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.