Gentrification, classism, and San Jose bikeways

Bikes vs old ladies and hypocrites bloviating stupidly about class conflict.

Hedding Street in San Jose is a neighborhood arterial that feeds traffic to Highways 101, 87 and 880. The heavy traffic naturally results in more noise, air pollution, disease and risks for those who live on Hedding. This, in turn, results in lower home values and, apparently, a perception by some residents that they live in a “ghetto.”

Except for the loss of free street parking, San Jose’s proposed 4-3 lane reduction on Hedding Street will primarily benefit the people who live on Hedding. The 3 lane configuration can still safely handle the current level of traffic of 16,500 vehicles per day.

Hedding Street after transformation

This project to benefit the local community, however, was cast as a “bikes vs old ladies” controversy by Molly Vorwerck’s irresponsibly slanted journalism. Several knee jerk comments at the Murky news hit piece picked up on this meme that pushy elitist cyclists have “no consideration” for the downtrodden ghetto residents of Hedding. To wit:

I am sure those trying to push this forward are those that bike to their cushy downtown job or consider the Hedding area a ghetto, therefore giving residents no consideration.

The reality: fast auto traffic divides communities and peoples. Elitists (and elitist wannabes) in cars wall themselves off from the proletariat in their private cages, while cyclists are more likely to engage with the local community. If the car driver even notices somebody in need of help, he’ll drive right on past, while the cyclist is more likely to notice and stop to render assistance.

Here’s another comment from a neighborhood meeting earlier this week.

Them white people ain’t thinking about y’all. Because why? A lot of y’all are black. So what? Let them die.

This came from a resident of Richmond, California in the aftermath of the Chevron refinery fire. For those who fail to make the connection: 25% of the gasoline burned on Hedding Street came from that refinery. Those of you fighting attempts to decrease your reliance on petroleum fuel give the residents of Richmond, Benicia and Martinez “no consideration.” That Richmond resident is absolutely right about you: You’re not thinking of them as you blather stupidity onto news websites about potentially losing 20 seconds of your precious access to the highway. To watch the skies over working class neighborhoods burn then fight to retain a 100 year old transportation policy that has historically divided communities is the height of hypocrisy.

#chevron fire poisoned our food #Richmond

The Hedding Street Project is a bellwether for more widespread adoption of San Jose Bike Plan 2020. The City Council will likely consider approval of this project at their August 21 meeting, and it’s important to let the city council know your thoughts on this.

“Chevron poisoned our food” photo CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Steve Rhodes.


  1. Bravo, Richard! You didn’t pull any punches here and I applaud you. I’ll share what I posted on the horribly slanted article in the Merc:

    San Jose desperately needs safe and comfortable East-West bike routes
    like Hedding. I worked in Palo Alto with a woman who lived on 17th at
    Hedding. She saw me riding my bike to work every day and wanted to trade
    her bumper-to-bumper slog up Hwy 101 for a bike+train commute.

    We looked at routes together and quickly realized there were no bike
    lanes or low-volume streets that would take her to light rail or
    Caltrain. With bike lanes on Hedding she will have the option of trading
    an hour of sitting in a car on a freeway for 30 minutes of exercise on
    the bike and 30 minutes of reading the paper or answering email on the
    train. Bike lanes make sense.

    What I didn’t share is that my co-worker was renting the house from a family friend who grew up in the neighborhood when it was a much nicer place. She can’t wait to buy a place and move to Campbell where she feels there’s actually a pleasant neighborhood with places to go and things to do.

  2. That whole area is surrounded by freeways, so the surface streets suffer too. Hedding has so much promise as a street that can serve the residents, cross-town drivers and cyclists with the proposed road diet, so I hope council gets past the ignorance-fueled acrimony to approve the project.

  3. Thankyou Richard – as one of the residents of the Hedding Ghetto, I hope to see more bikes going past my house, and fewer loud, polluting trucks and cars!

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