Published in the July 11 – July 24, 2018 issue of Gilroy Life

Bike racks have been installed throughout downtown Gilroy.

All year long the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission and many other supporters have been teaching the youth in our community the benefits of walking and biking to school.  When the kids are out for the summer is one way that you will see the economic benefit of teaching them these skills through Safe Routes to School education.

Remember back when we were kids and we knew all the neighbors because we walked and biked everywhere? You didn’t need a car because everything was offered in town, and when you did get in the car to go to the next town over it felt like the other side of the world. Thursday evenings this summer will turn downtown Gilroy into a destination with the Thursday Night Live Series.

One goal for the Gilroy BPAC is to increase bicycle riding to the downtown district by creating incentives to ride. Bicycle racks provide front row prime parking and rewards the effort.  Unused public space converted for bicycle corrals where bicycle parking would be free. There is currently a two-hour vehicle-parking limit in historic downtown. If the city were to change it to a metered system where you paid to park, the city could collect funds and help offset the cost of sidewalk cleaning and enforcement staff. Prime spots would be paid for by tourists, locals would know where they could park for free and walk. This would reduce parking in prime spots by residents, employees, businesses and building owners. Bicycle lockers would provide secured bicycle parking for those that live downtown and don’t own a vehicle.

Connecting other destinations to downtown is always on my mind. A proposed project along Hecker Pass Highway will bring a commercial ag-tourist property. It will have an open plaza layout with wine, deli, restaurants, specialty grocery, and live/work units. You would have two ways to get there using safe routes from downtown Gilroy. You could use our recreation spine, which is the paved Class l Bike/Ped Trail that runs from the Gilroy Sports Park to Hecker Pass. Most residential streets connect into the trail.

The future expansion of the trail will drop you right in front of the property where there will be free front row bicycle parking. I challenge you to use Third Street from this project to downtown Gilroy, which has both bike route signage and bike lane signage including striping on the streets. This is a perfect example of how we can connect these destinations without the need for a vehicle.

We advocate for pedestrians, too.  The Gilroy BPAC approved our 2018 Work Plan and included is the building of a second paseo walkway from the parking lot on Gourmet Alley between Fourth and Fifth streets through to Monterey Road. Providing access from parking to the hub of Monterey Road is essential. Imagine activating that paseo and Gourmet Alley into smaller shops and restaurants. Restricting vehicle traffic along Gourmet Alley would create a hub for bicycle and pedestrians. This would create the necessary foot traffic needed to drive the economy with smaller places of business. I recently attended a Gilroy Downtown Business Association Design Committee meeting where it was suggested that a simple sign located from the back of a current business stating Through Passage to Downtown Gilroy would be a great start from that parking lot.

I want to build a greener, sustainable, and clean energy community where everyone decides to leave the cars at home and take that extra time to enjoy downtown.  We will further progress and ultimately market Gilroy as not only a bike-friendly town but also an innovative town.

Zachary Hilton is a member of Gilroy’s Bicycle Pedestrian Commission. He wrote this for Gilroy Life.

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