San Jose considers downtown sidewalk riding ban

The city of San Jose, California currently has no laws prohibiting bike riding on sidewalks. After hearing from downtown residents and community groups, San Jose council member Sam Liccardo plans to introduce a bill to the city council to ban sidewalk riding in downtown San Jose.

Downtown San Jose traffic

A group called San Jose Friendly Neighbors apparently tried a friendlier approach to bike education, asking downtown cyclists to slow down in congested areas.

Downtown San Jose bike rules

I completely understand their concerns since I frequently see asshat behavior by bike riders in downtown, with aggressive people plowing through crowded light rail platforms and sidewalks.

Over the past six months, Liccardo, who represents the city district that includes downtown, and city staff have received a number of complaints about aggressive cycling on downtown sidewalks. The city transportation department proposed restricting bikes for anyone over the age of 12 on sidewalks within the area bounded
by 11th Street to the east, Julian to north, Highway 87 to the west, and Interstate 280 to the north.

Liccardo asked DOT staff to hold a public meeting with downtown residents and other stakeholders before moving forward on this proposed bike ban. This meeting will occur Tuesday, June 25, 2013 6-7:30pm at San Jose City Hall in Wing Room-120.

Short bike
Sidewalk cyclist on 1st Street, San Jose, California.

You all know I’m a road rider, but I frequently ride the sidewalk in downtown San Jose, usually when traveling against traffic for the short stretch of Santa Clara Street where it intersects with the Guadalupe River Trail, and again to get to my bus stop on 1st Street. Santa Clara Street is a divided road at the bike path (i.e. it’s impossible to cross legally and unsafe to do so in any case) and the sidewalk is wide enough to usually share, with Liccardo’s proposed boundary beginning on this route. 1st Street I can suck it up and walk the half block to my bus stop when necessary (as I often do already when there are pedestrians).

Liccardo acknowledges that the police are not likely to enforce this ordinance, but hopes that signs placed throughout downtown will at least discourage bike riders from using the sidewalks. Liccardo believes, “This proposal would substantially improve the walkability of our Downtown, with its high concentrations of senior affordable housing and high-density condos occupied by many empty nesters.

Light rail tracks
Light rail right of way on 1st Street and 2nd Street are de facto bike paths in downtown San Jose, and the bus lanes on those streets are often used as bike lanes.

“This becomes all the more imperative as we look to plan to add another 2,000 residents Downtown within the next two to three years, and as pedestrian activity increases.”

Liccardo also points out the new bike facilities throughout downtown “was to encourage existing riders to use the street rather than the sidewalk” as well as for “calming traffic and encouraging more cycling.”

In Santa Clara County, the cities of Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Saratoga, Campbell, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Monte Sereno and Milpitas restrict sidewalk riding either citywide or in designated areas of the city such as a downtown district.

What do you think? Should the city of San Jose ban bikes from using sidewalks through downtown?

H/T to Chargin’.

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  1. I find it odd that the “Friendly Neighbors” poster requested “slow down when riding downtown” vs “please don’t ride on sidewalks” or even “ride slowly in parking lots and pedestrian areas.”

    Are they asking bicyclists to travel slower in the street than cars do? There aren’t too many riders who ever break the minimum 25 mph speed limit in a flat area like downtown.

  2. From the context of our earlier discussion I just assumed this was about sidewalk riding, but you’re right — there’s no mention of sidewalks in their 2nd rule.

  3. It would be an interesting question to ask. I think many people think bikes are riding too fast even in the street even when they’re riding below the speed limit, as evidenced by the “too fast for conditions” that police will cite riders for in right hooks/left cross situations. Bikes also freak pedestrians out because bikes are quiet and often closer to the curb than cars, especially since people on foot rely on their ears as much as their eyes.

  4. I like the suggestion to slow down in downtown, and would be in favour of a 25mph speed limit for all vehicles in Downtown, WITH ENFORCEMENT. Last year there were 12 pedestrians killed in road accidents in San Jose, and all 12 were killed by motor vehicles. Clearly the problem is not bicycles!

  5. Mark, I’d love to have vehicle speeds drop to 25 mph and below. What I’m saying is that I bet the Friendly Streets folks are more bothered by bikes going 20mph downtown than cars going 30 mph downtown.

  6. Janet – I hear you, what I was trying to say (which I think is the same thing), is that we are willing to tolerate a whole lot more bad behavour from people in cars than from pedestrians or cyclists, even though the bad behavour when driving a 2000 lb vehicle is far more lethal.

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