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Council: thumbs down on El Camino Real bike lanes

Bicyclists who brave the ride on El Camino Real aren't going to be getting help from the city anytime soon, if council member comments Tuesday are any indication.

In a study session Tuesday, a majority of City Council members said it wasn't their preference to have bike lanes on El Camino Real in a new precise plan for the corridor.

"My preference would be bike boulevards parallel to El Camino Real," said council member Ronit Bryant, referring to a practice pioneered in Palo Alto where streets that parallel El Camino Real have been turned into cul-de-sacs that only allow bikes through. When driving near a bicyclist on El Camino, "I end up almost not driving because I don't want to hit the bicycle. A bike boulevard seems much pleasanter for everyone."

Bicycle advocate Janet Lafleur said biking along El Camino Real was often necessary when she did her shopping, going between stores like Dittmers and Whole Foods. She said she often finds herself riding in parking lots to avoid the busy street, which might have room for bikes if parking was removed.

"I'd really like us to prioritize bicycles over parking on El Camino," she said, adding that such measures were important to meet the city's goals for reducing car traffic.

The Valley Transportation Authority has offered to pay put bike lanes on El Camino Real in Mountain View as part of its bus rapid transit project. Mountain View's stretch of El Camino would have to include dedicated bus lanes, an idea which has yet to find support on the council. Without them, it would leave the city on the hook for the cost.

A majority of the seven member council -- including council members Mike Kasperzak, Chris Clark and Jac Siegel -- were inclined to not support bike lanes on El Camino Real.

"I don't know how you make El Camino Real safe enough to make it a real bike corridor," Kasperzak said. Siegel added that cars go 40 to 50 miles per hour on El Camino and there's so little room for bikes that drivers could easily violate the new law requiring drivers stay three feet away from cyclists. "I don't know how that works," Siegel said.

Member Margaret Abe-Koga suggested placing a low cement wall as a barrier between cyclists and cars on El Camino Real, as is used in parts of Vancouver.

"What I struggle with, is El Camino Real the right place to invest a lot of money to build a nice pedestrian-bicycle experience?" asked Clark. "lt may be a better use of resources to direct people to quieter streets," like Latham and Church.

City Manager Dan Rich confirmed what members said. "I got a sense that biking was not a priority on El Camino and that our resources would be better used away from El Camino Real."

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