. Fossil fuels! Close auto repair shops.

    Passenger trains? Good for now. Will be banned in the future. A relic of the nineteenth century.
    Slow. Inefficient. Inflexible. Constrains rather than enables personal mobility.

    Bicycles? A waystation for people who are forced out of their cars. A relic of the seventeenth century. Slower. More inefficient. Keeps people close to their homes. Really constrains personal mobility.

    Skateboards? Environmentally friendly. Keeps people in their high density urban villages. Really, really constrains personal mobility.

    Mass transit? Yes! Only allows people to go where the p/p’s want them to go, and only when the p/p’s allow them to be away from the urban village. No personal mobility here. Only MASS mobility.

    The “vision” is zero personal mobility.

  9. Gil,

    I actually found this chart here.. We’re not even in the top 20…

    2019 Rank Metro Area Pedestrian Deaths (2008-2017) Annual Pedestrian Fatalities per 100,000 People 2019 Pedestrian Danger Index
    1 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 656 2.82 313.3
    2 Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 212 3.45 265.4
    3 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 165 2.94 245.0
    4 North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 194 2.58 234.6
    5 Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 162 2.54 230.9
    6 Jacksonville, FL 419 2.94 226.2
    7 Bakersfield, CA 247 2.83 217.7
    8 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 148 2.17 217.0
    9 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 900 3.07 204.7
    10 Jackson, MS 111 1.92 192.0
    11 Memphis, TN-MS-AR 297 2.21 184.2
    12 Baton Rouge, LA 182 2.21 157.9
    13 Birmingham-Hoover, AL 179 1.57 157.0
    14 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 1,549 2.61 153.5
    15 Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 197 2.29 152.7
    16 McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX 140 1.69 140.8
    17 Albuquerque, NM 213 2.35 138.2
    18 Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 757 1.76 135.4
    19 Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 118 1.62 135.0
    20 Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 126 2.15 134.4

    Our fatalities were higher in 2019, 60 compared to the 23 this year so far, but COVID and people staying home, places being closed, and the San Jose exodus probably has a bigger effect on pedestrian fatalities than VISION ZEEEHROH ever did.

    The issue is overstated, the problem isn’t roads (especially when looked at over the long term comparatively to other cities) and we’re just wasting money on these studies.

  10. thank you for writing this Gil, I agree completely although of course the problem to be addressed goes much deeper and is more multifaceted than just these deaths. If only more could understand, or at least be willing to listen.

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