San Jose Mulls Booting Bikes Off City Sidewalks

San Jose cyclists who take refuge from traffic by riding on sidewalks may soon lose that option.

The City Council is poised to vote on a downtown ban on riding bikes on sidewalks Tuesday.

The vote comes after a year and a half of talks with seniors, cyclists and downtown businesses and on the recommendation of city transportation officials. And it comes despite frequent attempts to get its car-happy citizens to ride bikes more often.

Bicyclists said commuting through rush hour in downtown San Jose is dangerous with buses and cars jockeying for position on the road.

"If it's crowded or there's a bunch of people turning right...I'll ride on the sidewalk for a while," Benji Tittle said.

NBC Bay Area spotted many bicyclists on Monday taking refuge on the sidewalk and ignoring signs asking them to walk their bikes while off the streets.

The city's Senior Citizens Commission and Transportation Officials want bicyclists to take their place on the road to keep pedestrians safe, especially from those who ride recklessly on sidewalks.

"A lot of these people who are getting hit or nearly hit are senior people in wheelchairs, walkers, canes and so on -- and they cannot get out of the way," said Joyce Raybourn, chairwoman for the Senior Citizens Commission.

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition worries a ban would discourage people from using their bikes.

"Bicycling is a pretty safe activity," said Colin Heyne, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. "But a lot of people are not enthused, confident bicyclists where they want to get in there and mingle with traffic. They feel much safer on the sidewalk."

Tittle said the ban, if approved, would take away his safety net.

“It’d be a little disconcerting to know I don’t have the option of taking the sidewalk if it gets a little dicey,” he said.

Other big cities like Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles have all enacted either limitations or outright bans on sidewalk bicycling.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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