Northbound San Jose Ave Goes on Road Diet, Gains Buffered Bike Lane

Photo: SF Bicycle Coalition

The northbound side of speed-plagued San Jose Avenue north of 280, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut, is getting a road diet and buffered bike lane that matches the geometry of the street’s southbound side. SFMTA crews were out today, re-striping the road and installing plastic posts in the buffer zone.

Photo: Spencer Goodwine

The change is far overdue for neighbors who have pushed for traffic calming along the Bernal Cut for decades, particularly since Caltrans invited more speeders to the street by adding a 280 off-ramp lane over 20 years ago.

“The San Jose pilot is the result of decades of community organizing around making the Bernal Cut safer for everyone,” said Kristin Smith, communications director for the SF Bicycle Coalition. She noted that the improvements “will make this critical part of our North-South Route safer,” contributing to the SFBC’s Connecting the City vision of a citywide bike route network safe enough for anyone age 8 to 80 to use. “We look forward to seeing following improvements in the area.”

The bike lane upgrade is the first part of a two-phase pilot project, which was originally supposed to start construction in March. By reallocating one of San Jose’s three northbound traffic lanes to a wider bike lane and buffer zone, the SFMTA hopes to bring the number of drivers traveling faster than 35 mph down to 15 percent or less. If traffic speeds don’t drop below the target, Caltrans will remove the off-ramp lane that it added in 1992, in order to accommodate traffic re-routed away from Loma Prieta earthquake freeway repairs.

Currently, San Jose has a speed limit of 45 mph, and 15 percent of drivers travel faster than 48 mph. On the off-ramp, that number is 57 mph.

Spencer Goodwine came across the street construction on his bike ride to work, finding the entire northbound side of San Jose closed to cars. “It was pretty awesome getting all three car lanes to my self,” he said.

  • Easy

    Woo hoo! This was always on my “don’t be fooled by the bike lane on the map – you really don’t want to ride here” list.

  • Bruce

    YES!

  • Justin

    Looks like progress, just hope that these new buffered bike lanes are really PROTECTED bike lanes that prevent regular auto traffic from mixing and that it has clear set of green paint or paint in general so its clearly marked and understood. And Aaron i didn’t understand this, “On the off-ramp, that number is 57 mph.” What did you mean by that?

  • Easy

    It means 15% of drivers on the off-ramp travel faster than 57 mph.

  • 94110

    It likely won’t and can’t easily be protected. This stretch has intersecting streets with right turn pockets.

    The short of it is it will likely still be the least comfortable part of Bernal Cut to ride, but they are trying to improve it.

  • Justin

    Understood, it was confusing so I didn’t understand that part, I appreciate the clarification

  • jwinstonsf

    I’ve been riding SJ every day for twenty years. I actually enjoyed it today. I particularly liked the way the old lane that shunted bikes to the right in front of the gas station was fixed. The old setup forced me to merge into the car lane to make it to the bike lane on the next block.

    The other problem in the “Cut” is the intense noise, especially in the rain. Slower cars will help a bit.

  • Antonio Martinez

    This is going to be a huge pain in the but for us drivers. That exit is usually touch and go for morning commute and eliminating the right turn only lane is just going to back up that exit all the way into the freeway. I am not looking forward to this once school is back in session come august.

  • jonobate

    I would propose a more radical redesign for San Jose Ave between I-280 and Randall St.

    Divide the existing road lengthways and parcel one half up for housing development. Reconfigure the other half of the road as: sidewalk, two-way cycle track, two general traffic lanes, parking lane, sidewalk. The parking lane would be on the side of the road closest to the new housing. The J would either use run in the general traffic lanes, or simply be truncated to a new terminus at 30th and Mission. Reconnect the street grid as much as possible.

    In the area just north of I-280, the bridge over Bosworth St would be removed and replaced with an at-grade intersection. The flyover ramps would be removed or reconfigured as much as possible. This would allow development on both sides of San Jose Ave in that area.

  • Gezellig

    As someone who lives in the Ingleside area any improvement to that crazy stretch is welcome.

    Wish it would be protected, though. If that’s not a candidate stretch for physical barriers I don’t know what is! So-called “Buffering” from paint is not really buffering.

    At the very least it should get some of that Kermit-green paint indicating it’s a bike lane.

  • SFnative74

    It’s a pilot, so that affects how much investment is made into the project at this time. http://sfmta.com/projects-planning/projects/northbound-san-jose-avenue-i-280-off-ramp-road-diet-pilot-project

  • SFnative74

    Which right turn lane is being eliminated?

  • murphstahoe

    touch and go – sounds scary. Maybe if traffic were slower, it would be less scary….

  • 94103er

    Yeah well, Google can’t even get the southbound details right. If you try to get bike directions from the Mission to Mission Terrace or somewhere like that it’ll try to take you all the way past 280 (bike lane ends at Bosworth, remember). Just horrifying. I’ve tried to fix this twice by filing reports.

  • 94103er

    Well given that this is all a creek bed and was never developed that might be a bit of a stretch. But I’m all for a major transit-prioritizing road diet with real, actual, protected cycle tracks.

    Not quite referring to the Bernal Cut but just south of there, maybe a more realistic near-term vision for change is to get rid of 280 in the city altogether or at least bury it (ha ha) or at the very very least put up a good sound wall. How is it that we’ve gone 50 years of this damn freeway rammed through neighborhoods with no sound wall–can anyone answer this?!?

  • Easy

    I thought the SFMTA recently added this little path where you exit at the Bosworth exit, but then when you get to the stop sign at Arlington you can cross to the left and re-enter onto the Monterey exit (which has a bike lane, or at least a shoulder)…

  • jonobate

    Well, there’s another option – allow one half of the road to revert to a creek, with trails alongside it. Leave the J-tracks in the center and convert the other half of the road to two-way traffic. Has to be better than the freeway that’s there right now.

  • Is there something about this route that it sees significantly more traffic during the school year?

    You can take heart in real-life results from almost every other road diet or street closure in SF, where the predicted “carmageddon” almost never materializes.

  • Dan Murray

    This is great news. I ride this stretch of road 2-4 times a week. Thanks to all involved.

  • Antonio Martinez

    exactly my point. Traffic is going to be a lot slower getting off at that exit, especially with only two lanes now. I didn’t say anything about it being less safe.

  • Rlrcoaster

    Dear Damon,

    I was nearly in an accident yesterday exiting I-280 at San Jose Avenue (see below). The pilot project is creating an unnecessary, intentional hazard.

    Today, my husband sat through SIX light cycles on San Jose Avenue at Randall. He counted exactly ZERO BIKES. How is this helping the environment, creating hazards and mile-long traffic jams, and the resulting smog and road rage? With the impending closing of I-280 north of US 101, there will be even more pressure on San Jose Avenue.

    Bicycles are dangerous on an expressway, and that’s what San Jose Avenue is. Mixing bikes with freeway traffic is a fatality waiting to happen, just like Folsom St. and Octavia/Market. Emergency vehicles can’t get through either, as stated by our Fire Chief.

    San Francisco drivers are fed up with the constant bullying, and enormous loss of infrastructure while providing us no reasonable alternatives, no increased transit, reducing my employers’ shuttle bus stops, giving free rides while reducing maintaince, and allowing transit sick-outs.

    STOP THIS INSANITY. I just want to get to/from work. I cannot take Muni because it doesn’t run at 4:30am for my early shifts to the Stonestown, and late shifts after midnight I’m left stranded. Uber and Lyftt don’t go there. When I work in the south bay, I stopped taking the shuttle due to the protests and delays.

    My job gives me a 5 minute grace period; I am fired if I’m 6 or more minutes late 8 times in 90 days. I cannot rely in Muni. I’ve lived in San Francisco 25 years, and the level of hatred between motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians is an all out war, thanks to all the antagonism.

    Please, stop punishing those of us who have no other choices.

    Jamey Frank
    370 Church St Apt E

    Begin forwarded message:

    From: Jamey Frank
    Date: June 20, 2014 at 7:08:51 PM PDT
    To: “Kennedy, Sean M”
    Cc: Dean Piotrowski , Scott Wiener
    Subject: Re: Deadly Offramp

    Thank you Sean,
    My husband also said that he spent six light cycles at just one light at San Jose Ave. and Randall at 6:30pm tonight. Creating traffic jams seems contrary to environmental and sir quality concerns.
    Rather than taking arteries, we’re going to explore using neighborhood sidestreets and smaller streets to get home.

    Thanks for your help,

    –Jamey

  • Rlrcoaster

    100,000 cars a day come into the city this way.
    What’s your plan? Park in Daly City and schlep in?

  • Rlrcoaster

    Again, what’s your plan for the 100,000 cars? They just can’t go to work anymore?

  • Rlrcoaster

    Try driving across town. Just try! It now takes over an hour with all the untimed lights. Jammed Potrero, jammed Bayshore, I-280 closure, jammed 7th avenue, closed Great Highway, Sunset Blvd untimed and jammed, Fell Street jammed. oak St. 6-block jam feeing into 6-block jam in Octavia.
    And bicyclists get to suck in all this exhaust from stopped cars.

  • Rlrcoaster

    I was nearly in a crash yesterday because of the student dogleg, and almost has to swerve into the plastic poles separating the fortunately empty bike lane.
    A fatality waiting to happen!
    Intentional hazards, literally putting the public at risk on purpose.
    THIS CITY IS INSANE!

  • Rlrcoaster

    Someone’s going to get killed. An expressway mixing with a bike lane IS INSANE.

  • justageek

    Wow, this is a terrible idea. The loss of one lane northbound has led to huge backups exiting 280 in the evening rush hour (even huger than they were before). I don’t understand the residents’ complaints — there aren’t actually any houses with entrances on this stretch of road.

  • 94103er

    So sorry you think it’s a terrible idea. I suppose you deserve a response (unlike cranky troll @Rlrcoaster who really just needs to get on with his life) so I’ll engage:

    1) It’s not a terrible idea. It’s a huge oversight decades in the making that’s finally getting addressed. If you follow a link in the body of the article you’ll read about how the city’s been about to make this change for at least 4 years now. How does it make sense for a road to have a bike lane in one direction but not the other?

    2) If there are backups on 280 that’s better than 3 lanes of cars ramming through a neighborhood at 60+ MPH and maybe, possibly, the residents of Sunnyside and Mission Terrace are getting some relief from the noise of 280 being right there with no sound wall.

    3) There ARE houses along the cut. So what if the front doors don’t face it? You clearly don’t even notice the homes directly to the south of you as you exit onto San Jose Ave–that section of the Mission/Bernal no-man’s-land doesn’t even really have a recognizable name, it’s been neglected so long. It appears to be called College Terrace these days: https://goo.gl/maps/O2EuO

    How would you feel if you were a longtime resident and 50 years ago the city rammed a freeway and a freeway extension through your neighborhood and said ‘good luck’ and never put up a sound wall, sound-absorbing landscaping, *anything*??? Or if you were a J rider and you once had a pretty dignified transit-priority corridor and one day it was just given over to fast-moving private-car traffic?

  • justageek

    Let me address your points:

    1) The fact that the city has been planning to do this for a while doesn’t make it a good idea. It just means the city has been planning to do it for a while. As for the bike lane in one direction vs. the other, I think the big difference is that SB flows well because it just flows onto the highway, so having fewer lanes works out OK. But NB ends in a stoplight, so it backs up badly with only two lanes. Anyway how many people are using the bike lane? And please don’t tell me people are going to start biking if you slow the traffic on San Jose Ave down enough; that’s preposterous.

    2) I think the desires of the residents needs to be balanced against the needs of the drivers. The extra traffic congestion that this lane reduction is causing is substantial. That translates into wasted time of thousands of people every day. Which brings me to…

    3) Anyone who moved in to to this area less than 50 years ago knew what they were getting into and doesn’t seem entitled, in my view, to complain about the road configuration. It’s like people who move in next to an airport and then complain about the airplane noise. As for the people who actually have been living here more than 50 years, I think it would be reasonable for the city to compensate them somehow (should have happened back then if it didn’t). I’d strongly favor the city spending money to put up a sound wall or whatever. But inconveniencing thousands of other people seems like totally the wrong solution to the neighbors’ concerns.

    BTW I didn’t understand your point about the J. The J is grade separated along San Jose Ave, and isn’t affected by the number of car lanes.

  • Patrick Z.

    Here’s my response to your post.

    1. Actually, study after study has shown that when you make a street more comfortable for bikes (including buffers and dedicated lanes), biking increases tremendously. Whether people chose to ride their bikes or not depends largely on perceived danger. This stretch of San Jose was pretty damn hostile to bikes. I used to ride it almost every day and it’s very scary to have a car zoom past you at 50 mph. So yes, as people discover that this route has been made safer, they will be more likely to ride it. And if you’re about to tell me that bikes could just take a different route, no. This is by far the flattest route through this area and, unlike when you’re driving a car, hills do matter. So creating this connection is vitally important to a citywide bike network.

    2. You’re right about balancing the needs of different stakeholders. Up until a month ago, the needs of drivers far outweighed the needs of everyone else. Now, it’s starting to seem a little more balanced though let’s acknowledge that drivers still take up 4 lanes, while Muni, bikes and pedestrians get two “lanes” each. Cars are not an efficient way of transportation and the city is trying to discourage people from using them since there is a finite amount of space that the city can devote to transportation. Driving your car to work is not a constitutional right (though in many places in this country it may feel like it) and everyone else shouldn’t have to sacrifice their needs so yours can be met.

    3. It’s interesting that you call people who leave nearby entitled for wanting calmer roads. I think as they are most directly impacted by this project, I would think that they are more entitled to have their opinions heard than someone who wants to zoom through the area twice a day. I’m also reminded of the fact that most drivers would drive through here going way above the speed limit. Is that an entitlement of yours, too?
    You also use the word inconvenience. It’s true that sitting in traffic for an extra 5-10 minutes is an inconvenience. It’s also not much more than that, however, especially compared to the positive benefits that greater cycling accessibility has on the city and nearby residents.

    No project will ever satisfy everyone. You live in a city, one of a only handful in this country, that has decided to reduce reliance on the automobile. If you don’t like that you can lobby the city, try to get pro-car folks elected, try to get a referendum passed, or you can move. In the meantime, I will enjoy the new bike lanes and feel so much safer riding down San Jose.

  • Dr. Maysure

    Ugh, having lived in SF for 3 years I’ve come to realize that this is the typical attitude of people who live in this city and control its politics.

    Cars = evil, so get rid of traffic lanes and parking at all cost. As a result, this city has become the most difficult in the country to get around. The public transit system here is a joke, falling well short of even the systems I’ve used while traveling in cities in poor, developing countries. By “falling well short”, I mean that it’s slower, less adherent to schedule, less reliable, less frequent, often dirtier, less safe, and full of more crazy people. That’s right – countries with rampant corruption, minimal rule of law, and most of the population living on <$2 a day still somehow manage to build a far better public transit system than SF. Sad but true.

    There was once supposed to be a freeway system throughout the city. This would have helped the situation, but cars are evil, so it didn't happen. Embarcadero Freeway falls down? Don't rebuild it. Cars are evil. Why not remove a lane on Cesar Chavez? Cars are evil, so it's done. Tear down the northern section of 280? Sure, let's get more of those evil cars out of the city? Any road where cars can travel faster than 20mph through the city is under constant attack, so of course this tiny spur of San Jose is a natural target. Who cares if have to wait in traffic another half hour every day? Just take public transit! It'll get you 20 miles to work in only 2.5 hours each way! Sleeping, spending time with your family, and being on time for work are overrated anyway.

    Enough of this madness. Fix public transit first, then you can talk about taking lanes out of major thoroughfares. Until then, let us be.

  • Dr. Maysure

    This. Biking is the fastest way to get around SF, but you’re sucking down loads of fumes due to all the traffic.

  • Dr. Maysure

    It’s called decelerating. This number is not alarming at all and seems fairly standard for a freeway offramp.

  • Equalize

    I’m sorry. I’m “pro-bicycles” or what have you, but this idea of converting 1 of 3 lanes into a bicycle lane is simply idiotic. I drive a car daily to work and take the San Jose Ave. exit. The backup on this road was already pretty gnarly with 3 lanes, but now with 2 lanes, it has gotten worse. I can only imagine how horrendous the traffic will be once school begins…. To make matters worse, in the 1+ months since this change occurred, I’ve only seen 1 or 2 bicycles using the new bicycle lane!

  • cmurder

    I make the same commute and I’ve seen one bike on that lane in two months.

    I’ve actually seen more riders going North on the southbound side. I bike in the city all the time, but only an idiot would cycle up to that lane or carry a bike to access that bike lane.

  • cmurder

    2-4 times? I call bs.

  • TempestGuy

    As expected now that schools have started back up, the northbound San Jose Ave. off-ramp now backs up significantly more than it used to…often all the way back to the small underpass that comes in just before Bosworth. I’ve been commuting this way for over 15 years, and I have never seen it like this before…fortunately, I turn onto Bosworth so the brunt of this mess I can avoid, but I do feel sorry for those folks stuck in this traffic who have to go all the way up San Jose Ave. now 🙁 …

    So be eliminating one lane of traffic in favor of a bike lane that hardly gets used, the City and bike lobby has 1) Added significantly to the traffic congestion at this location, 2) Added significantly to the “stuck in traffic/idling times” of vehicles thus contributing to increased emissions adding even more harm to the environment, and 3) Add significantly to people’s commute times, and 4) Pissed off/increased the possibility of “road rage” incidents.

    I’m with “Equalize” on this one…I have no problem with trying to make the City safer for bicyclists, but the need must be balanced with the needs of commuters who simply cannot use the bicycle or public transportation routes. Creating worse congestion for 1000s of commuters to accommodate probably <100 bicyclists at a location such as this one is NOT an appropriate cost/benefit ratio.

    I know it's probably futile to wonder, but how does one go about trying to "persuade" the City to try a different strategy here?

  • Yorick Hawk-Zucker

    As expected, this pilot has failed miserably. Fortunately my commute goes the other way, but I’ve seen traffic back up to a horrifying extent on San Jose Ave. It often goes ALL THE WAY TO 280!!! Are you kidding me? This “road diet” is even slowing down freeway traffic a mile away! How ridiculous is that? Those people must be waiting 20+ minutes just to get through that light. Sucks for them.

    Here is an easy solution that makes everyone happy and even keeps the bike lane:
    MAKE THE LIGHT LONGER FOR NORTHBOUND CARS ON SAN JOSE. Especially at commute times. That will increase traffic flow through that intersection and should have minimal side effects. One or two lights ahead of it (such as 30th St. and the left turn onto Dolores) may need to be made longer as well to prevent traffic from just backing up ahead.

    This should have been obvious to people running this pilot, but unfortunately the shortage of people with an IQ over 70 in the organizations that plan these things often prevents these things from happening.

  • 94103er

    Streetsblog regulars, if you’re tuning into this old post just now I guess you’ve noticed it’s been flooded with angry, indignant, full of RAGE CAPS car-dependent me-first types. No sense in going back and rebutting all the flat-out ridiculous, baseless criticism but I just want to remind everyone–really, everyone who has ever traveled on San Jose Ave!–to fill out this SFMTA survey today! Do not let the cars-first naysayers win this fight!

  • 94103er

    OMG. A road diet is ‘slowing down’ a road?!?!? Say it ain’t so! O. M. G. I could go on and on with more RAGE CAPS to make my point but why waste my breath here? Let’s all get our pitchforks and go protest in front of SFMTA headquarters, today!!

    Or maybe just post on SFGate from now on. That would be way better.

  • Yorick Hawk-Zucker

    Wow, really? Did you read my post? I actually am a bike commuter, but I’ve driven a couple times when I’ve had to. I do not support cars-first logic, I just support makes-sense logic. Facts: 1) MUNI is a subpar transit system. 2) The current implementation of the San Jose bike lane is sub-optimal. I’m just trying to propose reasonable solutions whereas you seem preoccupied with shutting anything that makes sense down. I do also post on SFGate, but let it be known that I won’t let straw man arguments win out here. The bike lane can stay – and probably should stay – but it should also be accompanied by common sense to help out those people who have no choice but to drive. I guess it turns out that yorick hawk-zucker.

  • Yorick Hawk-Zucker

    Filled it out – you’re welcome 🙂 RAGE ON!

  • Yorick Hawk-Zucker

    This. Once school has begun, it has indeed become horrendous. And this is from someone who doesn’t drive – just someone who understands that people shouldn’t have to sit through 10 light cycles of backup.

  • 94103er

    Pro tip: People will be more inclined to ‘read [your] post’ if you ease off on the ranting and rage caps. I did take the time to read it, unfortunately. You seemed annoyed about the road diet doing what it’s supposed to be doing, then offered some advice about light timing that might help commuters in one direction but would cause problems for traffic movement in other directions (including kids getting to a school on the west side of San Jose at Randall.)

    But kudos for the particularly ironic comment about straw-man arguments after introducing Muni into the discussion.

  • Yorick Hawk-Zucker

    It appears you have a bit of a chip on your shoulder. The caps were just to highlight important points, since I don’t think that bolding is an option on here. Yes, I’m aware that extending the light in that direction would make people heading in other directions have to wait a bit longer. However, I think it makes sense to give precedence to the people that are having to wait an extra 20-30 minutes even if it makes others wait an extra 2 minutes. That ridiculous backup is not good for anyone, including the locals and the bikers that will be exposed to all the fumes from hundreds of cars idling. I filled out your survey by the way. Hopefully someone influential gets to see the results.

  • Tempestguy

    Streetsblog regulars, if you’re tuning into this old post just now I guess you’ve noticed it’s been flooded with angry, indignant, full of RAGE CAPS BIKE-dependent, me-first types. No sense in going back and rebutting all the flat-out ridiculous, baseless criticism but I just want to remind everyone–really, everyone who has ever traveled on San Jose Ave!–to fill out this SFMTA survey today! Do not let the BIKES-first naysayers win this fight!

    There…fixed that for ‘ya….

    Hope you have a least a little bit of sense of humor :)…and I wanted to make sure that the other side of this coin also posts so we (commuters who simply cannot bike or use public transportation for legitimate reasons) have our chance to win this “fight” as you put it.

    I would also point out that very few posts use “RAGE CAPS” (as you put it) other than in precise spots to emphasize their points…that is how CAPS are supposed to be used. Note my use of the caps for just one word in my post above for an example 😉 .

  • stevenj

    Have been using the San Jose Ave NB off ramp the last couple of weeks. My observations: the buffered bike lane gets used by autos also for right turns at Randall St, speeding along passed the backed up NB traffic way way before (as far back as the Miguel St overpass) the lane’s separation lines turned into dashed mixed use. I’m seeing this happen almost daily. The auto back up at rush hour extends quite a ways back (usually as far as St Mary’s. It takes about 5 min to reach Randall St and the Dolores St left turn lane from there.

  • Paul Tominac

    So I’ll ask the stupid question. How does one get ot the North Side? Coming from Geneva? San Jose doesn’t seem to have a formal bike lane south of the 280, and nothing indicates there’s a way to go—but if you stay on SJ, you end up on the wrong side of traffic exiting the freeway—necessitating a quick cross over, which can’t be the planned version. There’s a bike path on Ocean that takes you onto a well marked bike path going north, just before Mission, unfortunately, following that version, as I did last night, takes one down to Bayshore Bl. Not at all in my direction. If freeways were this badly signed and marked, the hwy fatality rate would be truly horrific, and traffic would have been in gridlock well before the latest generation took to their cars. The north bound side is great, but how does one get there from south of the 280?

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