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Sunnyvale Vision Zero Kicks Off

Eight wide lanes for car traffic but just a narrow shoulder for walking and bicycling on Mathilda Avenue in Sunnyvale. Photo: Google Maps

Sunnyvale city staff introduced Vision Zero at the plan’s first community meeting on Thursday, October 5, attended by about 20 people. The city is gathering public input on the plan and hopes to convince the City Council to adopt it by Summer 2018.

“We in the city don’t measure our success by how many new traffic signals we have installed, how many new intersections we have built, how many new roads we have designed, or how many traffic enforcement programs we have instituted,” insisted Sunnyvale Transportation and Traffic Manager Shahid Abbas at the meeting. “At the end of the day, the success of the traffic engineering program is [measured by] how many serious injury and fatal crashes we have reduced on our roadways.”

Abbas reported that about 1,200 motor vehicle crashes occur on Sunnyvale city streets each year. “That’s too many,” he said. Abbas reported that of those, on average, 4 result in deaths while 14 result in serious injuries (hospitalizations) each year. “One is too many. 4 and 14 is just not acceptable.”

The city’s numbers exclude collisions on Highways 85, 101, 237, and 280 that are within Sunnyvale city limits. Including those collisions, the city averages 6 fatal crashes and 17 resulting in serious injuries per year. 58 people died in car crashes in Sunnyvale (including highways) from 2007 to 2016.

Map of Fatal and Serious Injury Crashes in Sunnyvale.

“Vision Zero is a commitment to zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries, it’s a different way of thinking that says crashes aren’t accidents, they are something that is preventable, and that can be systematically addressed citywide,” said project consultant Dana. Dana reported that a “High Injury Network” of just ten percent of city streets are the locations of 60 percent of the fatal and serious injury crashes in Sunnyvale.

“There’s no good reason people don’t walk and bike more here,” declared City Council member Nancy Smith. “The main reason is that it’s just not safe.” Smith suggested to advocates that alternative traffic studies could be conducted to investigate the effects of road diets and replacing car parking with bike lanes.

“This was a study issue recommended by the [Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission] BPAC,” said BPAC member and 2016 City Council candidate John Cordes. “Margaret Okuzumi brought this forward. I’m very glad to see it before us.”

“Well it looks good on paper, ” said BPAC member Kevin Jackson. “Sunnyvale’s streets were designed for a high throughput of cars and a high capacity for car parking. The Complete Streets Policy and the Street Space Allocation Policy were both adopted nine years ago, but we still don’t have safe space to bicycle on many streets and walking is hazardous too.”

The project consultants announced they would return in early 2018 with some initial recommendations on the city’s Vision Zero Plan, then work to finalize it by summer 2018 for City Council adoption. Visit the project’s website for more information and contact Senior Transportation Engineer Ralph Garcia (RGarcia@sunnyvale.ca.gov, 408-730-7551) with any questions and to provide feedback.