City Council Considers Sidewalk Cycling Ban in Downtown

Following anecdotal reports of pedestrians getting jostled by passing cyclists, city officials will consider whether to ban bicyclists from downtown sidewalks.

The issue has drawn the ire of San Jose's cycling community. Some fear a ban would increase the risk of racial profiling by police and unfairly single out homeless residents. With a ban, any cyclist could be detained for riding on a sidewalk. Formalizing a ban would give police more grounds to stop someone on "reasonable suspicion" of pretty much anything. It would also force cyclists onto the street, where they risk getting struck by cars.

The proposal, spearheaded in October by Councilman Pete Constant, would ban bicycle riding on all sidewalks in San Jose's downtown core—an area bounded by Highway 87, Fourth Street, Julian Street and Highway 208—with the exception of police officers and children younger than 12. (Take a look at the ordinance here). It elicited a range of opinions from his council colleagues.

Downtown Councilman Sam Liccardo originally proposed outlawing sidewalk cycling in 2013, a measure similar to the skateboarding ban in the city's center.

Ultimately, the city needs to improve its bicycling infrastructure before it forces cyclists onto the streets, added Councilman Don Rocha.

"Regulating sidewalk bicycling requires us to balance competing interests. On one hand, pedestrians have an interest in safe sidewalks," he states. "On the other, cyclists have an interest in not being forced out onto unsafe streets."

According to the San Jose Police Department, cyclists being hit by cars is a greater problem than cyclists running into pedestrians, he pointed out.

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 8.13.26 AM

Council members Johnny Khamis and Rose Herrera agreed, saying the city should create a protected bike lane before it enacts any sort of ban.

A coalition of bicyclists plans to come out in full force at Tuesday's meeting. They started a petition (which is close to 150 signatures) to stop the ban and keep sidewalk cycling a legal choice in downtown. Instead of a prohibition, they're asking for targeted enforcement against reckless bicyclists who ride too fast and too close to pedestrians.

"A sidewalk cycling ban, even on streets with buffered bike lanes, will put in danger those residents least able to avoid traffic hazards: seniors, teenagers, slower riders, or simply anyone without a lot of experience dealing with high-speed, high-volume traffic that merges across and stops in the bike lanes, including trucks and buses," Andrew Boone, director of cycling advocacy group I Walk, I Bike, I Vote, told San Jose Inside. "To keep pedestrians safe, the city must assign police officers to stop and ticket those riding fast and carelessly on sidewalks. An outright ban isn't needed."

There's also an ongoing issue with bike lanes being blocked by large trucks and buses, which forces riders into the thick of traffic to get around it.

"Despite the myths, it is actually not that difficult to ride a bicycle safely on a sidewalk in downtown San Jose," Boone wrote on a Facebook call to action for Tuesday's meeting. "Hundreds of people do it every day for basic transportation —why criminalize safe behavior?"

Instead of making it illegal, the city should define an enforcement strategy, said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Deputy Director Colin Heyne.

"We once again urge you to consider defining and addressing reckless bicycle riding on our city's sidewalks," Heyne wrote to the council. "Factors that could objectively define reckless riding include use of a cell phone while riding, trick riding, speed in excess of what could be reasonably expected of a pedestrian, and not giving pedestrians the right of way. Additionally, we encourage a more targeted enforcement and policy effort by the city toward those behaviors that cause the most pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities, including vehicle speeding, vehicle failure to yield, and vehicle red-light running."

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for December 2, 2014:

  • With Kansen Chu elected to the State Assembly, the District 4 seat is up for grabs. The city has a few options. The council can hold an election, appoint an interim until the next election or appoint a replacement to finish the rest of the term. The last time the council appointed a replacement was in 1994, when George Shirakawa Sr. died. His son, George Shirakawa Jr., was appointed in his place and then ran in a special election to secure the seat.
  • Herrera proposes creating satellite community centers in underserved districts, namely her District 8 as well as District 6.
  • The city will increase its contract amount with Destination: Home, a group that houses the homeless, by $490,151.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Here are a few comments concerning Tuesday’s (12.02.14) City Council Agenda.

    In re “Sidewalk Bicycling;”

    Your reporting on this segment is a tad-bit lean on the facts. The original champions to protect; seniors, the disabled and everyone else from being “mowed-down” by bicyclists on the public sidewalks were a select group of citizens who presented truthful verbal and photographic testimony before the Rules and Open Government Committee on many and ongoing occasions.

    Councilmember Liccardo was just the first to act upon this issue. Some say Councilmember Liccardo was appeasing the concerns of the business community due to the limited scope and geographical boundaries that were defined in his proposal. Others say that as an avid bicyclist that he understands the physical dangers pedestrians face on city sidewalks by menacing bicyclists. Councilmember Liccardo can explain for himself why his proposal did not profess a “city-wide ban” on prohibiting bicycle riding on sidewalks. Regardless, the Mayor–elect is hereby sincerely “Thanked” for all his efforts to date to initiate a ban on “Downtown Sidewalks Bicycle Riding.”

    Councilmember Constant, after hearing and seeing the truthful verbal and photographic testimonies by the aforementioned citizens given during many and ongoing Rules and Open Government Committee meetings (in which he is a member of RULES) was genuinely moved to act on protecting the public’s safety on the Downtown sidewalks. His significant and highly appreciated efforts are not diminished just because Councilmember Liccardo beat him to writing the first treatise on the imminent perils that pedestrians face by bicyclists on Downtown sidewalks. But, like Councilmember Liccardo, Councilmember Constant did not act to amend the proposal to include a “city-wide ban” on sidewalk bicycle riding. “Thanks anyway Pete, you did a good job!”

    Now as to the Memorandums issued by the three “Camp followers” or now seasonally and modernly known as the “one wise woman and two wise men” (Councilmembers Herrera, Khamis and Rocha) this is a different matter. It is postulated that the guardian angel of all pedestrians spoke to them in a dream to get-off of their respective high-horses to mount some camels and ride down Santa Clara Street to search for the wisdom of King Solomon so they might aid at the issue at bar. You are encouraged to read all the documents that pertain to the issues raised by the three-wise peeps.

    Personally, I find Councilmember Rocha’s Memorandum the most humorous.

    Councilmember Rocha (a.k.a. Fr. Rocha, S.J. (San José)) embraces, “changing the behavior requirements for sidewalk bicycling.” Forget about “Behavior changes.” Our nation tolerates; breaking windows, arson, looting, stopping traffic on freeways and other public streets, destroying cars and other property, interfering with shoppers, destroying innocent small businesses, throwing rocks and other objects including fire-bombs at Police with absolute no regards for existing laws or punishments.

    So, envision Councilmember Rocha; draped in dapper attire, sporting a fanciful black shirt and a white collar preaching to a bicyclist who just mowed-down a pedestrian. “The time to change your behavior is now, repent and sin no more.” Where the contrite act of the penitent bicyclist is to “Flip Councilmember Rocha the Bird” and proceeds down the public sidewalks on their bicycle unfettered by their reckless acts.

    In closing, the issue of safety to pedestrians maybe mitigated by the affects of all the drunks, drug infested and other social miscreants who either sit or lie about the Downtown sidewalks. Some will argue this group of wayward sheep will act as “Defacto speed bumps.” Others will counter that the aforementioned human blight will pose as “Traffic cones” in which agile bicyclists will exhibit their skills at break-neck speeds to avoid.

    You be the judge. Come to Tuesday’s City Council meeting and enjoy the show.

    David S. Wall

  2. In the documentation, they admit there is already an existing law that can be enforced against people using unsafe speed on the sidewalk. The police acknowledged this, but said they don’t have resources to enforce that existing law. Then they said they do have resources to enforce a ban (one which would include the slow careful cyclists). It seems like their plan then is to go mostly after the slow cyclists, not the fast ones. Thus the theories of ulterior motives that have nothing to do with pedestrian safety.

    • The vehicle code already covers conduct and ‘driving’ behaviors of cyclists, to wit:

      21200. (a) Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division… except those provisions which by their very nature can have no application. (Cannot ride parallel to and on a sidewalk, cannot ride in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, must obey stop signs and signals, cannot ride in the opposing direction of travel opposite traffic, must make turns from approximately the same locations as automobiles…)

      21650. Upon all highways, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway. (This includes bicycles per 21200 CVC)

      CVC 21202: Cyclists must ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except when passing in a lawful manner, making a left turn, approaching a designated right turn lane or avoiding an obstruction. (This section precludes cyclists riding side-by-side.)

      CVC 22107: No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal in the manner provided in this chapter in the event any other vehicle may be affected by the movement. In this case, cyclists are required to use (at least) hand signals

      CVC 21656 specifies that a slow-moving vehicle (or cyclist) with 5 or more trailing vehicles MUST move to the right to permit faster traffic to pass and section 21202 specifically states that cyclists are NOT exempt from this provision

      Other provisions require that cyclists employ at least one white headlight and one red taillight when cycling at night.

  3. > Instead of a prohibition, they’re asking for targeted enforcement against reckless bicyclists who ride too fast and too close to pedestrians.

    Seems like common sense to me.

    I think the problem is that the council is being asked to establish a policy to deal with jerks when most of the people involved (pedestrians and bicyclists) are, arguably, not jerks.

    I visualize a “rules of the road” type of solution familiar to mariners: all manner of craft are allowed on the water at the same time, but well known rules “burden” some craft and “privilege” other craft.

    For example, motorboats have to yield “right of way” to sail boats.

    The same should apply to side walks: pedestrians yield right of way to baby carriages; bicyclists yield right of way to pedestrians.

    We can work this out.

    “Can’t we all just get along”.

    • Motorboats don’t always have to yield to sailboats. The tonnage rule supersedes the steaming vs sailing rule. For instance, you can’t be out in the bay in your laser, expecting a cargo ship to give you right of way.

      Maybe that’s what should be law. Bikes/Pedestrians must yield to cars.

  4. Mandate bicycle license plates + liability insurance for cyclists = problem solved.

    For everything else, there’s MasterCard aka. City Council (which I’m paying for)

      • Did I say “DMV”?

        If the city can manage bike sharing, garbage and water billing, parking permits distribution, tree trimming warning letters (got one) and a whole enchilada of other “services”, then why not bicycle registrations?!?

        Should we just wait & see til there is a cyclist fatality involving a VTA or city-owned vehicle resulting in a multi $Mil. settlement via Ambulance Chasers & Associates LLP?

        • > If the city can manage bike sharing, garbage and water billing, parking permits distribution, tree trimming warning letters (got one) and a whole enchilada of other “services”, then why not bicycle registrations?!?

          Oh, right. Have the City run it’s own DMV.

          An even worse idea.

          Last I heard, there are people on this forum who say the City can’t even fix potholes or run a police department,

          • All city-run REVENUE GENERATING services (you know, the stuff you PAY for) work like a clockwork and comparing them with pothole fixing or PD is just plain idiotic.

  5. Boiled down thought process.

    If there are 0 bike accidents with pedestrians,
    but there are bike accidents with cars,
    then wouldn’t forcing bikes into the street result in more accidents between bike and car accidents?

    In cities with higher population densities, yes, it’s a problem. We’re not one of those cities yet, so if it isn’t a problem, then it makes no sense to create a law to fix a nonexistent problem, while adding statistically predictable problems and fatalities.

    • There have been 2 bike vs ped fatalities- thats part of what sparked this debate originally. SJI rarely includes all the pertinent facts… Usually just the ones that favor Sam and Rufas’ voting preference.

    • Cortese Cousin asks: “then wouldn’t forcing bikes into the street result in more accidents between bike and car accidents (sic)?” This is playing right into Sam “Bike Boy” Liccardo’s hands. Soon he’ll have every street striped with “Liccardo Lanes” as was done on Third, Fourth, and many other car commuter streets which reduced the number of lanes for car commuters to come downtown to work, resulting in more pollution into the air as cars idled in stalled traffic due to those closures of car lanes. They are trying that same thing soon with Lincoln Ave. in Willow Glen, cutting car lanes from four to two. (Thanks, Pierluigi. For a while there, I thought you had a functioning brain.) SJ is not Europe, so don’t try to compare bike ridership in SJ with bike riding in Europe to bolster your argument. Even trendy Palo Alto has only a 10% bike trip ridership, and that’s mostly due to the Stanford Campus.

      Of course the ultimate failure of any action re bikes in DT SJ will be the lack of enforcement. Think diamond lane and hands free driving enforcement, for instance, as examples.

      • I had a rant I posted on facebook before I posted my boiled down comment. Sams bike lanes are something I disagree with, but likely he got the idea from his junket to Amsterdam (when Seattle, a notoriously bike friendly city is only $160 RT via Southwest Airlines)

        The above illustrates perfectly what I see wrong with this type of make busy work in government. Our population density, number of riders, etc are nowhere near what Amsterdam is. Netherlands in general, to get people out of their cars just made the requirements so high that most people bike as a matter of budget, not of convenience.

        The day SJ is as crowded as Chicago, NYC, etc then it would be time to create said bike lanes, and enforce the no sidewalk riding rule. We’re far away from that time, it’s way too early to even start considering it.

      • Maybe so few trips are done via bike because of the lack of bike lanes? What about adding bike lanes to some specific streets such that it is possible to go most places on a bike, and leave the majority of the streets alone? It seems to be what has been done so far: a bike lane on San Fernando, but not on Santa Clara or San Carlos. Bike lanes on 3rd and 4th but not Market, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, etc.

        Seems to me it’s much easier to move around on a car than on a bike in SJ, today. And the bike lanes are most definitely used: I see bikes every day on San Fernando, going from Downtown to Diridon especially.

        • Max sees a few bikes every day. What do you think the ratio of bikes to cars is, Max? The Liccardo Lanes on Third and Fourth, for instance, cut the capacity for cars by one-third. I drove those streets every day, and I’d see a single bike once or twice per week, as I sat in traffic ground to a halt by the lack of capacity for cars. To this day, almost all the bikes I see on those streets are not in the Liccardo Lanes. They are are the sidewalk endangering pedestrians.

          • As more people move into San Jose and work in San Jose, the streets will become congested with cars whatever we do. Bike lanes and public transit (1st/2nd St) are scalable to a much larger population.

            If removing 1 lane on 2 streets (out of at least 10 North-South streets you could take, plus highways) led to incredible traffic, then maybe that would have happened in half a year either way.

            I don’t bike 3rd and 4th very often (although I do occasionally, to go to Japantown or the Fairgrounds area from Downtown), but San Fernando has at least 3 other bikes virtually every time I take it: around 9am and around 6pm. There’s never any car traffic to speak of.

            Finally, biking any sort of medium distance on the sidewalk rather than on a buffered bike lane is impractical, more dangerous and slower, so most people don’t do it. The people that bike on the sidewalk tend to go slower and go to closer places (around the corner).

  6. GOOD! About time! They ride on the sidewalk in parks too.

    Ever try walking at Vasona? Horrible. Bike riders are rude and almost run into you! One ran into my dog for h sake!

    • They say if you don’t want to get hit by cars, don’t walk in traffic. Same can be said of the Los Gatos Creek trail (part of which goes through vasona)

      If you don’t want your dog to compete with bike traffic, there are plenty of dog parks to take your pup to Kathleen.

      • Ya likewise you don’t see many cars or trucks in the emergency room… remember the scene in the movie “Airplane” where newscasters around the world are reporting an impending crash and the Brit says soemthing like “they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into, I say ‘ let them crash!”

  7. Bike vs ped crashes are rarely (read never) reported by police, so that number will always be zero. Bikes are vehicles, thus they belong on the street. Peds must be on a sidewalk unless there is none. Vehicle code works!

  8. Too bad the proposed ban on bikes on sidewalks does not extend a few blocks north to where it is needed. Self-entitled bike riders are all over the sidewalks just north of downtown.

  9. I think that we should completely eliminate an entire lane, on both sides of the streets in the entire City area. That way, less money would be spent to repair the ones that the cars drive on, and more people would be encouraged to use alternate methods of transportation. I also think that special “bike buses” could be employed to replace all of empty ones around town. Also, entire lower floors of the parking garages throughout the City should have dedicated bike stalls, with the security kiosks close by. Special “City Funded” rickshaws should also be made available for patrons of the Sharks Arena and Santa Clara Football Stadium events. That would cut down on downtown traffic and parking for big events.
    While we are at it, deputize the rickshaw drivers so they can stop crimes in progress, and report rude behavior on City Streets. What an awesome idea!

    • > While we are at it, deputize the rickshaw drivers so they can stop crimes in progress, and report rude behavior on City Streets.


      I have to hand it to you: THAT’S thinking outside the box.

  10. Hilarious. You can drive a Light Rail Train on the sidewalk on 1st and 2nd Street but not a bicycle. Also when are you going to stop getting quotes from idiots who don’t live or work in San Jose? Andrew Boone lives in East Palo Alto. Couldn’t find anyone who actually lives or works in San Jose?

  11. This law has been on the SJ Muni Code laws for years. Why is it an issue now? Because Sam has screwed up the downtown traffic lanes that is why. How about citing trucks who park in these lanes causing bikes to go into traffic causing more problems, and why not cite bicyclists who just run red lights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *