Archive for the ‘bike lanes and bike trails’ Category

San José bans bicycles on some airport roads

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

We were disappointed to learn about the “no bicycles” signs that recently appeared on some of the newly configured roads around the San José airport. Photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29640111@N06/sets/72157624252503541/

San José airport has been undergoing reconstruction during recent years. With all the hoopla about how pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly San José has supposedly become, we naively expected better from this project, instead of more of the usual cars-first San José stuff.

Even the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, which makes sure San José is awarded bicycle-friendly status by the League of American Bicyclists by endorsing its applications, has a protest petition posted on its web site.

Some good things are happening in San José these days. However, the good things mostly seem to be demonstration projects, and aren’t deep-reaching or numerous enough just yet that anyone we know thinks the town is worthy of an award (unless you’re in politics of course).

The bike ban on San José airport roads certainly lends credence to any claims that San José isn’t yet bicycle-friendly, despite the “awards” it gets.

Fortunately, the nice, adjacent Guadelupe River Trail serves as a detour around much of this area, but not all. The trail is obviously not intended to provide quite the same level of accommodation for bicycles as provided by the road despite the brand-new airport transportation plan.  This part of the Guadelupe River Trail isn’t paved and may flood occasionally at bridge underpasses during the wet season.

The damage-control police will likely arrive soon to try to put a positive spin on the problem and hopefully make the area slightly less bicycle-hostile. Improvements will be welcome. But the design damage has been done. By design professionals.
San José’s gravel Guadelupe River Trail

San José Coyote Creek Bike Trail Gates Often Locked Early

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

San Jose Coyote Creek Trail gates closed during daylight hours at Los Lagos Golf Course

The gates on San Jose’s Coyote Creek Bike Trail passing through Los Lagos Golf Course are supposed to stay open until total darkness (one half hour after sunset), according to San Jose Parks and Recreation.  However, they sometimes get locked shut early, sometimes as much as an hour early, by the golf-course operators in charge of the gates, occasionally locking trail users inside.

Yeah… we too want to leave work early at the end of the day, but we all don’t have the privilege that comes with being a City of San José contractor.

This situation on the Coyote Creek Trail has persisted for almost a decade, ever since this trail segment opened.  Given that this is a built-in product of the big San José bureaucracy, there is no sign that this can ever be fixed. Complaints have been made from time to time, which would instantly rectify the problem (temporarily) and lead to apology letters being sent out.

Apparently, the Los Lagos Golf Course operators, under long-term contract from the City of San Jose, don’t take seriously (and don’t need to) the precise hours during which they are supposed to keep the gates open for trail users.

Signs on the bike-trail gates formerly stated the correct hours specified by San Jose Parks and Recreation: open until one half hour after sunset. For anyone too busy, confused or important to look up sunset hours, this means that if any glimmer of daylight whatsoever remains in the sky, the trail should still be open.

Unfortunately, those open-until-one-half-hour-after-sunset signs were taken down some time ago and replaced by signs that vaguely declare “will be closed by dusk.”  The newer, inaccurate signs provide the operators with total flexibility to close and lock the gates whenever they choose, despite the official trail hours set by the City.  After all, locking up the gates at any time during daylight hours would qualify as “closing by dusk.”

Incorrect sign at San Jose Coyote Creek Bike Trail gate showing “closed by dusk”

This isn’t the first time that misleading signs like these have been seen here.  Vague “will be closed by dusk” signs also appeared here several years ago, but City of San Jose staff had them taken down and replaced by signs showing the correct hours.  However, the game continues: signs displaying the correct trail hours have again been removed.

The game also plays out on the trail itself.  You’ll occasionally encounter a golf cart on the bicycle trail, using it as a shortcut.  Several improvised golf-cart trails connect the golf course to the pedestrian-bicycle trail by cutting across an undeveloped buffer zone that was designed to keep golfers and bicyclists separate.

Golf-cart track to Coyote Creek Bike Trail blocked by debris to prevent illegal golf-cart access

Maintenance crews will occasionally pile tree trunks and other debris in front of these illegal golf-cart trails in an attempt to block their usage. However, some committed individuals at the golf course apparently find that pushing the debris aside is worth the effort, so the unofficial golf-cart tracks leading onto the pedestrian-bicycle trail remain open much of the time anyway.

Golf-cart track to Coyote Creek Bike Trail, debris intended to prevent illegal golf-cart access pushed aside

Unofficial golf-cart trail from Los Lagos Golf Course to Coyote Creek Bicycle Trail, San Jose

Downtown San José Crosswalk gets a bit Longer

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

The Downtown San José crosswalk on San Fernando across fast and busy Almaden Blvd. became a few feet longer and a bit less comfortable for pedestrians a couple of years ago when the southeast corner of San Fernando and Almaden was rounded off so that right-turning traffic wouldn’t have to slow down as much as before. This kind of thing is routine business in San José and not really noteworthy.

Line shows approximate location of crosswalk landing before the southeast corner of San Fernando and Almaden Blvd was rounded off.

Above: a white line indicates the approximate location of the former southeast sidewalk at Almaden Blvd./San Fernando before it was rounded off to speed up right-turning cars.  From now on, you’ll now be a little more cautious when crossing at this crosswalk and walking in front of one those right-turning cars.

The other three corners of the San Fernando-Almaden intersection had already been rounded off years ago to better accommodate fast-turning motorists.

Remember,  if you haven’t heard it already from a San José traffic engineer: slower traffic in your neighborhood creates more pollution.  In San José, fast-moving traffic is good and clean, pollution is bad.

San José now proclaims itself as a “green city” (who doesn’t?), so the gain from keeping cars moving as quickly as possible is construed as “green,” regardless of any ill effects on pedestrian travel.  Sure, pedestrians are the greenest of all road users, but that’s not the kind of green traffic that San José is about.

Despite all the bla-bla about downtown San José becoming better for pedestrians (which is actually true in certain demonstration areas of downtown, particularly around city hall), San José spent thousands of dollars rounding off the corner of this downtown intersection.

Rounding off corners in this manner is common in San José during reconstruction projects; there always seems to be enough money to add this item to project budgets.

Paradoxically, San José often has “no money” saved up for neighborhood road projects that don’t benefit motorists, such as the San José Couplet Conversion Plan mandated by San José City Council in 2002.

A white line indicates the approximate location of the former sidewalk corner, and new dotted lines on the pavement outline the new crosswalk that will be striped.

Above: a white line indicates the approximate location of the former sidewalk corner, and new dotted lines on the pavement outline the new crosswalk that will be striped.

Above: new dotted lines on the pavement outline the new crosswalk that will be striped.

Above: new dotted lines on the pavement outline the new crosswalk that will be striped.

It looks like that piece of the San Fernando St. bike lane just left of the corner might be in the way, doesn’t it?  Well, it is, and it was shaved back by ten feet or so after this photo was taken in order to not be an obstruction to right-turning traffic.

San José bike-lane and crosswalk markings faded; not an accident

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Faded bike-lane marking Senter Road at Feldspar Drive, San José, California

Above: Faded bike-lane marking on Senter Road at Feldspar Drive, San José, California

One thing that we’ve noticed is that crosswalks and bike-lane markings get refreshed much less often in San José than the adjacent car-lane markings.  After a few years of this, crosswalk stripes and bike lane markings become rather invisible and  sometimes disappear entirely.

This practice couldn’t be the result of a belief that motorized traffic on San José streets is more important than pedestrians and bicycles, could it?

Whatever the reason for this, it’s not an anonymous accident; it’s a practice that’s apparently been adopted by San José and decided upon by San José employees.

The cash-strapped city of San José in poverty-stricken Silicon Valley has probably saved thousands of dollars by refreshing crosswalks and bike-lane markings less frequently than motorized traffic lanes.  And it has probably saved our environment too and become a “green city” by using so much less road paint.

A survey several years ago noted that more than half of San José’s bike-lane markings were either missing or significantly faded.  But nothing has been done to change the policy that has authored much of this.

Faded bike lane and stripe on Snell Ave, San José, California

Above: Faded bike lane markings on Snell Avenue, San José, California

Faded crosswalk at San Carlos Street and Race Street, San José, California

Above: Faded crosswalk at San Carlos Street and Race Street, San José, California

Faded crosswalk at Monterey Road and Cottage Grove Avenue, San José, California

Above: Faded crosswalk at Monterey Road and Cottage Grove Avenue, San José, California

Faded crosswalk at Piercy Road and Silver Creek Valley Road, San José, California

Above: Faded crosswalk at Piercy Road and Silver Creek Valley Road, San José, California

Faded crosswalk at Monterey Road and Umbarger Road, San José, California

Above: Faded crosswalk at Monterey Road and Umbarger Road, San José, California

Faded crosswalk and missing bike-lane markings on Senter Road at Needles Drive, San José, California

Above: Faded crosswalk and missing bike-lane markings on Senter Road at Needles Drive, San José, California

Faded crosswalk on Blossom Hill Road at Poughkeepsie Road, San José, California

Above: Faded crosswalk on Blossom Hill Road at Poughkeepsie Road, San José, California

And the list goes on…

San José parks and recreation lands are pedestrian circulation routes

Friday, March 21st, 2008

San José loves to boast that it wants to encourage and increase pedestrian circulation. It sounds nice. All cities absolutely have to make this claim these days in order to remain politically correct.

However, the reality is that there is no requirement that San José’s parks and recreation lands and trails provide or maximize pedestrian routes that are actually useful as a way of walking or bicycling from point A to point B.

At first, you might wonder why it would even matter whether or not a park or trail be transportationally useful. After all, it’s just a “recreation trail,” right? At least that’s how the City of San José sees it.

One particularly sad example in San José of a block of “park land” that fails to provide pedestrian connections between a residential area and its nearby commercial strip is the Los Lagos Golf Course, built around 2000. It didn’t have to be done this way.

Los Lagos Golf Course separates the west segment of Umbarger Road from the east segment of Umbarger Road. Before the golf course was built on the site as a San José park project, the land was designated as park land, but was undeveloped.

Since the golf course is only open to paying golfing customers, neighborhood residents living around Umbarger east of the golf course cannot walk the logicial short-cut through the golf course over to the Senter Road commercial area.

A short pedestrian-bicycle trail runs along Umbarger Road east of the golf course for a few blocks, but it’s nearly useless since it doesn’t connect to any other significant pedestrian or bicycle routes at either end.

The logical extension of the Umbarger Road trail (if the goal were to make it useful) would run through the golf course and connect to the disconnected western piece of Umbarger Road at Senter Road where the commercial plaza sits. However, a pedestrian-bicycle connection between the two areas was not included in the golf-course construction around 2000.

Without the short pedestrian-bicycle connection between the two pieces of Umbarger Road, the nearest detour to the Senter/Umbarger commercial plaza is at least a mile via heavy-traffic multi-lane roads much of the way. You get a choice between Tully Road or Capitol Expressway.

A significant improvement in pedestrian and bicycle mobility could have taken place here in this neighborhood by including an east-west connector trail when the park land was developed, but San José chose not to.

At this location, it would actually be easier than driving to walk through the golf-course area over to the Senter Road area for numerous people, if the trail had been built. It’s rare to hear a San José resident claim that a particular trip would be more practical to do on foot or by bicycle than by car, and this is an example why such comments remain so rarely heard.

San José staff can probably spin a few award-winning sentences claiming that the required pedestrian detours around the golf course are viable, efficient, safe and pleasant (that’s what they’re paid to do and they’re good at it), but real pedestrians and bicyclists passing through the area are likely to disagree.

It would be much easier for you to get in your car and drive from one side of the golf course to the other. Of course, San José won’t mind if you do, since it continues to be designed in a cars-first fashion. Further, we saw recently here that one of two crosswalks on Senter Road at the Umbarger intersection was removed during recent improvements (for cars, not pedestrians).

San José will go on making its claims about being a “green city” and a “smart growth city,” but the little patterns of routine development here like this tell a very different story about a city where you need a car and an exhaust pipe sticking out behind you to survive and where design and planning decisions continue to support this need.

No trail connects the east segment of Umbarger Road to the west segment

Pedestrian circulation is absent between the east and west segments of Umbarger Road in San José due to the Los Lagos Golf Course “park land” that separates the two neighborhoods by design.