Earlier today, the city of San Jose released it’s 2015 street safety report during an event in which they also announced the City Department of Transportation (SJDOT) “Vision Zero San Jose ASAP” Initiative. The report details street safety statistics, and immediate and future initiatives.
District 6 representative Pierluigi Oliviero proposed a city-wide Vision Zero policy earlier this year, seeking to prioritize street safety for all road users — whether you walk, bike, drive, or ride transit. Since then, city DOT officials have taken policy direction from the Mayor’s office and the Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee to create a Vision Zero San Jose program and encourage a “safety first” culture to make safer streets a reality.
What is Vision Zero?
In 1997, the Swedish government introduced “Vision Zero” as a street safety policy to eliminate all traffic fatalities for all transportation modes. The initial goal was to eliminate fatalities by 2020—Sweden has since adjusted their reduction target to 50% by 2020 and to zero deaths by 2050.
Over the past decade, many European nations have adopted Vision Zero programs and have achieved significant fatality reductions, for example: Sweden (39%), Switzerland (41%), Germany (45%), France (48%) and Spain (53%). In the state of California, the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Mateo have adopted Vision Zero policies.
The effectiveness of Vision Zero comes from a “safety first” collaboration among political leaders, roadway designers and managers, traffic enforcement agencies, vehicle manufacturers, transit operators, government regulators, educators, public health officials, community advocates, and the public.
Vision Zero San Jose
The city of San Jose announced its “Vision Zero San Jose ASAP” initiative today, with six core principles to guide the Department of Transportation and San Jose Police Department in setting policy. These core principles are:
- Traffic deaths are preventable and unacceptable.
- Human life takes priority over mobility and other objectives of the road system. The street system should be safe for all users, for all modes of transportation, in all communities and for people of all ages and abilities.
- Human error is inevitable and unpredictable; the transportation system should be designed to anticipate error so the consequence is not severe injury or death. Advancements in vehicle design and technology are a necessary com-
ponent toward avoiding the safety impacts of human errors and poor behaviors.
- People are inherently vulnerable and speed is a fundamental predictor of crash survival. The transportation system should be designed for speeds that protect human life.
- Safe human behaviors, education and enforcement are essential contributors to a safe system.
- Policies at all levels of government need to align with making safety the highest priority for roadways.
The SJDOT Vision Zero 2015 report notes that San Jose ranks as the second safest large city in California, with an injury crash rate half that of the state average. Still, this results in 40 deaths and 150 serious injuries each year out of 2,400 crashes resulting in 3,200 injuries. SJDOT assesses in their report that “these aren’t ‘accidents.’ Traffic crashes are mostly the result of poor choices, along with roadway designs that in the past have focused on the efficiency, speed, and convenience of motorists.”
In developing the Vision Zero initiative, SJDOT noted that 50% of traffic fatalities occur on just 3% of the city’s streets. These streets include portions of Almaden Expressway, Alum Rock Avenue, Blossom Hill Road, Branham Lane, Capitol Expressway, Jackson Avenue, King Road, McKee Road, McLaughlin Avenue, Monterey Road, Senter Road, Story Road, Tully Road, and White Road.
During the Vision Zero launch, Mayor Sam Liccardo acknowledged that the days of planning for unrestricted motorized mobility at the expense of safety and quality of life are behind us.
“We like to be Number One in most things,” quipped Liccardo, “but I have a new number to aim for: Zero.”
SJDOT Director Hans Larsen outlined his department’s role in designing for all modes of mobility, with several road diet projects already completed and more in the pipeline throughout San Jose. District 2 Council Member Ash Kalra discussed how technology can be used to improve safety for all road users, while District 6 Council Member Pierluigi Oliviero discussed enforcement policies.
SJPD Deputy Chief David Knopf indicated his department’s commitment to improved traffic enforcement, especially in the high collision areas highlighted in today’s Vision Zero report. SJPD will look at automated red light enforcement at “hot spot” intersections, especially in the vicinity of county expressways. Knopf also highlighted his department’s role in education.
Vice Mayor Rose Herrera talked about the importance of community involvement. She also announced the creation of the Vision Zero Task Force, led by Jaime Fearer of California Walks and Colin Heyne of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.
While the SJDOT has already moved forward on Vision Zero policies, at this writing the policy for city-wide consideration is under discussion at the City Council Transportation and Environment Committee. After this committee hearing, the policy moves on to the full council for discussion.
I’m looking forward to reading next year’s Vision Zero report to see what the city of San Jose has accomplished.