The solution to traffic danger? Make it faster!

Santa Clara Benton & Monroe Crash

I was Just Riding Along at Lincoln Street from Benton Street in Santa Clara’s Central Business District Wednesday evening when I heard a horrific sounding crash just three blocks away on Benton at Monroe. A moment later, I heard several sirens converging on the area. KRON talks with a nearby resident with his proposals to improve traffic safety at this intersection.



The man in this story, David Dittman, lives on Monroe just a block off of Benton, where the collision happened when somebody (I don’t know who) violated the other driver’s right of way, resulting in an overturned SUV, a probably totaled sedan, and damage to road infrastructure and other private property.

This is a mostly charming residential neighborhood with well kept homes, but Benton and Monroe are both major arterial roads handling both regional and local traffic with aggressive drivers who ruin much of the charm and potential walkability.

I can believe Dittman’s claim of frequent collissions at this intersection, because from what I’ve seen several people drive waaay too fast and impatiently for conditions. Dittman’s solution to this safety problem? Faster traffic!

A left turn signal that he proposes may or may not be a reasonable solution, depending on the warrants. He also wants low radius turns so people can swoop around even faster, which is exactly the opposite of safety. KRON says an unnamed Santa Clara traffic engineer is also considering “adding more lanes,” which will also lead to faster traffic. Leaving aside the problem of coopting even more real estate for automotive traffic, I fail to see why changing an intersection to encourage even faster driving can even be considered a solution.

Benton is marked as a bike route in the Santa Clara bike map. Monroe Street is the only north-south through road with bike lanes between Los Padres Blvd (one mile to the west) and the Guadalupe River Trail (three miles very roundabout miles to the east, because there’s an airport, two Interstate freeways, and two or three more traffic sewers intervening). I hope any proposed changes to either Benton or Monroe are brought to the attention of the city of Santa Clara BAC.

KRON and Dittman have committed the classic blunder of applying Interstate highway design thinking (which are very safe because of controlled access) to local streets (which have cross traffic, turns, houses, parked cars, delivery trucks, people, trees, children, pets, bikes and Oxford commas). Adding freeway style design elements to residential streets is insanity. Don’t do it.

H/T to The All New and Improved Distict 5 Diary for the video.

4 Comments

  • Ralph
    August 25, 2014 - 4:10 am | Permalink

    Just crazy. The solution is to slow down the reckless and impatient drivers and protect the vulnerable road users.

  • Bike-Scoot
    August 25, 2014 - 1:17 pm | Permalink

    Santa Clara should see the writing on the wall and start sending all their traffic engineers for Complete Streets training and NACTO. Every profession needs periodic training so people can get updated on the latest data, methodologies, and trends. Nothing wrong with career ‘continuous improvement’. I don’t get the impression that their traffic engineers are really all that ‘updated’.

  • Mark Sauerwald
    August 26, 2014 - 2:13 pm | Permalink

    I used to commute to work on Monroe through that intersection. On Monroe at Benton, the speed limit is 25 – and is never enforced. There is a combined bike/parking lane which is substandard width on NB monroe just north of Benton – traffic engineers have made things worse with a double yellow line which prevents motorists from passing cyclists safely in this area. Santa Clara has some really bad infrastructure, and are a Bronze cycle friendly community.

  • Pete
    August 31, 2014 - 6:50 pm | Permalink

    This is definitely a bad intersection and I agree the solution here is not dedicated turn lanes. At the other end of Benton I think it’s worse, though, where Lafayette intersects Benton and Homestead with a lane so wide and unmarked that drivers often believe it’s two lanes. Add to that pedestrians trying to cross near the ToGos at an unsignaled crosswalk and I’m amazed more people aren’t hit there.

    Santa Clara’s BFC status is currently up for renewal and it’ll be interesting to see if we keep Bronze status.

    The BAC is now officially a BPAC, BTW, but still not a commission with any leverage, and IMO too few meetings for current agendas, discussions, and workload.

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