San Jose Hedding Street bike lanes under attack

Hedding Street trafic calming tl/dr summary

  • Hedding Street reduced from four lanes to three lanes as a traffic calming project through a mostly residential area.
  • As a bonus, bike lanes added.
  • Traffic calming successful as speed reduced with minimal impact on throughput.
  • But motorists driving through complain anyway. Numerous news reports since then highlight this as a bicycle lane project.
  • San Jose Mayor candidate Dave Cortese now brings up Hedding Street as an example of an “out of touch” administration who, in fact, responded with resident concerns about traffic and safety. Current San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed now on record saying it’s time to re-examine city’s commitment to bike projects. No word from Cortese on what he plans to do in response to the 26 pedestrian fatalities in San Jose last year.
  • Please contact the mayor and, if applicable, your local councilmember to let them know you support San Jose’s livability initiatives. Contact information at the very bottom of this article.

Hedding Street bike lane history

In 2012, the city of San Jose proposed a traffic calming 4-to-3 lane reduction for Hedding Street, an important east-west arterial that carries 16,500 vehicles per day. The Transportation Research Board Highway Capacity Manual shows three lanes is plenty for that kind of traffic volume, although the city did predict increased congestion during the peak commute at a couple of intersections.

The then-existing four lanes on Hedding would be replaced with two traffic lanes, a center turn lane, and wide bike lane on both sides of the street between the Guadalupe River Trail and 17th Streets. Residents along Hedding Street were overwhelmingly in favor of the traffic calming project with one exception: they objected to the proposed removal of street parking.

As a compromise, 3rd District representative Sam Liccardo proposed a green bike lane for much of the length of the project “to provide a visual differentiation from auto traffic lanes.” The city council approved of this compromise and now we have green bike lanes on Hedding Street.

Scenes from Hedding Street bikeway San Jose

Although the actual traffic Level of Service hasn’t changed much since the lanes were painted, perception is everything. The usual high volume of motorists clogging up to three blocks (The horror! I saw people waiting as long as two minutes for a light last night.) of Hedding during the commute back up as they’re held up by cross traffic on 1st Street. Instead of looking at themselves and their fellow motorists as the cause of their traffic congestion, the highly visible green lanes make a very handy whipping boy. Gary Richards’ popular “Mr Roadshow” column in the San Jose Mercury-News has printed numerous complaints from furious drivers. The Hedding Street lane reduction even made his “Dirty Dozen” list for 2013.

Now local talk radio station KLIV reports Hedding Street is an issue in San Jose’s mayoral race [mp3 audio file]. Candidate Dave Cortese says it’s not a good idea to remove lanes on heavily traveled streets. KLIV then quotes San Jose Councilmember Pete Constant, who says that if you had a dozen or more cyclists in the lanes they’d be fine, but he doesn’t think there are that many people riding bikes along Hedding. KLIV also talked with current mayor Mayor Chuck Reed, who says it may be time to re-evaluate the Hedding Street project.

KLIV then sent a reporter to Hedding and 3rd to count bikes and cars and claims they counted 12 cyclists and nearly 900 cars. I call horse puckey on that.

Last night, I detoured from my usual commute and biked down Hedding from the Guadalupe River Trail to 7th Street and back. The reporter claimed to see a bike only once every 10 to 15 minutes. Last night, I saw 10 people in bikes within 10 minutes.

Tuesday morning update

After I published this post I returned to Hedding Street this morning at about 8:45 AM. This is after the peak A.M. commute time but there was still a decent amount of traffic.

During the 10 minutes I was there this morning, I counted eight people on bikes.

I also timed how long it took people driving cars to cross 1st Street. A train blocked traffic on Hedding near 10th Street, so I got to time this intersection when traffic is backed up a couple of blocks. There can be variations when light rail trains pass by, but motorists can generally expect the traffic signal facing Hedding Street to turn green within 90 seconds. The light stays green for up to 60 seconds, which is just enough time for cars queued all the way to Fourth Street to get across the intersection, assuming nobody is diddling with their phone. (I also counted half a dozen motorists on their phones while driving, although I wasn’t looking specifically for this behavior).

Most drivers seemed to make a left turn onto that road that goes to Taylor Street, presumably to hit Highway 87. In other words, everybody’s in a hurry to get stuck in traffic.

San Jose Mayoral Candidate David Cortese excretes fecal matter from his mouth when he speaks on traffic. Ditto KLIV and their report of a cyclist once every 10 minutes on Hedding.

My hypothesis: The folks complaining about the molasses like flow on Hedding after the traffic calming project were accustomed to passing everybody on the right and then cutting in at the last second because the speed limit is too slow for them. In other words, the traffic calming project is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.

Green Bike Lanes

Green lanes are the symbol, but this is not about the green bike lanes. I’m personally ambivalent about the green lanes, per se, but this about the much larger issue of livability and the concept that transportation infrastructure is about moving people, not just cars.

Hedding Street was converted from four lanes to three lanes to benefit the residents of that neighborhood. The wide bike lanes are a side benefit.

Besides pension reform and police pay, Hedding Street has become one of the hot-button issues for the San Jose mayors race. The current city council and local media have received lots of negative attention due to the Hedding Street traffic calming project. It’s essential for you to let people know that you support transportation choices for all people and not just for people who choose to own a car. The important contacts:

  • San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed email. His phone number is (408) 535-4800.
  • If you live in the city of San Jose, find out which council district and then contact your city council member. All emails sent to the mayor and council members become a part of the public record.
  • Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese has come out against improving conditions for cycling in favor of more space for roads. Let Cortese know how you feel via email or his other contact options.
  • Cortese is running for San Jose Mayor. Feel free to leave comments with your views at his Facebook campaign page. I also take back everything nice I’ve written on these pages about Cortese.

The man running for mayor who has come out most in favor of pro-bike policies is Sam Liccardo. He’s a good man. Vote for him. Seriously. Below is a photo of Liccardo personally begriming Hedding Street with that atrocious green paint.

Hedding Street bikeway press conference


  1. I live in Berryessa. Over the years, I’ve cycled across brokaw, Maybury(taylor). I don’t understand why they put these improvements on Hedding when Maybury/ Taylor would have been a much better choice. Maybe BART in the future? Berryessa is a horrible road to cycle on. Maybury Taylor hooks into the penetencia creek trail . Improvments bike lanes should have been added to taylor, coyote creek and penetencia creek.

  2. I personally don’t like using Taylor and prefer Hedding from Berryessa (before all the BART construction made that small segment unpleasant but I still ride through there). There are several annoying things I dislike about Murphy/Taylor

    It’s a little too narrow to install bike lanes plus there are way more cars parked by the curb along that street and because it’s already narrow, there are chances to get door’d (Just because it might not happen to you yet doesn’t dismiss how unsafe that can be).

    The roads there haven’t been worked on in so long with very bumpy pavement.

    Murphy to Taylor overpass hump is really annoying in two ways since you need to get across if you want to use the pedestrain+bike hump. It’s also quite a bit of work to ride up if you’re a casual rider and then when you get back down you have to get across again to be in the right lane.

  3. I’ve ridden Hedding at rush hour (8:30 am, 5:15 pm) a half dozen times each since they were installed. The car traffic in the morning is flowing easily at say 25 mph, except for the last couple of blocks as you approach 1st St eastbound.

    Westbound in the evening is slower, with heavier traffic on their way to Hwy 101. But it’s not gridlock. When then lights change the cars get through. And 5:15 is probably the worst time. I’ve been through at 6:30 and it was completely free flowing.

    On a bike, they’re wonderful as long as you watch out crossing the side streets when traffic is stopped. Cars turning left can’t see you coming because the stopped cars block the view.

  4. I agree Maybury is not ideal. Improvments need to be made especially across 101. However the neighborhood around Taylor is much nicer to ride than either Hedding or Taylor. On the Maybury side they should have a trail that hooks penetencia into coyote creek which needs to have its trail extended. Penentencia already has the underpass under 680 and a trail to Jackson. Why can’t the east side of San Jose have a Guadalupe or Los Gatos creek trail. They should consider planning on getting people on bikes to BART via penetencia creek and coyote creek trails.

  5. I kinda wish they hadn’t painted the Hedding lane green. The bike buffered bike lanes on 3rd/4th and 10th/11th don’t get nearly the same attention. The reason for painting it green, because residents didn’t want to lose their parking, seems somewhat arbitrary. San Fernando being green makes a lot more sense since it’s a major cycling corridor.

  6. Woeful reading. With due respect to the other posters and those that still use sustainable transportation modes in Santa Clara County: I think what’s likely happened is the 20,000 or so people that left San Jose and are now bussed to work from San Francisco…. they were the smart ones who think that people should be able to walk or bike to work, shops, restaurants and to visit friends. Most of those that remain are the dim tv-fed majority who on one hand think they NEED to travel everywhere by car and on the other worry that their children are overweight and have asthma. The mayoral candidates might be getting a whiff of this in their polling data.

  7. How is Hedding, 3rd/4th and 10th/11th arbitrary while only San Fernando makes sense? My route to Caltrain or just getting into downtown with shorter mileage that’s flat enough from North SJ all consist of Hedding, 3rd/4th and 10th/11th streets. All these streets that already have these bike lanes intersect each other so it’s nearly seamless bike lane routing.

  8. Jillycube, I meant painting Hedding green seems arbitrary. Painting San Fernando green makes sense to me because it’s a major bike corridor. I suspect painting Hedding green has played a part in it becoming the main “whipping boy”.

  9. During the mayoral debate a few weeks ago, Cortese criticized Liccardo over General Plan implementation, saying that it’s one thing to pass a document, another to put it into action. Now Corteses wants to roll back the bike lanes, which are a part of General Plan implementation. This would effectively “un-implement” part of the General Plan. This seems rather hypocritical.

  10. Cortese says the current administration is out of touch with the needs of the community, however, these projects were community-driven and very well-supported early on. In case Cortese hasn’t noticed, this is the same community that has brought us Bike Party, the largest, friendliest, most community-driven bike ride in the US. Clearly San Jose’s community is supportive of bike infrastructure and multi-modal roads.

  11. I appreciate all of your input on this. I’m especially interested in hearing more from the East side residents who have joined in.

    The council districts used to represent the residents of San Jose leads to a “mini mayor” style of governance. Council members represent their part of the city. Liccardo represents the district that’s roughly the triangle bounded by I-280 on the south, Highway 87 on the west, and Highway 101. Liccardo gets things done for his district.

    If you want trail connections and bike lanes in your district, you need to bug your councilmember about it. For East San Jose north of Maybury Road, that’s Kansen Chu. South of Maybury and east of about King Road is District 5 represented by Xavier Campos. You can find their contact info at the city council web page

    Note that Chu is running for an Assembly seat this year. I don’t know who his likely council replacement might be.

  12. Common sense solution- make it illegal for all the double trailer tanker trucks to use Hedding from Berryessa/Hedding and the 101 to 13th/Oakland rd. They can get to the 101 using either Maybury north of Berryessa or Commercial to getto the 101. That takes a lot of really slow, big traffic off Hedding and preserves the bike lane and the tanker trucks can still get to the 101. Just put a weight limit on Hedding.

  13. SJRides! Thanks for clarifying on that since I basically confused myself when you mentioned all those streets in the paragraph but I see what you mean about Hedding with green paint. Sorry about that.

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