San Jose transportation officials are gearing up for the latest iteration of the city’s bike plan with a renewed focus on safety and getting more cyclists on the road.
The Better Bike Plan 2025 is San Jose’s second blueprint for a citywide bike network. Its predecessor, the Bike Plan 2020, led to an additional 392 miles of on-street bikeways and 62 miles of trails since its adoption in 2009.
The new and ambitious plan, however, aims to build on the foundation set by the previous iteration by building 37 miles of new trails, 79 miles of new separated bike lanes, 101 miles of bike boulevards on slow-speed streets and the upgrade of 293 miles of existing bike lanes with new safety measures.
John Brazil, San Jose’s bike and pedestrian program manager, said the city intends to use quick build strategies, such as plastic bollards or painted lanes.
“These quick build strategies cut costs in half and take half the time to plan, design and build,” Brazil said at a Transportation and Environment Committee meeting earlier this week. “In the future, as additional funding becomes available, quick build facilities may be enhanced to add additional features.”
Transportation officials expect that building out the more than 500 miles of bike lanes and paths could cost anywhere from $250 million to $420 million.
But even with the new safety measures, the city still has an uphill battle when it comes to getting people to actually ride their bikes around town.
According to an analysis conducted by the Toole Design Group—a contractor hired by the city to develop the plan—58 percent of all trips in San Jose are within biking distance (three miles or less), yet only 1.8 percent of those trips are actually made on a bike.
A poll conducted by EMC Research showed that 48 percent of respondents said they were interested in biking more, but were concerned about safety.
John Cordes, an advocate with the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, said the most difficult part of implementing the plan will be the culture change that comes with it. San Jose’s Envision 2040 general plan calls for 15 percent of all trips to be made by bike.
“The people who are out on the roads today are out on the roads today,” Cordes said. “It’s not the people who are riding today, it’s the people who we want riding in the future that we need to convince it's safe to ride. That's what the protected bike lanes are all about.”
Besides additional safety features, Cordes said the city will need to conduct a robust public education campaign, which he said is by far the weakest part of the plan.
“It doesn’t say how much they’re going to spend on education or encouragement,” he said. “It’s just a whole society change.”
In addition to improving safety and incentivizing more people to bike, the Better Bike Plan 2025 also places an emphasis on equity.
For decades, some of San Jose’s poorest neighborhoods have been underfunded when it comes to traffic safety, making the East Side and downtown home to some of the deadliest intersections in the entire city.
Between 2014 and 2018, District 7—which encompasses the Tully-Santee and Seven Trees neighborhoods—saw the most traffic fatalities with 52 deaths.
D3, which spans downtown, had the second-highest number with 34 death. It also saw the most collisions, with 5,544 during that same four-year timeframe.
“Past transportation decisions have prioritized more exclusive, expensive forms of transportation, built highways through low-income neighborhoods and disproportionately paved, rebuilt and upgraded streets in more affluent neighborhoods,” the plan said. “Recognizing this, the Better Bike Plan incorporates inclusive planning practices and provides a project list aimed at prioritizing investments in communities that have historically experienced a lack of investment.”
The Better Bike Plan 2025 comes up for City Council review on Sept. 29.