San José hates pedestrians—at least, according to a web site by the same name. The site offers photographic evidence of its slogan: “San José: where cars matter more than people.”
The site describes San José, California as a city constructed for cars, and where pedestrians are superfluous, by comparison.
Here’s a scathing critique:
Don’t be surprised during your next visit to San José if you find yourself more comfortable driving to the store across the street, rather than walking. That’s the way it’s designed to be.
Sounds like a lot of America, no?
The site criticizes San José’s recent public campaign to support peds, saying that it’s merely for show:
Known to many outsiders as an overgrown suburb where speeding traffic seems to define the experience, San José is hoping to improve its anti-pedestrian reputation through a series of highly visible programs.
However, despite these well-aimed publicity stunts, San José isn’t taking remedial action significant enough to make it as friendly to pedestrians as it is to speeding cars and red-light runners.
The site points to specific sources of anti-pedestrian sentiment: the city has widened roads and eliminated sidewalks, and rounded sidewalk corners so it’s more difficult for peds to cross, but easier for cars to turn. Construction routinely blocks pedestrian walkways and bike trails—if they exist to begin with. Many roadsides are lined with palm trees, but no path for pedestrians to stroll.
“San José’s goal, of course,” says the site, “is to keep passing automobile traffic as unaffected as possible, regardless of any inconvenient detours that might be required of pedestrians.”
When resident pedestrians complained about one example of a street corner that was made more car-friendly, the city conjured a simple, ineffectual solution:
This corner at Julian and The Alameda in San José was recently made rounder and wider, to help traffic go around the corner without stopping. However, the community didn’t want an anti-pedestrian corner there and complained.
San José’s solution was to mock a pedestrian-friendly design by drawing a square corner on the pavement with paint.
The effect is predictably minimal as passing cars tend to ignore it and drive over it. Wouldn’t you?
Traffic engineers can feel proud of this kind of design compromise—the kind where the automobile wins and pedestrians lose.
Sad to say, but San José likely represents the rule, not the exception. It’s just one of countless cities that have gone the way of the car. I encounter anti-ped planning constantly: narrow sidewalks, no sidewalks, no medians at dangerous intersections, no crosswalks, sudden ends to bike trails or walkways. Not long ago, I got booted from a drive-up line at the bank because I was riding my bike. The teller told me she could only serve “people in vehicles,” as if driving a car legitimized my purpose and my presence. The branch didn’t have an office, only a drive-thru, and therefore didn’t serve peds at all. (Needless to say, I was super peeved.) Since when, I wonder, do cars have more power than the people who drive (or, rather, don’t drive) them?