San Jose sidewalk riding report

San Jose Memorandum


Accept report on bicycle riding on sidewalks in Downtown San Jose, including proposed actions to conduct an educational campaign to encourage on-street bicycle riding as part of current outreach efforts promoting use of the new bike share system.


On March 7, 2013, Councilmember Liccardo provided a memorandum to the Rules and Open Government Committee discussing complaints from pedestrians, particularly seniors living Downtown, about the risks posed by cyclists riding on sidewalks. In the memorandum, it was suggested that the City Council pass an ordinance prohibiting bicycle riding on sidewalks in downtown San Jose. State law allows municipalities to regulate this practice, and many large cities in California have already done so.

On April 8, 2013, the Transportation and Environment (T&E) Committee discussed the topic of bicycle riding on sidewalks as part of the Bike Plan 2020 Annual Report. Department of Transportation staff provided a presentation on the topic and reported observations that the majority of bicycle travel in the Downtown area is occurring on sidewalks. Also at the meeting, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition expressed concerns about an ordinance prohibiting all bicycle riding on downtown sidewalks, suggested messaging to bicyclists to walk their bicycles on high pedestrian use and constrained-width sidewalks Downtown, and urged enforcement against reckless bicycling on sidewalks, which is cun’ently prohibited through the California Vehicle Code. An outcome of the T&E Committee discussion was to have staff work with Councilmember Liccardo’s Office to conduct further community outreach on the topic.

On June 25, 2013, a community meeting was held on the topic of bicycle riding on Downtown sidewalks. Divergent opinions were expressed at the meeting including those for and against a ordinance being enacted to immediately prohibit bicycle riding on downtown sidewalks.


Increased concern has been expressed over “reckless” bicycle riding on Downtown sidewalks. This behavior can be characterized as traveling too fast for conditions especially when there is insufficient room to safely maneuver around pedestrians on the sidewalk. This can occur because the sidewalks are narrow and/or they are crowded with pedestrians. In those cases, cyclists should walk there bicycle on the sidewalk or ride on the street. Police have the ability to cite bicyclists for traveling too fast under these conditions in violation of California Vehicle Code section 22350. This is difficult to enforce in San Jose because of limited resources and other public safety priorities. The same is true in many other municipalities even where sidewalk bicycle riding is prohibited outright by ordinance.

Many Downtown sidewalks are not sufficiently wide or designed to accommodate bicycle riding, particularly during periods of moderate to heavy pedestrian use. However, DOT is reticent to recommend a City ordinance banning sidewalk bicycle riding downtown at this time since many cyclists use the sidewalks where there are no on-street bicycle facilities. The opinions expressed at the public meeting in June were divergent, and there was significant opposition to an immediate ban. Therefore, DOT proposes to pursue the following initial actions:

  • Conduct a pilot program to sign the busier sidewalks Downtown with a message to 1) voluntarily walk your bicycle on the sidewalk or 2) use a parallel street where there are designated bicycle facilities. This signing would be developed in concert with the Office of Economic Development (OED). As an example, the City of Berkeley, California designed and installed special signs adjacent to high use sidewalks. The signs read: Be Courteous.t Walk your bike and you ’ll be Sidewalk Friendly.
  • Collaborate with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, the Downtown Association, and others to educate the public on sidewalk bicycle riding and encourage alternatives. The education campaign would be integrated with the related education of users of the new Bike Share system, beginning operations in Downtown San Jose on August 29, 2013.
  • Continue to complete the planned network of bicycle facilities downtown and in central San Jose and then conducting an extensive campaign to encourage on-street cycling in this part of the City.

Staff proposes to revisit the issue of bicycle riding on sidewalks as part of the next Bike Plan 2020 Annual Report to the T&E Committee, expected in Spring 2014.


Preparation of this report has been coordinated with the Office of Economic Development and the City Attorney’s Office.

Director of Transportation



Sidewalk riding in San Jose will remain legal. Original document here. This item is on the agenda for the city of San Jose Transportation and Environment Committee meeting on Monday, September 9, 2013. H/T to this cat.


  1. It’s interesting for me. Of course, almost all Japanese people naturally only ride their mamachari along sidewalks. I also know that almost all Americans don’t ride their bikes along sidewalks. Some Japanese people say that Japan has always fail to develop a good bike culture like Western countries, mainly because there is little bike lanes in Japan. I don’t think so. Sidewalk riding is rather natural. Of course, it’s not smart and good to bike along some sidewalks where a lot of pedestrians always walk. Probably, you can find a smart choice considering local situation.

  2. So… they put up signs downtown that say “WALK YOUR BIKE / On the sidewalk”. There is no indication at all that it is “voluntary” and is bound to cause more confusion about the legality of sidewalk riding. Really disappointed by the outcome…

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