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Rengstorff area bike tour highlights need for safer streets
Original post made
on Mar 5, 2013
Mounted on their bikes, a group of residents and city officials rolled through the Rengstorff Park neighborhood on Saturday morning, stopping along the way to discus how to make the area more bike and pedestrian friendly.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 6:06 PM
Posted by Jeff Walden
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 7, 2013 at 2:16 am
I'll be that one weird guy -- a regular cyclist! -- who finds some of this overwrought. I acknowledge and even somewhat agree on the weirdness. :-) Biking on El Camino, as I do occasionally, isn't normal and likely shouldn't be. (And I've biked on much worse before, on a few very rare occasions, when necessity demanded it.) But even still some of this goes a little off the deep end.
Complaints about the California/Escuela incident seem batty. When someone's doing 80 on a residential road, like the police officer said at the October traffic safety meeting (I think it was about this incident): it's not because the laws are out of whack, it's not because of inadequate traffic enforcement, it's not because of a lot of things. It's an outlier laws can do nothing about. Bring down the hammer, hard, afterward. But before, what could you possibly do that's worth the money for any minuscule increment of prevention of such edge cases? Such stunts are a special class all their own.
Regarding "Yet, look at that street, it's wide, people are driving fast, this street just screams, 'Drive quickly!'" To me it says drive the limit like on any street. California's clearly a street for efficiently getting between Castro and San Antonio, possibly beyond. Why's it surprising cars use it that way? There's obvious demand for that end. What would they use instead if California flow lessened?
Regarding "As for California Street, 'If you want to take your bike, you have to take the sidewalk'" and "the bike lanes are too narrow [because of] parked cars and cars going over 35 miles per hour." A half foot or a foot of extra space past the parked cars would make a pretty big difference, particularly on the southern side of California just east of Rengstorff. I don't really like that bit, and I bike almost anywhere. But even if they're slightly narrower than desirable, California still has fair bike lanes both ways, and there's no reason for someone who bikes on roads with traffic to take the sidewalk. Biking on California's entirely reasonable; I do it all the time for groceries or to go to downtown Palo Alto. About 35-40mph California being "dangerous", um, well, it's got a normal limit for the kind of road it is. Is this to say any road with traffic above ~30mph is unbikable? Because that seems 1) unrealistic about how roads are used, and 2) crazy, to say we cyclists can *expect* to have super-low-speed roads. I'd be leery about letting an under-10 kid (if I had one) ride on it unattended, but I could see getting over that with some practice/training (which parents surely should do in any case).
About the Latham/Escuela honking: I think it depends how quickly they crossed the intersection. You should -- possibly not as a legal matter, but as a matter of getting along with everyone -- give a little to get a little. You shouldn't be shutting down the intersection to other traffic, rather at least occasionally giving a window for some cross traffic to get through. The pictures give some lower bounds on the crowd size but don't say how courteous they were in crossing the intersection. As vehicles they should cross about one or two (side-by-side) at a time, permitting traffic flow on both roads. There's something to be said for road-rules leeway (even if it's not actually legal, I suspect it's not but could be wrong) for bevies of bikes to cross in larger groups. But it has to give at some point. You can't keep the intersection closed for a huge group passing through a stop sign, most without stopping. There's too little detail about how they crossed. Maybe it was all perfectly legal or perfectly courteous, and it was an idiot (maybe semi-rushed) who'd honk at cyclists no matter how nice they were. Those people definitely exist. But just getting honked at doesn't necessarily and immediately shout "harassment!" to me. Those people exist everywhere: one incident of honking, that might (I don't know) be a little justifiable under a courteousness standard, can't possibly mean we're not a "bike-friendly community".
Regarding "You'd have to be nut-case to ride your bike on El Camino". I see no reason why experienced near-adult/adult cyclists can't occasionally (even perhaps regularly, if you're a bit motivated) bike on it. It's at the higher end of the danger scale; I'd definitely want anyone biking there having practiced road cycling some before doing it. But I don't think it's completely crazy. Definitely undesirable, with left turns especially demanding considerable care, but it's not a bike road. If we (speaking inclusive of Palo Alto and the enjoyable bike boulevard there) can have roads much for biking, cars should have roads much for cars, like El Camino, or Alma for that matter.
Regarding the "Villa left" past the police station under Shoreline. I take Shoreline nearly every day from southern Castro to where I live on Villa (the opposite on the way in). I agree this intersection's messy on bike. Unless you hit the breaks in traffic right, you're probably standing in the bike lane waiting for a break to move to the left turn lane. But it's a well-trafficked three-lanes-each-way road, one of the big ways to get north of Central and 101 in Mountain View. Doesn't this come with the terrain? (For making the left as a group, the roundabout way makes perfect sense. Big cyclist groups, traveling as groups, will never work well on bigger roads.)
Regarding Villa. Sure, ticket the speeders, maybe step up enforcement. I don't know what the tradeoffs are for that, or if it pays off (in the non-financial, safety/enjoyability sense), to say "should"/"must". But I've lived on Villa several years. Almost every day (80-90% of them) I bike, I bike along it. I honestly cannot remember any drivers along it ever having been the least bit courteous to me as a cyclist on the road. There's always going to be somebody (see the honking bit earlier). But Villa itself is way down the list of streets I've had any issues biking on, and it fares especially well for the moderate traffic on it.
Better roads for cycling would be nice, but cars need to get places too. California particularly is a useful road for car traffic to get to and from useful places, and it's really not that bad for cycling, although there are bits that could be improved. But there are physical limits, and monetary limits, on how much it can realistically change without unduly hurting other legitimate users. I'm a cyclist -- only (don't own a car) -- but I don't think cyclists need all that much help here. And I think some of what's considered here would unduly hurt cars, who have as much right to the road, and to efficient travel, as we do to enjoyable and safe travel.