San Jose tops the list of Silicon Valley cities with the most bicycle crashes, injuries and deaths, which is nothing to brag about.
San Jose ranks the worst in bike safety, tallying 2,803 bike crashes over a decade, resulting in 38 deaths and 2,752 injuries. Palo Alto ranks second with 787 bike crashes, resulting in three deaths and 795 injuries. That’s according to a study conducted by Walkup Law Firm, which collected data from 14,718 bicycle incidents from 2011 to 2021 in Silicon Valley. The study defines Silicon Valley as San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
The study also reveals downtown San Jose and around San Jose State University as the second most dangerous area for cyclists, only topped by Palo Alto’s Downtown North. Downtown San Jose had a total of 97 crashes from 2011 to 2021, resulting in 92 injuries and one death.
Shiloh Ballard, executive director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, said bicycle safety is an urgent matter that requires streamlined processes to get infrastructure projects constructed. Currently, a bicycle lane can take years to finish.
“San Jose on average has 20 crashes a day… We can’t wait 10 years,” Ballard told San José Spotlight. “People are dying on our roads.”
Unsafe streets have long been a part of San Jose: the city saw 60 traffic fatalities last year and has surpassed that record with 64 deaths this year. The city adopted the Vision Zero initiative in 2015 and announced a $6 million effort in March to implement safety measures, including pedestrian barriers, bike lanes and better signage and lighting. Vision Zero aims to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries through infrastructure and data collection projects.
Colin Heyne, spokesperson for the city’s transportation department, said San Jose has had eight cyclist deaths this year. That number is the same as last year, and cyclist deaths have been on the rise along with other types of traffic fatalities, he added.
“We look at bicyclists, along with pedestrians, as our most vulnerable road users and as a barometer for how safe our streets are,” Heyne told San José Spotlight.
The high accident numbers in San Jose can be explained due to a variety of factors, including a large population, busy downtown and larger amounts of activity due to students and workers near San Jose State University, Heyne said. The report reveals a high number of incidents on streets near downtown San Jose, including the intersection between South Sixth and Reed streets. Bicycle crashes are also high in other parts of the city, including Senter and Tully roads.
San Jose’s Better Bike Plan 2025 aims to make bicycling more accessible by increasing bike parking, sharing services and bike lanes, Heyne said. Santa Clara County has been working to create a bicycle superhighway for cyclists to travel between cities. The goal is to ensure cyclists can access all parts of the city safely, he added.
“We acknowledge that even if it is great infrastructure, if it’s an island, it’s not going to help,” Heyne told San José Spotlight. “We need to have that great infrastructure be connected.”
Michael Kelly, a senior partner at Walkup Law Firm, said addressing bicycle safety requires a culture shift. Many drivers remain inattentive to cyclists on the road, he said, an attitude that puts cyclists in harm’s way.
“We see conflicts both due to roadway design, roadway use, and the behavior and psychology of drivers… We see so often vehicle drivers who say, ‘Well, I never saw the bicycle,’” Kelly told San José Spotlight. “There’s no such thing as an invisible bicyclist.”
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the number of bicycle crashes in San Jose last year.
Contact Loan-Anh Pham at [email protected] or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.