The June 18 community meeting to discuss the Lincoln Avenue road diet in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood had an impressive turnout of both supporters and detractors of the project. Several hundred residents filled the Willow Glen High School auditorium, with many donning extra large t-shirts with a red circle and stripe through the words “Road Diet” to show their disapproval. Despite the fact that most reactions to the road diet, and the data behind it, have been positive, there was an undeniable sense that the opponents were out in force that night.

City staff presented the results of the three-month trial period road diet (PDF). Traffic had been reduced! Speeds had been reduced! Travel times were up by a few minutes during the worst times of day, true, but one of the goals of the project was to make Lincoln Avenue less appealing to commuter traffic using Willow Glen’s main drag as an alternative to Highway 87. Mission accomplished! Importantly, bicycling and walking had increased. And cut-through traffic on side streets was either not significantly increased or actually reduced. To us, to many residents and business owners, and to the city, these were all positive results.

SVBC and our partners at California Walks had written a letter to Councilmember Oliverio, the Willow Glen Business and Neighborhood Associations, and the Department of Transportation to voice our support for the trial and celebrate the results. I also attended the community meeting with several SVBC members. We spoke about the multiple goals that have been achieved by the road diet:

  1. To reduce and slow vehicle traffic, shifting Lincoln Avenue away from being a commuter thoroughfare, instead serving as a cozy shopping boulevard similar to Palo Alto’s University Avenue or Castro Street in Mountain View.
  2. To improve safety for residents and visitors using any of several uncontrolled crosswalks in the business district.
  3. To make Lincoln Avenue more inviting to the growing number of people choosing to travel by bicycle.

I also reminded the City and the assembled residents that this road diet is an example of San Jose sticking to its principles and putting its plans into action. The City’s general plan calls for 15% of trips to be taken by bike and 15% to be taken by foot by 2040. San Jose has also called for roadway deaths and major injuries to be eliminated (PDF). We can’t let a two-minute commute delay derail good projects that bring us closer to our goals!

Though the opposition is loud, and seems large, it’s important to remember that most public projects ONLY hear from the detractors. The fact that there are currently more people signed onto a petition in favor of the road diet than there are signed onto the opposition’s petition is significant. But we still need you to speak up! We need you to sign the petition if you haven’t already, write letters to the Mercury News, and contact Councilmember Oliverio with your support. If you feel like taking a trip to the Glen, spend some money and let the merchants know that you love the road diet! Share them on social media using the hashtags #BiketoShop and #WillowGlen.

Some important contact info:

Mercury News letters to the editor: Send a letter of 150 words or less to letters@mercurynews.com. Letters for the editorial page must include the writer’s name, address and phone number. They do not give out letter writers’ phone numbers or addresses.

Pierluigi Oliverio, San Jose Distric 6 Councilmember: Pierluigi.Oliverio@sanjoseca.gov

Remember, this project is significant beyond its benefits to Willow Glen. It will help set a precedent that values safety and sustainability over the objections of a few loud voices of opposition.