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San Jose Pitches Downtown Cycle Tracks

San Jose Bike & Pedestrian Program Director Peter Bennett leads resident on a tour of the existing car parking separated bike lanes on Fourth Street.

San Jose’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has decided that to cut car traffic and enable more residents and visitors to use bicycles a network of separated bike lanes, also called cycle tracks, will be installed. DOT staff and volunteer “popped-up” a temporary separated bike lane along the east side of Fourth Street from Saint James Street to San Carlos Street. The bike lane celebration took place from August 7 to 14, when officials who work for other cities and representing the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) visited San Jose to advise and promote the new bikeway network.

“This is a pop-up protected bike lane here for only one week,” announced San Jose Bike & Pedestrian Program Associate Peter Bennett at the beginning of a group tour the city hosted on August 11. “We can put in a design where we can try a few different things and learn from it.”

Fourth Street “pop-up” bikeway August 7 to 14.

“We’ve been a fan of protected bike lanes for a long time,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Deputy Director Colin Heyne. “We know that people who are interested in riding a bike but are afraid to do so are generally afraid of getting hit by cars. Protected bike lanes do a lot to address those concerns.”

But the type of facilities envisioned by San Jose city planners could introduce new hazards for bicyclists. Two-way cycle tracks were found to result in twice as many bike-auto collisions than one-way cycle tracks, largely because they require car drivers to anticipate traffic coming from an illogical direction – head on. But city planners cite existing two-way cycle tracks such as in New York City, Montreal, and other cities that have installed them as examples to emulate.

“I’d like the idea of having a bike lane with the flow [of car traffic] on one side of the street and against the flow on the other side of the street,” said resident Tian Harter.

Chalk art at the pop-up bike lane’s terminus at San Jose State University.

“There’s a lot of places where if I’m in a bike lane, drivers are either going to pull in front of me, try to get around me, drive behind me,” said one woman. “The bike lane and the turn lane are one physical space.”

The most egregious oversight by San Jose staff is the exclusion of Santa Clara Street from current plans for the upgraded bicycling network. The city violated its own Complete Street Policy in 2016 by repaving the street through downtown without any pedestrian or bicycling improvements. Five lanes of moving car traffic and parallel parked cars on both side of the street intimidate most would-be cyclists and encourage cyclists to share the narrow sidewalks with pedestrians. One-way separated bike lanes could replace parallel car parking on both sides of the street if advocates demands are met.

“The safety and comfort of people walking and bicycling must take first priority on our public streets,” said I Walk I Bike I Vote Director Andrew Boone. “On Santa Clara Street that means banning cars now!”

Bicyclists pass anti-war protestors upon entering the parking-separated bike lane on Fourth Street.

San Jose DOT staff are now summarizing the public input received during the Fourth Street Pop-up Bikeway event two weeks ago. Planners are soliciting further comment and are expected to unveil a proposed network of separated bike lanes for downtown San Jose by the end of 2017.

Make your voice heard! Contact the people planning our active transportation future!

Peter Bennett 408-795-1610
John Brazil 408-795-3206
Jessica Zenk