Santa Clara Street looking west
from City Hall Plaza. Car
turning on left arrow
I really can't blame them because the streets of downtown San Jose were designed with the movement of large volumes of cars at the most effective speed, as top priority. Transit, pedestrians, bicycles, the elderly, and the disabled were all designed into the system as afterthoughts. Yes there are crosswalks and pedestrian signals but the priority on downtown streets is to move cars; pure and simple.
With pedestrian signal green
autos are required to yield.
(Electric sign next to signal)
Current planning tends to evaluate transportation system performance based primarily on motor vehicle traffic speed and delay (tables 1 and 2). There are generally no LOS ratings for other modes or problems. This tends to favor highway expansion over other types of transportation improvements, contributing to Automobile Dependency. (Multi-Modal Level-of-Service Indicators Tools For Evaluating The Quality of Transport Services and Facilities- Victoria Transportation Institute)
Given this priority, automobiles assert this right whenever possible and this morning was no exception. I had my own encounter with an automobile that although had violated traffic laws, obviously felt that it was in her right to do so.
S. 4th Street looking south
towards 280 entrance
In downtown San Jose 3rd and 4th Streets mainly serve as arterial collectors for autos entering and exiting Interstate 280 to the south. These serve as 3 lane thoroughfares on the eastern end of downtown adjacent to dense areas such as San Jose City Hall and San Jose State University.
While crossing S. 4th Street heading east towards City Hall Plaza this morning I was almost hit by a driver that did something which is becoming more common on our streets these days. When a vehicle approaches another from behind at a stop sign, signal, or intersection it is assumed many times that if the car is stopped in the intersection it is because the driver is incompetent or confused. The driver behind many times will not see the pedestrian or cyclist that the first vehicle is yielding to. Horn honking and hand gestures are the usual result.
However this morning the impatient driver didn't even wait but continued into opposing traffic to and narrowly escaped from hitting me (see map below).
This morning's incident brings up to important questions:
- Does a struggling downtown still need to give automobiles top priority or should it encourage shoppers, residents, students, and employees to the area by making the streets safer and more comfortable. Should we revert 3rd and 4th Streets back to two-way streets?
- Given that 4th Street is a high speed connector to the Interstate, if the driver had hit me would she have continued at high speed to the freeway without stopping? Hit and run incidents are becoming more common.
- This intersections is only two blocks from a large downtown elementary school which is in conflict to a move traffic at high speeds at all cost policy.
View San Jose City Hall in a larger map