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EHEI Award: Encouraging Nonmotorized Transportation

San Jose Trail Network

San Jose, California

Aerial photo of trail network adjacent to roadway
San Jose trail segment.
Source: City of San Jose

The City of San Jose, California began work on its Greenprint, a 20-year strategic plan in 2000 for park, trail, and recreation facility development. With the goal of constructing 100 miles of trails, the city is rapidly expanding its trail infrastructure to meet this goal and facilitate an increase in commuter and recreation bicycle use. When complete, this interconnected trail network will include 35 trail systems with links to parks, housing, employment, and regional trails.

The city's goal to construct 100 miles of trails was reaffirmed in 2008 by Mayor Chuck Reed and the Council's Green Vision. The Vision includes a goal to complete the network by 2022. Presently, there are 54 miles of constructed trails, including 16 miles designated as part of the National Bikeway System.

San Jose is incorporating several innovative design methods into the construction of the trail network. It is also working collaboratively with the Santa Clara Valley Water District to incorporate trails as part of existing and planned flood prevention corridors along its many rivers and creeks. Trail development occurs within natural and landscaped corridors and is carefully planned to lead to destinations. Over 50% of the city's trail users are commuting to and from work because trails link Silicon Valley employers to the downtown and other employment sites.

The city selected materials, such as recycled asphalt, to minimize the need to dispose of construction waste into landfills. The precise placement of geographic information systems (GIS) mileage markers is available to 911 operators, along with route planning to speed emergency response and record keeping. eflective striping partially addresses the inability to light riparian corridors by offering a visual tool for cyclists and police who provide aerial surveillance. Stormwater retention basins support environmental initiatives and prevent additional stormwater runoff. Trails meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and are designed to accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians, and equestrians along several trails.

Trail use in San Jose is increasing every year, with a 5.6% increase documented this past September as part of the trail count in 2010. Over half of trail users are commuting to and from work, including to some of Silicon Valley's major employers. Monthly and annual reports track the construction of the Trail Network, which grows on average at a rate of 3.3 miles each year. The City of San Jose coordinates with other government agencies, including: the Santa Clara Valley Water District, Pacific Gas & Electric, Caltrans, and school districts to develop recreational uses on public lands. Additional partnerships with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and the Guadalupe River Park Foundation support community outreach and operations. The value of trails as both recreational and transportation facilities is supported by the 2009 Greenprint, the 2010 Bicycle Master Plan for on-street and off-street facilities, and the draft General Plan for 2040.

The city's scope of trail development, trail prioritization efforts, trail design, partnerships, collaborative planning process, data collection, and public outreach serve as models for other cities and agencies. San Jose recognizes the expansion of the trail network as one of 10 goals that comprise its Green Vision, which is an economic development plan for the next 15 years. Completion of the 100-mile interconnected trail network is one of the highest priorities for delivery of a more competitive and sustainable economy.

For more information, contact Yves Zsutty, City of San Jose at

Photo of bicyclists on a trail
San Jose trail segment.
Source: City of San Jose
Photo of a ribbon cutting ceremony
Ridge Trail opening.
Source: City of San Jose
Updated: 06/27/2017
Updated: 6/27/2017
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