Council to take up bike-ped safety | November 23, 2012 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - November 23, 2012

Council to take up bike-ped safety

by Daniel DeBolt

In response to several collisions — some deadly — and calls for change from residents, the City Council is beginning to look at ways to improve bike and pedestrian safety.

The council was set for a study session Tuesday, Nov. 20, on the topic, after the Voice's press deadline. It follows months of advocacy by bike advocates, school officials and neighborhood groups and a series of articles in the Voice.

Police and public works officials have recently started studying data on where such collisions occur and why.

"Now that we know where accidents happen we can start to figure out what we can do," said council member Laura Macias, who called for the discussion "to make sure the council continues to monitor what's going on with traffic management."

The meeting will take place at 5 p.m. in City Hall at 500 Castro Street.

The council will hear a presentation on new efforts by police and public works to make the city's streets safer, including new signage and striping in front of Graham Middle School where several students recently were hit by cars. There's also a new team of police officers devoted to bike and pedestrian safety.

City officials indicated in a report that they are taking traffic safety seriously, noting major accidents that occurs this year, including three deadly collisions, on California Street and Shoreline Boulevard, where bike advocates say the speed limit is too high.

There's a chance of some larger projects to improve safety and encourage biking and walking the city's streets. City officials say in a report that a Pedestrian Master Plan is going to presented to the City Council in December which will include projects that could be funded in next year's capital improvement program budget. While details were not provided, residents have called for more crosswalks with flashing lights, "bike boulevards" like the ones in Palo Alto that discourage car traffic and "road diets," where dangerous streets are narrowed to slow traffic and create protected bike lanes.

"We really have to switch the way we think about getting around," Macias said, noting increases in bike and transit use.

Macias said she had attended a workshop recently conducted by a Long Beach city planner about how that community made its streets more bike friendly. It's a move that's supported by businesses there who give bicyclists discounts. Advocates say bicycle improvements increase business because cyclists are more likely to stop and spend their money.

She noted the use there of protected bike lanes created by moving parked cars away from the curb and sandwiching a bike lane in between. Such an improvement could be used on California Street, she said, one of the more dangerous streets for cyclists, according to police data.

"If you are biking and you are not a completely confident cyclist, like me, you don't have to worry about getting hit by a car because you have a parked car protecting you," Macias said.

Macias also noted that the city needs a new way of determining speed limits. The city follows state rules and that say when "80 percent of the traffic is going at this speed they have to keep them at this speed," and speed limits can be no lower. "That's really a car-centric model. We need a people-centric model, not a car centric model."

Macias said she hopes council members take note when they pick new goals in January. Council member Ronit Bryant has also expressed interest.

"I hope this goes somewhere," Macias said. "It seems necessary. We can't just keep on allowing drivers to keep on driving faster. There's lots of solutions."

For coverage of the meeting, which occurred after the Voice went to press on Tuesday, visit

Email Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Cuesta Resident, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 22, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Yes, lets make city more bike friendly - but ONLY without making it less car friendly.

MANY people (seniors, families, disabled) cannot reasonably use bikes at all, and for many others cars are the only practical solution. Don't penalize all of them.

Focus on changes that keep car traffic at least as good as today, but improve bike options. One example: get rid of street parking on select streets and make that space for bike lanes. That does not hurt car traffic but improves things for bikers.

Posted by Adina, a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2012 at 1:52 am

@cuesta it depends on how you think about what is "car-friendly."

If a street is designed so that drivers go fast, a driver is more likely to hit and kill a pedestrian. At 40mph 80% of pedestrians will die, at 30mph, 45% will die, at 20mph, only 5% will die. Also, stopping distance is longer at higher speeds so if you are going fast and see a pedestrian it is harder to avoid hitting them.

I drive a car and ride a bike. When I was younger I liked driving fast and was annoyed by streets that required driving more slowly but now that I understand the risks I would rather be patient and not run the risk of hitting someone. I think that "car-friendly" includes reducing the risk of a driver hitting someone walking or biking.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Nov 26, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Flawed logic to assume that if a street is designed for fast traffic flow, pedestrians therefore are more likely to be hit. There are too many other factors involved to draw such a simple conclusion.

Posted by registered user, Angela Hey, a resident of Mountain View Voice Blogger
on Nov 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I don't know the collision stats but here are some observations.
El Camino is a very dangerous road to bike on but people make it worse by:
1. Cycling against the traffic
2. Cycling without helmets
3. Cycling with inadequate lights
4. Cycling in unexpected places - like dashing across a cross-walk at the last minute
5. Being too close to the curb - it is better to take the entire lane and be visible rather than trying to hug the edge where you may get hidden behind buses or parked cars.

In many cases there is no reason to bike on El Camino - there are parallel streets.

Another problem - particularly on California Street that has bike lanes is parked cars. Speeding traffic on that road is also bad. Avoiding the "door space" is impossible on some streets, including Castro. So bikers have to be particularly careful in Mountain View where there are many neighborhoods that have on street parking, lest someone open a car door and knock them into the road.

Another tricky area that is near transit is getting from Evelyn to Castro. The turn into Hope Street is awkward and the bike lane between Hope Street and Castro on Evelyn disappears.

A bike boulevard would be a good idea.

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 26, 2012 at 4:45 pm

@Steve The speed of the road does matter. Drivers take corners faster on faster roads and are less likely to notice people on foot in the crosswalk or people on bikes proceeding straight through an intersection. The stats all show that arterial roads like El Camino, Shoreline, Rengstorff, etc have the highest rates of injury.

@Angela I agree with all your tips. You hit the biggest dangerous cycling behaviors. But realize that if you are shopping on El Camino, you can't avoid riding on it. Last weekend I needed to go from Trader Joes to Dittmers and back home (Rengstorff/Montecito). I challenge you to find a way to make those trips without riding El Camino or riding on the sidewalk. I lamented when Dittmers moved to the other side of El Camino just for this reason.

Posted by Bert, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 26, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Expecting/requesting/demanding that bikes stay of major roads like El Camino and only use side roads is ridiculous. Why not ask cars to only use freeways and stay off neighborhood roads? You can't get where you want to go that way. Every road should be designed for walkers, bikers and drivers and everyone should expect that and accept that.

Posted by registered user, AC, a resident of another community
on Nov 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I think our best solution is to make sure that the non-arterial roads are bike-friendly, using any or all of the means suggested.

I would simply state that any road that feeds a freeway is probably not good for bikes to be on at all. So we need alternatives. I expect freeway-connecting roads to be full of drivers in a hurry, possibly road-raging, stuck in traffic to the Amphitheatre, or something else that makes me not want to share the road with them if I am on my bicycle. And it makes sense to me.

Between Stevens Creek Trail and side roads like Montecito, California, Latham, et al... I don't find myself having much problem staying away from roads which either have high speed limits, or which have cars on it who are likely to be exceeding the speed limit.

When I am on my bike, I expect to be able to cycle safely. And when I am in my car, I expect to be able to at least try to get somewhere quickly. Or I'd have ridden my bike instead in the first place.

I know that may sound kind of stark, but I truly wonder if no one else feels the same?

Posted by NeHi, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 26, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I took Castro Northbound today as Graham was letting out. The first sign of a problem was a swarm of kids on bikes and foot so I backed way down; others did too. That was a good thing as I noted kids both darting across streets and going into the street and turning back. When I got close enuf, I noted that most were in crosswalks the location of which surprised me and were not what I would consider well enuf marked to see from much distance; it looked like a mass migration across Castro.

1. Lots of crosswalks, lots of yellow signs, can't proceed at all quickly; crosswalks are not adequately marked. Mtn. View, please take note.

2. We have a group who don't all understand that walking in front of a moving vehicle can be fatal; many did not seem to realize there were cars in the street.

I will try to make some suggestions on how the crosswalks can be more clearly delineated but somebody else had better let the kids know what damage a car can do in an instant.

Posted by SP Phil, a resident of Shoreline West
on Nov 26, 2012 at 9:08 pm

A fundamental problem for pedestrians is the law says that cars must stop for pedestrians IN the crosswalk. Thus many drivers don't stop when people are waiting (and waiting and waiting) to cross the street. And no rational person would try to cross Shoreline or California by stepping off the curb "trusting" that a driver will stop. Take a look at the "paddle"-type sign on View near the post office to see the law.

Also, people have come from all over the US and all over the world--and I mean educated people in high-tech jobs--to work in Mountain View companies and surrounding communities. At best, many/most do not know that California law requires giving priority to pedestrians. I have crossed Castro Street and had drivers (almost) sweep right by me, practically running over my toes.

Posted by NeHi, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Nov 26, 2012 at 9:44 pm

SP Phil

You are getting it right; you can trust a driver to stop or take your chances. I prefer waving them on [don't always work, more delay for them or me] or just hide until there is a break. I hadn't thought of going to the postoffice to see the law; brilliant.

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 26, 2012 at 10:12 pm

@AC Did you read my previous comment? If your destination is a store, workplace or home on an arterial you can't avoid riding on it or on the sidewalk.

Crossing arterial roads is not particularly safe either. I live off of Montecito and I can't get anywhere without crossing Shoreline or Rengstorff. Often I find drivers bullying me out of my right of way when I cross these roads. You don't have to ride on arterials to be endangered by them and you can't travel more than 1/2 mile without dealing with them.

Posted by mike, a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 27, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the law say that a pedestrian does not have the right-of-way if a car (or cyclist) has already legally entered the intersection?

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Nov 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm

mike, you are wrong. The law says nothing about whether a vehicle has entered an intersection. The text is below, from
Web Link

21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.

(b) This section does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for his or her safety. No pedestrian may suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. No pedestrian may unnecessarily stop or delay traffic while in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

(c) The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.

(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.

Posted by GG, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Nov 28, 2012 at 7:47 am

Bike should follow the rules of the road and obey all traffic signal. It is so dangerous when bikes blast through stop signs and red lights. That being said all car should be extra cautious and always keep an eye out for bicycles. Tragically a girl died this weekend Woodside due to a bike collision with a car

Posted by pedestrian, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 28, 2012 at 8:35 am

Please yield to pedestrians in crosswalks! Sometimes I start crossing when the nearest car is 2 blocks away and they still will not stop when they get to my crosswalk. Are they texting and can't see me? Anytime you see a pedestrian in a crosswalk, just stop. No excuses. The speed limit on the street should not matter. Just stop. Thank you.

Posted by kman, a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 28, 2012 at 9:29 am

A couple of weeks back the MV Voice had an article which said cyclist are at fault the majority of the times when involved in accidents. Maybe what is needed is a bicycle safety program.

Posted by mike, a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 28, 2012 at 9:49 am

Donald, thank you for your answer. I think that what often happens when accidents occur has something to do with one or both parties being stubborn or ignorant. Simply slowing down when the possibility exists of something happening doesn't seem unreasonable. Foot on the brake, (or hands on the brake levers).

Posted by Adina, a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2012 at 1:18 pm

The article that said cyclists were at fault cited a report in which crashes by cyclists hit by right-turning drivers were classified as the cyclists fault. When a driver doesn't look right and fails to merge behind a turning cyclist, the driver may perceive that the cyclist "came out of nowhere" and was riding too fast. Unfortunately some of our law enforcement officers who record the at-fault assessment may not be aware of the rules of the road for right turns, and classify those crashes as the fault of the cyclist.

Posted by Lman, a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 28, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Kman, it was a very small majority as I recall. So small that I would expect that a comprehensive driving/cycling/pedestrian program is in order.
Even if its a true, actual 60/40 split, to ignore the 40% of drivers at fault would be folly, esp with the damage a driver can cause compared to a bike. Singling out a group you do not agree with not only divides our community, but also misses what is trying to be achieved.
Remember, we are not dealing with 2 or 3 groups. Every cyclist I know spends much more time driving that biking.
Like I always say, the idiot scofflaw cyclist is just an idiot scofflaw driver who chose a different vehicle that day.

Posted by kman, a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

"Unfortunately some of our law enforcement officers who record the at-fault assessment may not be aware of the rules of the road"

Your calling our law enforcement personals ignorant of the law? Hmm, now that's not nice.

The facts are facts, just looking out for our precious bike community, by my comments.

I for one do not argue with the fact that there are a lot of ignorant a**holes driving cars out there. We are a car driven society, whether it's gas or in the future electric cars, things will not change that fact. The distances here are just to great.

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Nov 28, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Kman, the vehicle code is very long and cops don't know every bit of it. I have had personal experience with law enforcement officers who absolutely didn't know the law. I also heard a story about the Los Altos town lawyer who gave a ruling to the chief of police about the legality of riding bikes on the sidewalk that was absolutely incorrect. It took a couple of years, but the errors were finally fixed. Some of this stuff is complicated, and cops can't be expected to be experts on every part of the criminal, civil and vehicle codes. Cops are only human, and not always the most intellectual or studious members of society.

Posted by registered user, AC, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm

@Janet Lafleur

I've been giving thought to what you wrote, and I'm afraid I can't think of any easy or practical solutions; particularly because I've not encountered the problems you cite myself. Particularly on arterial roads, which just like you I do sometimes have to cross, I've not had any problems. But then, I don't expect right of way on those roads any more than I expect right of way or consideration from a Caltrain blowing by.

Which leads to the only solution I can think of for crossing arterials. Rail-style grade crossings with gates. But that sounds both unsightly and expensive. Although less unsightly (for the skyline) and less expensive than overpass ramps (like Central Expressway); and I expect some folks to complain about how hard it is to crank uphill for an overpass.

Which leads to another observation. I ride down Central a lot, actually, getting to Caltrain stations, or to church, or what-have-you. Higher speed limit for cars, even less controlled intersections. And I feel safer on it than on Shoreline. The road is wider, the intersections are fewer, and the auto speed limit is higher. Not sure what conclusions to draw from that, but stating a personal experience.

Consider that Alma in Palo Alto has a lower speed limit than Central, and the thought of trying to cycle on it seems like suicide to me. The road diet doesn't make cycling any safer on it. So there is the bike boulevard which I use instead; and I never had any problems with it. I used to have a bike commute to work on Hillview in Palo Alto; and I never had a problem.

Turning Shoreline or Rengstorff into Alma seems nightmarish to me. Riding down Grant scares me too; even with lower speed limit, school crossings, and the like.

I don't really know what to tell you. I leave very near you, just off of Montecito myself, and haven't had the issues you cite. And I've had to go to the store, to work, or to activities by bicycle just like anyone else.