We here at SVBC have been talking a lot about an exciting new project in Downtown San Jose, the Better Bikeways Network. This is not just one nice bike lane but a network of protected and enhanced bike lanes throughout the Downtown.
As exciting as it is for the every-day bicyclist, the new network can also be confusing, especially for drivers. So we wanted to take a moment to talk about one aspect of the network that might be a sore spot to some…the traffic diverter.
Huh? What’s that you ask?
San Jose is trying to get more folks to ride bikes. As a part of that, the City looked for opportunities throughout the downtown grid where there was room to add extra-safe bike infrastructure at minimal cost to drivers. People who walk or ride those newfangled e-scooters benefit too, especially since it will get the scooters off the sidewalks.
But dedicated bike lanes can’t fit everywhere, which brings us to the St. John bike boulevard.
A bike boulevard is a place on which bikes are advantaged. They are advantaged through signage like bike stencils on the ground. They are advantaged by orienting stop signs so that cross traffic must stop while bikes can flow through. And bikes are advantaged by discouraging cars from using bike boulevards as throughways by reducing speeds and other methods.
The other method in this case is a traffic diverter. If you’re driving on St. John and you get to Tenth Street, you are now forced to turn south. All cars. No one can use St. John as a cut-through road anymore.
Bikes however get to go straight. The plentiful green paint and bollards now clearly communicate this.
SVBC can imagine the shock of many drivers when they found they could no longer drive down St. John. We certainly would have been irritated. But here’s the thing. St. John is now an attractive place for bikes meaning that’s where bikes will ride. At the same time, streets like Santa Clara remain good for cars. In essence, the City is saying, “bikes, we’re making this street extra special for you and cars, you still have all these other ones.” So while it may feel like something was taken away on St. John to a driver, in the grand scheme of things, how people move on the entire network should get better. I go here. You go there. It all works once we’ve gotten past the hiccup caused by change.
Some of the bicyclists reading this might be saying, hey, stop catering to all those car drivers and create fantastic bike infrastructure on every street! We get that. However, we’re also pragmatic. With limited transportation funding and with an eye toward efforts that can improve safety quickly, SVBC is focused on identifying and creating a network of streets and trails that get us safe and stress-free routes quickly.
So next time you encounter a traffic diverter, you now know that it’s probably a part of a grand plan. That’s not to say a driver will never encounter a bike on non-bike boulevards but by making certain streets highly attractive to bikes, that’s where we’ll ride, freeing up street capacity for drivers on other roads. So, to bicyclists, enjoy a stress-free ride down St. John and to drivers, we hope you’ll understand that the small sacrifice on St. John helps create a safer and more efficient street network for all users overall.
Over the next six months, SVBC will be organizing bike rides of the Better Bikeways Network. In fact there is one hosted by SPUR on Thursday evening. (Click here for details if you’d like to come along.) Check back with us periodically to find a ride so you can experience the network firsthand with trained ride leaders who can explain different street designs. And, as always, bring your non-bicycling friends to that we can continue to share the joy of bicycling.