San José is rolling out the inexperienced carpet for biking, due to town council’s unanimous passage of the Higher Bike Plan 2025. With the plan’s adoption, town commits to constructing a 550-mile community of motorcycle lanes, boulevards and trails to assist 1000’s extra individuals journey safely.

The plan is real looking concerning the previous, acknowledging San José’s sprawling 180-square-mile unfold, its car-oriented structure and its inequitable historical past of transportation choices, which proceed to form individuals’s lives. However the plan additionally seems forward, aiming to create a metropolis the place anybody can comfortably bike to any neighborhood. 

The deliberate community contains 350-plus miles of protected bike lanes, 100 miles of motorcycle boulevards and 100 miles of off-street trails. Already, town has constructed over 390 miles complete. 

First, make it protected

The numbers are spectacular. However the numbers don’t inform the entire story. 

With this plan and its creation, town lays out a considerate strategy to who feels snug biking, who doesn’t and invite extra individuals out onto bikes.

Many cities have been discovering artistic methods to assist their residents get round safely, healthily and affordably.

For too lengthy, bike lanes — not simply in San José however nationally — have been created for the few individuals who really feel high quality biking on a avenue filled with quick site visitors, protected by solely a line of white paint. The brand new plan acknowledges that’s typically not sufficient for individuals to really feel snug, as an alternative providing “the evolution of a motorcycle lane,” first by simply widening that painted lane into buffer to create extra separation from site visitors, then placing parked vehicles between bikes and site visitors when doable, after which constructing a complete raised curb between vehicles and the bike lane. Generally, as an alternative of including miles, it is essential to return to make current miles of motorcycle lanes higher and safer. The plan emphasizes that lots of San José’s quiet residential streets can hook up with create a “low-stress” community of “bike boulevards,” together with protected methods to get throughout the large busy streets.

To create the plan, metropolis employees talked with residents. Additionally they partnered with community-based organizations resembling Veggielution, Latinos United for a New America (LUNA) and Vietnamese Voluntary Basis (VIVO). At conferences and focus teams in Spanish and Vietnamese in addition to English, metropolis employees and companions requested residents: What would assist make them extra more likely to bike? 

Paramount throughout communities was concern for security. 

Construct fast, purpose excessive 

The town already has proven that it may transfer shortly. With its Higher Bikeways undertaking and with the help of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Local weather Problem, San José can have constructed 15 miles of protected bike lanes between 2018 and 2020. 

The “quick-build” mannequin is spectacular. A couple of of us from the Local weather Problem bought to tour San José’s downtown by bike final yr with Mayor Sam Liccardo and the Nationwide Affiliation of Metropolis Transportation Officers (NACTO). We pedaled alongside new inexperienced lanes, protected by sturdy inexperienced posts and full with ingenious bus islands which might be wheelchair-accessible and permit bus riders to cross bike lanes safely. The inexperienced posts that shield bikers look reassuringly stable however they’re really plastic, making them low-cost, straightforward to put in but imposing sufficient to kind a sort of low wall between bikes and automotive site visitors. It felt protected.

Now the trick is to construct out from downtown, hook up with neighborhoods and get extra individuals utilizing them. 

The town has set bold targets for “bike mode share,” which implies the share of all journeys individuals take within the metropolis by bicycle. San José’s present Basic Plan goals for 15 p.c bike commute mode share by 2040, and its Local weather Sensible plan seeks to achieve 20 p.c by 2050. 

These are tall orders. Immediately, simply 1 p.c of commute journeys within the metropolis are made by bike, though a metropolis survey discovered that three p.c of individuals reported biking as their main manner of attending to work and much more residents utilizing a motorcycle as a backup mode of transportation. Of commute journeys to downtown, four p.c are by bike. These numbers would possibly sound small, nevertheless it’s essential to contemplate that bike commuting is on the rise: Between 1990 and 2017, San José noticed a 28 p.c improve in commute journeys made by bike.

However not all journeys are commute journeys; in actual fact, in San José, just one in 5 journeys are to and from work. That’s very true in these teleworking instances. Encouragingly, the plan notes that 60 p.c of all journeys individuals make within the metropolis are lower than three miles lengthy. These quick journeys, mixed with town’s delicate local weather and flat terrain, make biking a very good possibility, creating the chance for town to attain its daring targets.

The Higher Bike Plan 2025 features a five-year motion plan of prioritized initiatives to implement and coordinates with town’s paving program to economize. It affords a variety of prices to make these modifications, from fast and non permanent to extra everlasting, that complete roughly $300 million. 

The prioritized initiatives listed within the plan — the listing of streets the place bike enhancements will go — had been chosen with three goals:

Enhance biking mode share: Areas the place bicycle journeys are almost definitely, based mostly on components resembling inhabitants, employment and connections to transit, downtown and the present bike lane community.
Enhance security: Tasks that may repair “high-injury” streets the place collisions are most critical and frequent.
Enhance fairness: Low-income and traditionally underserved neighborhoods, additionally referred to as “Communities of Concern,” particularly simply to the south, east and north of downtown. Folks residing in these neighborhoods are more likely to have fewer transportation choices, much less entry to a personal automotive and could also be important staff, required to indicate up at a job in particular person day-after-day. Extra protected, wholesome, reasonably priced transportation choices are wanted, and shortly.

What comes subsequent: A time for motion

On this tough yr, many cities have been discovering artistic methods to assist their residents get round safely, healthily and affordably. Biking nationally has boomed. San José has launched an Al Fresco program that repurposes streets for out of doors eating.

In March, close by Oakland launched the nation’s first and most bold “Open Streets” program alongside its deliberate bike community, appearing shortly to make these streets safer by discouraging most automotive site visitors. Oakland’s Open Streets program additionally creates extra protected out of doors areas for individuals in neighborhoods with much less entry to open area, reduces crowding at Lake Merritt and different parks and frees up extra space for social distancing than sidewalks sometimes supply. Oakland just lately launched a report to assist cities within the Bay Space and past study from its instance. 

San José has a much less dense footprint than Oakland, however its residents nonetheless have an amazing want for protected, reasonably priced transportation in these instances. The town can take its considerate Higher Bike Plan as a place to begin to behave shortly, and rebuild its streets to deliver protected biking to all.

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