Google proposes to take over city trail project


City Council members unanimously voted Tuesday to postpone construction of a trail crossing near Google headquarters after the company proposed what may be a superior alternative for bicyclists, pedestrians and the environment.

Google officials didn't have to make a fuss to persuade council members that it might be better to build an under-crossing for the Permanente Creek Trail rather than the $400,000 crosswalk approved last year to get trail users across Charleston Road in the heart of Google headquarters. Numerous Google employees use the trail to commute to work, and to move around the massive Googleplex on its brightly colored bicycles.

"We think it's a far safer type of crossing and one that's probably a little more environmentally sensitive," said Google's John Igoe of the design, which provides "anyone biking in the area with a much enhanced experience."

Going beyond what anyone had asked for, Google representatives propose the removal of 96 parking spaces along the west bank of the creek to widen the creek channel between Highway 101 and Charleston Road. To do so would help restore the creek and improve wildlife habitat, work which Google and local non-profit Acterra have already begun by planting native plants on the creek banks. Google provided the city with a long list of native plants that would be used to restore the creek, described as little more than a "concrete ditch" through much of Mountain View by resident Greg Unangst.

"Permanente Creek is one of the most abused creeks in the Valley, from the (Lehigh Hanson cement) quarry all the way to to Bay," Unangst said. "Hopefully we can do much better. This is a great improvement."

Last year council members balked at paying $4.2 million for such an under-crossing. It did include a more convenient connection to Charleston Road, but council members hesitated at the removal of 20 trees required to make that work.

Google is avoiding the removal of those 20 trees, but it likely means cyclists and pedestrians must take a more indirect route to the street.

"To access Charleston Road from the trail, a trail user would cross the creek on one of the two bridges included in the project," explained public works director Mike Fuller in an email.

Google will be building two new footbridges across the creek, including one at a yet-to-be-determined location south of Charleston Road and another north of Charleston replacing a heavily used footbridge connecting the former Alza headquarters to the Googleplex, which Google has deemed too narrow.

Unangst, also chair of the city's bicycle pedestrian advisory committee, said the committee had not been able to review the design yet, adding that there is some confusion about access to Charleston Road from the trail and "a lot of chatter in the bike community about how that is going to come off."

Council member Mike Kasperzak stressed that the council wasn't approving Google's project by allowing it to move ahead in the design process.

"Safety is paramount," said resident Linda Curtis, adding that the under-crossing solves the problem of cars striking trail users. "If it ever saves lives, it's worth it."


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Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 16, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I'm glad something is finally being done to fix this dangerous intersection. Right now, the trail just ends and bicyclists are forced to ride a couple of blocks on a narrow sidewalk to get to and from a safe crossing. This isn't good for anyone and I'm surprised that the city approved this design to begin with. Just lowering the Charleston speed limit to 25mph and painting a crosswalk across the street would be superior to what we have now.

Note to the city council: the easiest way to improve street safety is to lower speed limits. 25mph is 100 times safer than 35mph. All traffic engineers know this.

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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on May 17, 2014 at 11:47 am

Traffic engineers also know that 1) lowering speed limits does not necessarily lower speeds and 2) lowering speed limits can not be done arbitrarily because there are state laws requiring traffic surveys which can prevent a speed limit from being lowered.

You are correct that lower speeds are safer, but it is not always clear how to get those lower speeds.

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Posted by Kathleen
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 19, 2014 at 3:30 pm

This will help relieve some of the Google traffic. It's a great idea.

Although, the trail is a nearly impossible route during the winter when the days are shorter and it gets too dark to see early in the evening. Lights along the trail would be great. Bike lights bounce too much to be of help.

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Posted by So glad i don't ride a bike
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 19, 2014 at 3:55 pm

So glad i don't ride a bike. You have to have a death wish to ride one, in such a congested area.

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Posted by wife of biker
a resident of another community
on May 19, 2014 at 4:40 pm

There is a tunnel along Stevens creek trail which is dark. My bike rider had sunglasses on and could see nothing nearly hitting a lady with a baby stroller. a quick turn loosened the front wheel causing great injury to both the rider and the bicycle.

Lighting in the underpass is very important. Could be solar perhaps and augmented for dark winter days and nights with conventional electricity.

Lighting is essential for safety

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Posted by trail walker
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 19, 2014 at 5:26 pm

I know what you mean about the tunnel. But the biggest safety problem on the trail isn't lighting that is too low for cyclists' sunglasses. It's the many, many bikers who go way too fast.

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Posted by Trail user before it was even opened
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 6:51 am

Yes, the tunnels are a spot where you need to slow down. Especially with the pedestrians not paying attention. I've stopped trying to announce myself because the vast majority are wearing earbuds. You rally have to be on guard for these folks. They'll step right out in front of you without even looking over their shoulder. Beware the hazards on the trail. They come in many forms, and its not just the other guy who is to blame.

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Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2014 at 8:03 am

Sometimes the City is 'perhaps' too frugal when it comes to multi-decade investment on alternative transportation. I spoke at the trail (bike and walk) infastructure meeting of the council that was choosing a street underpass ($4 M) or an interchange remodel ($0,4 M as best I can remember). The majority of Council wasn't willing to invest the higher amount. This is in spite of the fact that this would have been a 50 year infrastructure investment.
- Why is there no pedestrian/bike bridge near Shoreline/101? A 'Cupertino-280- Homestead High' type of suspension structure is not a miracle - just do it ($ reserves, and a local-transportation tax override district). Great questions for the Council Elections!

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Posted by Steve Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2014 at 8:19 am

sorry - didn't read the new article (but my memory was correct on $). My in-person impression at the Council meeting was the council was balking at-the-price. They could have directed the staff to design-around the trees. But- reporter Daniel is always at the Council meetings :) Congratulations Daniel on your reporting award!
- PS The Permanente Creek trail is being extended next to Crittenden Middle School (MVWSD) in Phase 3 of the facilities improvement plan. This will be the Rock Street/Middlefield segment of the trail. The plans are on the website under Measure G postings. Google helps pay? (that would be nice)
Steven Nelson is 1 of the 5 elected Trustees of the MVWSD.

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Posted by another trail walker
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 9:27 am

Bicyclists need to use bells on these trails. Many of them call out when passing, but pedestrians can't hear them through earphones. When you hear a bell, make sure your whole group, including dogs, is on the right side of the trail.

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Posted by Zombies with ear plugs
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 20, 2014 at 12:02 pm

I'm sorry, but until they outlaw pedestrians use of earplug on the trail, I'll simply watch out for my own safety, which in turn means watching out for others as a side benefit. Its pointless to try and announce yourself in any way to someone with earplugs in their ears. I'm always on guard against the sudden movements of pedestrians who might/do step out in front of you without checking if the coast in clear.

If my car radio is too loud to hear a horn, I don't think its up to others to get a louder horn.
Lets all be responsible for our own personal safety and not look to others to do so.

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Posted by daily walker
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Hey, wait a minute! You can't say that all pedestrians wear earplugs - that's ridiculous! I don't, for one.

Bells are definitely more effective than your voice. PLEASE get a bell, use it in time for me to hear it, and ride at a safe speed. Oh, and one more thing. Cars are supposed to give cyclists 3 feet clearance. Could you maybe do the same for me?

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Posted by another daily walker
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 6:04 pm

We always walk at least 3 feet to the right of the center line. Almost all bicyclists will change lanes to pass us, automatically giving us 3 feet of clearance. If you are walking so close to the center line that bicyclists are passing uncomfortably close to you even when they are in the left lane, then maybe you are doing something wrong.

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Posted by Walker
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 20, 2014 at 6:13 pm

I don't bike ride much, but I do notice that some groups of people walk side by side and completely block the lane. Sometimes as a fast walking destrian I wish I had a bell to remind them to share the trail! Maybe an air horn ?

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Posted by 3 x Daily Rider
a resident of Castro City
on May 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Daily walker, Nope, a bell is not gonna happen anynmore for me. I tried. I've rang my bell too many times to responding peds so I've stopped. Talk to your fellow walkers if you want change. Those ear plugs block out far too much ambient noise. In fact we just had an ear bud related tragedy with the 18 y.o. girl in San Leandro. They are very efficient at blocking noise, so any action on my part has proven to be futile, but I did try for up to a year ago.

It's a shared trail with the expectation that bikes will be passing on your left at up to 15 mph so you would be wise to keep to the right. That's what I would do if I was worried about my safety.

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Posted by 3 x Daily Rider
a resident of Castro City
on May 21, 2014 at 4:50 pm

should be "un-responding peds"

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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