On Sat. July 31, a group of about 40 bicyclists hit the road to raise awareness in support of adding continuous bike lanes along El Camino Real.
The 6.5-mile ride began at the Santa Clara Caltrain station and ended in downtown Sunnyvale and was organized by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition in response to Santa Clara City Council’s consideration of retaining on-street parking in certain sections, which would result in gaps to protective barriers for riders. Both Sunnyvale and Santa Clara are incorporating protected bike lanes in their El Camino Real Specific Plans. However, the bike advocates want the effort to provide seamless protection to cyclists on the route.
“If we truly want to be inclusive, if we truly want to mobilize people, we need to have continuous protected bike lanes on El Camino, and if the only reason we don’t want it is to keep off-street parking, that is not a valid reason,” said Gabby Landaveri, who volunteers for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition as the Santa Clara team lead. “There are other, better parking solutions if the Council and staff make it a priority. We could enable shared business parking as there are plenty of places on El Camino where parking lots are not fully utilized.”
One of the Saturday ride’s participants, Santa Clara City Councilmember Suds Jain, said he would love to see continuous bike lanes on El Camino and cited a study from the Valley Transportation Authority that found ample off-street parking availability except for three businesses on El Camino that have a shortage of parking. The current proposal from Council is not to require the removal of on-street parking for those three businesses until they get redeveloped. Jain, a bike commuter since elementary school, said one option could be a pilot program where temporary bike lane stripes are added before permanent barriers are implemented.
“Bike lanes will happen eventually, we just need to educate the public that there are other options for parking and that we don’t need to have street parking on El Camino,” said Jain, who also mentioned a statistic from the Police Department that most injuries to Santa Clara’s bikers are inflicted on El Camino.
Ari Feinsmith, a team leader for SVBC’s Sunnyvale chapter, said that ridership will increase if discontinuous bike lanes are added, and expressed concern that the gaps in the bike lanes will create dangerous situations as bikers are forced to swerve around vehicles, often going at 50 mph.
“We’re really trying to push back against the notion, that many councilors have that the street parking is necessary for these businesses survival, which it is not,” said Feinsmith, adding that continuous bike lanes could actually help businesses because cyclists can more easily stop at stores, and referenced a report from the University of Washington, which found that businesses along Seattle’s NE 65th Street experienced a significant increase in sales when parking was removed, and bike lanes added.
“When you’re on El Camino, and the cars are going by at, say 50 miles an hour, it’s very loud — it’s hard to sit there and have coffee on the sidewalk,” said Jain.
Jain said that adding bike lanes in Santa Clara is essential to addressing climate change and the city’s growing population, and that the biggest impediment to biking is safety.
“This is not just about cyclists; it’s about making the city roads safer for everyone regardless of how they choose to get around,” said Landaveri. “That’s why having multimodal transportation options is crucial. We need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And we know that reducing single passenger motor vehicles is a big component of that.”