Over 200 bike-related injuries in five years | September 14, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

News - September 14, 2012

Over 200 bike-related injuries in five years

City releases bike collision data

by Daniel DeBolt

A bicyclist is injured every nine days in Mountain View, on average, according to data compiled this week by the police department. Bicyclists say they want city officials to take note of where injuries happen and find solutions to make bicycling safer.

The city has seen 203 bike-related injuries since September of 2007, according to the data compiled at the request of the Voice. None of the injuries were fatal. By press time, police could not clarify how many of the bike-related injuries involved cars or exactly how many involved hurt bicyclists.

Most of the injuries, 167 of them, occurred at intersections along the city's busiest traffic arteries with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or more. El Camino Real leads the list, with 47 bike-related injuries, followed by Rengstorff Avenue (31 injuries), California Street (27), Shoreline Boulevard (24) and San Antonio Road (14).

"I think that's really important data to pay attention to," said Eugene Cordero, Mountain View resident and meteorology professor at San Jose State University. "As a bicyclist whose primary mode of transportation is a bike, it's very alarming to hear we've had over 200 accidents in the last five years."

"I would encourage the City Council to use that number of 200 injuries and say, we want to reduce that by 75 percent in the next three to five years," Cordero said.

City officials have apparently not regularly considered such data while planning the city's bike infrastructure. It was compiled by police spokesperson Jaime Garrett for this story.

"If there are clusters of injuries it would seem to make sense to figure out why those areas are dangerous and make them safer," said Elly Phillips, who regularly bikes with her 4-year-old son in tow on a trailer bike.

The city's much-loved Stevens Creek Trail does not run near Phillips' home, near El Monte Avenue and El Camino Real, so her top priority is "having bike lanes that are safe."

Fastest, but not safest

Cyclists say the most dangerous streets in Mountain View also happen to be some of the best, most direct routes for cyclists. That's unfortunate because, as Mountain View cyclist and blogger Janet LaFleur points out in her blog, "at 20 mph, 85 percent of pedestrians or cyclists hit by cars will survive. At 40 mph, 85 percent will die."

After last week's story on the state of the city's bike network, cyclists logged on to the Voice's Town Square forum to say they agree that there's still much more work to do. They expressed, among other things, concern about the removal of bike lanes on Calderon Avenue, a lack of bike lanes on El Camino Real and a busy stretch of Middlefield Road near San Antonio Road, and bike boulevards that don't favor bike traffic over car traffic, like Palo Alto's bike boulevards do.

Mountain View has 54 miles of designated bike routes and a bronze rating for bike friendliness from the League of American Bicyclists. But as reported last week, the city's efforts to increase safety for bicyclists are on hold. Bike lanes that run the length of Calderon Avenue and San Antonio Road from California Street to El Camino Real are the only new bike route projects planned, aside from creekside trail extensions that are unfunded and years away. Both bike lane projects are unfunded, estimated to cost $340,000 and $1.3 million respectively.

"I definitely think the city should prioritize improvements for areas where they have the most injury," LaFleur said She also called for "prioritizing routes that involve schools."

LaFleur said it's worthwhile to compare Palo Alto's success in encouraging Gunn High School students to bike with the number of bicyclists at Mountain View High School, as both schools are tucked away at the edge of their respective cities and require riding on similar roads. Over 696 Gunn students reportedly rode their bikes to school on a single day in October last year, while 171 bikes were counted at Mountain View High on August 28 this year, said Assistant Principal Donna Peltz in an email. Gunn had similar numbers over a decade ago, recording 180 students on bikes in 1999.

"I live within a couple tenths of a mile from two schools," LaFleur said. "A lot of the kids who go to those schools have to cross those roads" where cars go over 35 miles per hour. "So almost every parent feels that it's only safe if they drive their kids to school, which results in more traffic."

Low income residents need a boost

After the death of William Ware, a pedestrian at a bus stop who was killed this year by a car speeding down California, resident Jarrett Mullen called for the narrowing California Street from four lanes to three to allow wider bike lanes and to slow traffic.

"If you see cars barreling by at 50 to 60 miles per hour when the speed limit is 35, that has an impact on your well-being," said Mullen, leader of the Rengstorff Great Streets Initiative, which aims to make streets near Rengstorff Park safer and more pleasant for the many residents there without cars. "If you feel unsafe, you are going to feel stressed, you are going to feel marginalized. There is large number of people interested in riding but they don't feel safe, so they don't."

Cordero said he agreed that the Rengstorff area is "pretty under-served." "When you build good bike infrastructure, such as buffered bike lanes, people feel safer," Cordero said. "And ultimately, I think it really improves the community."

San Jose is a good example of a city "systematically" improving its bike network, Cordero said.

"I work in downtown San Jose and the transformation there has been amazing." Cordero said, referring to 6 miles of new "extra-buffer bike lanes" there, including some that create a protected bike lane between parked cars and the curb.

Cordero also points to the Shoreline Boulevard overpass over Highway 101 as another dangerous place for cyclists, and says a brightly-painted bike lane where speeding cars cross paths with cyclists to get on and off the freeway would be a big help.

"I would invite the City Council members to do that ride themselves," Cordero said of that section of Shoreline he uses to get to Gold's Gym, and which numerous Google employees might also bike if it were safer. "Then they might feel more motivated to find a solution. Maybe we should start doing rides around Mountain View with City Council members."

Phillips had similar comments.

"It's like nobody has gone along my route of travel and said, 'How can you get safely down this street?'" Phillips said.

Phillips said one her pet peeves is garbage cans left in bike lanes, which can cause a danger for her and her son when she has to ride around them.

"I feel like the city is focused on cars and not on bicyclists or pedestrians, which is a shame," Phillips said. "I find so many place are easily bike-able, even with a small kid. The distances aren't huge. It's the logistics, like crossing El Camino Real."

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com


Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 14, 2012 at 11:22 am

I don't understand why if bicyclists have nearly 3 feet of a bike lane to travel in, why they must ride on the line of the bike lane? Last week while walking down El Camino I was almost hit twice by bicyclists riding on the side walk, both without helmets and riding in the opposite direction of traffic travel. From my observation bicyclists are the most traffic law breaking travelers on the road, riding through stop signs, red lights. Once I see them riding in a manner that shows they are concerned for their own safety, I'll begin to care as well.

Like this comment
Posted by Lavonne Anderson
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2012 at 4:06 pm

The widest of bike lanes, and sharrows all over the street, will not make bicyclists safe as long as they run red lights and stop signs. In one two week period I had 5 bicyclists run the red light in front of me with a green light my direction. I dare say they probably ran the other red lights and stop signs they came to as well. Location 1 at California and Renstorff, 3 at California and Escuela, 1 at Evelyn and Calderon.

Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 15, 2012 at 12:27 pm

"The widest of bike lanes, and sharrows all over the street, will not make bicyclists safe as long as they run red lights and stop signs."

Perhaps not, but they'll make cyclists who do obey traffic laws safer. We have infrastructure designed to make car drivers safer even though the majority of them speed on the highway, so it's not rational to punish all cyclists with unsafe conditions because some of them break the law.

Like this comment
Posted by William Symons
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 16, 2012 at 7:04 am

Since most of you are categorizing all cyclists in one classification, I will Generally speak too. Many of you complaining don't ride, or you rode with the same lack of proper cycling etiquette, and therefore never taught your children how to ride properly, so they grew up riding like their peers, with little awareness of proper cycling habits. It takes a lot of retraining to teach a community how to ride properly. It's up to us knowing cyclist to set the right example when in the view of the community, and to teach the next generation proper and courteous cycling skills. Even my children, 7 and 10, ride on the road, use hand signals, stop, call out when passing pedestrians or slower cyclist. Often we live in a bubble. Many other communities, especially in Europe have thousands of more cyclist on the road than here in MV. and the overall community, personal health and environment is much better for it. 1/3 of all Americans are overweight. One of the primary factors besides the Western Diet, is lack of exercise.

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Posted by mc
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 16, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Share the road idea is so wrong for a bike rider. Since cars crash into each other every day how do you think a bike will fair vs a car? Defensive riding just like motorcycles will keep you alive. I have seen bikes go the wrong way on the road, great for head on collisions. Bikes ride over to a left turn lane among cars going 35, stay on the right and use the cross walks you cant keep up. A bike riding down El Camino during rush hour, the bike was blind to anyone following a SUV or truck as everyone tried to pass. Until the city builds actual safe bike lanes the numbers will not drop. Castro was to be a safe pedestrian bike route but it is totally unsafe with uneven roads poor parking design (cars stick out into traffic) street gutters run with the bike and the death circles at the intersection. Did anyone on the design team ride a bike?

Like this comment
Posted by Steve (cyclist)
a resident of Jackson Park
on Sep 17, 2012 at 9:22 pm

"I don't understand why if bicyclists have nearly 3 feet of a bike lane to travel in, why they must ride on the line of the bike lane?"

Simple enough. From my own experiences I have done just that on Central Expressway in Mountain View due to all the gravel, rocks and debris kicked into the bike lane by motor vehicles passing by at 45-60 mph. No problem with car tires, but potentially lethal to bicycle rubber. Some of those road bikes have tires with the pressure in pounds AND the cost in dollars in the triple digit range.

Some lanes are very rough too, sometimes with ripples or bumps from heavy maintenance vehicles. The white paint of the line can be a smooth relief to riders under those conditions.

Also, the portion of said expressway between Shoreline and Rengstorff has some nasty cracks, bumps and poor crack-patching jobs within it.

--> In a nutshell, street bicycles don't do well on poor surfaces. If you see riders on the white line, then there's probably an issue with the lane itself. Fix it, clean it and smooth it, and they will stay in the middle.

If you don't believe me, next time you see a rider on the line, grab a road bike and ride the same section. You'll see.