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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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StreetFilms 8 Comments

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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The Nowtopian 35 Comments

A Rose By Another Name: San Jose’s Bike Party

crowd_6730.jpgA crowd assembles at the beginning of San Jose Bike Party, April 16, 2010.

Let's just say right away that Critical Mass is a bike party, and the San Jose Bike Party has a lot more similarities to Critical Mass than differences. A half-dozen San Francisco and Berkeley Critical Mass veterans took a field trip to join the San Jose Bike Party on Friday night as it cruised through the heart of Silicon Valley. We piled onto a "Baby Bullet" Caltrain that got us into downtown Sunnyvale well before the 8 p.m. starting time. (Along the way we pondered how many cyclists it takes to make a Critical Mass and concluded that it takes enough to break into different factions that don't like each other!)

After leaving the train, we soon came upon a couple with a big couch on a bike trailer, their two dogs occupying the seats of honor, and a sound system ready to pump some tunes from within. As we approached the gathering point, not really sure how to distinguish one intersection from another along the sprawling avenues of the South Bay, we were excited to see feeder rides streaming in from all directions, numbering anywhere from a dozen to nearly 100. Riders gathering in a big parking lot, hanging with friends, energy and anticipation rising.

By the time we got rolling there were over 1,000 riders, and possibly twice that many. Unlike San Francisco, there weren't too many white hipsters in this ride. Most of the crowd was Latino and Asian youth on all manner of bikes from beaters to chrome low-riders, and a smaller number of "properly" garbed older white cyclists in yellow reflective clothing with helmets -- classic bike nerds, in other words.

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Bay Area Advocates Unveil New VMT Reduction Incentive for Developers

Among the many strategies to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and attendant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from private vehicles, Bay Area smart growth advocate TransForm has developed a new certification called GreenTRIP to encourage architects, developers, and municipal officials to build transit-oriented development and implement transportation demand management (TDM) solutions for future tenants [PDF].

"What we strive to do with GreenTRIP is create something that is very easily implementable so that it can be done early in the development process," said Jeffrey Tumlin, Principal of Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates and a member of GreenTRIP's advisory board. "We want to focus on the key things that developers and municipalities can do to have a positive impact on greenhouse gases."

Tumlin added, "GreenTRIP tries to change the regulatory process."

Developed explicitly to complement areas where the LEED Neighorhood Development (LEED ND) green building certification falls short of being prescriptive, GreenTRIP rewards projects that reduce traffic and make a strong connection between sustainable development and pollution from the transportation sector, which accounts for more than 40 percent of California's GHG emissions. Funding for the new certification comes from grants from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Using the URBEMIS emissions model developed by the California Air Resources Board, GreenTRIP gives developers credits for reducing overall driving relative to the average regional VMT. GreenTRIP attempts to impact developments at the beginning phases of design, encouraging developers to situate near transit and take steps to reduce driving [PDF].

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Santa Clara VTA Proceeds with Bay Area’s First Bike Share Pilot Program

Despite the much ballyhooed talk by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom that his city will implement a public bike share pilot (two years of talk that has garnered numerous press hits), the first bike share program in the Bay Area will likely be implemented by the middle of 2010 in Santa Clara County by the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).  While small size may still be a liability to its success and long term funding sources must be determined, the VTA is miles ahead of other transit operators in completing the process necessary to deliver a pilot.

The VTA has wrapped up its market research data collection, is completing its business model, and will release its final analysis report by the end of this year for a pilot project intended to link three Caltrain stations in Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose with multiple satellite destination points, such as Stanford and San Jose State Universities and job centers like Moffett Park and San Jose City Hall. 

The VTA used an initial $75,000 from their general budget to hire Economic and Planning Systems (EPS) to conduct the planning work, but applied for a $500,000 Safe Routes to Transit grant to implement the pilot, money that will come from bridge tolls collected by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). VTA has learned that the project has been ranked for funding, though it might not get the money for a month or two.

"Bikes in general are given short shrift in suburban sprawling areas," said Chris Augenstein, Deputy Director of Planning at VTA. "We can do a lot more to make bicycles a real mode and integrate them into everything we do."

While the VTA insists it is too early to start speculating about how many bikes would be involved in the program, they've conducted over 1200 surveys at target areas, with particular focus on Caltrain riders and corporate partners who sit on their Bike Share working group, including Yahoo! and Adobe. When pressed on a number of bikes, Augenstein said that Paris' Velib bicycles cost over $3,000 each and suggested I could do the math to figure out how many bikes the MTC grant would buy (over 150, though other start-up costs must be factored in). He also said the VTA was studying advertising models with companies like Clear Channel (which runs Barcelona's Bicing bike-share program) or JC Decaux (which runs Velib) to offset operating and expansion costs.

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Will San Jose’s New Bicycle Plan Mark Shift From Years of Car Privilege?

San Jose is on the verge of adopting its new bicycle plan at the next City Council meeting on November 17th, which, as anyone who has cycled in San Jose knows, would be a welcome change from decades of traffic engineering focused almost solely on automobility.

"What I'm hoping we're seeing here is a sea-change at the city of San Jose, where there's priority on the pedestrian, bicyclist and transit rider, because historically it's been the opposite," said Michele Beasley of the Greenbelt Alliance, an advocacy group that supports transit, cycling, and pedestrian safety.

The new bike plan would mark a significant break from the past, with policy objectives to double the number of on-street lanes from 250 miles to 500 miles, add 5000 new bike racks, bring bicycle mode share to 5 percent, and achieve League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Gold-level Bicycle Friendly Community status, all by 2020. San Jose has tripled bicycle mode share in the last three years, up to 1.2 percent, which puts the city 15th among the largest 70 cities nationally, according to the San Jose Department of Transportation (DOT).

Still, even the top official at the DOT admitted his agency's track record on bicycle infrastructure has been less than stellar.  "Clearly, San Jose has many decades of sprawling, auto-oriented community development to overcome, but the transportation policy tanker is turning," asserted Hans Larsen, acting Director of the DOT, who told Streetsblog he wasn't surprised by the vociferous anger expressed by readers in our post on San Jose's innovative approach to LOS reform.

City Councilmember Sam Liccardo, who represents Downtown San Jose and has been a force for turning anemic references to bicycles in San Jose's transportation policy documents into a full-fledged master plan, said that the city should capitalize on latent demand for cycling infrastructure.

"If we can implement this plan, it will set San Jose on a course to achieve a place among the great cycling communities in the nation, if not the world," said Liccardo. "Our weather, topography, and demographics make San Jose poised for enormous growth in biking mode share--we've tripled our number of riders in recent years--but it will take determination and resources to alter our streetscape and create a more bike-friendly ecosystem."

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