The Crossroads is a column that highlights the intersections of bike stuff and the rest of the world. In this column we’ll talk about today’s challenges, particularly those that are not overtly related to bicycling but are connected, can’t be ignored, and impact our ability to achieve our goal of 10% bike trips by 2025.
“The Jungle” was known as one of the nation’s largest homeless encampments. But in 2014, this 68-acres along Coyote Creek near Happy Hollow Park was shut down after complaints from the Regional Water Quality Board as well as neighbors.
Problem solved. Homeless people gone. Right?
For those of you who ride your bikes along the 87 bike path you know firsthand that many homeless people who used to live at the Jungle have relocated along the railroad tracks. Some of you have reached out to SVBC for assistance expressing concerns about increased glass on the trail in addition to people darting on and off the trail. The area has also become a long stretch of trash and an uncomfortable reminder that in one of the wealthiest areas of the world, we can’t seem to create a community in which commonly held living standards are achievable for all.
Is the answer to shut down this encampment too?
If only it were that simple. Sweeping this encampment might solve the bicycle commuter’s problem but it isn’t a solution.
Each and every reader of this blog can probably name someone they know who is struggling to live in Silicon Valley, housing costs being the biggest deterrent. One solution for the folks who, for whatever reason, live along the railroad tracks is to build affordable homes. This is what the City of San Jose has been attempting to do and this is what we, you, me, our neighbors, resist.
Case in point, Councilmember Sergio Jimenez was threatened with a recall as a direct result of his leadership to find a plot of land upon which to build housing for homeless men and women.
Some of you are probably saying, “yo, we’re a bike coalition. Why are you talking about housing? Stay in your lane and focus on making the trail a great place to ride.” We get that. Believe me, we really get that as we struggle to decide where to get involved. Do we remain focused on the bike or do we selectively engage on broader community issues that intersect at the crossroads. After all, SVBC’s mission is to build a better community through the widespread use of the bicycle.
That said, bike lanes everywhere do not ensure a better community in and of themselves. As a bike coalition, if we ignore broader societal issues they will eventually slow our roll.
So what how can a bike coalition with a small staff covering two counties be helpful on such a complicated issue?
One way is to vote yes on Measure V in San Jose. Measure V is a $450 million bond measure that would subsidize the construction of 3,550 homes for low income families and individuals. It is part of an overarching City plan for housing and was placed on the ballot by a 10-1 vote of the San Jose City Council. Its passage requires a 2/3rds vote, a difficult threshold to reach.
But this is just one step for those of us who love riding bikes. In addition to supporting Measure V, and after this election cycle has come and gone, a critical role for each and every community member is to reject the urge to oppose the construction of affordable housing near our neighborhoods. Next time there’s a discussion about building affordable housing nearby, consider getting involved as a visible bike advocate, one that brings a thoughtful and constructive, solutions-oriented approach. That kind of collaboration and partnership from the bike advocacy community makes SVBC an even more effective organization when trying to build a better community through the everyday use of the bicycle.
But start by voting yes on Measure V.