Public safety & traffic in San Jose

33 traffic fatalities — including 20 pedestrians and cyclists — in San Jose this year

San Jose city council member Sam Liccardo formally kicked off his campaign for mayor yesterday. He currently represents the downtown district, and he’s known for his recent strong support for creative bicycle infrastructure throughout downtown.

Four of the five candidates currently running for mayor are sitting council members, and they share a common handicap: the powerful San Jose police union has it in for them because of their support for pension reform.

San Jose has long been known as the entry-level city for anybody beginning careers in city government. The Bay Area’s largest city pays fairly low wages compared to other nearby cities. Once engineers, planners, police officers and other city workers get their feet wet in San Jose, they seek out greener pastures in nearby cities with larger comparative tax bases like Sunnyvale and Santa Clara.

When the 2008 recession forced San Jose to cut budgets, the police department was particularly hard hit. The city laid off hundreds of officers, and voters approved Measure B to reduce the city’s pension for new police officers. Remaining officers have been asked to work ludicrously long hours. The result is a poisonous atmosphere in which the police union actively encourages new candidates to leave the force and find employment elsewhere.

A startling series of shooting homicides earlier this year led to the city and council asking for a greater police presence around town. With police resources stretched thin, San Jose’s traffic detail has born the brunt of the cuts. In the name of focusing on more important public safety issues, almost the entire motorcycle traffic force was eliminated, and the San Jose police department now has a policy of not enforcing most traffic infractions between dusk and dawn!

Yes, you read that right: You’re free to speed down city streets, run stop signs, run red lights and even drive drunk all night long.

The result: accidental traffic deaths in the Capital of Silicon Valley are nearly at parity with homicides. Catherine Marie Maxwell, age 60, became the city’s 32nd traffic fatality for 2013 on Monday, followed on Tuesday by 43 year old Joel Holguin Jr. Maxwell and Holguin are the 19th and 20th pedestrians to be killed this year.

The city of San Jose has some important crime issues to address, and I think the city council is doing what they can with the resources they have available. Shootings and gang violence capture headlines and the public’s attention, and the city should work to reduce these problems, but the city also shouldn’t continue to overlook automotive traffic as the single most important contribution to public danger.

More carnage below

Do you remember the alleged maniac in San Francisco who allegedly used a city park as a shortcut to run over and kill a woman with his work truck? His 19 year old son was arrested after a hit and run against a cyclist in San Francisco. You might also recall that this teen’s sister was killed by a distracted driver last year.

I witnessed a property damage hit and run this morning on Highway 17. The bus I was riding was hit by a white work van. The passing van shattered by bus’s driver-side mirror. The driver of the van kept going. The bus operator called it in, but nobody got the license plate of the van.

Since Thursday morning’s carnage post, I’ve tracked four more traffic fatalities in California, including this vehicle that flew off of I-680 in Benicia. It took emergency responders nearly a half hour to find the car and the driver trapped inside. Another fatality – this one in Modesto – involves an overturned tanker truck that also sheared a power pole.

Guy on a bicycle hit from behind at high speed in Carmichael, California Thursday night. The news story says the cyclist was thrown 60 feet after impact, after noting the cyclist was not wearing a helmet. El Camino Avenue, where this collision took place, is a five lane residential arterial with a 40 MPH speed limit.

45 year old hit from behind and killed by a Mitsubishi SUV in Marysville, CA.

Road rage shooting in Fremont, CA.

Menlo Park: Man and woman walking dog killed by drunk driver.

Holguin’s family pleads to his killer: “turn yourself in.”

Next week: My analysis of San Jose’s mayoral candidates and their transportation bona fides. Would you believe we have at least three of them actively angling for the bike vote?


  1. Well, it looks like they are on their way to finish this year on par, seeing that over the last five SWITRS reporting years (2007-2011) they have averaged 42 Fatalities (211TF) out of an average of 3,505 Collisions (17,528TC) for the same time period.

    2011 = 39TF (3,721TC)

    2010 = 36TF (3,682TC)

    2009 = 47TF (2,420TC)

    2008 = 44TF (3,671TC)

    2007 = 45TF (4,034TC)

    Although the San Jose Police website has a little different take:

    I also think their comment is interesting:

    “San Jose historically has a high percentage of auto/pedestrian fatal collisions.”

  2. This is something else that just boggles my mind, regarding the state of San Jose. Seems as though they have lost their way, but why?

    America’s Richest Cities

    Fri, Oct 25, 2013 11:40 AM EDT

    1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.

    > Median household income: $90,737

    > Population: 1,894,388 (32nd highest)

    > Unemployment rate: 8.6% (112th highest)

    > Poverty rate: 10.8% (28th lowest)

    Median income in the San Jose metro area, which constitutes part of Silicon Valley, jumped from $85,736 in 2011 to $90,737 last year. San Jose had among the largest concentrations of high-paying professional services and information jobs in the nation. But the area is not only the wealthiest in the nation, it has also become one of the most-desired housing markets. Just 3.6% of housing units were vacant in 2012, down from 4.9% in 2008, while median gross rent reached $1,560 last year, more than any other metro area in the U.S. Home values also were the highest in the nation, with a median of $624,200. More than 20% of homes in the area were valued at over $1 million.

  3. Thanks for the numbers, Dan.

    I intended to point out the numbers have been steady to declining but ran out of time. I realize now that it looks misleading, now, to have left that out. My main point is that traffic fatalities are still a problem, especially since the more vulnerable road users (those outside of automobiles) are too often the victim.

    We had our 34th traffic fatality in San Jose over the weekend when a drunk driver ran over a woman in a residential driveway.

  4. Yeah, absolutely…you can never accept the status quo as the norm, given all things.

    Also, not sure if you’ve ever had a chance to use the Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) website developed by CAL Berkeley. It’s an excellent resource for displaying injury statistics from multiple agencies. They have taken the raw data (massive) and developed an interface to easily display it for the benefit of us all. I’ve had an interest in understanding bicycling related injuries for a number of years and have used the SWITRS raw data maintained by the CHP. These folks have taken the time to simplify this very complicated process. The only issue is they are almost a year behind in updating the system, with the exception of fatalities, which are supposed to be input soon after. So, your method of keeping track of the day-to-day is still important. Anyway, these are great tools that we should be using and supporting to help understand and improve bicycle and pedestrian safety. And ITS FREE to the Public!

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