Mountain View Voice

Opinion - September 21, 2012

We can all make the roads safer

Do you feel safe on Mountain View's streets?

Two pedestrians were struck and killed by cars this summer in accidents that took place just a few blocks from each other on California Street. The deaths of William Ware in June, and of Joshua Baker just last weekend, are galvanizing Mountain View residents who want to see city streets get safer for everyone — pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

But even in the wake of a tragedy, the quest for solutions doesn't take long to stir up the animosity between bicyclist, drivers and pedestrians. Reactions to these sad accidents tend to veer quickly from condolences to recriminations and even to victim-blaming.

The police data compiled for the Voice on bicycle accidents over the past five years doesn't paint a pretty picture. The goal of getting cars off the streets is a hard sell if pedestrians and bicyclists fear that they are putting their lives at risk on local streets. We hope city officials will take a good look at proposals like the Rengstorff Park Great Streets Initiative to slow down speeding traffic and improve bike routes, and we expect the City Council to move quickly to find solutions for the most dangerous locations.

But it's unrealistic to expect city officials to come up with traffic safety improvements — and funding — overnight. While residents need to keep pressure on the city, there are some common-sense things everyone can do to prevent another senseless loss of life on Mountain View roads.

Slow down

Calm down

Pay attention

Three things that are simple and obvious, but that seem to be terribly hard to put into practice.

Sure, we're all in a hurry, and it's infuriating to see other people breaking the rules — running stoplights, jaywalking, jabbering on a cell phone instead of paying attention to the road. Take a deep breath and give those who share the road with you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that guy who just cut in front of you isn't trying to be a jerk, he's just late picking up his baby from daycare. Maybe the bicyclist who is riding in the road instead of the bike lane is avoiding a treacherous patch of gravel on the shoulder.

There is a great deal that city officials need to do to find thoughtful solutions for dangerous spots. But no amount of bike-lane striping or sidewalk-widening can protect against reckless, dangerous behavior.

So put the cell phone back in your bike jersey's pocket. Check for pedestrians and cyclists before you go through that stop sign. Lift your eyes from your smart phone before you walk across the street. Get to your destination before you check that text message. Take a deep breath, ease off on the gas pedal and remind yourself that it's better to get there a few minutes later than to not get there at all.

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