Ewert Road bike detour for #SB50

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I just received word that the airport decided to keep Ewert open for cyclists, though they may have short-term closures. Thank you to San Jose Active Transportation Director John Brazil for making this happen. Jump to the final paragraphs below for important details (because temporary closures might still happen) and background.

Those of you who bike across the northern perimeter of San Jose International Airport might wonder how you can get from the Guadalupe River Trail to Central Expressway now that Ewert Road is closed.

The only detour that’s reasonably close is Trimble Road, across Highway 101. I shot video this morning to show the fun and excitement of this alternate route.

I’m so happy the Super Bowl Host Committee are so concerned about our safety and security.

For those unfamiliar with this area, Ewert Road is closed to motor vehicle traffic but open to those on foot or on bike to provide east-west access across the airport. Here’s video of cycling on this road.

The nearest alternate routes to the north are Trimble Road (shown in the top video) and Montague Expressway (which may be worse and also features an ugly interchange with Highway 101). People can also circle two miles south of the airport to Coleman Avenue (ha ha ha ha!) or Hedding Street (also yuck when going west).

Airport staff characterize this closing as an “inconvenience,” but folks on bikes still need to get to their destination, and these detours are, frankly, unacceptable for a good number of people who customarily ride on Ewert Road.

The airport is owned and operated by the City of San Jose, and the San Jose City Council is the final decision maker on airport matters. They generally approve recommendations of airport staff and the advisory San Jose Airport Commission, however. The next Airport Commission meeting takes place Monday February 29, and it’s probably past time for some cyclists to show up and ask the board to please consider talking with cyclists whenever they make decisions that impact us.

Most of the Airport Commissioners are aviation industry professionals. I don’t expect them to have the least bit of awareness of cyclist concerns, so it’s our job to inform them. I’ve tentatively identified a couple of commissioners that we should contact who may be sympathetic to cyclist concerns. They are:

  • Julia Riera Matsushima. Her bio identifies her as an “urban dweller” who lives in downtown San Jose.
  • Catherine Hendrix is a “senior management analyst” for the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) and is “passionate about environmental issues.” Catherine’s specific focus is transportation security, so her influence is especially important when it comes to balancing security with public access.
  • Raul Peralez is the city council liaison to the Airport Commission and a strong supporter of cycling in and around downtown San Jose. He’s probably our best bet in getting cyclist access concerns on the Airport Commission agenda.

I’m also going to ask members of the San Jose BPAC to bring this up with council member Peralez and the Airport Commission. Ewert Road is an important link that we can’t afford to lose, even on a short term basis.

Ewert Road is not closed

I noticed the road closure announcement on Monday morning. I immediately notified the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition “San Jose Team” and confirmed this was news to them as well as city of San Jose DOT staffers. SJDOT immediately contacted airport staff. San Jose Airport Operations Manager Bob Swenson replied:

The airport, in conjunction with our local Airport Police, did believe in the interest of safety and security during Super Bowl Week it would be best to close this bike route. Starting tomorrow through Sunday we expect to stage 40’ ft. buses and limos in our former Long Term Parking Lot that will use Ewert Rd. to drive to the terminals to pick up their parties arriving to SJC. Additionally, it is possible that our rental car operations may use the former parking lot Sunday afternoon through Tuesday for staging an overflow of rental cars being returned to SJC. Due this unusually high volume of traffic on Ewert Rd. throughout this week that is not normally present, we felt it best to close it off to bike activity.

Airport staff believed this limited traffic on Ewert Road (which generally has zero traffic) would increase danger to cyclists. To reduce the danger, let’s ban all the bikes! This makes perfect sense until you think about it a little and realize we still need to get from point A to B.

Swenson continues:

With that said, due to the difficulty it apparently created for our cycling community there was a decision made about 2 hrs. ago to remove all ‘closure’ signage and reopen the route to cyclists. This is in process and the route is now available.

There is still the outside possibility through the remainder of this week, that Ewert Rd. may need to be closed temporarily certain safety and security reasons if warranted. This could possibly happen between now and next Tuesday but as it stands now, the route is available to cyclists, it is anticipated to remain open, and there are no additional or scheduled closures planned at this time.

I really appreciate that airport staff heard our concerns about this, and made a very quick decision. If you cycle on Ewert Road, please keep in mind that there will now be some cars and buses for the time being, and Ewert is still subject to possible short-term closures.

7 Comments

  • Andrew
    February 3, 2016 - 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for taking up this issue. I thought it was really strange that they’d close down Ewert, as if bicyclists and pedestrians would pose a threat over the Superb Owl weekend…

  • Shotwellian
    February 3, 2016 - 6:12 pm | Permalink

    Slightly off-topic, but since the main use of Ewert seems to be to connect to Central Expressway, how is Central as a bike route between PA and SJ? How does it compare in terms of stress level to, say, Foothill Expressway?

  • February 4, 2016 - 11:14 am | Permalink

    Central has wide shoulders with good pavement similar to Foothill. Traffic on Central is faster and there are a couple of mixing zones with fast merging traffic. I can give more specifics on the interchanges to watch for if you’re interested in trying this route.

    For casual cyclists, I think most turn off of Central either at Scott or at the San Tomas Aquino Trail, with a single merge zone to deal with right where Trimble, De La Cruz and Central meet. In any case, that bit of Central between the airport and San Tomas is much better than the short stretch of Trimble shown in the video.

    For longer distance travel to Mountain View or Palo Alto, a good number of people take the Bay Trail; Central seems popular for fast roadies. I like Central from Mary Avenue to San Antonio, where it feels more like Foothill Expy.

    Central Expressway becomes Alma street at the Palo Alto city limits and the shoulders go away. Alma St has a nominal 35 MPH speed limit, but everybody is still in an expressway mode of thinking and drive 60 until they get closer to University Ave. At or before San Antonio, most people either turn off towards California St / Wilkie Way (south of Central Expwy), or take the Makay Drive route that eventually leads to the Bryant Street bike boulevard, though a good number also take Middlefield Road.

  • Kylee
    February 4, 2016 - 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard rumors that Central Expressway near the Mountain View Caltrain station will be closed to bikes and cars during the Superbowl

  • February 4, 2016 - 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Just searched around and you’re right! From http://mountainviewpoliceblog.com/2016/01/15/super-bowl-50-in-mountain-view-what-you-need-to-know/

    Streets immediately adjacent to the transit hub will be closed beginning at 6 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7. No traffic will be allowed along those streets and no cars will be allowed to park in those areas.

    Central Expressway will be closed between Shoreline Boulevard and Ferguson Drive. Evelyn Avenue will be closed from Bryant Street to Bush Street.
    Cherry Lane, Castro Street, Blossom Lane, Hope Street and View Street will be closed between Villa Street and Evelyn Avenue.

  • February 5, 2016 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    There’s a problem with a lot of road “closure” announcements — not just for the Supel Bowl but in general — that they don’t specify to which sorts of traffic (motor vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians) a route is or will be closed, and to which it will be open. Is Sunday Streets or Cyclovia a road “closure” (to motor vehicles, it is), or a road opening (to cyclists and peds, it is), or both? It totally annoys me if I am approaching the roads through Golden Gate Park that are opened up to bikes and peds on Sundays and I see signs at the entrance, “Road Closed”.

    It;s a special annoyance to touring cyclists, who can;t tell when they see a sign saying “Road Closed Ahead” whether (a) the road is genuinely closed and impassible to all traffic, (b) it is freely (and maybe legally) open to cyclists, but there is no official on-site signage to say so, so you have to ride at your own risk of being stopped an turned back, or (c) it’s theoretically legally closed, but in practice through cycle traffic is tolerated. Construction zones are particularly unpredictable this way.

    Touring in Iowa, I once had to decide what to do at sign advising “Road Closed” for construction 10 miles or more ahead, with no indication (of course) of whether that closure included bikes and/or peds. We took a chance that the road was probably still open to bikes (whihc is often the case with roads signed as “closed”), at least if we were willing to walk our bikes around the construction, but it turned out that a bridge was out and the replacement bridge was only skeletally connected. Some extremely generous construction workers, probably violating their orders, helped us carry our loaded touring bikes across on the girders, but we would otherwise have had to backtrack a long way.

    This isn’t just a problem in the USA: I had the same issues ad a spectator at Tour de France stages in the UK in 2014, when announcements of which access roads for spectators would be “closed” at what times turned out to be solely about “closures” to motor vehicles, and there was no information at all about on which roads or at which times cycle traffic would be halted. It was as though it hadn’t occurred to the UK host organizers for the TdF that spectators would be trying to get to viewing points along the course by bike. Duh…

    Anyway, we need to get it burned into the brains of traffic managers and, more importantly, written into the standards and boilerplate for signage and announcements, that roads should not be announced or posted as “closed” unless they are, in fact, closed to all traffic including bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

    If a road is closed to certain types of traffic, it should always be announced and posted as “closed to X, open to Y” (preferably), or “closed except to Z”, e.g. “ROAD CLOSED EXCEPT BIKES AND PEDS”. Getting that in the signage and announcement standards would also prompt planners to think more carefully about whether, and if so when and where, closures to motor vehicles are extended to cyclists.

  • February 8, 2016 - 6:02 pm | Permalink

    You are a brave man. How tough was it cycling with that amount of traffic around you?

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