Last Saturday, a modest group of runners, bicyclists and community leaders gathered on a trail near San Jose’s airport for a quietly auspicious occasion—the completion of the Guadalupe River Trail from San Jose to Alviso.
Guadalupe Conservancy Executive Director and PRNS Interim Director Julie Edmonds-Mares, along with deputy director Matt Cano and program manager Yves Zsutty, were joined by councilmembers Sam Liccardo and Kansen Chu, and county supervisors Dave Cortese and Ken Yeager.
Despite the lack of ceremony for this calm and casual event, this completed trail will have a significant impact on San Jose for years to come. First of all, the Guadalupe River Trail is a 6.7-mile paved pathway from downtown San Jose to Alviso, making it one of the longest thoroughfares in Santa Clara County that doesn’t have traffic lights, stop signs or cross traffic. This makes it a very efficient form of transportation for anyone going in either direction.
No matter what you use for transportation, that kind of pathway is a welcome amenity. Take note—if you work in downtown San Jose and live along this corridor, your commute is probably easier than anyone with an automobile. And if you live in or near downtown and work in the north San Jose, also known as Silicon Valley’s “Golden Triangle,” you too have a way to get to work that will likely be the envy of your co-workers.
The big picture here is important to keep in mind: We are one step closer to linking all of these primary trails to each other, creating a city that is more accessible to cyclists. Think of transportation corridors, where traffic actually moves without interruption.
Bicycling for transportation is no longer seen as a quaint idea for a few dreamers. More and more it’s a practical way to navigate a congested urban and suburban landscape. The ability to move from point A to point B without having to sit through frustrating traffic lights is not only a boon to one’s physical health, but it has to be a major factor in supporting the mental health of many San Jose residents.
San Jose has 55 miles of trail. Mayor Chuck Reed’s insightful Green Vision calls for 100 miles of interconnected trails by 2022. The fact is, we are very close now to connecting all of the trails, thanks to the work of organizations like Save Our Trails, the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy and Zsutty, the “City Trail Czar.”
There are new segments opening little by little. From my home in South San Jose, I need only traverse a few miles of city streets to pick up the Highway 85 bicycle trail, which is about 8 miles to Willow Street. I negotiate four or five blocks to Virginia Street and pick up the Guadalupe River Trail and continue to Alviso, a 30-mile round-trip.
San Jose has one of the best trail systems among America’s largest cities, but we can and should do much better in the years to come.
James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected] or 408.893.PARK.