New bike lanes San Jose downtown

New buffered bike lanes have been painted in along 3rd and 4th Streets in downtown San Jose, California.


4th Street Bike Lanes

What do you think?

Some additional work is ongoing on both streets between San Fernando and San Carlos streets, where, I believe, rubberized barriers are being installed on the left side of each street.

16 Comments

  • mark Sauerwald
    July 16, 2012 - 10:02 am | Permalink

    Note how the buffer encourages cyclists to ride in the door zone.

  • Chip
    July 16, 2012 - 10:15 am | Permalink

    I had the same thought initially, but having ridden on it I’d say it does the opposite.  You can hug the left-side of the bike lane and not feel like you are being buzzed by traffic.  Maybe it would have made more sense to put the buffer on the parking side, but in the end it is still more space for the cyclist.  Plus, if  (God forbid) you get doored you are much less likely to end up under a car – which I think (no evidence though) is the cause of most door related deaths.  

  • MikeOnBike
    July 16, 2012 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    It’s the same amount of space either way, but this misplaced buffer design encourages unwary cyclists to be too close to parked cars.

    Also, it’s not legally a bike lane because of the nonstandard striping, so none of the usual rules (21208 or 21209 or 21717) would apply.  With the buffer on the right, this space would function like a real bike lane.

    Midblock photos aren’t all that interesting.  What do the intersections look like?  Are motorists encouraged to merge before turning right?  Are through cyclists encouraged to stay away from the right edge?  Do through cyclists have to weave to go straight?

  • MikeOnBike
    July 16, 2012 - 11:20 am | Permalink

    Here’s an album from Dan Gutierrez showing how to do right-side buffering:

    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2421233301585.125186.1574017310&type=3 

  • July 16, 2012 - 12:03 pm | Permalink

    I have some intersection photos too but they didn’t turn out so well. On 4th at (I think) San Carlos, the buffer goes away and you see the traditional striped treatment. 3rd @ Santa Clara, there’s a right turn lane to the right of the bike lane *and* the buffer zone, which is pretty weird.

  • July 16, 2012 - 6:02 pm | Permalink

    i like the buffer on the left because:
    1) it provides clearance from cars which
    a) make it more comfortable to ride, and
    b) allows more people to ride, which
    c) increases safety for all cyclists, and
    2) i’m less afraid of hitting a stopped car door than getting hit by a moving car/truck/motorcycle.

    from what i remember, the bike lane doesn’t really exist at the intersection then you see a big sweeping curved line that looks essentially like the inside right tire path of a car turning onto the 1-way thoroughfare. once the sweeping/curving line reaches out far enough, then the rest of paint/midblock view you see comes into view.

    seems like SJ tried hard to make sure that cars didn’t have to slow down to make a right turn onto 3rd from Santa Clara.

    still, i’ll take it!  bad mockup attached.

  • MikeOnBike
    July 16, 2012 - 10:00 pm | Permalink

    If the buffer was on the right, there would be nothing stopping you from riding in the buffer, if you prefer riding further right.

  • Pingback: Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco

  • July 17, 2012 - 10:22 am | Permalink

    Correct. Ditto for riding in the buffer on the left.

    To me, tho, the most important goal is to allow more people to bike, and the way to do that is to attack the primary source of people not biking — perceived risk. Not even actual risk — just perceived risk. 

    So even if the lack of door zone protection turned out to be more dangerous than a lack of moving car protection, it would probably _still_ be safer on the whole to stick with the moving car protection, because more people would be riding, reducing risk for all riders through ‘safety in numbers’.

    I can’t prove that a left/moving-cars buffer feels safer than a right/parked-cars buffer, but I suspect that is the case, and i’m def happy to see this left/moving-cars-buffer as opposed to a right-side-parked-cars-buffer. This is an advancement for San Jose — a real buffered bike lane. A right-side/door-zone buffer would not get us a ‘buffered bike lane’.

    And the rubber bumpers one some of these streets, hopefully, will give us some actual protection from texting/drunk/etc. drivers. It’s a big big deal.

    And, as long as we don’t plant massive gargantuan near-permanent raised medians, we are not locked into this street design. Once we build political support, we can look at flipping the car parking out into the street, etc.

  • July 17, 2012 - 10:39 am | Permalink

    @MIke – I’ve uploaded an intersection photo here –> https://plus.google.com/116320504699810105403/posts/81asddm7gh4

  • MikeOnBike
    July 17, 2012 - 10:47 am | Permalink

    Yes, an enlightened cyclist could ride in the left buffer, but here are two (of the many) problems with a left buffer:

    First, the buffer is (supposedly) decreasing perceived risk from moving cars by increasing the actual risk of a dooring.  It’s also reducing sight lines by directing cyclists further right.  And it’s doing this with official-looking markings painted by the government.  More generally, it’s pandering to fears of risks that aren’t actual, and reinforcing those fears.  It’s “safety theater”.

    Second, the buffer marking is non-standard, which means the bike lane rules (21208, 21209, 21717) don’t apply, which means the whole thing is legally undefined.

    For more details, see Dan’s presentation that I linked to in an earlier comment.

  • MikeOnBike
    July 17, 2012 - 10:50 am | Permalink

    Wow, that is goofy.  How is a motorist supposed to get into the right turn lane?

  • July 17, 2012 - 7:24 pm | Permalink


    First, the buffer is (supposedly) decreasing perceived risk from moving cars by increasing the actual risk of a dooring.

    I’ll take it. Life is full of decisions. Trade-offs are everywhere. Not buffering the lane on the left has real consequences, I would argue — fewer folks cycling — we can’t tolerate that. We can tolerate some injuries and broken bones and whatever else. If that’s actually what happens, and I doubt it does, especially when looking at the stats on a epidemiological/public health perspective (i.e. more folks biking means more folks walking means traffic safer for everyone (including drivers) means less heart disease means….etc.).

     It’s also reducing sight lines by directing cyclists further right.

    i don’t really know how this could be true, or even if it were true how it could affect anything in any significant way.

    More generally, it’s pandering to fears of risks that aren’t actual, and reinforcing those fears.  It’s “safety theater”.

    i think people confuse the reasons why people don’t bike — the primary reason people don’t bike is not because it’s dangerous — it’s because it feels/seems/is-perceived-as-being dangerous when you’re actually doing it. buffering a bike lane significantly reduces that perceived risk, that ‘fear’, and that increases the number of folks cycling. the risks aren’t all that high, so are not all that ‘real’ — the perceived risks/fears are very high and very real — they need to be dealt with, as they are the #1 reason people do not bike. 

    which means the whole thing is legally undefined

    again, i’ll take it. if you do something that is going to prevent biking on a street or corridor for 20 years — like BRT — then i say, “No, we just can’t afford to do that.” but other than that, yes, we’ll take the improvements, small/imperfect as they may be — if they are real, and buffered bike lanes are so, then responsible cycling advocates, i would argue, have to accept them and continue to push for more and better. we’re responsible for the predictable consequences of our actions. we need to allow more people to bike right now.

  • Pingback: Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Los Angeles

  • Martin
    November 1, 2012 - 10:41 am | Permalink

    It is horrible. The city just managed to add even more congestion to the streets by forcing cars into two lanes.

  • Pingback: Cyclelicious » Sam Liccardo and Strong Neighborhoods Religion

  • Leave a Reply