The case for bicycle-only developments in downtown

The City of San Jose has determined that by 2040 15% of commuters will be on bikes.  Right now it sits at about 1%. That means within a quarter century, the city is expecting 15X more bicyclists. These are lofty goals, but in order for these to be fulfilled, the city needs to promote more than bike lanes and trails throughout the city. Although new residential developments coming into downtown are now providing more bike parking spaces than ever before, something more needs to be done. San Jose needs a niche developer or developers to take aim at the bike market and build residential units that target bikes specifically.

With all the infill spaces available in and around downtown, a residential developer could easily build bicycle-only developments. These developments could start small 5 or 10 unit complexes, that are tailor made for bikes. The benefits of such developments for a builder are that they could fit more units on a smaller property, taking the space that would usually be devoted to cars and making it into indoor or outdoor livable spaces. This would help keep building costs down and maximizes the dollar per square foot. Due to the proximity downtown of public transportation, jobs, and SJSU, bike properties could have a lot of success with a younger population looking to save money by not having a car, but who still want to be a part of an up and coming urban area. By keeping costs down and maximizing the developer’s dollar, the savings could be past down to the renter.

As bike trends in San Jose continue to grow stronger, and vehicle traffic continues to worsen, these new bike developments could become extremely appealing to a broader crowd. Ultimately, in order to have more bikes ridden to work, people need to get out of their cars. Those who may have never thought of commuting by bike, may take a chance seeing the ease of commute versus taking a car. Biking would become an integral part of downtown, creating a larger contingency pushing for better changes having a snow ball effect.

But the success of these properties is ultimately tied to building developments on bike lane streets, and near public transportation. Having residents walk out their door, get on their bike and immediately have their own lane would be a huge positive. On top of that, these properties would feed commuting by bike to VTA or Cal Train. With small complexes  like this all over downtown, it could create enough bike traffic to reach 15% or more that the city is looking for becoming a highly desired unit for those looking to live downtown. Biking is becoming more of a way of life for urbanists, now is the time to capitalize on those people who want more from their residence, and less from their car.

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7 thoughts on “The case for bicycle-only developments in downtown

  • This is a great idea! There are so many factors to increasing bicycle ridership, and I think it would be most effective to be building places for bicyclists to live while simultaneously working to change community members’ behavior regarding bikes, increasing the miles of safe infrastructure for bikes on streets, and identifying other barriers to using bikes as a primary mode of transportation and overcoming them. I like this blog! Thanks for writing.

  • Tom

    What has driven San Jose’s economy in the past are jobs related to innovation and startups. The key element to innovation has always been the inclusion of young professionals, who have the drive, energy and willingness to accept risk that and so needed. These young professionals are coming out of four to seven years of school, where they got used to walking and riding their bikes everywhere. What they want is a denser environment in which they have choices to walk and ride in their neighborhood. What they don’t want is the social isolation of the 70s suburban car-centric model of development.

    Of course we need older experienced people to drive the local economy also, who may be more tolerant of the traditional development model, but where is the balance. In the interest of San Jose’s economic future, what is needed are pockets of development geared toward the preferences of the new generation. In the Bay Area these young professionals now have options, as other cities are starting to cater to them. If San Jose continues to loose them, it will be heading away from a vibrant future, to one of a retirement community for the original professionals who built it.

    Bicycle-only developments, centered around bike friendly more ‘Complete Streets’, would be hugely attractive to young professionals, not only in downtown, but the surrounding areas also.

    • Great perspective. There’s gold in these hills, and it’s in tech business. We need to be able to attract the talent pool, and lifestyle is a huge part of that. I speak as someone in the industry who’s struggled with staying in San Jose.

  • Taxonomist

    The first sentence should be rephrased to “The City of San Jose is –betting– that by 2040 15% of commuters will be on bikes.” How can they possibly “determine” something 25 years out? Is Arthur C. Clarke on the council?!?
    What about tele-commuting or ever-increasing popularity of MOOCs? Autonomous-vehicles of all varieties? Fine, build out the bike lanes in high-density areas but for god sake don’t waste the money just for the shits and giggles (Exhibit A) 10th St. bike “lame” with 1, maybe 2 cyclists per hour – on a good day.

    • The 10th/11th street bike lanes were created primarily as a “road diet” to reduce car speeds and try to convert these “mini highways” back into safer neighborhood streets. Originally the city wanted to convert the one way streets to two way, but decided removing a lane of car traffic and converting it for bike use would be much cheaper.

  • doug Matson

    These young professionals are coming out of four to seven years of school, where they got used to walking and riding their bikes everywhere

    yes but now they have a job, and responsibilities. they will soon be starting family’s
    when this happens they will get a car. it is the most efficient form of transportation to allow them to live a successful life style. sure there will always be some homeless on bikes.
    and a few people who have had their drivers license taken away. then there is the one in ten thousand who willingly bikes to work. the number of bicyclists in down have little in common with the projected work force of the future.

    you will find that the Bicycle-only developments,will be underutilized by the workforce of the future. travel by Bicycle in this county is just not efficient

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