Pedestrians and drivers may have noticed significant changes to downtown roads with new bike lanes added on 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th street.

Over the last month, the San Jose Department of Transportation has installed 7.6 miles of buffered bicycle lanes on several high-traffic streets downtown.

The buffered bicycle lanes are designed to create a four or five foot distance between the bike lane and car travel lane. Cars can only cross a bike lane to enter a driveway, a parking space or within 200 feet to turn at an intersection.

After working on the bike lane project and a bike-share program for four years, City Councilmember Sam Liccardo joined with bike enthusiasts for an inaugural ride last week.

“It’s wonderful to see it finally materialize,” Liccardo says.

Liccardo, who is also a board member of Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and VTA, wants to continue to make significant changes to the way people drive downtown. For the bike-lane program, some three-lane roads for automobiles were reduced to two lanes.

“It’s not just about creating buffered bike lanes, but its also about removing traffic,” he says. “What we know about one-way roads in downtown is that it encourages very fast traffic. At about 45 miles per hour, people are moving through a very congested downtown neighborhoods. We hear a lot of complaints about the speed and traffic and by removing that lane, it will slow down the traffic and make the streets feel welcome, not just for cars but for people.”

In addition to the buffered bike lanes, there are more bike projects coming to downtown, including a bike sharing program, implemented with help from VTA and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, that will bring 20 pods with almost 200 bicycles to downtown.

“We ‘re striving to make downtown San Jose the most bike friendly downtown in the bay area,” says Jesse T. Quiron, associate transportation specialist with the City of San Jose.

San Jose officials will also install green bike lanes on San Fernando early next year as well as on-street bike parking. Liccardo also hopes the new bike lanes will encourage more people to feel safer about riding the street and avoid using the sidewalk.

“There’s a lot of griping about cyclists who use the sidewalk but if we can create a safe place for cyclists on the street, which is where they belong, my hope is we’re going to have a safer place on sidewalks for pedestrians,” Liccardo says.