Foley: The future of traffic safety in San Jose
The Vision Zero Task Force is coming to a close at the end of this year. File photo.

As chair of the Vision Zero Task Force, I announced on Feb. 29 that the task force will be coming to a close at the end of this year.

Understandably, this has left some community members and street safety advocates concerned about the future of Vision Zero in San Jose. I empathize with these concerns; however, this is a move to ensure the city truly delivers on traffic safety outcomes rather than just talking about it.

In 2015 San Jose adopted a commitment to Vision Zero, to reduce and eventually eliminate fatal and severe traffic collisions citywide. In 2020 the City Council created the Vision Zero Task Force after the adoption of the Vision Zero Action Plan to work on solutions to prevent traffic violence in San Jose. While the task force was meant to kickstart certain elements of Vision Zero, it’s not where the ongoing work happens.

The task force has been instrumental in advancing the city’s Vision Zero work. Bringing together key stakeholders throughout Santa Clara County, the task force has effectively brought greater attention to the pressing issue of traffic safety. The task force has gained a deep understanding of what the city is doing to improve traffic safety and what strategies work.

The city is now moving into the next phase of Vision Zero implementation, with more resources and tools at our disposal than before.

Recent state legislation allows San Jose to pilot automated speed enforcement cameras, a proven method in slowing vehicles and improving safety outcomes. Traffic safety infrastructure such as protected bicycle lanes, traffic calming and pedestrian safety measures have shown to be successful in reducing fatal and severe collisions in San Jose. Lane reductions, when deployed where appropriate, significantly reduce crashes. And we know where these investments are most needed. The data shows fatal and severe collisions disproportionately occur on 31 corridors, which we’ve designated as priority safety corridors.

Meetings can be effective at bringing people together, but ultimately meetings are not going to improve traffic safety outcomes. Significant staff time is spent preparing for and presenting at Vision Zero Task Force meetings. Time and resources that could otherwise be spent on delivering the strategies that we know are effective at saving lives on our streets.

The task force made sense when there wasn’t a clear direction on a path forward for Vision Zero. The direction we have gained over the last three years of meetings now gives city staff the opportunity to focus their resources and time on implementation.

The city and I maintain our commitments to Vision Zero regardless of the fate of the task force. The real, on-the-ground work of making our streets safe will continue thanks to our dedicated city staff.

The Vision Zero Task Force will continue to meet through the end of this year and formulate a new action plan to inform the future direction of traffic safety work in San Jose. Public venues and opportunities for reports, oversight and feedback on the implementation of the action plan, including the Transportation and Environment Committee and Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, will also continue to be available. Vision Zero is now a core city service and as such it is natural for it to be overseen by the Transportation and Environment Committee, a body with greater authority than the task force.

It’s time for Vision Zero to mean action and not meetings. Action saves lives, meetings do not. Let’s get down to the real work of ensuring our streets are safe for all.

Pam Foley has served as San Jose’s District 9 councilmember since 2019 and is chair of the city’s Vision Zero Task Force.

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