Proposal to reduce speed limit near SJ schools

August 31, 2011 6:56:02 PM PDT
The idea of lowering the speed limit around schools to keep kids safe seems sensible enough, but in San Jose, it's a top for debate.

Most parents will tell you that getting kids to and from school can be a dangerous proposition despite a universal speed limit of 25 miles per hour. On Dana Avenue, where there are three schools and 4,000 kids, the city reduced the speed limit from the standard 25 miles per hour to 15 miles per hour when children are present.

The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

"A little more traffic, but it seems people are paying more attention to the children that are around, so it seems a lot slower but safer," said Trace Elementary School teacher Amy Glanzman.

In the name of safety, Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio wants the speed limit reduced around all schools. Oliverio says a 2008 state law allows for the change; Santa Barbara and San Francisco have recently made the move without all the previously-required engineering and traffic studies.

"So far, the state hasn't said anything in seven months," Oliverio said, "so really, San Jose should look forward to providing safety, not just for Dana Avenue in San Jose but for all neighborhoods and schools."

The idea is already getting some push back: Even if the city can legally get around expensive traffic studies, not everyone is in favor of a lower limit.

"Sometimes we do things in the way of regulations that make us feel good, but if we can't enforce it, I think it sends the wrong message to our community," said city councilmember Rose Herrera.

Even the school district, which appreciates the slower pace on Dana Avenue, says a blanket policy isn't necessarily appropriate for every school zone, including those with four-lane traffic and numerous stop lights.

"I think you have to look at all the other variables to determine whether or not 15 at every single public school is worthwhile doing," said Chris Funk with the San Jose Unified School District.

Oliverio is proposing that the city first focus on the schools that are near two-lane roads and in residential areas. A council committee did agree to have the city staff look at the pros and cons of the idea and report back to the city council.

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