New bike lanes were constructed in downtown San Jose this past July in efforts to create safer streets and encourage bike riding in the city.
On August 9, city officials led by Councilman Sam Liccardo opened the lanes to the public with Liccardo riding the new pavement.
There are 7.6 miles of buffered bike lanes installed on Third, Fourth, 10th and 11th street, according to the San Jose Department of Transportation.
The bike lanes are being funded by state gas tax revenues used for roadway pavement maintenance and also by state Transportation Development Act, Article III grant funds, according to John Brazil, Bicyclist and Pedestrian Program Coordinator.
Liccardo, also a local politics lecturer at SJSU, said has been pushing for bike lanes for over four years.
“This isn’t just about bikes,” Liccardo said. “It’s about slowing down traffic by eliminating lanes and making it safe for people.”
Liccardo said that some of the car lanes in downtown San Jose have been reduced from three to two to encourage safe and slower traffic in neighborhoods. This is not only for cars and bikes but also for pedestrians.
California law said that cars in downtown can merge into the bike lane to enter parking spaces, driveways, or at intersections starting at 200 feet away.
Carlos Babcock, San Jose Bike Party route coordinator, said he feels positive about the new bike lanes and said he rides them everyday. He is also the chair of the San Jose Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
“I feel incredibly safe,” Babcock said. “They cut down on traffic to slow it down and make it safe for bikers. On 10th street, the speed limit was 30 miles per hour, but cars were going at 38 miles per hour, which was too fast for me to try and ride along with them. Now, with the new bike lanes, traffic has slowed down and I feel safer.”
Babcock said the most recent bike party had an attendance of more than 4,500 people as they rode down the newly renovated 10th street.
In addition to these bike lanes, San Jose will also be introducing a new bike sharing program, which will allow people to rent bikes from different parts of downtown San Jose, according to Brazil.
Brazil said the program is being led by Bay Area Air Quality Management District and will allow people to connect with VTA or Caltrain, via bike, and reach their destination through more transit.
According to Bicyclist and Pedestrian Program Coordinator John Brazil, there are 20 bike stations planned to be built in downtown San Jose and contain a total of 200 bikes.
The bike share project will undergo a pilot program for a year beginning this fall, according to the Valley Transportation Authority website.
Brazil said the new lanes, along with the bike share program, go along with the city’s master plan to get more people out on bikes.
“Our main goal is really to provide more transportation options for people,” Brazil said. “The city’s general plan is to have 15 percent of transit be by bicycle by the year 2040. The city also has a plan to reach five percent by 2020.”
Brazil said that the bike share program is being funded by a combination of federal, local and regional grants. A majority of the grant funding comes from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Climate Initiatives grant program, which has contributed $4.3 million.
SJSU students are reacting differently to the new bike lanes after the first couple of days of school.
Senior English major Katrina Swanson said she is an avid bike rider and enjoys the new lanes as well.
“Before it was really costly to ride your bike, especially on Fourth street, because all the cars are driving as you go onto the freeway,” Swanson said. “They’re going really fast and traffic can be really dangerous. I think the best part about the bike lanes is the buffered areas, between the bike lane and the cars, you just feel a little safer.”
Despite the positive feedback from a student, several student drivers also have concerns about the lanes.
Junior anthropology major Carlos Bean said he feels the lanes along Fourth street near SJSU, which has the parking closer to traffic, could cause a danger to drivers.
“Those lanes are just accidents waiting to happen,” Bean said. “When they put the new bike lane in, they could of fixed this problem giving all the lanes the room they needed. But, also as a cyclist, I love the bike lanes.”
Junior philosophy major Armando Mateos, is also concerned with the new bike lanes in regards to traffic.
“There’s more traffic now, which means there’s a possibility for more car accidents,” Mateos said. “They gave too much room to the bikers I feel. Also, they were a bit confusing. On the first day of school, there was a lot of traffic and it was several blocks down.”
Liccardo said he isn’t sure why some are still unsure about the bike lanes, but believes these lanes will eliminate any problems soon.
“A little bit of paranoia is healthy,” Liccardo said. “The biggest obstacle for us is getting rid of the fear and the idea that it isn’t safe on a road. We’re doing a combo of that by slowing of traffic.”
Liccardo said that more bike lanes are coming soon. Buffered bike lanes along Hedding Street, between 15th street and on the Guadalupe River Trail have been approved by the city council unanimously on August 22.
Brazil said this will add 1.5 miles to the current bike lanes.
Construction is slated to begin this fall, according to San Jose’s city website.