As many of you might recall, I had the good fortune to cut the ribbon on San José’s first green bike lanes last July. It was a great morning – the result of years of planning, collaboration, and compromise that resulted in a “road diet” and installation of green, mostly buffered bike lanes running along Hedding Street between 17th Street and the Guadalupe Trail. It couldn’t have happened without multiple groups working together: the Department of Transportation, the San José City Council, residents who wanted better bike access, SVBC, and other organizations working to make San José happier and healthier. There had been some resistance regarding lost street parking, but a compromise resulted in a facility that almost everyone agreed was an improvement to the neighborhood, a boon to safety, and a much needed option for people to be able to choose to ride a bike across town. I never suspected that, six months later, I’d need to rally bike advocates to protect these pioneering new lanes.
I was perhaps a bit too confident that everyone would see the benefit in the new lanes. Recent letters to Mr. Roadshow in the Mercury News, and recent comments by some elected officials, have reminded me that change comes slowly and some can’t see the harm in carrying on as we always have. It’s frustrating because I feel that everyone, not just people on bikes, benefits from projects like the Hedding green lanes.
To me, it’s obvious: Santa Clara County is the fastest growing county in the state, and San José the fastest growing of California’s large cities. Our roads are clearly clogged with traffic – a problem that impedes productivity, harms the environment, and makes for a seriously unpleasant trip to and from work. At the rate we’re growing, we can’t afford to prioritize cars above all other forms of transportation. It’s simply not sustainable.
If we’re going to keep our roads in reasonable working order, more of us need to change the way we get around, freeing up space for those who can’t. We know that many people would like to get out of their cars and onto bikes, but are concerned about safety. Enhanced bike lanes, like the ones on Hedding, are an excellent way to help those people feel more confident and try riding a bike. When we provide a more comfortable space for riding a bike, what some call “the trail experience on the street,” we can achieve the goal of moving people without having to move their cars. Those people get to have fun on a bike, the people in cars have fewer competitors for limited space, and we all breath a little easier with fewer emissions making their way into our air. Win-win-win, right?
If you agree with me, I need your help. I need you to share your support. Too much attention has been focused on the small but loud group of people who feel that these bike lanes are ruining their commute. We’ve tried writing Mr. Roadshow to tell our side of the story, but so far he hasn’t taken us up on our offer, publishing just a portion of a column dedicated to Hedding green lane supporters. The truth is, the City of San José has compared commute travel times before and after the road diet and found only very short delays – we’re talking a couple of minutes – during the very peaks of the morning and afternoon commute hours. The benefits include a much better option for people on bikes, 24/7 traffic calming for the Hedding Street neighborhood, and safer access to Burnett Middle School and Bernal Memorial Park. These improvements make those brief delays well worth it.
So pick up a pen, grab your keyboard, or tap your touchscreen. We encourage you to send letters to the editor at the Mercury News, write to Mr. Roadshow directly, or contact your council member. Tell them you support the Hedding Street bike lanes and other projects that are making it possible for the City to realize its aggressive goal of reducing automobile use to just 40% of trips by 2040.
Write about why you appreciate the Hedding Street bike lanes: share your personal stories, compare the ride today to how it was a year ago, and offer your support for future endeavors to build out San José’s bike network. We need to make it known that these fantastic facilities are helping us get around by bike and ultimately making San José a nicer place for everyone to live, work, and travel in.
Tell these folks you want to ride your bike:
Gary Richards – Mr. Roadshow
Mercury News – Letter to the Editor (Letters for the editorial page must include the writer’s name, address and phone number.)
Fax: (408) 271-3792
San Jose City Council:
Mayor Chuck Reed
Pete Constant, District 1
Ash Kalra, District 2
Sam Liccardo, District 3
Kansen Chu, District 4
Xavier Campos, District 5
Pierluigi Oliverio, District 6
Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen, District 7
Rose Herrera, District 8
Don Rocha, District 9
Johnny Khamis, District 10