Bikes not safe on El Camino | October 25, 2013 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

Opinion - October 25, 2013

Bikes not safe on El Camino

What should the city do for south- or north-bound cyclists who want to ride between Palo Alto and Sunnyvale along El Camino Real?

The City Council tackled that idea last week and came up with a decision that will not make diehard cyclists happy, although the council did discuss an alternative that we think is the best solution.

The council's position on this issue came during discussion of a new precise plan for El Camino, including a proposal to install a bike lane through much of the city. The sweetener in a proposed deal would be provided by the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) which would pay for the bike lane if the council approved its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which would dedicate one lane of El Camino to buses.

But dedicated bike lane or not, the council wisely balked at putting bicycles on an extremely busy urban corridor in an environment where drivers often reach speeds of 50 miles per hour or more. "I don't know how you make El Camino Real safe enough to make it a real bike corridor," said Mike Kasperzak.

Others had similar misgivings. Jac Siegel said there is so little room for bikes that drivers could easily violate the new law requiring drivers to stay three feet away from cyclists. "I don't know how that works," Siegel said.

Rather than El Camino, council members are inclined get more creative, and in this case, work toward making a street parallel to El Camino into a bike boulevard, like Bryant Street in Palo Alto. On bike boulevards, most stops signs favor the cyclist and through the use of artificial barriers, cul de sacs are created to reduce some automotive traffic on the street. A good candidate for a bike boulevard in Mountain View would be Latham Street, which is just a block or two from El Camino, and becomes Church Street east of Shoreline Boulevard.

We think this would be a much safer design for cyclists, who even in a bike lane would have to negotiate incoming and outgoing traffic at countless commercial driveways along El Camino.

Janet Lafleur, a bicycle advocate and Voice blogger on the subject, said she is sometimes forced onto sidewalks and into parking lots while using a bike to shop on El Camino. In her mind, parking on El Camino should give way to a bike lane. "I'd really like us to prioritize bicycles over parking on El Camino," she said.

But that would be an uphill struggle that countless merchants would oppose. Rather than potentially wasting the city's resources on El Camino, it makes much more sense to study establishing a bike boulevard on Latham Street. The cost would be minimal, mostly for signs and striping. And if Latham were chosen, it would be close enough for riders to easily reach El Camino to shop or access other offices. And it would be much, much safer.


Posted by Fou du vélo, a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Oct 25, 2013 at 6:28 am

A Bike Boulevard parallel to El Camino is a great idea but how could we safely access it from South Mountain View? Crossing El Camino by bike or by foot ought to be a HUGE priority for the precise plan. For biking, it means continuous bike routes/lanes across El Camino and it might mean some short bike lanes on El Camino to connect the dots (Escuela to El Monte for instance).

Posted by Scott Lamb, a resident of Monta Loma
on Oct 25, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Scott Lamb is a registered user.

I like bicycle boulevards, but this is a let-down. It's not a complete solution if it doesn't let cyclists access the many businesses on El Camino Real. And they can't be serious about the idea anyway if they won't even let Latham residents block their street for one Sunday afternoon.

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