Is San Jose's 'Better Bikeway' project actually creating better bikeways? Cyclists sound off

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Since Fall 2018, the Better Bikeway San Jose project has changed the commute through Downtown San Jose.

ABC7 News reported early changes confused both drivers and cyclists. Video shared with the station showed a cyclist weaving through parked cars. Some cars were parked in newly painted bike lanes, others parked in lanes seemingly meant for parking.

The City of San Jose's Department of Transportation anticipated an adjustment period as changes started to take shape.

"I used to almost get into bike accidents all the time on San Fernando Street," Naglee Park neighbor, Amy Chamberlaine told ABC7 News. "I've definitely felt some of that mitigated."

Today, bright green bollards, matching paint and road signs are up and established. All measures are meant to ease commuter confusion.

"It's a little bit of an adjustment," cyclist, Andrew Hsu admitted.

Hsu is also a Board Member of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

"It takes a little bit of adjustment, but I think that ultimately it's in the best interest of everyone, and improves the safety," Hsu added. "And also, just for everyone else's purposes: for pedestrians as well as scooters, and for cars."

Colin Heyne with the city's Department of Transportation said complaints about the changes have tapered off. The department will study project impacts by summer 2019.

Still, some cyclists remain critical.

"Just stop changing so much so fast," San Jose resident, Arturo Ruvalcaba said. He thinks the bollards are a bust.

"I think they don't need the cones," Ruvalcaba said. "It's kind of a symbiotic partnership between drivers and bikers that I think the cones make it a little more hectic for everybody."

However, others say changes force everyone to hit the brakes.

"I think it just encourages everyone to be a little more cautious and slow down," Hsu added. "Because there's really no reason to have to speed through this urban area at such high speeds."

Heyne said his department has heard more suggestions on improvements-- idea that have led to slight adjustment.

"That was part of the point of a plastic and paint approach," Heyne explained. "It is temporary in nature. We can move those bollards, we can change paint lines and so we can get it right before it becomes something more permanent."

"I think there's still room for improvement," San Jose resident Michael Huang said.

He pointed to more education for drivers about when they are allowed to drive into bike lanes.

"Because when people park, sometimes they still cut into the lane," he said.

Huang also pointed to issues he's experienced off a bike, and in the driver's seat.

"As a driver, these wider turns are a little trickier," he explained. "But I mean, if you're looking where you're going, it shouldn't be much harder."

Heyne with the City's DOT said the Better Bikeway SJ project is close to completion. He said some portions of the project were delayed because of wet winter weather.

Moving forward, Heyne said a few DOT projects got big grants through the state's Active Transportation Program, including $10-million to take the San Fernando Street bikeway and make it permanent.

"We don't have it designed yet, but we anticipate concrete and maybe planters to make it both aesthetically appealing and much safer to use on a bicycle," Heyne said. "And for pedestrians as well."

He added, "We see all over the country these projects reduce, in general, injury crashes for all travelers- that's drivers and pedestrians and bicyclists. So we're looking, hopefully to see that kind of data in San Jose."

Heyne has invited anyone with suggestions to email: bike.ped@sanjoseca.gov

"We've got big goals in the Bay Area, the city and our department for environmental sustainability, reducing greenhouse gas emissions," he explained. "And we can't expect people to get out of their cars unless we give them a safe and convenient place to ride a bike, or take a bus, or walk and so it's part of the plan."

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