11/09/2009: San Jose Ranked 26th in Nation for Preventable Pedestrian Deaths, Report Shows


TransForm Urges Senator Boxer to Support Increased Focus on Pedestrian Safety in Upcoming Federal Legislation

CONTACT Chris Lepe, Silicon Valley Community Planner

San Jose, CA - The Silicon Valley is among the most dangerous communities in the nation for pedestrians, ranking 26th out of the 52 largest metro areas nationally and 10th in California, a new report shows.

The report, Dangerous by Design: Solving the Epidemic of Preventable Pedestrian Deaths (and Making Great Neighborhoods), ranks America's major metropolitan areas and states according to a Pedestrian Danger Index that assesses how safe they are for walking. An update of the 2004 Mean Streets report,Dangerous by Design was released by Transportation for America (T4America.org) and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership.

The report authors note that most pedestrian deaths are preventable, because they occur on streets that are designed to encourage speeding traffic and lack safe sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals and other protections. Fixing these problems is a matter of will on the part of state departments of transportation and local communities, and of shifting spending priorities, the report concludes.

The report also examined how states and localities are spending federal money that could be used to make the most dangerous streets safer, and found that the Silicon Valley is investing more than most California cities, committing on average $2.45 per person annually on bicycle and pedestrian facilities. In contrast, northern Bay Area communities spend only $1.52 per person each year.

"San Jose is making progress to improve pedestrian safety, but more funding is drastically needed," said John Brazil, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the City of San Jose. "Our upcoming pedestrian master plan will be a blueprint for making San Jose's streets safer. Implementing our goals will require support and funding from the national level."

Case Study of San Jose Pedestrian Improvements
In November 2005, a two-year old child was tragically killed when his babysitter and he were crossing active railroad tracks near Blossom Hill Road and Monterey Highway in San Jose. At the time, the nearest official pedestrian crossing was a half mile away.

To address this safety issue, the city of San Jose and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority teamed to design and construct a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the railroad tracks and adjacent Monterey Highway. Identifying funding for a $10.5m project was extremely difficult. In addition to local and regional funds, $2.48m in federal funds were allocated for the project. Design of the bike and pedestrian bridge is now complete, and construction is scheduled to begin in Spring 2010.

While walking conditions remain perilous across the country, many communities are working to make their streets safe and welcoming for people on foot or bicycle, the report shows. Communities across the country are beginning to reverse the dangerous legacy of 50 years of anti-pedestrian policies by retrofitting or building new roads as "complete streets" that are safer for walking and bicycling as well as motorists. But additional federal funding is drastically needed to complete pedestrian safety improvements in San Jose.

"Here in the Silicon Valley, we could be saving lives and encouraging more residents to engage in healthy levels of activity by investing in sidewalks, crosswalks, traffic calming and other safety measures," said Chris Lepe, Silicon Valley Community Planner with TransForm. "However, in many cases we are hampered by state and federal policies that continue to promote dangerous conditions."

"As Congress prepares to rewrite the nation's transportation law, this report is yet another wake-up call showing why it is so urgent to update our policies and spending priorities," said James Corless, director of Transportation for America.

TransForm encourages Senator Barbara Boxer, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Congressman Mike Honda, and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to support a national Complete Streets policy that would ensure that all users of the transportation system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users, children, older individuals, and individuals with disabilities, are able to travel safely and conveniently in their communities.

Under the current federal transportation bill, less than 1.5 percent of available funds nationally are directed toward pedestrian safety, although pedestrians account for nearly 12 percent of all traffic deaths and 9 percent of total trips. Between 2007 and 2008, more than 700 children under the age of 15 were killed walking.

Seven organizations served on the steering committee for this report, working closely with T4 America and the Surface Transportation Policy Partnership. These organizations include the American Public Health Association, AARP, Smart Growth America, America Bikes, America Walks, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Complete Streets Coalition.

TransForm works to create world-class public transportation and walkable communities in the Bay Area and beyond. TransForm builds diverse coalitions, influences policy, and develops innovate programs to improve the lives of all people and protect the environment.

Transportation for America is a broad coalition of housing, environmental, equal opportunity, public health, urban planning, transportation and other organizations focused on creating a 21st century national transportation program. The coalition's goal is to build a modernized infrastructure and healthy communities where people can live, work and play by aligning national, state and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development. www.t4america.org