Ensuring that cars travel slowly near schools should be a priority for San Jose. Local governments should embrace tools that make streets safer for pedestrians, especially when those pedestrians are overwhelming children walking and biking to and from school.
In 2008, Assembly Bill 321 (AB321) was signed into law with support from the national organization, Safe Routes to School. AB321 allows cities the flexibility to lower speed limits adjacent to public and private schools. Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Pennsylvania have already implemented lower school speed limits successfully.
Reduced school speed zones in California were quickly implemented in Goleta, Santa Barbara County, Lompoc and Santa Maria among other cities. In 2010, I proposed implementing AB321 on Dana Avenue in front of Trace Elementary and Lincoln High School. Parents, teachers, principals, residents and the school superintendent have proclaimed the reduced speed on Dana Avenue a great success. As a result, this issue is coming back to the council on Tuesday, Nov. 15th.
Allowing schools to choose if they would like to have a 15-mph speed zone for their school—if their school meets the criteria—would then allow for an easy and affordable way to reduce accidents and the degree of injury. This is timely as funding for crossing guards may be eliminated in next year’s budget.
Lowering the speed limit is also a benefit to residents and neighborhoods adjacent to schools. If we look back at history, we know that former schools in San Jose are closed like Belden, Camden, Cory, Kirk and Lincoln Glen. That means student population at remaining schools has increased. As a result, residents who live by an elementary school that was designed for 350 students may live next to an elementary school with over 800-1,000 students, thus higher car volume. By lowering the speed limit, we will bring piece of mind to the residents who live by schools. Also, it will offer the opportunity for more kids to walk or bike to school.
Unfortunately, city staff is proposing as a pilot program that we lower speed limits at only three schools out of over 200. Still, there have been some who think that it’s OK to not lower the speed limit near schools and instead rely on grandparents and parents to walk their kids to school. However, Mayor Reed, Councilmember Don Rocha and I disagree with staff’s proposal and instead we are asking the Council to support allowing schools the autonomy to choose for themselves.
The cost to procure and install new 15-mph speed limit signs per school in San Francisco is approximately $1,500. It may be less if we simply put a 1 over the 2. Even with our budget woes in San Jose, this is affordable and I have already heard from school parent groups and residents that they would be willing to pay for the cost of implementation.
A special thank you to all those who stood in the rain to support the Veteran’s Day parade Downtown. The Brigadier General spoke about the 1 percent—the other 1 percent. The 1 percent of the population that is dedicated to our nation’s security. Thank you to all veterans for the freedom we enjoy.