El Camino Real to get protected bike lanes | June 28, 2019 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - June 28, 2019

El Camino Real to get protected bike lanes

First section planned between Castro, Sylvan streets

by Mark Noack

A long discussed idea to bring protected bike lanes to El Camino Real could finally be coming in the not-too-distant future. Last week, Mountain View City Council members endorsed plans to build El Camino bike lanes, starting with a 1.5-mile stretch between Castro Street and Sylvan Avenue.

If all goes according to plan, city staff say the new bike route should be ready for construction — in 2022.

That might seem slow, but city officials say they have little control over that timeline. As a state highway, El Camino Real is administered by Caltrans, not the dozens of cities that it runs through. Mountain View city officials say any bike improvements they propose would be packaged as part of a resurfacing project Caltrans has scheduled for 2022.

To that end, council members met on June 18 to discuss any possible projects or safety improvements that they wanted included in the planned Caltrans upgrades. The one major benefit of having the state agency in charge is it will carry most of the costs, said Assistant Public Works Director Dawn Cameron.

"The beauty of a paving project is you have a blank slate," she said. "This is something they can pay for and we can work with them to get the (improvements) that we'd like to see."

For that reason, city officials say they began dusting off their old goals to build El Camino bike lanes. About 15 years ago, the Grand Boulevard Initiative proposed a continuous bike corridor along El Camino Real, but progress toward that goal has been sluggish. More recently, the city produced a precise plan and participated in a joint city roundtable, with both stating the need for a Midpeninsula bike route.

Over that time, the safety hazards for cyclists along El Camino have been hard to miss. Several members of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition pointed out that most cyclists avoid the street due to the risks of negotiating space alongside fast-moving cars. Speaking to the council, Sunnyvale resident Fred Egley pointed out his brother is now living as a paraplegic after a hit-and-run biking accident.

"A protected bike lane would have protected him," he said. "This last year, one of my co-workers was hit and killed while biking to work and a protected bike lane would have saved her as well."

To make room for bike lanes along El Camino Real, Mountain View officials say they would remove on-street parking. El Camino wouldn't lose any of its six traffic lanes, and this would also free up enough space to add wider sidewalks to help encourage more walking, city staff noted.

Losing that on-street parking, a total of 556 spaces, would have little impact, according to city staff. Currently, not many people use the on-street parking, and approximately one in three spots are occupied on average, a city survey noted.

For now, city officials plan to build bike lanes only between Castro Street and Sylvan Avenue, but other segments could be added in the near future. City staff members say they hope to work with their counterparts in Los Altos to plan similar upgrades between San Antonio and Rengstorff avenues. Other sections could be timed in coordination with redevelopment projects.

Building out those bike lanes will require more than just paint on the pavement, Cameron said. The road medians and curbs may need to be adjusted, and the entire road may need to be restriped in certain areas. The current timeline is for Caltrans to do this work during its scheduled repaving of El Camino between Highway 237 and Palo Alto in 2022.

In related work, Mountain View public works officials plan to propose three new bike and pedestrian crossings along El Camino, located at Crestview Drive, Bonita Avenue and Pettis Avenue. Some intersections along the roadway could also be altered to improve safety.

The proposed improvements were endorsed by the council in a 5-0 vote. Councilmen Chris Clark and John McAlister were both recused.

Email Mark Noack at mnoack@mv-voice.com

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