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San Jose Candidates Campaign, Pitch Public Safety at SJ Bike Party

Mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo greets voters just before the start of San Jose Bike Party’s “Stars and Stripes Ride” on July 18. Photo: Andrew Boone

San Jose Mayor or City Council candidates Sam Liccardo, Raul Peralez, and Don Gagliardi all made appearances at last Friday’s San Jose Bike Party, pitching improvements to bicycling conditions on the city’s streets as integral to public safety. An estimated 2,500 Bike Partiers rolled out from Arena Green Park in downtown San Jose on the 18-mile, patriotically-themed “Stars & Stripes Ride” through the city’s East Side.

The June 3 primary election narrowed the field of 30 candidates down to eight candidates, competing for four seats on San Jose’s City Council: Mayor and Districts 1, 3, and, 7. Council races for Districts 5 and 9 were determined on June 3: Challenger Magdalenda Carrasco received 53 percent of the votes cast in District 5 (eastern San Jose), and incumbent Donald Rocha won 74 percent of the votes cast in District 9 (south San Jose), each above the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff election on November 4.

“I look forward to bringing back our public services that we’ve lost over the years — bring back our public safety,” announced Peralez, the District 3 Council candidate who finished first in the June 3 primary with 28 percent of the votes cast. Peralez touted his position as a San Jose police officer, and his work “with our youth at Juvenile Hall to try to help better them.”

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San Jose Diridon Area Plan Could Add Parking, Lose Trail, Pass Council Tues.

SAP Arena’s existing surface parking lot. San Jose has already agreed to expand the parking available to Arena visitors by over 900 spaces in the Diridon plan. Photo: Google Maps

Just four days before San Jose’s City Council was expected to approve the Diridon Station Area Plan, a four-year-old community-based plan to guide the next 30 years of transit-oriented redevelopment around the Diridon Caltrain Station, city officials released a memo on June 6, proposing numerous amendments in response to City Council questions and public comments made at the council’s preliminary review of the plan on May 20.

These amendments include adding a “Parking Policy 9″ to the plan’s Implementation Strategy Report, developed in close collaboration with SAP Center. The sports and entertainment arena has requested that over 20,000 car parking spaces be constructed in the Diridon Station Area — double what the city’s recommends based on its projections of parking demand — and has criticized the city’s plans to improve transit as “unlikely to allow convenient transportation.”

Development projects within 1/3-mile of the Caltrain station or SAP Center would be affected by Mayor Reed’s June 10 proposal. Image: City of San Jose

The city’s memo recommends adding new conditions to future commercial development within the Diridon Station Area. Shared parking, which would allow SAP Arena visitors who arrive for events to park in the parking lots of future office buildings, would be a required for all development projects located within 1/3-mile of the Caltrain station, “if necessary to mitigate the loss of parking” of new buildings constructed on existing parking lots.

Mayor Chuck Reed, who is also represented on the San Jose Arena Authority’s Board of Directors along with City Council members Pierluigi Oliverio and Kansen Chu, proposed additional development conditions in his own June 10 memo [PDF]. City Council members Sam Liccardo and Pierluigi Oliverio voiced support for the Mayor’s proposals in a June 13 memo [PDF].

Mayor Reed’s new development conditions would give SAP Center control over any future city plans to reduce the existing parking supply, proposing that the implementation of the Diridon plan include ”a goal to maintain the current parking availability until the City and Arena Management agree that transit ridership is robust enough to reduce parking supply without negatively impacting SAP Center operations.” (emphasis added)

The Reed-Liccardo-Olivero proposal would also expand the required parking studies to all projects located within 1/3-mile of SAP Arena, in addition to those located within 1/3-mile of the Diridon Caltrain Station as proposed by city staff. These parking studies would need to “identify the impacts of the project on the existing parking supply within the Diridon area, and suggest ways to mitigate the impact if it is deemed significant,” possibly resulting in the construction of surplus parking spaces, the cost of which would be borne by developers and passed onto tenants in the form of higher rents.

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SAP Arena Wants Parking Crater Around San Jose Diridon Caltrain Station

SAP Center Parking Lot

SAP Center called San Jose’s plans to reduce parking demand with transit improvements “highly speculative”, and wants over 20,000 new parking spaces built near the Diridon Caltrain Station. Photo: Richard Masoner

SAP Center, the corporation that owns the 19,000-seat arena across Santa Clara Street from San Jose’s downtown Caltrain station, doubts that the next 30 years of transit improvements will bring more visitors to events at the “Shark Tank.” Instead, they insist that 20,000 new car parking spaces be built within its redeveloping neighborhood.

“It is unlikely that public transportation will allow convenient transportation from throughout the area the Arena draws from,” wrote SAP Center Vice President Jim Goddard in the Arena’s EIR comment letter on the draft Diridon Station Area Plan, which aims to guide future development toward land uses that support transit ridership, and to “create a world-class cultural destination” within the walkable radius (1/2-mile) of the Diridon Caltrain Station. The plan will allow 2,600 housing units, 420,000 square feet of retail space, 5,000,000 square feet of office space, and 900 hotel rooms — and up to 11,950 new car parking spaces to support this infill development — over the next 30 years.

But SAP Center claims that its customers will always drive in, and that they will demand an extra 8,050 parking spaces, creating a parking crater in downtown San Jose. “Vehicular access will be the most significant method for our patrons and their families to attend Arena events for the foreseeable future,” wrote Goddard. ”Any limitation in the effectiveness of vehicular access to the Arena… would degrade the customer experience and discourage attendance at the Arena.”

Future Diridon Station Area - Facing Downtown San Jose

Electrified Caltrain, BART, High-Speed Rail, and BRT lines will all connect at Diridon Station in 15 years. Mid-rise office and housing development are planned for the area. Image: California High-Speed Rail Authority

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San Jose Candidates Seek Bike Votes in Tomorrow’s Primaries

An estimated 1,800 people participated in the most recent San Jose Bike Party, seen here on Hedding Street’s buffered bike lanes, on May 16. Photo: Andrew Boone

Tomorrow, San Jose voters will choose which of the candidates running for mayor, or for five of the city’s ten council seats, will proceed to run-off elections in November. San Jose’s growing bicycle advocacy community has put the spotlight on which candidates have made commitments to a bike-friendlier city, and many candidates have responded by courting the increasingly influential “bike vote.”

Six candidates, or their representatives, spoke to the crowd at the San Jose Bike Party on May 16 to tout their pro-bike credentials: Don Gagliardi, Sam Liccardo, Dave Cortese, Pierluigi Oliverio, Kathy Sutherland, and Susan Marsland. The San Jose Bike Party, the Bay Area’s first Bike Party, rolls out on the third Friday of every month and attracts about 1,000 to 4,000 participants.

To help voters determine which candidates would do the most to improve conditions for walking and bicycling in San Jose, I helped to moderate a volunteer initiative called I Walk I Bike I Vote, which used a questionnaire to evaluate and endorse candidates. Richard Masoner at Cyclelicious has also published endorsements based on traffic safety and bicycling issues and includes his own predictions for the June 3 primary election.

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First Bay Area Bike Share Stations Hit the Pavement in San Jose

Santa Clara Street and Almaden Boulevard in San Jose. Photo: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious/Flickr

Updated 4:56 p.m.

The first Bay Area Bike Share stations have landed in San Jose. System operator Alta Bicycle Share began the roll-out yesterday with five stations and another five today, with five more coming tomorrow, said John Brazil, San Jose’s bike and pedestrian program manager.

Update: In response to our request, Alta’s Laura Ruchinskas said “unfortunately we won’t be releasing our detailed install schedule.” However, Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious wrote in the comments section that he was told by officials that “San Francisco is close behind and should be ready for installs Real Soon Now.”


Video: John Brazil/Flickr
See more photos after the jump.

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San Jose Sets Out to Build the Bay Area’s Most Bike-Friendly Downtown

Bike commuters on San Fernando Street, which is slated to get the city's first green bike lanes. Photo: Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious

San Jose — which wants its central district to become the urban center of Silicon Valley — hopes to build the Bay Area’s most bike-friendly downtown, where pedaling to work, school or the farmers market is “safe, convenient and commonplace” for people of all ages. The vision includes Long Beach-inspired bicycle-friendly business districts, where merchants would wholeheartedly embrace bike-riding shoppers and diners.

“Our ambition is to retrofit a city that has been built for cars into one that is built for people,” said Council Member Sam Liccardo, who represents downtown and commutes by bike to San Jose City Hall three days a week. “The vibrancy that we hope and expect it will bring to our streetscape will start to change perceptions of San Jose throughout the region.”

The city is also planning beyond downtown and wants to create a strong network of convenient crosstown bikeways linking the auto-oriented suburban ring to the transit-rich urban core.

“It’s sunny 300 days a year and we don’t have San Francisco hills,” said Colin Heyne, deputy director of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition. “Nature has given us this opportunity to become a great place to walk and bike.”

Though only 1.2 percent of San Jose residents commute by bike, according to the city’s tally, anecdotally the trend seems to be pointing toward higher rates. The popular San Jose Bike Party has helped to boost ridership, drawing many first time riders inspired by the impressive monthly display of bike culture. The city has set a 5 percent bike mode share goal by 2020, and 15 percent by 2040.

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In Silicon Valley, an Emerging Bike Movement

Editor’s note: This story marks the return of former Streetsblog San Francisco editor Bryan Goebel, who will be contributing occasional pieces.  

Bicycle advocacy can be an especially daunting challenge in the South Bay and the Peninsula, where car-centric policies and culture rule the day. At this week’s Silicon Valley Bike Advocacy Summit the focus was on improving relations between advocates and government officials at a time when a growing number of cities in the Silicon Valley and big companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple are starting to embrace the bicycle.

“We have more individuals who are becoming engaged and we have more institutions who are becoming engaged and more organizations who want to work with us,” said Corinne Winter, executive director of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition (SVBC). ”There’s a coalition of individuals and organizations who are really interested in seeing the bike become a commonplace thing, whether it be for transportation or recreation. That group of people is growing quickly in our area.”

Although there are no official counts on the burgeoning numbers of people who ride bikes in Silicon Valley and the Peninsula, Winter said it’s evident on the streets, especially in San Jose.

“Bike culture in San Jose has been growing really rapidly. It started with a lot of folks in the fixie crowd, and now I’m seeing more folks riding the Dutch-style bikes around town,” said Winter. The popularity of the San Jose Bike Party has been another indication.

Just last week, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved six bike projects that will add 8 miles of new bike lanes downtown. Five of the projects will include road diets and lane reductions, and many sections will include bike lanes with extra space between motorists and bicyclists, said John Brazil, who heads up the city’s bike/pedestrian program. The projects are expected to be completed by the end of June.

There was no opposition to the removal of vehicle lanes and that came as a surprise to the city’s Transportation Director, Hans Larsen, who also attended this week’s summit.

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San Jose Hosts Inaugural “ViaVelo” Event Celebrating Cycling

San Jose recently joined cities around the world in promoting car-free streets by hosting its first ciclovía, the Mattson Technology ViaVelo, which opened a portion of San Fernando Street in downtown to pedestrians, bicycle riders, and skaters. San Jose's first foray into ciclovía events was a hit with sponsors, elected officials and the throngs of people who showed up to enjoy the day. Though the city hasn't yet committed to more ViaVelos, the foundation has been set and the community seems poised to embrace them.

This film was produced, shot and edited by John Hamilton, who looked to be enjoying himself as well while shooting on his in-line skates.

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San Jose Celebrates First ViaVelo, Opens Downtown Streets to People

family_on_bikes.jpgA family enjoying the warm day and car-free streets. Photos: Matthew Roth.

San Jose kicked off its first ViaVelo Saturday with the opening of seven blocks of San Fernando Street downtown to bicycle riders, skaters, and pedestrians who enjoyed five hours of car-free space. Several hundred people showed up, many of them families and the burgeoning young fixed-gear crowd, riding bikes and socializing on a brilliant spring day.

San Jose joins San Francisco and San Mateo county (whose Streets Alive was mostly rained out last month) in hosting the increasingly popular events, which are modeled on the enormous ciclovia in Bogota, Colombia. San Francisco has held three of the nine Sunday Streets of 2010 and Oakland will premiere its first Oaklavia on June 27th.

Organizers of ViaVelo were upbeat about the turnout and the day's events, suggesting that if there is enough positive public feedback, the city would like to make the events a tradition next year.

"It's nice not having to worry about cars, to see families with their kids out, to see families happy and having fun, rather than worrying about how to cross the street or if it's safe to ride a bike," said John Brazil, Bike Coordinator for the San Jose Department of Transportation. "I know that all the organizers and many of the sponsors would like to see this continue, so hopefully the community will tell their elected officials they like it and it's a priority."

As one of the primary community partners involved in organizing ViaVelo, the San Jose Bike Party led various feeder rides to and from the event. Several rides from downtown went to points of interest along San Jose's extensive trail system.

"I love the fact that San Jose is becoming a bike city and putting so much focus on it," said Ian Emmons, a Bike Party organizer attending ViaVelo with his son. "I think we've got a ways to go before we catch up with Portland and 7 miles of closed streets, but we're working on it."

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Silicon Valley Prepares for San Jose Cycling Classic and First Ciclovia

bike_to_work_presser_small.jpgSVBC E.D. Corinne Winter, Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino, and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed at the San Jose City Hall Rotunda. Carl Guardino's bike is in front of the podium. Photo: Matthew Roth.
Most cities in the Bay Area are gearing up for Bike to Work Day this Thursday, with numerous activities to encourage people to make riding to work a more enjoyable and routine part of life. In San Jose, the city has planned a whole week of events.

The San Jose Cycling Classic will kick off with Bike to Work Day and finish with the Amgen Tour of California Stage 4 on Wednesday, May 19th, where luminaries like Lance Armstrong will race through the streets of the capital of Silicon Valley.

There will be two King of the Mountain events that encourage avid cyclists to ride a portion of the Tour of California race to raise money for charities, one dedicated to CEOs and corporate executives and one open to anyone who thinks they can surmount a very steep section of Sierra Road.

This year will also mark the first ciclovia in the South Bay, similar to San Francisco's Sunday Streets, where the city opens its streets to cyclists and pedestrians by closing them to cars. San Jose's ciclovia, called Via Velo and sponsored by Mattson Technology, is a modest first step that will close San Fernando Street downtown for just under one mile, from 3rd Street to the 87 freeway.

At a recent press conference, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and various Silicon Valley business leaders asserted that the week's events would continue to boost the profile of bicycle riding in the city, and not just for the spandex crowd.

In fact, Mayor Reed made a special plea to residents in his city who were not the typical sport cyclists, urging them to take advantage of the Cycling Classic events or even the 50 miles of creek trails to reacquaint themselves with their bicycles.

"I know there are a lot of people out there who have bicycles in garages, bicycles in sheds," said Reed. "Those bicycles are lonely and I want this to motivate people to get out, get the bicycle out, and pump up the tires, put a little oil on the chain," and come out for Bike to Work Day or Via Velo.

"I ride in the name of people who don't wear spandex," added Mayor Reed, who said the creek trail system was a great way for families to ride without the worry of traffic.

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