Where is it unsafe to bike around town? | A New Shade of Green | Sherry Listgarten | Mountain View Online |

Local Blogs

A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

E-mail Sherry Listgarten

About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

View all posts from Sherry Listgarten

Where is it unsafe to bike around town?

Uploaded: Apr 18, 2021
The weather is amazing these days and lots of us are getting out on bikes and e-bikes. Bike shops have been very busy, even running low on inventory as we all start to emerge from our pandemic bunkers. Adults and kids are trying new routes to work and school, while people looking to regain their fitness are seeking out new bike loops for exercise. This is great for our health, for the air, and for the climate. But as our bike population grows, it’s more important than ever that we make our streets and intersections safe for bikers.

The Office of Traffic Safety reports that in 2018 cyclists were involved in 99 accidents in Palo Alto in which someone was injured or killed. 18 of those involved a cyclist under 15 years old. For Mountain View, a somewhat larger city, the numbers are 53 and 6, respectively. Menlo Park, a city about half the size of Palo Alto, had 31 cyclists involved in an accident, with 5 of those involving children on bikes. The Office of Traffic Safety ranks all of our cities among the worst of comparably-sized cities when it comes to cyclist involvement in accidents. As we add more cyclists, our numbers will grow larger unless we pay careful attention to road design.

I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to commute by bike for almost all the years I worked. I used to joke, though, that the most dangerous thing I did all week was bike to work. It was often dark and I usually had to cross a busy road, whether it was 101 or Foothill or El Camino. Even though my bicycle was well-it and I often wore a reflective yellow jacket, I had to watch carefully.

One route I took was Rengstorff over 101. I rode by there the other day to see what it looks like now. More cars are encroaching in the bike lane, perhaps due to new housing along Rengstorff.


Cars fill the bike lane on Rengstorff at Old Middlefield Way

At one point it was almost impossible to get past a large pickup truck parked in the bike lane without veering into the traffic lane.


Further up Rengstorff more cars fill the bike lane on this designated “bike route”.

As a cyclist I don’t like passing cars like this because there’s little maneuverability in case a driver is getting out and opens a door into you. (That happened to me just the other day, but luckily I had plenty of room to get out of the way.)

I used to worry about riding past the 101 off-ramp on Rengstorff, especially in the dark. But when it’s light out, on a weekend with little traffic, it doesn’t look so bad.


The bike lane heading east on Rengstorff goes past the 101 north off-ramp.

One thing that bothers me about this merge is there is no indication that bikes are present; there is just a standard merge sign. The bike lane is not distinguished with special paint or markings. When the light is poor it is easy for a vehicle to be careless here.

Just around the corner from this merge is a veritable forest of signs warning cars to watch out for pedestrians. Couldn’t we have better signage at the merge between a freeway off-ramp and a designated bike route?


Cars near the Intuit campus are given plenty of notice about pedestrian crossings.

But the Rengstorff route feels downright safe compared to San Antonio. In my opinion, the intersection of San Antonio and Charleston is an accident waiting to happen. But here are some pictures along the road going from east to west.

This picture is taken on San Antonio heading west, just before crossing 101. I’m not sure why the green sign shows this as a bike route. The Santa Clara Valley Bikeways Map does not show it as such. If the bike route goes off to the right, it’s not obvious to the rider, who might well go straight.


Is it clear which way the bike route here goes?

Going straight takes the cyclist along an overgrown sidewalk that is shared by pedestrians and cyclists going in either direction as the opposite side of San Antonio has no curb or extra lane space.


This route is for cyclists going in both directions along San Antonio.

There is a small crosswalk where cars exit San Antonio onto 101 North.


Cyclists and pedestrians cross the on-ramp to 101 North.

Can vehicles easily see that cyclist and pedestrian crossing? Why is there no sign indicating the crossing?

Interestingly, just over 101 at the southbound off-ramp, there is a sign marking the pedestrian (and cyclist) crossing, though it’s not clear if it’s sufficiently visible. In my experience cars very rarely stop for those waiting to cross.


Can you see the sign indicating a crossing over the off-ramp from 101? The crossing is more or less under that red truck.

But it’s the Charleston intersection that especially worries me. Here is what that looks like, heading west on San Antonio across Charleston.


Heading west on San Antonio across Charleston is dangerous as two lanes of cars turn right here.

The main problem I find is that there are two right-hand turn lanes (from San Antonio onto Charleston heading south) in a poorly marked intersection. Signage is minimal, so cyclists may not be aware that there are two right-hand turn lanes. The light for drivers to turn right goes on when the cyclists and pedestrians have a light to go straight ahead through the crosswalk. The driver in the far turn lane may not see the crosswalk until he or she is right on top of it. The cyclists may not know to look at both lanes.


No signs here indicate to pedestrians and cyclists that there are two right-turn lanes.

The crosswalk button location makes this more problematic. It is not located near where the bikes enter the crosswalk. Instead it is by the curb on the traffic light post, making it awkward at best to push on a bike. If a person neglects to hit this button, choosing just to cross with the cars, then the cars will have one less clue that someone is in this crosswalk. The cyclists I saw heading east at this intersection this morning did just that. But even if you press the button, the poor visibility and signage here are imo an accident waiting to happen.


The button to cross is in an awkward position for bikes.

So, this is one place where I feel pretty unsafe biking around town. Even after I push the button and the light indicates I should go, the cars are turning right at the same time. Will the car in the second right-turn lane see me?

Where do you feel unsafe on your bike around town, and how should the city fix it? If you’d like to send me photos of the problem I’d be happy to post them in the comments.

Current Climate Data (March 2021)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

Comment Guidelines
I hope that your contributions will be an important part of this blog. To keep the discussion productive, please adhere to these guidelines or your comment may be moderated:
- Avoid disrespectful, disparaging, snide, angry, or ad hominem comments.
- Stay fact-based and refer to reputable sources.
- Stay on topic.
- In general, maintain this as a welcoming space for all readers.
We need your support now more than ever. Can we count on you?

Comments

 +   9 people like this
Posted by Meredith Taylor, a resident of Los Altos,
on Apr 18, 2021 at 8:33 am

Meredith Taylor is a registered user.

Question: Where is it unsafe to bike around town?

Answer: Nearly everywhere there are cars and especially in the city.

A neighbor's son was killed in SF during the dot.com era. He rode his bike to work everyday after getting off CalTrains and was hit by a car that did not stop at a red light prior to making a right turn.

Things are even worse now and bicyclists are at a distinct disadvantage with all of the cars on the road.

And the same applies to motorcyclists as it is pointless to argue right of way with a 5K pound SUV.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by David Coale, a resident of Barron Park,
on Apr 18, 2021 at 10:21 am

David Coale is a registered user.

Hi Sherry,

Another great posting. Getting around by bike or e-bike beats an EV almost any day, and it is usually door-to-door service while you are outside and getting some exercise as well.

You point out many problematic places and freeway overpasses are often dicey. The good news on the San Antonio overpass is that there is a bike/ped bridge just north of San Antonio that should be done soon.

As you point out the Charleston San Antonio intersection needs improvements. These improvements are in the city's plans, but not for a while and the rest of the Charleston-Arastradero corridor final improvements are in the queue this year if they survive the budgeting process (write letters to council supporting this).

Besides listing the places that feel unsafe to bike, for the last 10 years Bike Palo Alto has been showing riders of all levels the fun and safer ways to get around town on a bike; the little known bike paths, short cuts and connections to our neighboring cities. While it is not known if Bike Palo Alto will resume after Covid, the fun bike routs and resources are still on the web site for those that would like to explore our city by bike: Web Link Just one note, should you decide to ride the Baylands route, the southern 101 crossing is not available due to the 101 bike/ped bridge construction.

Happy Riding


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 18, 2021 at 11:18 am

Robert Neff is a registered user.

That data from the Office of Traffic Safety appears to be normalized by a cities' amount of automobile traffic. To first order, if there are more bicyclists, there will be bicycle collisions. So number 1 and 2 on that list for the bicycle figures are Palo Alto and Davis. That's good company!

Still, there is much to do for bicycle improvements. Slower streets, safer corners on arterials, eliminating places where bike lanes just disappear, like the two places on Charleston/Arastradero at El Camino and San Antonio, and making sure our traffic signals are measured and work for bicycles and pedestrians (as we measure them for automobiles).

San Antonio is marked as a bike route, because it was originally marked as a bike route in the distant past. About 10 years ago, when the street was reconstructed (remember the trees?), bicycle advocates should have insisted on bike lanes, but instead we have all day car parking and sharrows (which do nothing), and sharing the lane with 35 MPH traffic. Supposedly 35 mph. It is the scariest bike route this side of San Jose, and for a bonus discomfort, try getting over Alma / Caltrain!

To get across 101, I've been using the sidewalk between Charleston and E. Bayshore. The ramps are at least only one lane to cross. Just be patient there, and also watch out for cars coming out of the JCC. The new overpass should open later this year. The bridge should be up in the next 3 weeks.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of another community,
on Apr 18, 2021 at 11:27 am

Jennifer is a registered user.

It would be nice if vehicles and cyclists could safely share the road, but sadly it's not reality. You have to ask yourself... is it worth it? Stay safe Sherry.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 18, 2021 at 12:47 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

FWIW, here's a comment from my Mom: "Yesterday we saw a jogger at the corner of San Antonio and Charleston. She had been jogging in place by the JCC waiting for the light to change to cross Charleston. She started hesitantly because cars were turning right from both those lanes on San Antonio as you point out. She actually had to stop midway since a car in the far lane was turning and probably did not see her. Having two right-turning lanes is very problematic."


 +   5 people like this
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 18, 2021 at 1:27 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I would like to add that is often safe not to walk where people bike. I have seen many near misses where bikers are riding too fast for people walking in the Baylands, Stevens Creek trail, etc. Anywhere there are pedestrians are dangerous for those on bikes, particularly if the pedestrians are families who are out enjoying nature and the bikes are in a hurry to get to wherever they are going. In the past year where people are out looking at nature, getting exercise or just looking for somewhere to be away from home during the shelter in place, these recreational areas have been much more busy and they are crowded with both bikes and pedestrians.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by timoey, a resident of another community,
on Apr 18, 2021 at 2:23 pm

timoey is a registered user.

Bicycling facilities do need to be improved to make it easier and safer for everyone -- especially those nervous around cars. However, if you are willing to learn, it is possible to bicycle safely pretty much everywhere in Mountain View and Silicon Valley.

I bike everywhere in any weather, any time of day or night, and hauling just about anything (more than most people can carry in their cars). I also teach bicyclists how to bicycle safely in all conditions. Most drivers (99.99999%) do not want to hit bicyclists or pedestrians but drivers do hit bicyclists when they do not see them or are surprised by their behavior -- so the key is to be very visible and be very predictable -- basically behave very like a car when you are on a bike. This also means that car drivers must be patient when a bicyclist chooses to take the lane -- the bicyclist is doing this to be safe. Car drivers just need to pass them just like they would pass a slow car and stay 3+ feet from bicyclists at all times -- whether on their left or their right. Alas some car drivers need to re-read their driver manual to understand proper behavior around bicyclists.

If anyone would like bicycle lessons so they can ride more safely, check out Bicycle Solutions at Web Link and you can learn more about me at Web Link. Finally everyone who wants better bicycling in Silicon Valley should join the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition at Web Link. Enjoy!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Robert Neff, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 18, 2021 at 3:35 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

FYI, The intersection of San Antonio / Charleston is part of a current city project to for improvement, particularly for the pedestrian crossing. The intersection squared up for better visibility, but the 2 right turn lanes would be retained. I don't recall if signal timing changes (advanced walk signal, and a flashing yellow arrow when the walk button is pressed, for example) to make the pedestrian crossing safer are in the current plan. This was approved February 2020. Web Link


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 7:59 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

Q: Where is it unsafe to bike around town?

A: Everywhere (potentially).

We all (should) know what it means to be a 'defensive driver.' Part of being a defensive driver is coupling the understanding that danger is everywhere with the presumption that every other driver, pedestrian, bicyclist or animal presents potentially dangerous scenarios. Thus, you should drive 'defensively' at all times.

The same is true for bicycle operators.

I've always thought that it would be helpful for the Palo Alto Online to identify and publish the number of bicycle collisions and accidents with a corresponding map for each incident (including incidents with serious injury or fatality). Moreover, it would help to understand the official causes for each incident -- whether drivers, animals, pedestrians or the cyclists themselves.

I would also make one major suggestion: Bicycles should NOT be permitted on certain streets.

Currently, there is little recourse when you find a cyclist on streets like Alma Street during rush hour. In fact, it hasn't been much of an issue during COVID-19. However, I have witnessed near-collisions that could have been "fixed" if the cyclist had driven the bike on Bryant or another nearby parallel bike-designated path.

If trucks can be banned from certain streets (due to height, weight, etc.), then I would argue that the same should be true of cyclists. Otherwise, it would be nice to have a designated bike path NEXT to the street -- such as a paved path on the west side of Alma (between the train fence and the street).


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 8:18 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

I'd like to add one other thing:

It would be nice for cities to actively and perpetually plan for biking.

There are cities in the U.S. that run bike routes on designated paths that run parallel alongside streets, avenues and even highways. Some take one sidewalk (on one side of the street) and designate it for bicycles and the other for walking.

Aside from placement in residential neighborhoods, this would be very helpful. Entire cities could be transformed overnight.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by mikepat, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 12:09 pm

mikepat is a registered user.

It's not just "where" it's unsafe but also "when". Avoid riding when the sun is horizontal I.E. in drivers eyes. Avoid crossing any and all on ramps. I ended up choosing the safest route I could find, even if I had to ride farther. But I still see cyclists on Alma Street and El Camino, which I consider suicidal.
BTW, I have been cycling in Mountain View for over 50 years, and I have seen the city make continuous improvements, exceeding such "bike friendly" cities such as Palo Alto.
Mike


 +  Like this comment
Posted by dollarbin, a resident of Mountain View,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 12:20 pm

dollarbin is a registered user.

Thank you for highlighting the difficulties of biking on San Antonio from Charleston across 101. I bike from Mountain View to Newark and this section is the most direct route to the baylands but also the most terrifying. The Adobe pedestrian bridge will be very helpful, but work on that bridge appears to all but halted after they didn't install the bridge section in Feburary. I wonder if they're still on track for a July opening.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by diesel, a resident of another community,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 12:27 pm

diesel is a registered user.

Great article -thank you. I live further north and would love to be able to bike safely to such places As Bedwell Bayfront Park and Seaport Blvd. However crossing 101 at Woodside or at Marsh is really scary so I end up driving to these places.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Robert Cronin, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 12:53 pm

Robert Cronin is a registered user.

Regarding places that are unsafe to bike: Alma south of University would not be a comfortable street. Narrow, unsharable lanes.However, in Mountain View, it becomes Central Expressway, and it is fine with a nice wide shoulder. It is a pity that the Bryant bike boulevard collapses south of E. Meadow.
Regarding the intersections that the author dislikes: The author needs to get out of the gutter, when staying there results in conflicts with right-turning vehicles. Also, you can't get doored if you don't ride in the door zone. Demand the removal of door-zone bike lanes.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 12:58 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

I love these comments. You guys often anticipate things I thought of putting in the blog then didn’t. A couple of items.

@David: It’s not that I think SanAntonio/Charleston “needs improvement”. I think it’s dangerous. As evidenced by comments here, it poses a real danger today, and rather than waiting for a large redesign, I think some signage would make a big difference. Why not advertise that there are two right-hand turn lanes, for example, and that they head directly into a crosswalk? Something like this, up by the traffic light?



They could also change the timing of the light so that cyclists and pedestrians have time to cross when no cars are going right. These are small but maybe impactful changes.

BTW, I think it’s great to have demo rides, as you point out, especially imo in the area around University Circle, which can be pretty confusing. I’m glad cyclists are organizing these.

@Robert: I would suggest that the city just remove that “Bike Route” sign. I agree with you that biking on San Antonio should be avoided!

Which brings up @Nayeli’s point that we should be clearer about how dangerous it is to cycle on Alma. Newbies always seem to end up there and it is not a good idea. I think we should post signs (“Danger! No bicycles!”) at the places where people are most likely to enter Alma.

@timoey: Funny story. I was on Arastradero in a car behind a very slow biker who was cycling in the middle of the road. He did not want to move to the side and I could not pass him (too windy). The (fast) cyclist behind both of us ended up getting mad at the slow cyclist because he wanted to pass the slow cyclist but couldn’t because I was in the way.

@bystander: Your point is a great one. We have so many modes of transportation now at different speeds, sharing only one or two types of lanes (car lanes that also take bikes, pedestrian sidewalks that may also be shared with bikes, and bike lanes that take a whole variety). It’s not easy to sort out.

Anyway, as many of you say, there is definitely room for improvement on our “bike routes”. It doesn’t all have to be expensive and take multiple years. Some fixed signage and an effective feedback mechanism (with reporting, as @Nayeli suggests) might be a start. I personally think Charleston at San Antonio is dangerous enough that something should be done asap.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Menlo Cyclist, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 1:40 pm

Menlo Cyclist is a registered user.

I'm always shocked and dismayed when I see cyclists riding on Alma from downtown Palo Alto (aprox. at Lytton and Alma) down to the San Antonio Road exit in Mountain View. I am a cyclist myself and that act is pure suicide. I really wish that Palo Alto would make it illegal to do so.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 1:51 pm

Alan is a registered user.

Willow Road in Menlo Park is a bit of a challenge. The US-101 overpass was much improved for bicycling a couple years ago, with the clearly marked green lanes. However, for pedestrians - despite a wide, protected sidewalk - it's actually worse, because drivers are notoriously bad at ignoring the the "no right turn" traffic signals before the on-ramps and the no right turn on red sign. It seems almost half will ignore the red arrow and hardly slow down for the crossing; I have never seen a place where so many drivers ignore a red light! It creates a false sense of security for pedestrians.

Further south on Willow Road, it's bad for bicyclists, because it narrows down to a single lane with no separate bicycle lane. Many cars are still driving fast at this bottleneck.

The one place I've been hit by a car while bicycling (albeit a very slow, glancing blow that just throw me off balance) was on Willow Road in front of Mardini's Deli. There's a wide bicycle lane; the car deeply intruded into this lane (and continued without stopping after hitting me, even though the driver behind him was honking to get him to stop). Markings on the road, no matter how clear or wide, do not protect you from the worst drivers. Fortunately, I was able to walk away from that incident.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 1:56 pm

Alan is a registered user.

@diesel - Are you aware of the Pedestrian/Bicycle Bridge at Ringwood Avenue and US-101? And that, within another couple months, Facebook will finish another pedestrian bridge across Bayfront halfway between Willow Road and Marsh? It will make getting to Bedwell park much safer for bicyclists.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 3:16 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Robert suggests demanding the removal of door-zone bike lanes. Does that mean making it illegal to park in a bike lane? (That is the situation I was calling out.) I would LOVE that, but I think that's not an easy ask. More likely is they just remove the bike lane, no?

@Menlo suggests making it illegal to bike on Alma. I completely agree, though I'd be okay starting with warning signs.

@Robert asks why I was in the gutter when cars had right-turn lanes. I was actually on the sidewalk. I don't normally bike on the sidewalk, but that was the only option for biking on San Antonio for much of it, then I figured using the crosswalk was easier and safer than crossing two lanes of traffic to get to the "going straight" car lane. This intersection is no bueno, no matter how much people may want to lay the blame on unaware or incompetent cyclists, pedestrians, or drivers. At minimum it needs better signage, and soon.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Bart Anderson, a resident of Mayfield,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Bart Anderson is a registered user.

I've been cycling in Palo Alto for 50 years. I think the key is to plan your routes carefully away from problematic areas (narrow roads and distracted drivers).

Learning from experienced riders also improves your safety. I learned "Effective Cycling" from the works of one-time Palo resident, John Forester. His philosophy is not for everyone, but I found it helpful for cycling in traffic.

I'm grateful that Palo Alto has been one of the first bicycle-friendly cities in the US. With the clement weather, the extensive pathways, bike lanes and varied terrain, we are indeed blessed.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Donald, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Apr 19, 2021 at 4:36 pm

Donald is a registered user.

State low forbids the prohibition of bicycles from any roads except toll bridges, freeways or expressways, so Palo Alto cannot make bicycling on Alma illegal. They can place signs warning people that it is not recommended and giving them directions to a more suitable route.

San Antonio/Charleston is one of the most dangerous intersections in the city, especially for pedestrians. It is also one of the busiest, and anything you do to increase pedestrian safety will decrease vehicle throughput. For example the best thing for pedestrians would be to give them a walk while all cars have a red light with right turns prohibited, but if you did that cars would back up in all directions. It is a matter of priority: do you value safety for those outside cars more than vehicle capacity? So far the cars are winning.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Open Range, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 20, 2021 at 9:40 am

Open Range is a registered user.

When driving, I am always keeping an eye out for bicyclists and even yield to them as I would a pedestrian.

On the other hand, what really ticks me off are the bicyclists who ride their bikes in the car lanes when there are established bike lanes and who also clog up the left turn islands ahead of cars waiting for the signal to change.

Why don't they just stay in their respective bike lanes and use the crosswalks (like pedestrians) to make their left turns?

Bicycles are not motorcycles nor licensed or CA DMV accountable in the same manner.

The bottom line...enjoy your bike ride and stay safe BUT stay [portion removed] OFF the roadways when there is a bike lane provided and use the crosswalks to make your left turns.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 20, 2021 at 10:16 am

Neal is a registered user.

When my cycling route takes me down Alma between Oregon Expressway to San Antonio, I ride on the sidewalk. It's so much safer and I rarely encounter a pedestrian on this stretch. If I do, I temporarily dismount until I pass the pedestrian. Riding bikes on this sidewalk should be made legal.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Petra Karenter, a resident of Professorville,
on Apr 20, 2021 at 12:57 pm

Petra Karenter is a registered user.

The area near where Page Mill Road intersects 280 is still very dangerous. I know they've changed the road/lane markings since the fatality there a few years ago, but it is still quite confusing (and unsettling) to negotiate.

[irrelevant link removed]


 +   4 people like this
Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Apr 20, 2021 at 3:29 pm

Alan is a registered user.

"...who also clog up the left turn islands ahead of cars waiting for the signal to change."

While bicyclists should use the bicycle lanes for going forward, it's completely appropriate for them to make use of left turning lanes. They often have marked bicycle positions, and have sensors designed for them. While they do have the option of using crosswalks, it's not the first method mentioned by the California DMV.

Here is what the DMV says: "As you approach the intersection, look over your left shoulder for traffic. If clear, signal your turn and move over to the left side of the lane, or into the left or center turn lane. Use the whole turn lane, and position yourself so that vehicles turning the same direction cannot pass you."

Link: Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by kbehroozi, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Apr 20, 2021 at 5:53 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

For a map of bicycle incidents, check out the GIS mapping of state collision data at Web Link.

You need to create an account but can then filter by such factors as collision party (e.g. child, bicycle, pedestrian), severity, types of streets, etc. There are accident reports attached to each datum but I find them to be confusing and possibly inaccurate (based on knowledge of intersections and the movements described). Still, useful tool for identifying hot spots and targets for improvement.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Robert Neff, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 20, 2021 at 10:43 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

Page Mill / 280: It can't be comfortable being next to the on-ramp traffic, but now better than the merge mess it was before. What it really needs is a sidewalk and pedestrian lights on the North side.

I've started going through (from Old Page Mill - what a delight), to get to Arastradero Preserve since COVID. You must cross 2 lanes of Page Mill Expressway, but just wait (Wait, WAIT!), for a big break, and go across both. Eventually there is a gap because of the light up the hill at Deer Creek. Then just stay in the bike lane, and try to not get nervous about onramp traffic. A rear view mirror helps! On the way back - even easier. Get on the left before the Arastradero/Page Mill 4-way stop, ride through the interchange in the middle, and wait (wait, WAIT!) for a gap to turn left to old Page Mill. Near Foothill, just stay on the sidewalk up to the intersection.

Finally, Alma is permitted, and scary, but if a cyclist takes the lane, with good lights front and back, not unsafe. If you try to ride in the gutter on any busy street, in dark clothes, very unsafe. It's always a good idea to attract visual attention. [Portion removed.]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Perspective, a resident of another community,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 9:48 am

Perspective is a registered user.

riding a bike nowadays is like putting your life in someone else's hands.

it's better to stay off the roads and mountain bike instead.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Richard, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 10:24 am

Richard is a registered user.

When you quote the number of bike accidents in a given city, these should be corrected for the number of bicyclists using city streets and how much time bikes are on the streets (e.g. accidents per bike hours), otherwise raw numbers can be misleading (e.g. comparing Mt View to PA).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 10:45 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Alan: Thank you for your explanation to Open Range. It's important that cars understand what is recommended behavior for cyclists.

@Donald: Yes, there are tradeoffs between vehicle capacity and bike capacity (and safety). As we get more people on bikes, or *want* to get more people on bikes, we need to keep evaluating these. I would definitely give some more time to peds/bikes at Charleston.

@Richard: Yes. The OTS rankings were supposed to do that to some extent, but from what I can tell (and from exchanges with people who work there), I don't think they really correct for this either. (Mountain View's bike ranking is poor but still better than that of Palo Alto and Menlo Park, which are among the very worst.) Maybe the problem is we don't have good data on bike miles.

@kbehroozi: Ooh. That is a great pointer, thank you! I am going to do a few comments with some information from that site.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roger, a resident of Los Altos,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 10:55 am

Roger is a registered user.

Biking on Alma Street, Oregon Expressway, Embarcadero Road, and even El Camino should be avoided. Palo Alto has done much to offer alternatives. Bikers always have to be vigilant---defensive driving. Let's not forget about riding on Page Mill Road under 280 or Alpine Road under 280 as potential trouble spots....

When is El Camino going to be re-paved?? Talk about dangerous surfaces that could easily upend a bike....El Camino through Palo Alto and Mountain View is a true biking hazard.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 11:07 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

FWIW, here is a map of collisions involving bicycles in Palo Alto in 2019, from the link @kbehroozi provided.



A few things I notice, but I'd like your take:
- A lot of accidents in North Palo Alto, around downtown but not in downtown. Any thoughts on why? Cars trying to park? Other?
- Charleston is a problem north of Alma. El Camino and Alma are not great.
- Bryant, our main Bike Boulevard, has several accidents, which surprises me because it seems quite safe and well marked. As a commenter suggested, it would be nice to compare accidents with bike volume.
- Middlefield has relatively few accidents. That is surprising to me (and good).
- Stanford does very well given all the bikes there.

If you cluster these at a certain level, you get these clusters, though I'm not sure how helpful this is:



Top intersections for accidents highlights incidents crossing Alma.



In Palo Alto, the majority of these accidents occur during morning and afternoon/evening commutes. That is not the case in neighboring cities.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 11:14 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Here is the map for Mountain View:



I don't really see any hot spots here, though Shoreline has a good share of accidents.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 11:18 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

And here is the map for Menlo Park:



This shows few accidents around downtown or schools, but a concentration in the Willows and East Menlo Park.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 11:21 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Finally, one interesting thing is to look at the "Primary Collision Factor" for these accidents. It is *not* speeding in Palo Alto. Here are the data for each city.

Palo Alto:


Mountain View:


Menlo Park:


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 11:29 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Here is a comment that was emailed to me:

i remember growing up here riding my bike from college terrace to rinconada for swimming and university avenue for movies, probably from 5-6 grade on.
i was amazed when i came back to visit my parents, perhaps 30 years ago to see all of the college terrace streets blocked at one end or the other.
perhaps palo alto can turn more thru streets like briant and waverly into thru streets only for bikes.
this would have the effect of having more culdesacs and pushing cars to alma or middlefield.
knowing palo alto residents, the biggest issue will be the NIMBES-great idea but not on my street.
i drive now and i would not ride my bike on streets like middlefield or alma even if it was legal. some legal things are just plan unsafe in my opinion.

when you design the system, please make sure you figure out where those cars will go. first impressions are often wrong in these situations.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Bystander, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 1:13 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

I remember well being a witness to a 2 bike collision several years ago. A bike came out of a driveway and went straight into a crosswalk to start riding on the opposite side of the road. Beside the crosswalk was a gardeners truck blocking visibility but coming along was a recumbant bike that could not be seen.

As a witness I gave my information to both middle aged male bike riders, both wearing bike gear and obviously frequent bike riders. They were busy arguing as to who was at fault. There were bloody knees for both riders and damage to both bikes, with bits of bike in the middle of the road. Both riders were blaming the gardeners truck for the collision. My perspective was that since neither could see if anything was coming either from the road or the crosswalk, both should have been much more cautious. Neither agreed with me saying that as a pedestrian I had no idea of what bikes should have done.

My point is that bikes do not only have collision with cars and other motorized vehicles. They also have collisions with each other and also with pedestrians. When visibility is restricted due to a parked vehicle, it cannot be assumed that nothing is coming. In my scenario, if either of the bikes had been a child on a small bike or a child walking across the crosswalk, they are small to be seen and still have the same rights to be riding the road or crossing at a crosswalk.

Is the same type of data available for bike on bike collisions, or bike on pedestrian collisions, and what about collisions that take place in parks or other off road bike paths?


 +   2 people like this
Posted by jguislin, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 1:43 pm

jguislin is a registered user.

Under CA Law, California Vehicle Code § 16000, accidents must be reported to the DMV within 10 days when:
- There were injuries involved regardless of how minor
- There were fatalities
- There was property damage exceeding $1,000

Most accidents, except the smallest of scrapes and scratches, will cross this dollar threshold.
But the reality is fewer than half of all accidents get reported. So when we are shocked by the number of accidents in Palo Alto, we are not even seeing the full scope of the problem.

The CA Office of Traffic Safety Data show that Palo Alto has ranked in the top 10 (i.e. worst) for cities with populations of 50,001 - 100,000 for years. We look particularly bad for bicycle and pedestrian accidents. And yet our city government has no published plan to reduce the number of these accidents.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Neal, a resident of Community Center,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 4:04 pm

Neal is a registered user.

Sherry,
Your "Primary Collision Factor" chart doesn't reveal whether it was the bicyclist or the motorist who was at fault. Do you have any information on that?

Improper turning is the biggest cause of accidents. One of the most frequently violated laws involves right turns. Most motorists aren't aware they MUST merge into a bicycle lane when making a right turn. Too often they speed up and do the right hook maneuver.

Change is coming regarding left turn and right turn lanes. This bill was signed in 2019.

State Capitol, Sacramento, CA " Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill today that will make it safer for bicycle riding in California at busy intersections. The bill requires Caltrans to develop a street marking or design that allows cyclists to go straight from a right or left turn lane and to safely cross outside of the high-traffic lanes.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on Apr 21, 2021 at 8:29 pm

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Neal: Boy, you guys make me work for my living. And, great question. Yes, you can find fault data by downloading the csv for the collisions in question and looking at it. Here's what I get for the 72 2019 bike-involved collisions in Palo Alto that they have data on:
20: car at fault
35: bicycle at fault
2: SUV at fault
1: bus at fault (yikes)
4: pickup at fault
1: unknown hit-and-run
9: doesn't say

You can also look at the specific vehicle code violations, and by whose fault it was. I haven't done that (yet?) but in the case of the bus it was this one.

FWIW, bikes were on the wrong side of the road pretty often.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Staying Young Through Kids, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Apr 22, 2021 at 3:48 pm

Staying Young Through Kids is a registered user.

Back in the day there were sign attached to all of the No Parking signs along Alma that said "Bikes Use Sidewalk". Wish I had a picture. They took them down about 15 years ago.

E-bikes would be a great future blog topic.

Many of them travel faster on city streets than I do on my motorcycle. They choose to use the road when convenient, bike lanes when they're not blocked, the sidewalk when expedient, and they always ride through crosswalks without stopping.

Hardly any of them obey stop signs and roll through (or start super early) against red lights. All of this with nary the application of propulsive force to the pedals with their own legs and a little ATP.

I always think..."If I did any of that I'd get a ticket at least once a week!"

Heck, I won't even lane-split and the riders on e-bikes pass me On. The. Regular. on ECR, Embarcadero, Alma, and Lytton. We have to simply forget about what they do on Stanford campus!

When are we gonna get serious about M1 and M2 licensing, mandatory cycle training, helmet laws, and ticketing for these things? They might not burn petrol, but they are "motor cycles" by both use and definition.




 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Petra Karenter, a resident of Professorville,
on Apr 26, 2021 at 8:38 pm

Petra Karenter is a registered user.

[Removed, off-topic]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Hector M., a resident of Ventura,
on Apr 27, 2021 at 8:50 pm

Hector M. is a registered user.

All bicyclists should be required to take a bike safety and traffic law course prior to being issued a mandatory bike rider license issued by either the police department or a newly formed Department of Bicycle Riders (DBR).

The kids riding bikes on the streets nowadays are a traffic nuisance and need to be monitored.



 +  Like this comment
Posted by Robert Neff, a resident of Midtown,
on Apr 30, 2021 at 6:06 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

Thanks for pulling up the maps. Did you notice, your injury map of Palo Alto is at odds with your story? San Antonio only has one injury, yet it's a terrible route, that feels dangerous. As you noted, few on Middlefield (and those two are at intersections, probably crossing traffic.) Meanwhile plenty on Bryant and Charleston. Are Bryant and Charleston dangerous, and San Antonio and Middlefield safe? Of course not. It's just that the map is only going to find collisions where the bicyclists are, and there are a lot on Bryant and Charleston. It is worth thinking about why so many on Charleston, not on Meadow, and why so many on Embarcadero (I wonder if those or mostly cyclists riding on the sidewalk, because - Embarcadero. Sidewalk riding is dangerous when the sidewalk riders cannot be well seen by right turning traffic, and especially when sidewalk riders travel against traffic.)
Most of the time our sense danger is right, and we stay away from dangerous streets, or ride with extra caution. The most dangerous situations are when we feel safe, but actually our presence is unexpected and unseen by other traffic on the road. Sidewalk riding is one of those situations, or moving up in a bike lane on the right of turning traffic as a light turns green.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Mountain View Online blogger,
on May 1, 2021 at 9:05 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Thank you for the very important and heartfelt comments about bike (and ebike!) safety.

@Robert, you make a very insightful comment about perceived vs actual safety. FWIW, I did notice the discrepancy you mention, but my thoughts were not as cogent as yours. I should really do a post on bike (and ebike) safety. (Ooh, email me if you want to do a guest post for my blog!)

The only thing I would add is that I would guess that the majority of incidents are not reported because it's a pita to do so. Why bother unless there were enough damage to people or property to justify doing so? So the incidents that are reported may lean towards those that caused vehicle damage, which may bias the map some. (We know that the injuries in nearly all cases were very minor.)

Anyway, a big thank you for these helpful and important comments.


Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.

Email:

SUBMIT

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.


Get the most important local news stories sent straight to your inbox daily.

The Fish Market to remain in Palo Alto despite sale of property to developer
By The Peninsula Foodist | 8 comments | 4,689 views

Memo to PA Police Chief Jonsen: What are you hiding from us? And why?
By Diana Diamond | 28 comments | 1,929 views

"How Can We Be Happy Again?" Part 2
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 909 views

Honey bees!
By Sherry Listgarten | 3 comments | 415 views

 

Vote now!

It's time once again to cast your vote for the best places to eat, drink, shop and spend time in Mountain View. Voting is open now through May 23. Watch for the results of our Best Of contest on Friday, July 23.

VOTE HERE