Q There's a raging debate in my office over the new lane striping on Almaden Boulevard between San Fernando Street and the 280 freeway. There now are lanes in between the bike lanes and curbs. Most of the people in my office say that cars are not allowed in those lanes. I see drivers avoiding those lanes entirely except for upcoming right turns (in effect, they use those lanes as right-turn-only lanes).
I boldly (and maybe foolishly) use those lanes for regular driving. Who's correct?
A Your co-workers. Drivers cannot use that lane -- which is a wide bicycle lane -- except to make a right turn within 200 feet of an intersection, or to park or turn into a driveway.
When these new bike lanes were installed earlier this year and several streets had lanes for autos removed, I was flooded with complaints from drivers who said their commutes had increased 15 to 20 minutes. One of my bosses said his drive home at night was now "a disaster."
But the griping has eased noticeably in recent weeks, and San Jose Transportation Director Hans Larsen says there may be another factor contributing to delays.
"The coincidence of the bike lanes being installed at the same time that Caltrans activated ramp metering lights on southbound 280 at 11th Street has perhaps unfairly created a perception that the bike lanes are the sole cause of recent congestion issues in the area," he said.
"The recent projects on 10th/11th, 3rd/4th are intended to help calm traffic (reduce speeds and volumes) and improve the livability of downtown San Jose neighborhoods. Commuters may be impacted as expected, but the overall feedback from downtown residents has been positive as we had hoped for."
Added San Jose councilman Sam Liccardo:
"We had justifiable complaints from residents along 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th that their neighborhoods had been reduced to urban expressways, and they couldn't allow their kids to walk in the neighborhood with high-speed traffic. These roads were an urban planning disaster, segregating neighborhoods, creating blighted conditions and driving down home values.
"I know plenty of folks outside of the downtown gripe because they can't speed through downtown at 45 mph anymore. That's exactly what we wanted to eliminate, and what any neighborhood has a right to expect.
"Frankly, I think there's a bigger picture here: If the media is going to punish cities like San Jose for taking risks to implement more progressive transportation infrastructure, good luck getting any of our smaller cities and towns to 'catch religion.' We'll be stuck with six-lane boulevards and jammed freeways for many decades to come. Let's give this a chance to work or not, and then allow for fairer judgment."
San Jose will review the impact over the next year and likely will adjust signal timing and work with Caltrans to help improve traffic operations. And this is just the beginning. Next year bike improvements will be made on the San Fernando Street corridor from the Diridon Station to San Jose State University and along Hedding Street.
Now, about those metering lights on 280.
Q I have written to you before about how much I HATE metering lights. You didn't print it before so I expect you won't again.
My latest example is that on occasion I take 11th Street to get on 280 around 4:30 p.m. Before the metering lights, I would go directly on 280 with no wait. Since the metering lights, traffic backs up to Keyes.
As I have said before, which some people don't want to hear, is this: Metering lights were invented for people who don't know how to merge properly. I have been driving in the Bay Area for over 45 years so, it's not like I'm new to this merging thing.
A Anyone else care to sound off about the downtown bike lanes or I-280 metering lights?
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