|RIP: Silver Creek High School |
Silver Creek High School Principal Adolfo Laguna in this morning's San Jose Mercury News, stated "the (student's) death is a poignant reminder of how careful motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists have to be around the school area, particularly during rush hour. We want our students to be safe."
Dangerous By Design
Yes this student's tragic death is a poignant reminder; but asking motorists, pedestrians and bicyclist to be careful as a preventive measure against these types of incidents is completely wishful thinking. This intersection is dangerous by design.
Here are some reasons that make this intersection dangerous for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
San Jose City Council member Pierluigi Oliverio has been championing 15 mph speed limits near schools but he is limited by California state law to only two lane streets, not 10 lane expressways. This expressway also known as" Capitol Raceway" is notorious for impromptu races among race tuned autos.
The intersection was designed to reduce congestion by increasing the speed at which autos can negotiate turns. As you can see in this photo (Google Maps), the intersections uses large radii turns creating a triangular area to place the traffic signal. This design to increase the speed of right turning cars is a safety risk to cyclists and pedestrians.
Given San Jose suburban development pattern this expressway channels a high volume of traffic to the freeway during rush hour, bringing large volumes of traffic and young students together in a dangerous mix. The school, with almost 2,500 students also creates its own commuter congestion with parents rushing to bring their students to school before heading on the freeway to go to work.
Crossing Capital Expressway subjects student, cyclists, pedestrians, and the elderly to a 200 foot crossing with no refuge or rest area in the middle of the intersection.
I am always amazed that we have been lead to believe that the suburbs are by design safe than cities. It is evident in this Wall Street Journal Blog post titled "Is Generation Y a "Game Changer" for housing?" The article quotes a financial services consultant who recently bought a 2,500-square-foot house in south San Francisco. The 23-year old single woman mentioned that she anticipates moving to the suburbs later in life, stating, "In my 20s, I definitely want to live downtown; I like the whole high-rise, in-the-city feel,” she said. “But, definitely when I have children, I want to live in a single-family home. It’s easier for parking, transportation and it’s safer to live in the suburbs away from the city."
The community should use this tragic incident as a starting point to do something about the lack of safety so close to their children's school.
A side note: When I went to the Google aerial photo of the school a counted 9 bikes (out of a student population of 2,500) in one bike parking location; and I'm not surprised.
Update (San Jose Mercury News): The bicyclist, believed to be 16 years old, was traveling east along East Capitol Expressway around 7:35 a.m. when a white Ford F-150 pick-up going northbound on Silver Creek Road collided with him, Officer Albert Morales said. Emergency personnel performed CPR at the scene and took the injured boy to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:10 a.m.