Advocates: Pedestrian plan up for vote lacks detail | January 11, 2013 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - January 11, 2013

Advocates: Pedestrian plan up for vote lacks detail

by Daniel DeBolt

A plan that could take the city's walkability up a notch is going in front of the City Council on Tuesday, Jan. 15, but those who have studied it closely say it lacks specific plans and measurable goals.

The 134-page "Pedestrian Master Plan" has been posted on the city's website for review at It calls for continued improvements to the city's network of crosswalks, sidewalks, trails and pedestrian bridges. But resident Jarrett Mullen and commissioner Bruce England say it doesn't go far enough.

"It seems like in this plan they want to create another plan to figure out what details are going to be," said Mullen, expressing disappointment. "It seems like that should happen and that it should happen here."

England, a member of the city's bicycle and pedestrian advisory commission which reviewed the plan in October, said, "The consensus was that its in pretty good shape."

"It's not just boiler-plate material," England said. "It does a good job of talking where we are coming from and what direction we need to go in." It describes "the trials and amenities already there."

But England says he hopes it will become a "living document" when the council approves it on Jan. 15 that would be immediately opened for additions and revisions by the commission. "

"What would be nice is if we could open up the document right away," England said. "And like any of these plans the city develops, we'd like to see this plan actually used."

Recent accidents

With widespread concern over several recent pedestrian deaths on California Street and Shoreline Boulevard, and the three children hit by cars in front of Graham Middle School last year on a wide portion of Castro Street, "it just seems to be the time is right, people really want this kind of thing to happen," England said, noting recent community meetings.

Leading an effort called the Rengstorff Great Streets Initiative, Mullen has called for the narrowing of expressway-like streets in the Rengstorff area, including Shoreline Boulevard and California Street. But the plan leaves out Shoreline Boulevard as a street that can be put on a road diet to slow traffic and make room for protected bike lanes, even though Shoreline's six lanes between Central Expressway and El Camino Real is by many accounts an egregious design that encourages speeding and leaves little room for bikes.

"Is this going to be vehicle for change or the boat anchor for the status quo, I didn't know," Mullen said of the plan. "Right now I'm leaning towards the status quo."

Mullen noted a chart in the plan showing that pedestrians have only a 5 percent chance of dying when hit by car going 20 miles per hour, but the risk jumps to 40 percent at 30 miles per hour and over 80 percent when a car is going over 40 miles per hour.

"With that info, I was expecting to see the city focus a lot on arterials (major streets) in the goals," Mullen said. "El Camino Real, Rengstorff, Middlefield. You would think that would be a big focus."

Choosing priorities

Mullen said language in the plan about optimizing streets for "all modes of transportation" was not helpful.

"You only have so much space to achieve your goals," Mullen said. "You really have to prioritize certain modes in some areas. They can't please everyone."

Mullen also suggested the city map its new data on where pedestrian collisions occur in order to implement the data-driven approach to improvements officials have promised.

"Some of the more progressive ideas aren't in there," England said, mentioning the use of "pedestrian scramble" crosswalks that diagonally cross intersections where appropriate, something done in other cities. He also mentioned "passive signal switching" which allows pedestrians to trigger a walk sign by simply standing at the intersection, no button-pushing required. Such are little things that make pedestrians feel valued. They also cost money, and there is an appendix that describes numerous funding sources, which England says is adequate.

Mullen pointed to a pedestrian plan for Chicago, while England cited one just created for Seattle, as examples to follow.

"It takes a stand, puts a stake in the ground and says Seattle is going to be the most walkable city in the country," England said. Mountain View should also have a plan that says, "We're going to take some major steps forward and make some notable change," he said.

Email Daniel DeBolt at


Posted by Steve, a resident of Jackson Park
on Jan 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm

How many people on foot and cyclists have been killed by automobiles on California St. that were the fault of the road design in the last 20 years? 30? 40?

The tragedy that occurred to Mr. Ware was a horrible thing to happen, but it happened because of poor judgment of a irresponsible driver speeding and the long-time need for a turn-lane signal arrow at the intersection where the accident occurred, not because of the number of lanes available.

I was involved in an auto accident at California St. and San Antonio in the early 80's where a young lady traveling the opposite direction made an left right in front of me. I was doing the 35 mph limit, and the police verified that. This was before the left-turn lanes on Calif. had their own green light. The city added such a feature not too long after, telling me that my incident at that busy crossing was not unique.

--> The California/Escuela intersection now has left-turn lights. Had they been put in long ago as needed, Mr. Ware could be here with us today.

--> Had Mr. Pumar driven at a sensible speed, again Mr. Ware may not have suffered.

--> Had California St. had only 2 lanes instead of 4, would such an accident be unlikely? I think not. You only need one lane to break a speed limit, and only two to make a left turn into the path of on-coming traffic.

The only suggestion I agree with is the lack of need for the short section of 6 lanes on Shoreline. Just turn the outside lanes into right-turn-only lanes. Narrow existing routes from 4 lanes to 2 and I will show you a lot of frustrated drivers who will start speeding down neighborhood back streets in an attempt to make up time caused by the huge traffic back-ups such a plan will cause.

Shoreline and San Antonio are major traffic arteries, and alternative routes do not exist for the traffic you are trying to discourage. Narrowing these routes will create more and bigger problems that it would solve.