San Jose Avenue seen last June, just after bike lane upgrades and a road diet went in. Photo: Frank Chan/Flickr
Update 6/22: The SFMTA issued a statement retracting its report of a 651 percent increase in bike traffic on northbound San Jose Avenue in morning peak hours. We reported the statistic in an earlier version of this article.
Evening bike traffic increased by 62 percent on northbound San Jose Avenue after a traffic lane was removed and the bike lane was widened with a buffer zone a year ago, according to the SFMTA.
As part of the ongoing traffic-calming project, Caltrans last week also removed a highway off-ramp lane leading on to San Jose, a.k.a. the Bernal Cut.
The “incredible change” in bike counts reported by the SFMTA “shows the power of streets that make people feel safe,” SF Bicycle Coalition community organizer Chema Hernández Gil wrote in a blog post on Monday.
San Jose, which divides Glen Park and Bernal Heights, is the most direct route to downtown from southern neighborhoods like the Excelsior and Ingleside.
The SFMTA compared 72-hour bike counts on the Monterey Boulevard ramp, just before it merges on to northbound San Jose. The average bike counts were taken during morning peak hours in January 2014 and January 2015, according to SFMTA data [PDF]. [Update: The SFMTA said the bike counts included in that spreadsheet were not accurate. A new version is available in this PDF.]
The data was collected as part of a two-phase pilot project aimed at measuring how a road diet and better bike lane protection can help tame driving speeds and attract more people to commute by bike on San Jose north of Highway 280.
“San Jose Avenue has long been a pseudo-freeway with huge negative impacts on the surrounding areas due to over-the-top speeding,” said a statement from Supervisor Scott Wiener, who pushed for the safety measures. “This pilot program is designed to reduce speeds, improve neighborhood quality of life, and allow for diverse uses of the road, including both drivers and cyclists. The pilot also allows cyclists to safely use the bike lane, and an increase in cycling on San Jose Avenue is a good thing. I look forward to the results of the pilot and to having a safer, multi-modal San Jose Avenue for all users.”
When the first phase was implemented last June, the SFMTA and Caltrans removed one of three traffic lanes on northbound San Jose to match the geometry of the street’s southbound side. The leftover space was used to upgrade the existing narrow bike lane with a buffer zone and plastic posts to separate it from motor traffic.
As part of the second phase, Caltrans removed the second Highway 280 off-ramp lane last week, and will measure its effectiveness in bringing down excessive traffic speeds, along with that of other measures in the coming months. Caltrans added the second ramp lane in 1992 after the Loma Prieta earthquake, as a supposedly temporary measure to accommodate traffic re-routed away from freeway repairs.