My seven mile bike route to work from downtown San Jose to my office in Santa Clara, California includes less than a half mile of on road travel. The rest of my route is entirely separated from car traffic.
My bus from Santa Cruz drops me off at the Caltrain station near the Shark Tank. This map shows Google Map’s bike suggested bike route from there to my office near Agnew and Montague, and it’s mostly the way I go for the bike portion of my commute.
I highlighted the on-street portions of my commute in red, including the three spots where I cross a street to get to my office. Yes, I literally have a paved bike path to my office door.
Most of this commute is along the Guadalupe River Trail (GRT), which runs from south of downtown San Jose north to Alviso and the Bay for a distance of 11 miles, connecting to the Alviso Slough Trail, which in turn is part of the San Francisco Bay Trail network. The SF Bay Trail, when complete, will connect the shoreline of all nine Bay Area counties, link 47 cities and cross all major Bay Area toll bridges with a walk-and-bike ring around and across the Bay.
Currently, 310 miles of the 500 mile trail network is complete. In the South Bay, I can travel the 20 miles from Santa Clara to East Palo Alto almost entirely on segments of the Bay Trail, crossing through Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto along the way.
Here’s my view of the Guadalupe River Trail this morning.
The Guadalupe River Trail was built as part of a flood control project. Worker access along the levees were needed anyways, so a multiuse trail was designed into the project from the beginning. A couple of shortcomings:
- Like many riverfront bike paths, the GRT dips down to near water level at major road crossings, which means frequent flooding during rain storms and debris afterwards.
- Most of the trail is gravel, which can be a little unpleasant to ride on for many people. At San Jose International Airport, I usually exit the trail and ride on Airport Boulevard. I think probably a third to half of bike commuters seem to do the same thing.
- A couple of hundred yards of the trail north of Airport Parkway (Brokaw Road) alongside the old airport rental car lot isn’t even gravel — it’s just hard dirt. In heavy rain, this dirt becomes extremely miry mud. Shoes, bike tires and small children are occasionally lost in this mud forever.
All in all, though, it’s not a bad trail and, unlike what I hear from other parts of the country about “recreational” paths, the GRT is reasonably useful for transportation as long as you don’t need to get anywhere during heavy rainstorms.