Minnesota Avenue likely to be narrowed; bike lanes added
SAN JOSE >> Minnesota Avenue in Willow Glen will be going on a road diet this fall to accommodate bicycle lanes.
But unlike the controversial Lincoln Avenue road diet that divided the Willow Glen community, the San Jose Transportation Department’s latest proposal may get a better reception if the sentiment at a Sept. 5 community meeting is any indication.
Out of approximately 100 people who attended the meeting at Willow Glen Elementary School, only one neighbor raised a hand when the crowd was asked who opposed the proposed lane changes on Minnesota.
The city wants to reconfigure the lanes on Minnesota between Weaver Drive and Alma Avenue from four to one in each direction plus a center turnout lane. Those changes, and the removal of on-street parking between Lincoln and Alma, would free up enough space for buffered bike lanes.
Councilwoman Dev Davis, who represents the Willow Glen neighborhood, said in an interview that neighbors have been asking about a road diet on Minnesota since before she was elected.
“People on Minnesota, when I was campaigning, asked about adding bike lanes and slowing down traffic,” Davis said. “After I was elected, probably in the first three or four months, other people contacted me about it and so I asked (the Department of Transportation), because I knew Minnesota was going to be repaved, if they would look at that possibility.
“They did look at it and it was feasible, so that’s why we went out to the community.”
Adrianna Jones, who lives near the corner of Minnesota and Hicks avenues, said she welcomes the road diet on Minnesota because “there’s a lot of accidents that don’t get reported there.”
“I’m all for keeping it two lanes all the way,” Jones said. “I think people use Minnesota and Hicks as thoroughfares now.”
She said many people often speed near her house “because it goes from two lanes at Hicks and Minnesota, then opens up” to four lanes.
“Folks seem to view that as a reason to speed up and they race,” she added.
The transportation department expects the same 11,774 cars to continue traveling on Minnesota during peak commute hours, but likely 2 or 3 mph slower and closer to the posted 30 mph speed limit. Neighbors on streets parallel to Minnesota shouldn’t notice any motorists using their street as a detour.
Davis said she thinks the lane configuration planned for Minnesota is getting less heat from neighbors than Lincoln’s did because it’s along a residential route instead of through a business district.
“I think it’s more attractive because people want traffic to be slow in front of their houses,” Davis said. “But also people want to be able to safely get to school, the library, transit. There’s an Alzheimer’s center right there, and the new renovated Three Creeks Trail is also going to be able to be connected now with the bike lanes.”
A loss of street parking between Lincoln and Alma to make way for the bike lanes didn’t seem to phase residents at the meeting.
“I did hear from some people on the part of Minnesota that will lose the parking, and they said, ‘We don’t park there anyway because it’s not safe,’” Davis said. “People don’t feel safe parking there because you’re basically in a lane of traffic when you park there.”
Transportation staff surveyed parking in the area multiple times and found just five cars parked during the peak hour of 11 p.m., so the city will be “taking away parking not being used anyway.”
“I live in that area and didn’t even know until we started this process that parking is allowed at any time on that stretch of Minnesota because I’d never seen a car there,” Davis added.
Davis said she’s “pleasantly surprised” at the general response to giving Minnesota a road diet.
“Of course, not everyone is going to want the change or like the change, but it was much more positive than the experience with Lincoln Avenue,” she said.
Staff will take all public input and evaluate any possible changes to make the design more user-friendly. If all goes as planned, city workers will repave and restripe Minnesota sometime next month.
Bike lanes along Minnesota Avenue will be buffered in a plan released by the San Jose’s Department of Transportation.