Squeaky wheels of democracy turning at the Santa Clara Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee

Bike and pedestrian committee information is found on the Santa Clara website.

Bike and pedestrian committee information is found on the Santa Clara website.


I’ve attended a couple meetings of the Santa Clara Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee and witnessed the democratic process in action. Meetings are open to the public.

What I like about democracy is that everyone has a voice , even if you’re a tiny minority, which is true for bicycle commuters, who make up only about 2 percent of the population.

As I sat through the meetings, I remembered why I left the committee as a member back in the early 1990s. Government moves at its own pace.

I’m not complaining. It’s just the way things are. There needs to be consensus and that takes time.

Back in the early 1990s the grand plan in Santa Clara was to build a recreation path along San Tomas Aquino Creek. I’m happy to say that reach 3 to Monroe Street opened in 2009. That’s about a 20-year wait.

There’s more coming as the path inches its way south on San Tomas Expressway, ending at Stevens Creek Boulevard. It’s a huge improvement for pedestrians who live near the expressway and useful for cyclists who don’t want to ride on the expressway.

I’m not seeing any grand plans on par with San Tomas, but there’s only so much you can do in a city filled with cars.

Now here’s the rub. We all can agree on one thing: traffic gets worse every year and something needs to be done about it. Assuming we continue to see growth — that’s always the plan — something has to give.

Try finding a parking spot at Valley Fair on the weekend, any weekend. Apple is building a massive office in Cupertino right next to Santa Clara. I’m seeing office complexes mushrooming everywhere in Santa Clara, mostly north of Central Expressway.

Bicycle organizations are trying their best to work with local governments to develop a network of bicycle-friendly streets. They call it a “road diet” or “traffic calming” but the bottom line is that it means restricting the flow of traffic, typically from two lanes one direction to one lane and the addition of bike lanes with restricted parking.

Gary Richards, Mr. Roadshow, wrote about the trend in the San Jose Mercury News in 2011, about the time Santa Clara re-striped Pruneridge Avenue for a short distance either side of Lawrence Expressway.

Councilmember Teresa O’Neill, who chairs the committee (and who actually commuted to work by bike), said the Pruneridge re-striping brought a wave of complaints to the city.

I’ve driven that section of Pruneridge numerous times at rush hour and I’m not seeing any change in traffic patterns. If anything, the Lawrence/Pruneridge intersection is less chaotic.

I think the city should take all of Pruneridge from four lanes to two because it’s really just a continuation of Hedding Street in San Jose, and Hedding was changed from four lanes to two in 2013. It’s a great start to having a bike-friendly boulevard across Santa Clara Valley. The obvious continuation would be Homestead Road.

In addition, put every road next to a school on a road diet where bicycle traffic is heaviest.

I’m not under any illusions about the bicycle and its popularity as a transportation option. It will never be as popular as other transportation methods because it requires physical skills and some level of fitness.

However, when it comes to finding ways to reduce traffic, accommodating bicycles by creating a network of bike-friendly streets will increase the number of people who choose to bike commute.

That’s good for the environment and good for transportation in the Valley. With fewer people driving, the road diet won’t be such a bad idea after all.

I’ll share more about what’s happening with the committee down the road. Basically, this is where the cyclist’s agenda meets political reality, but at least our voice is being heard.

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