Following anecdotal reports of pedestrians getting jostled by passing cyclists, city officials will consider whether to ban bicyclists from downtown sidewalks.
The issue has drawn the ire of San Jose's cycling community. Some fear a ban would increase the risk of racial profiling by police and unfairly single out homeless residents. With a ban, any cyclist could be detained for riding on a sidewalk. Formalizing a ban would give police more grounds to stop someone on "reasonable suspicion" of pretty much anything. It would also force cyclists onto the street, where they risk getting struck by cars.
The proposal, spearheaded in October by Councilman Pete Constant, would ban bicycle riding on all sidewalks in San Jose's downtown core—an area bounded by Highway 87, Fourth Street, Julian Street and Highway 208—with the exception of police officers and children younger than 12. (Take a look at the ordinance here). It elicited a range of opinions from his council colleagues.
Downtown Councilman Sam Liccardo originally proposed outlawing sidewalk cycling in 2013, a measure similar to the skateboarding ban in the city's center.
Ultimately, the city needs to improve its bicycling infrastructure before it forces cyclists onto the streets, added Councilman Don Rocha.
"Regulating sidewalk bicycling requires us to balance competing interests. On one hand, pedestrians have an interest in safe sidewalks," he states. "On the other, cyclists have an interest in not being forced out onto unsafe streets."
According to the San Jose Police Department, cyclists being hit by cars is a greater problem than cyclists running into pedestrians, he pointed out.
A coalition of bicyclists plans to come out in full force at Tuesday's meeting. They started a petition (which is close to 150 signatures) to stop the ban and keep sidewalk cycling a legal choice in downtown. Instead of a prohibition, they're asking for targeted enforcement against reckless bicyclists who ride too fast and too close to pedestrians.
"A sidewalk cycling ban, even on streets with buffered bike lanes, will put in danger those residents least able to avoid traffic hazards: seniors, teenagers, slower riders, or simply anyone without a lot of experience dealing with high-speed, high-volume traffic that merges across and stops in the bike lanes, including trucks and buses," Andrew Boone, director of cycling advocacy group I Walk, I Bike, I Vote, told San Jose Inside. "To keep pedestrians safe, the city must assign police officers to stop and ticket those riding fast and carelessly on sidewalks. An outright ban isn't needed."
There's also an ongoing issue with bike lanes being blocked by large trucks and buses, which forces riders into the thick of traffic to get around it.
"Despite the myths, it is actually not that difficult to ride a bicycle safely on a sidewalk in downtown San Jose," Boone wrote on a Facebook call to action for Tuesday's meeting. "Hundreds of people do it every day for basic transportation —why criminalize safe behavior?"
Instead of making it illegal, the city should define an enforcement strategy, said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Deputy Director Colin Heyne.
"We once again urge you to consider defining and addressing reckless bicycle riding on our city's sidewalks," Heyne wrote to the council. "Factors that could objectively define reckless riding include use of a cell phone while riding, trick riding, speed in excess of what could be reasonably expected of a pedestrian, and not giving pedestrians the right of way. Additionally, we encourage a more targeted enforcement and policy effort by the city toward those behaviors that cause the most pedestrian and bicycle injuries and fatalities, including vehicle speeding, vehicle failure to yield, and vehicle red-light running."
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for December 2, 2014:
- With Kansen Chu elected to the State Assembly, the District 4 seat is up for grabs. The city has a few options. The council can hold an election, appoint an interim until the next election or appoint a replacement to finish the rest of the term. The last time the council appointed a replacement was in 1994, when George Shirakawa Sr. died. His son, George Shirakawa Jr., was appointed in his place and then ran in a special election to secure the seat.
- Herrera proposes creating satellite community centers in underserved districts, namely her District 8 as well as District 6.
- The city will increase its contract amount with Destination: Home, a group that houses the homeless, by $490,151.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260