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Committee Punts San Jose Sidewalk Cycling Ban to City Council

Seniors, most in favor of an ordinance to prohibit cycling on sidewalks in downtown San Jose, wait to address the city’s Transportation & Environment Committee on Monday afternoon. Photo: Andrew Boone

After hearing over an hour of public comments on Monday afternoon both strongly supporting and opposing a ban on cycling on sidewalks in downtown San Jose, the city’s Transportation and Environment Committee chose not to recommend to the City Council any ordinance that would restrict sidewalk cycling. Seniors, speaking in favor of banning cycling on downtown sidewalks, far outnumbered younger residents, who urged enforcement against reckless cycling rather than an outright ban.

“This March, our friend Ms. Nee was walking in the morning and was hit by a bike, and she died the next day,” said former Senior Citizens Commissioner Margaret Young, who also described a September 2013 incident in which another senior was hospitalized after being struck by bicyclist while waiting for a city bus. “I’m asking you to protect our seniors. Give us a safe sidewalk and a safe San Jose.”

“The [Senior Citizens] Commission strongly urges an ordinance prohibiting bicycle riding on a defined section of the streets in downtown San Jose,” said Chair Joyce Rabourn. ”There are signs all over the place, ‘Walk Your Bike’, and they totally ignore it,” complained downtown resident Ann Webb.

Despite the signs, San Jose’s existing ordinance regulating sidewalk cycling does not prohibit it, but states instead that the operator of a bicycle shall, “upon approaching a sidewalk or the sidewalk area extending across any alleyway, yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians approaching on said sidewalk or sidewalk area,” (San Jose Municipal Code 11.72.170).

Buses and other vehicles often park in and block San Fernando Street’s buffered bike lane, which is partly located in the door zone of parked cars. Photo: Richard Masoner

The ordinance, suggested by Department of Transportation (SJDOT) Director Hans Larsen, would prohibit anyone over age 12 from riding a bicycle on the sidewalks along a total of ten miles of city streets in the “Greater Downtown area.” Most of those streets have bike lanes, except for busy Santa Clara Street, which has five lanes, no bike lanes, and no plans for bike facilities. The proposal would also set a citywide speed limit of 5 mph for bicycling on any sidewalk.

Opponents of the ban at the meeting agreed that fast bicyclists should ride in the street, but that motor vehicle traffic is a much greater hazard, and that a ban would punish bicyclists who ride on sidewalks to avoid unsafe traffic conditions.

“I’ve been hit while riding in the street three times by cars — once I was in a bike lane,” said downtown resident Melanie Landstrom. “It’s dangerous to be shoving bikes into the street.”

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San Jose DOT: Ban Sidewalk Cycling Downtown, 5 MPH Speed Limit Elsewhere

Santa Clara Street Car Traffic

Santa Clara Street in downtown San Jose, where SJDOT is proposing banning anyone over age 12 from bicycling on the sidewalks. Photo: Google Maps

On Monday afternoon (October 6), San Jose’s Transportation & Environment Committee will review a proposal by the city’s Department of Transportation (SJDOT) to ban bicyclists over the age of 12 on sidewalks along ten downtown streets, and to set a speed limit of 5 mph for bicycling on every other sidewalk citywide.

The city has been inching towards a sidewalk cycling ban ever since it was first proposed by City Council member Sam Liccardo in March 2013, following complaints by downtown residents who said “they’re afraid to walk on the sidewalks because adult men zip by at unsafe speeds, startling them with a series of near-misses,” and cited injuries suffered by pedestrians. Jack Licursi, Sr., owner of a barber shop on Santa Clara Street, was hospitalized due to a fall he suffered after a bicyclist collided with him when he stepped out of his shop and onto the sidewalk.

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“Public education materials” that SJDOT concluded were unsuccessful at convincing sidewalk bicyclists to share the street with auto traffic. Image: City of San Jose

A coalition of local non-profit groups, including the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC), Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Greenbelt Alliance, and TransForm, supported an ordinance that would define and prohibit reckless bicycling, but opposed an outright ban on sidewalk cycling.

“[A ban] would criminalize a healthy behavior (bicycle riding) being undertaken by those who likely do not ride in the street because of health, age, or safety concerns,” wrote Corinne Winter, Jessica Zenk, Michele Beasley, and Chris Lepe in a joint April 2013 letter.

SJDOT concluded that “Walk Your Bike” signs, pavement markers, and banners installed in late 2013 haven’t convinced enough bicyclists to join the fast-moving bus and truck traffic present on many downtown streets, and so now proposes a sidewalk cycling ban instead. Anyone over the age of 12 could be ticketed for bicycling on the sidewalks of Santa Clara Street and on every street with bike lanes within the “greater downtown area”: Almaden Boulevard, Woz Way, and San Fernando, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 10th, and 11th streets.

But traffic conditions, even on streets with wide buffered bike lanes, present too great a hazard for many people to safely navigate by bicycle. These include high-speed traffic, large vehicles like trucks and buses, cars merging across the bike lanes to make turns or park, and vehicles blocking bike lanes that force cyclists to merge into adjacent traffic.

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San Jose Candidates Campaign at Bike Party, Bike Life Festival

Don Gagliardi and Sam Liccardo at Sep 19 2014 San Jose Bike Party

District 3 City Council candidate Don Gagliardi (left) and Mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo (right) get ready to roll at San Jose Bike Party on September 19. Photo: Andrew Boone

Mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo and District 3 City Council candidates Don Gagliardi and Raul Peralez all sought to demonstrate their support for improving cycling conditions in the state’s third-largest city at both September’s San Jose Bike Party and the inaugural San Jose Bike Life Festival.

Gagliardi and Liccardo both spoke briefly to the over 2,000 bicyclists gathered in the ample County Government Center parking lot ahead of San Jose Bike Party’s 18-mile “Science Ride 2” on September 19. Both candidates presented themselves as leaders who have defended, and will continue to promote, innovative bicycle infrastructure like the green buffered bike lanes installed on Hedding Street in June 2013, along the ride’s route.

“I’m the candidate who doesn’t just talk the talk, I ride the ride,” said Don Gagliardi, who says that he often talks up better bike infrastructure, even to voters who complain to him that new buffered bike lanes have slowed car traffic downtown. “I tell them: I’m sorry, I’m for the bike lanes because that’s our future.”

“There’s a lot of antipathy out there for bicyclists,” continued Gagliardi. “The way we meet that, is bicyclists get political consciousness… and you vote for candidates that support you, and that ride the ride.”

Mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo pointed to Hedding Street’s buffered bike lanes, which the San Jose Mercury News has repeatedly criticized since their installation last year.

Hedding Street San Jose Buffered Bike Lanes

A road diet created 1.5 miles of buffered bike lanes on Hedding Street in June 2013. Photo: Colin Heyne, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition

“There are lots of people who criticize [Hedding Street’s] bike lanes, including my opponent, Dave Cortese,” said City Council member and Mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo. “I hope you’ll support those elected officials who have the courage to push for more bike lanes, more trails… more bike infrastructure.”

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Sidewalk Cycling Ban Again Proposed for Downtown San Jose

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A bicyclist navigates between pedestrians on a downtown San Jose sidewalk. Residents have complained of reckless behavior by cyclists on sidewalks for years. Photo: City of San Jose

San Jose Department of Transportation (SJDOT) officials announced at a community meeting Wednesday evening that a downtown sidewalk cycling ban is again under consideration, explaining that the “Walk Your Bike” signs and banners installed in December 2013 had largely failed to convince bicyclists to ride in the streets rather than on sidewalks.

Three members of the city’s Senior Citizens Commission spoke in support of a ban, describing the serious safety hazards that some bicyclists riding on downtown sidewalks have posed to pedestrians.

“I’ve been hit twice on Santa Clara Street,” said Commissioner Martha O’Connell. “If I get hit by a bike, it’s a serious thing for me and a lot of other seniors. Bikers come so close to [pedestrians] that they actually touch their jackets when they pass them.”

O’Connell and other commissioners have diligently documented with photos and written statements the hazard posed by cyclists riding too fast and swerving on downtown sidewalks. ”Adult bicyclists continue to ride recklessly on the downtown sidewalks while the bike lanes remain largely empty,” O’Connell wrote in March 2013, in support of a ban on sidewalk cycling.

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One of 140 “Walk Your Bike” signs installed on sidewalks in downtown San Jose in June 2014. Photo: City of San Jose

In an effort to shift bicyclists from the sidewalks, SJDOT blanketed downtown with “Walk Your Bike” signs: 140 green signs and 170 blue pavement markers. No city ordinance was passed requiring cyclists to walk bikes on sidewalks, though. Educational banners installed downtown also encouraged cyclists to walk on sidewalks and ride in the streets. But SJDOT counts taken at three locations showed no significant shift in sidewalk cycling between December 2013 and August 2014.

“At this point we really haven’t accomplished enough behavior change to say it’s successful,” summarized Active Transportation Manager John Brazil. “Now we’re looking at recommending some type of ordinance to the City Council’s Transportation & Environment Committee.” Under the proposed ordinance described by Mr. Brazil, anyone 13 years and older could be ticketed by the police for cycling on any sidewalk in San Jose’s “Downtown Pedestrian Priority Zone”, a high pedestrian traffic area bounded by Almaden Boulevard, 4th Street, St John Street, and San Salvador Street.

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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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