Cycling in San Jose is becoming a lot safer and easier for residents.
The city council unanimously approved the Better Bike Plan 2025 on October 6th, which aims to prioritize rider safety while increasing the number of bike lanes, bicycle parking and bike sharing across the city.
The bike network would also help connect east and west San Jose to downtown, making getting to work and school more direct by bike. It would also encourage more cycling to reduce emissions from vehicle transport.
“The great thing about our cycling plan is the ability to connect not just all ages but all income levels so we can get around town and get to our job centers,” Councilor Dev Davis said at a news conference on the October 5th announcement Bike plan. “I love the ability for all of us to choose a healthy route to commute as opposed to a polluting route to commute.”
The city intends to make cycling safer and less stressful by adding more protected cycle paths – lanes that create a barrier between cyclists and traffic – to busier streets.
San Jose-resident Mikhail Haurylau, who lives in Willow Glen and works in Milpitas, said cycling has been his main way of getting to and from work for the past decade. His children also cycle to their neighborhood school.
“I feel safe enough to use the traffic. But suddenly I don’t feel safe anymore that my children are doing the same, ”said Haurylau during a public comment. “I’m really looking forward to this improved infrastructure.”
Haurylau is not alone.
Currently, three percent of residents say they use bicycles as their primary mode of transportation, according to a city report, but three-quarters of San Jose residents said they are uncomfortable on traditional bike paths.
“You’re pretty exposed on a bike,” said Ramses Madou, head of planning policy and sustainability at the city’s Ministry of Transport. “We really need to focus on people not feeling this exposure and being safe and standing behind barriers as much as possible.”
Of the 52 road fatalities in San Jose in 2018, 23 were cyclists and pedestrians.
65 percent of residents surveyed said they would feel most comfortable using shared paths similar to those along the Guadalupe River Trail. These paths would be away from cars and would only welcome cyclists and pedestrians. Bicycle boulevards with reinforced bicycle signage would also be added to quieter areas.
Robert Jones, longtime Willow Creek resident, said safe bike routes across the city will be especially important as Google’s new campus moves to town. However, he feared that the congestion from garbage piles and camps along stream paths could discourage residents from cycling in certain areas.
“I support the expansion and improvement of the quality of the bike paths,” said Jones. “Let’s just work together and clean up so people feel safe moving these areas from one neighborhood to another.”
Councilor Maya Esparza said the city needs to work with various municipal departments, including public works, parks and the police, to keep bikers safe.
Families in East San Jose and downtown have an interest in cycling more, Councilor Magdalena Carrasco said, but many are paying too much for accommodation and transportation.
“It’s time we invested in our underinvested communities and made sure the infrastructure is in place so that our residents – who really want to adopt this lifestyle – want to be part of the cycling culture and cycling coalition that want to reverse the harmful effects on Mother Nature – you have the infrastructure to support this lifestyle, ”said Carrasco.
A city poll found that more than half of San Jose’s residents want to ride more bikes.
Mayor Sam Liccardo strongly advocated additional funding for a main link between District 5 and District 3.
“When 66% of district residents say they want to cycle more, we should definitely listen. We know it’s important to connect to the downtown area so jobs can get into the state of San Jose and many other vital resources, ”Liccardo said. “It’s worth investing the extra dollars.”
The city’s general plan was to cycle 15% of all trips in San Jose by 2040. The Climate Smart Plan stipulates that 20% of trips will be by bicycle by 2050.
Liccardo, Carrasco, Davis, Esparza and Councilor Raul Peralez suggested that some streets that were closed during the COVID-19 should be permanently closed to allow safer bike and pedestrian travel.
At a press conference on October 5, councilors celebrated the city’s progress in making San Jose more drivable. Since the installation of the first road bike path in the 1970s, the city has added an additional 320 miles of road bike paths and 59 miles of hiking trails.
The Better Bike Plan 2025 would make it possible to convert 253 miles of existing cycle paths into protected cycle paths and create 104 miles of new protected paths. Another 102 miles would become bicycle boulevards.
The plan will coincide with the sidewalk maintenance program funded by Measure T, Measure B, and Senate Bill 1. As the city renews the streets, it will have the opportunity to redefine a more bike-friendly system that supports the city’s Climate Smart and Vision Zero goals.
The cost ranges from $ 250 million to $ 420 million, depending on the materials used to create protected bike paths. The city will also apply for local and federal grants and try to work with developers.
“San Jose has become a model for cities across the country fighting climate change and pursuing safe and healthy transportation,” Liccardo said. “I am grateful to our community partners and city employees for their cooperation, as together we encourage more of our residents to switch from four to two wheels.”
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.