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Bicycle safety is an ongoing challenge in the Bay Area, but San Jose is working to change that.
“When residents are asked why they don’t bike, the No. 1 answer is safety,” Shiloh Ballard, executive director of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, told San Jose Spotlight.
Within the first five months of this year, five bicyclists have died on San Jose streets out of 33 traffic-related fatalities. Last year, eight bicyclists were killed out of 60 fatalities, according to city records. The numbers keep escalating even though the city approved a plan in 2020 focused on pedestrian and cyclist safety with a $25 million investment strategy. About $9.23 million was budgeted for safety redesign projects on high injury corridors.
May is National Bike Month, with May 19-22 designated as Bike to Wherever days. Bike organizations are encouraging people to ride along trails and city streets in protected bike lanes. These specially designated days are programs funded through the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to make it fun and accessible for Bay Area residents to ride bikes, Ballard said.
Ballard said 150 stations–with totes and swag–were set up throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo counties on Friday for Bike to Work Day, including in front of Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.
Starting 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, a community ride from Diridon Station through the area planned for Downtown West, Google’s mega campus, will show what the city is doing to improve bike infrastructure to make streets safer for cyclists. Ballard said the city has a great trail network, allowing people to bike to work from south to north San Jose.
“Bike to Wherever creates an opportunity for people to try it,” Ballard said. “So, they can learn it’s really fun, doable and accessible, and not as unsafe as they think it is, especially if they’re choosing their routes wisely.”
Although the city’s transportation department is committed to making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists, Ballard said funding remains an obstacle.
“There isn’t enough funding for street design changes at intersections to make cars slow down,” she said.
Colin Heyne, transportation department spokesperson, said even when the city has grant funding, sometimes it lacks the workforce to manage these programs.
Still, the department has built out 400 miles of on-street bikeways, including 10 miles downtown. Heyne said San Jose is also embarking on a plan which calls for a much broader use of protected bike lanes with paint and plastic or concrete separations. Plans are also in the works to narrow roads or drop a lane of traffic to add bike lanes.
“Every year, we’re adding more and more bike infrastructure,” Heyne told San Jose Spotlight.