San José’s bold new plan for climate-friendly transportation

San José is rolling out the inexperienced carpet for biking, due to the Metropolis Council’s unanimous passage immediately of the Better Bike Plan 2025. With the plan’s adoption, the Metropolis commits to constructing a 550-mile community of motorbike lanes, boulevards, and trails to assist hundreds extra individuals journey safely.

The plan is life like in regards to the previous, acknowledging San José’s sprawling 180-square-mile unfold, its car-oriented format, and its inequitable historical past of transportation selections, which proceed to form individuals’s lives immediately. However the plan additionally appears forward, aiming to create a metropolis the place anybody can comfortably bike to any neighborhood. 

The deliberate community contains 350+ miles of protected bike lanes, 100 miles of motorbike boulevards, and 100 miles of off-street trails. Already, town has constructed over 390 miles complete. 

First, make it secure

The numbers are spectacular. However the numbers don’t inform the entire story. 

With this plan, and its creation, the Metropolis lays out a thoughtful approach to who feels snug biking, who doesn’t, and the way to invite extra individuals out onto bikes.

For too lengthy, bike lanes—not simply in San José however nationally—have been created for the few individuals who really feel high-quality biking on a avenue filled with quick site visitors, protected by solely a line of white paint. The brand new plan acknowledges that’s typically not sufficient for individuals to really feel snug, as a substitute providing “the evolution of a motorcycle lane,” first by simply widening that painted lane into buffer to create extra separation from site visitors, then placing parked vehicles between bikes and site visitors when doable, after which constructing an entire raised curb between vehicles and the bike lane. So generally, as a substitute of including miles, it is necessary to return and make present miles of motorbike lanes higher and safer. The plan emphasizes that lots of San José’s quiet residential streets can collectively hook up with create a “low-stress” community of “bike boulevards,” together with secure methods to get throughout the large busy streets.

To create the plan, Metropolis workers talked with residents. In addition they partnered with community-based organizations like Veggielution, LUNA (Latinos United for a New America), and VIVO (Vietnamese Voluntary Basis). At conferences and focus teams in Spanish and Vietnamese in addition to English, Metropolis workers and companions requested residents: What would assist make them extra prone to bike? 

Paramount throughout communities was concern for security. 

Construct fast, purpose excessive 

The Metropolis has already proven that it could actually transfer shortly. With its Higher Bikeways venture and with the help of the Bloomberg Philanthropies American Cities Local weather Problem, from 2018 to 2020, San José can have constructed 15 miles of protected bike lanes.  

The “quick-build” mannequin is spectacular. A couple of of us from the Local weather Problem obtained to tour San José’s downtown by bike last year with Mayor Liccardo and the Nationwide Affiliation of Metropolis Transportation Officers (NACTO). We pedaled alongside new inexperienced lanes, protected by sturdy inexperienced posts and full with ingenious bus islands which can be wheelchair-accessible and permit bus riders to cross bike lanes safely. The inexperienced posts that defend bikers look reassuringly stable however they’re truly plastic, making them low-cost, straightforward to put in, and but imposing sufficient to kind a form of low wall between bikes and automotive site visitors. It felt secure.

Now the trick is to construct out from downtown, hook up with neighborhoods, and get extra individuals utilizing them. 

The Metropolis has set bold targets for “bike mode share,” which implies the proportion of all of the journeys individuals take within the metropolis which can be by bicycle. San José’s present Normal Plan goals for 15% bike commute mode share by 2040, and its Local weather Sensible plan seeks to achieve 20% by 2050. 

These are tall orders. At the moment, simply 1% of commute journeys within the metropolis are made by bike, although a Metropolis survey discovered that 3% of individuals reported biking as their main method of attending to work and much more residents utilizing a motorcycle as a backup mode of transportation. Of commute journeys to downtown, 4% are by bike. These numbers would possibly sound small, nevertheless it’s necessary to contemplate that bike commuting is on the rise: between 1990 and 2017, San José noticed a 28% improve in commute journeys made by bike. 

However not all journeys are commute journeys; in truth, in San José, just one in 5 journeys are to and from work. That’s very true in these teleworking instances. Encouragingly, the plan notes that 60% of all journeys individuals make within the metropolis are lower than three miles lengthy. These brief journeys, mixed with town’s gentle local weather and flat terrain, make biking possibility, creating the chance for the Metropolis to realize its daring targets.

The Higher Bike Plan 2025 features a five-year motion plan of prioritized initiatives to implement and coordinates with the Metropolis’s paving program to economize. It provides a spread of prices to make these modifications, from fast and short-term to extra everlasting, that complete roughly $300 million. 

The prioritized initiatives listed within the plan–the record of streets the place bike enhancements will go–were chosen with three goals:

  • Improve biking mode share: Areas the place bicycle journeys are most certainly, primarily based on components like inhabitants, employment, and connections to transit, downtown, and the present bike lane community.
  • Improve security: Initiatives that can repair “high-injury” streets the place collisions are most critical and frequent.
  • Improve fairness: Low-income and traditionally underserved neighborhoods, additionally referred to as “Communities of Concern,” particularly simply to the south, east, and north of downtown. Folks dwelling in these neighborhoods are prone to have fewer transportation choices, much less entry to a personal automotive, and could also be important staff, required to point out up at a job in individual daily. Extra secure, wholesome, inexpensive transportation choices are wanted, and shortly.

What comes subsequent: a time for motion

On this troublesome 12 months, many cities have been discovering artistic methods to assist their residents get round in methods which can be secure, wholesome, and inexpensive. Biking nationally has boomed. San José has launched an Al Fresco program that repurposes streets for outside eating.

In March 2020, close by Oakland launched the nation’s first and most bold “Open Streets” program alongside its deliberate bike community, appearing shortly to make these streets safer by discouraging most automotive site visitors. Oakland’s Open Streets program additionally creates extra secure outside areas for individuals in neighborhoods with much less entry to open area, reduces crowding at Lake Merritt and different parks, and frees up more room for social distancing than sidewalks sometimes provide. Oakland just lately launched a report to assist cities within the Bay Space and past be taught from its instance.  

San José has a much less dense footprint than Oakland, however its residents nonetheless have an excellent want for secure, inexpensive transportation in these instances. The Metropolis can now take its considerate Higher Bike Plan as a place to begin to behave shortly, and rebuild its streets to convey secure biking to all.