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Safety a big concern on Stevens Creek Trail

Original post made on Mar 5, 2018

For Mountain View resident Amit Mehrotra, enjoying Stevens Creek Trail was one of the reasons he decided to move to Mountain View in 2004. But lately, he says using the trail has turned into a perilous endeavor.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, March 2, 2018, 12:00 AM

Comments (43)

Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Mar 5, 2018 at 8:37 am

SRB is a registered user.

Beyond the accidents, the recreational trail is also becoming stressful to navigate at peak commute times.

Since the speed signs are merely advisory, what's the downside of lowering the "advisory" speed limits in trouble spots? (like 10 or even 5 mph on any of the underpasses). If speed limit is not enforced or enforceable anyways , let's at least provide safe advise.

Also, given the challenges with mixed-use trails/lanes in Mountain View, let's be careful before adding more types of vehicles (bikes, robots ...) on our sidewalks.

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 5, 2018 at 8:47 am

Some of the underpasses are scary because they are dark and narrow. How about installing lights? I don't think the commuters are being reckless; they just don't realize how quickly it becomes dark and their eyes don't pick up someone standing in the dark.

Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Mar 5, 2018 at 8:57 am

SRB is a registered user.

@resident - Aren't underpasses are the only places with lights on the SCT ?

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 5, 2018 at 9:23 am

If there are lights where the trail goes under Hwy 101, I don't remember them and they aren't bright enough. They need to be on all day long since it is still dark there in the middle of the day. Trying to enforce a speed limit is silly when lights are so easy to install.

Posted by Cyclist here
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 5, 2018 at 10:01 am

As a cyclist, I only use the trail very early in the morning. The crowds can really make it a mess during other times. Too many earbuds and there's always that risk of a u-turning jogger taking you out.
And yes, during commute time, evening esp, the cyclists with frail egos don't understand the trail is not some race track or training ground.

I'd be all in favor of enforcement of the speed limit to reign in the speeders, as well as reminding ALL users to act safely. Just because you're moving the slowest does not mean you cannot cause an accident and it does not remove your responsibility to BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS(earbud crowd)and knowing it is a multi-use trail, to act in ways that keep yourself and others safe always.

Posted by frequent trail user
a resident of another community
on Mar 5, 2018 at 1:01 pm

I live in Palo Alto and I work near the Stevens Creek Trail on the bay side of 101. I sometimes commute on this trail by bicycle. And almost daily I walk the trail for exercise, often with a small group of coworkers.

What happened to the gentleman in the article is horrifying, but it is the only incident cited to support the sensationalist headline. This is irresponsible journalism; it seems designed to create fear and dread about bicycles on our trails. This type of article only serves to create negative perceptions about bicycle commuters in the communities where we live and work.

I don't dispute that the trails are crowded with many types of users, particularly at peak commute times. I've seen some close calls, both as a pedestrian and as a cyclist. But there seems to be very little data that supports the fears whipped up in this article and in other venues.

If you read the article to the end, it states:
- There were ZERO collision reports reported to the police last year.

Moreover, it states that the city doesn't even have accurate metrics of how many pedestrians and cyclists use the trail.

And YET, this article addresses various attempts to curb cyclist speed as a solution to a problem that is not well established or well understood.

Unfortunately, Mountain View is not alone in imposing arbitrary solutions to a problem they don't even understand.

Tonight, Palo Alto City Council is poised to impose a speed limit on bike paths. It is another knee-jerk reaction to the complaints of pedestrians who use a crowded local path and are afraid that something might happen. But this is just following the same approach as other cities without addressing the underlying issue: we have a limited amount of trails for bicycles, and some of these are mixed use trails. Every trail user should understand that they are responsible for their own safety and the safety of other users. Pedestrians and joggers and cyclists walking their bikes in a tunnel need to be aware and alert and follow trail etiquette too.

Clearly, local cities should undertake a public safety campaign for all trail users.

The situation also calls for better, more responsible reporting by the local media.

We want the public to be encouraged to use the trails, and to do so safely and responsibly.

Posted by Unwashed peasant
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 5, 2018 at 9:49 pm

The Permanente Creek trail has gates configured so cyclists have to slalom through them, which seems to be effective in controlling speeds. No reason why the same technique wouldn't work on Stevens Creek trail, starting with both approaches to the 101 underpass.

There are lights in the underpass, but they are too dim and too spotty to be of much use.

The signs displaying trail rules and etiquette are so inconspicuous that
they are generally ignored. Only about 5% of cyclists sound a warning when passing a pedestrian from behind, as they are supposed to do. Better signage -- in several languages -- might increase that to 6%.

Despite its shortcomings, the Stevens Creek Trail is head and shoulders above the bike route to its immediate west: Shoreline Boulevard. And if you think Shoreline is hideous now, just wait till the city of MV finishes mutilating it.

Posted by The signs are useless
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2018 at 7:01 am

10 Years ago most all used bells and "On your left" announcements but yes, that has declined sharply.
The signs asking cyclists to announce themselves worked great when people didn't have their ears plugged with earbuds. After a few years of ringing my bell in vane to the deaf ears of the runners, I stopped. I don't yell at walls either.
When one set of users decides to plug up their ear impeding their situational awareness, you will have issues. we need no earbud sign to bring back cyclists announcements and bells. Joggers making Uturns w/out looking are causing the most actual accidents now. I know of 3, including one woman who was running for City Council a few yrs back.
Anyway, it's easily fixed. No earbud signs will bring a return to the cyclists announcements like the good old days. Others will try to avoid accidents at all costs, but other users cannot take all the responsibility for your personal safety on the trail.

Posted by Fire the Head Po Po
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 6, 2018 at 7:13 am

What's the use of a police force that's afraid to write tickets?

Posted by Bruno
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 6, 2018 at 9:36 am

How about instead of banning earbuds, we bad bike from crashing into pedestrians. You're on a bike. People are walking. Slow down!

St. Steven's Creek is not a bike highway, no matter how much some would like it to be. Ease up and take in some of the scenery. It's not a race.

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 6, 2018 at 9:46 am

I imagine it is true that bicyclists have stopped ringing bells because so many pedestrians just ignore them, because of headphones

Posted by abigailvr
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 6, 2018 at 12:16 pm

abigailvr is a registered user.

I walk on the trail with earbuds in. They are not soundproof, noise canceling earbuds, and I can still hear the cyclists that choose to announce themselves. A simple bell that you ding once our twice works nicely as well. We are all out there together, trying to enjoy the trail.

That said, I don't walk there much any more because there is such a high volume of bikes that it is unpleasant in the mornings. I would love to see two trails created: one for bikes and one for pedestrians and runners.

Posted by @abigailvr
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2018 at 2:02 pm

I know some earbuds can let noise in, I use them myself, but when you come across so many ear-bud wearers that actually CANNOT hear a loud bell, or simply chose to ignore it...well, you just stop trying and have to focus on your own safety rather than trying to babysit someone, so to speak.
Once again the entitled ones ruin it for the rest of the rational folks.

Posted by A perfect reason for more bike infrastructure
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2018 at 5:11 pm

Lets face it. The SCT is the only car separated / car free bike route into the MV and the Shoreline area for many people. I personally hate using it because of the crowds and would happily use an alternate bike lane if it was separated from cars. I know for a fact commute cyclists would flock to a route that was pedestrian free.
Vote for more bike infrastructure if you want to see less commuting on the SCT. Right now it's the only game in town so everyone will be there until there is something else.

Posted by Citizen84
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 6, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Citizen84 is a registered user.

Whatever happened to "Google Bike Vision Plan"? They have been talking about 8-to- 80 bike networks since 2015. Is that all that is - talk?

I could not agree more with "A perfect reason for more bike infrastructure" - that's what we need - safe bicycle routes cris-crossing Mountain View. And Google should put its money where its mouth has been for years and DO something opposite to EVIL.

What a revolutionary idea - Hey Sergey, look down from your personal jet and do something GOOD for the community you live and work in for a change. Something that will also benefit your tens of thousands propeller-heads clogging OUR trails. The ones the residents paid for and are paying maintenance on still.

Posted by not associated with google
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2018 at 10:05 pm

"The Monta Loma improvements gave Google the opportunity to implement ideas from our 2015 Bike Vision Plan," said Jeral Poskey, Google’s transportation planner. "

Web Link

Posted by 1 used to be enough
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 7, 2018 at 10:11 am

One route in, one used to be plenty when it was built, and for many years after that. Now however we have a lot more trail users, so surprise, it's more crowded. Thankfully actual incidents have remained extremely low like maybe 0-2 per year, and considering the amount of users, they should all be congratulated for the great safety record.

That said, a new bike only lane leading into Shoreline, separated from traffic, would pay great dividends in alleviating the congestion during these peak commute times on the trail.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 7, 2018 at 11:49 am

I use that trail a lot on my bike, and I use my bell to announce myself to pedestrians, but I've found that more often than not, pedestrians get annoyed at the bell and give rude looks for disturbing them. In general, there's poor lane discipline - pedestrians all over the place, and cyclists all over the place, some going ludicrously fast, particularly on e-bikes.

Perhaps the police should give a ticket or two, or set up a webcam and make a public wall of shame with photos.

Posted by Unwashed peasant
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 7, 2018 at 2:34 pm

How much effort does it take to ring a bicycle bell?

Posted by 2 Way traffic
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2018 at 5:56 am

How much effort does it take to move one foot to your right after hearing the bell? Assuming you don't have your ears plugged like most users do?
The answer is not very much at all, but because bells brought nothing but noise and angry people started complaining when I would yell "On your left" loud enough to hear me though their music, I stopped.

Now I just take responsibility for my own safety. This results in the pedestrians being more safe, but they still seem to be dependent on others for their safety.

The real questions are how hard is it to keep right and why do you think they painted that yellow line?

Posted by Not Exempt
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 8, 2018 at 2:08 pm

Not to be flippant, but why should the trail be except from increasing crowds?

I'm happy to hear there are actually scant few situations like this over the history of the trail. Hopefully it stays at the only 1 incident per year average of recent years. Everyone needs to be aware and take care.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2018 at 10:50 pm

I have given up on the Stevens Creek Trail because it is not a pleasant place to walk.

It is a bike highway, or a joggers highway. It is not a place to have a stroll with a friend even on a Sunday afternoon.

When I have been there for a Sunday stroll the mixed use aspect is very apparent. I have seen groups of friends walking, families with strollers and toddlers on tricycles, groups of teens on bikes, families on bikes, joggers and spandex clad bike riders, all competing for the same space and when 2 groups pass in opposite directions and bikes come along too, it is impossible to understand how there are no collisions. In my opinion, mixed use trails don't work.

As bad as it must be at commute times, I suggest watching what happens on a fine Sunday afternoon.

Posted by Solution for nervous trail users
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2018 at 7:04 am

Though the safety record on the SCT is on record as being a factually safe route, personal perceptions of safety differ. For those leery of a robust multi-use trail like what the SCT has been for decades, new trails off the main trail bring that welcome peace and quiet you're looking for. Head over the creek bridge to where it winds behind the air base. You'll have it nearly to yourself, but again, being on a trail where nobody is around makes others feel unsafe.

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 9, 2018 at 10:30 am

If so many people are commuting to work by jogging or biking on this trail that the trail is over-congested, why isn't the city building more trails? All these bike commuters are not using cars and building more trails will surely take more cars off the streets for a small fraction of the cost of building more highways and parking garages.

Is the Permanente Creek Trail ever going to reach El Camino, or at least to California Street? And how about some east-west trails for people commuting to Palo Alto or Stanford or Sunnyvale?

Posted by Exactly
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 9, 2018 at 10:45 am

This proves "If you build it they will come"
More bike infrastructure is the answer to trail congestion during commute times. I'm sure most of the cyclists commuters would LOVE a pedestrian free AND car free route into the Shoreline area.
It's a total no brainer.

Posted by Genosgranny
a resident of North Bayshore
on Mar 11, 2018 at 6:36 am

I used to walk the trail with my dog but had to stop about 3 years ago due to the increased bicycle traffic. And NO my dog wasn't on a long flexi-leash 20 feet ahead of me all over the trail, and I always stayed on the right.
But after the 2 of us nearly being wiped out several times, we left the trail to walk on the busy streets. So far, it's been safer!

Posted by Funny
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2018 at 7:47 am

I keep hearing about how all these people have supposedly quit using the trail because of hikers, cyclists, joggers (You know, "The other guy" who is always the problem). You would think there would now be plenty of room. Hahaha.

I liken the SCT to the Los Gatos creek trail. Expect lots of use from lots of groups. It has been that way since it's opening day.

Posted by resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2018 at 1:03 pm

I worked in the north Shoreline area back when the trail was extended across Hwy 101. That was a huge accomplishment and the city heavily advertised it as a new way to get to work without using your car. Companies advertised that they had indoor bicycle storage rooms and showers and locker rooms for employees to use after biking to work. Apparently it has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams because people are now complaining that the trail is too crowded.

What has happened to Mountain View since then? That was more than 30 years ago and I am now long retired. The companies that I worked for in that area are long gone (Silicon Graphics and Sun Micro) and replaced by companies that are even more bicycle friendly.

Why isn't the city building more bicycle commuter trails? These are fantastically cheap compared to the extremely expensive freeway lanes and parking lots that have been built in recent years. How about a network of bicycle trails connecting Stanford, Facebook, Google, and Apple? I'm sure this will quickly be just as busy as the Stevens Creek Trail, taking thousands of cars off the road for a relatively cheap price. I know San Jose is actively building new bicycle commuter trails. Why has Mountain View given up?

Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 11, 2018 at 3:48 pm

Would love more commuter bike trails in Mountain View. So many of the bike lanes are taken up by the RVs and drivers can't even stop at red lights. Drivers cut off pedestrians regularly, so what hope do bicyclists have?

Posted by Deo
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:09 pm

Dear Unwashed peasant, resident of Bailey Park,
Sorry, but the required warning when passing is POOR, UNSAFE advice.
I refused to do it any longer. Pedestrians stop blaming cyclists for everything and start being responsible for their behavior. The majority of the time pedestrians either cannot hear you call you because they have TWO earbuds on, looking at their phones; or it is too windy for anyone to hear you call out a pass.

The times the pedestrians do hear your "on your left" -- they JUMP LEFT RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CYCLIST! I've been crashed twice because of this (and many near misses). I guess I should have called the city parks and city council to complain. Instead they only hear from "harmless" pedestrians that "aren't doing a thing wrong".

This is on top of the 4 and 5 abreast that walk down the trail, taking more than their lane. Or the dog walkers that use long leashes and let the dog cross into the opposite lane.

And don't even get me started on the number of pedestrian walkers and joggers out after sunset without any lights!

Posted by Deo
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:15 pm

Dear abigailvr of Willowgate,
Sorry, I DO NOT buy your "I can still hear" with my earbuds in.
FACT, wearing earbuds with music/sound playing reduces your outside hearing ability. Have you done any kind of hearing test to see how many db less you can hear? Have you really only lost a db or two? And add to that the wind noise in the evening commute hours.

You and the other peds stop 100% wearing earbuds/headphones and us cyclists can try announcing our passes again.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:26 pm

I am one of those pedestrians who don't wear earbuds, don't walk staring at my phone and can't hear anyone on a bike behind me calling out. There are too many birds, too many children and I might be talking to my companion. I do hear a bicycle bell though.

There are bicycle bells that do a much better job. For some reason these seem to have gone out of favor. In some countries, lights, bells and reflective vests are the law. Why can't we get back to bikes using bells instead of voices which can be misinterpreted?

Posted by Deo
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:27 pm

2 Way traffic,
Hear, hear!
Very few pedistians have any clue what that yellow line is for. Very few.
Why the Parks Dept. won't put up more signs addressing the poor pedestrian behavior is partisan. Even the latest signs put in the trail-head announcement boards are telling bicyclists it is illegal to use two earbuds at once. BUT WHERE is the same telling pedestrian that trail safety would greatly increase if they stopped that same behavior. I guess peds think just because it isn't illegal for them, it must not negatively impact safety at all.

If ONLY pedestrians would take responsibility for their own safety...
No wearing all black at dusk/night, no walking/jogging without any lights. No crossing that yellow line unless you're passing. No walking 4 abreast.

Posted by @PA Resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:40 pm

"Why can't we get back to bikes using bells instead of voices which can be misinterpreted?"

You can see in more than a few comments above; riders stopped bothering with the bell when the earbuds became so prevalent. Depending on the person, they may or may not hear the bell, but the riders can't tell if they can hear, and so many peds either don't hear the bell or act as if they don't, that the bells stopped ringing, for the most part anyway.

Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2018 at 12:45 pm

I can't hear or interpret a voice, but I can hear a bell. What makes you think a voice can be heard better than a bell? I would much prefer to have a warning from a bell that is very distinctive and can't be misheard as a bird or someone calling bye to a friend or a child screaming.

Posted by @PA Resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2018 at 1:46 pm

You're not reading and understanding the explanation why people stopped using bells, or announcing themselves at all. Since 90% of the time the pedestrian had their ears plugged with earphones/headphone, it became like talking to a wall, so it stopped. Simple human response IMO.

Posted by abigailvr
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 12, 2018 at 2:18 pm

abigailvr is a registered user.


You don't have to believe me that I have heard people announce themselves by voice or bell while wearing earbuds. I'm not here to prove anything to you, stranger on the internet. I'm saying not all headphones/earbuds are created equal.

Anyway, my solution has been to never walk on the trail during commute times. That works for me.

Posted by Unwashed peasant
a resident of Bailey Park
on Mar 12, 2018 at 8:33 pm

Traffic counts on Stevens Creek Trail, La Avenida trailhead

Saturday 3/10/18 1:10-2:10 PM
Wearing earbuds Not wearing earbuds Total
Joggers 7 9 16
Walkers 4 16 20
Bicyclists 8 42 50
Skateboarders 0 1 1

Sunday 3/11/18 1:50-2:50 PM (Northbound only)
Wearing earbuds Not wearing earbuds Total
Joggers 10 14 24
Walkers 6 15 21
Bicyclists 9 55 64
Rollerbladers 0 3 3
Scooters 0 4 4
Skateboarders 1 0 1
Chihuahuas 0 1 1

Posted by @abigailvr
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2018 at 9:34 am

I think you've got it figured out by using your local knowledge of when the more crowded times are, and avoiding using it at those times. The trail is many things at many different times of the day and week. You just need to figure out which times provide you the experience you're after.

When you think about it, it's just like every other single thing you want to do around here. Avoid 85 south weekday afternoons if you can, Avoid Rancho San Antonio on Sat mornings. Avoid Hobbee's at 11am Sunday morning, Don't drive down Univ Ave in PA on 5PM(or maybe ever), don't wait for "Free ice cream day" to enjoy a scoop...the list is endless.

We're all big boys an girls and we can adjust. Obviously a new car free route for bike would take care of the biggest trail-user congestion issue by cutting the numbers down on the current majority trail user group, and I'm sure that is coming, but until then, every issue I have seen raised here is fixable by the person raising it, not the other guy, but only if the person raising the complaint wants to fix it himself.

Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2018 at 10:56 am

Common sense is a registered user.

PA Resident: "In some countries, lights, bells and reflective vests are the law."

Standard official trail protocol here (for decades, on this and other popular kinds of trails) is to call out "On your left!" when overtaking. That has even been explained in writing on trail information displays.

Maybe some bicyclists neglect the protocol, or some walkers "can't hear because of earbuds" or "could hear bells better" or "don't know about" the protocol -- but be clear: those problems belong to THEM. When both tradition and official standard is to call out a warning, obligations exist both to do it and expect it.

Deo: "pedestrians do hear your "on your left" -- they JUMP LEFT RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CYCLIST! I've been crashed twice because of this (and many near misses)"

There should be citation and fine for such perversely dangerous behavior. With penalty "enhancement" for reckless self-absorption like "4 and 5 abreast" or "dog walkers with long leashes that let the dog cross into the opposite lane," with a special "conspiracy" charge (misdemeanor-level, minimum) for Pokemon-Go groups what cluster cluelessly on the trail and block everyone.

So there.

Posted by Darin
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2018 at 3:19 pm

Darin is a registered user.

Re: "perversely dangerous behavior"

Yes, it's dangerous for pedestrians to jump left in response to a cyclist warning "on your left". But it isn't particularly perverse or incomprehensible. If the pedestrian isn't paying attention to the cyclist approaching from behind, then the pedestrian may not really hear the beginning of the warning. Instead of "on your left", the pedestrian hears only "mm mmmm left".

When I'm cycling, I try to call out something like "Excuse me, passing on your left." That leaves more "expendable" words at the beginning, which the pedestrian can safely ignore.

Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Common sense is a registered user.

Darin, my point there was just a specific example of both "doing and expecting" the long-established practice of bicyclists calling out a warning to pedestrians.

Pedestrians will expect that, if they've paid attention to the standard custom or its periodic reminders (some of which they may even walk past in the trail information displays). Forewarned that bicyclists may overtake them on the trail, they should not be surprised to hear those cyclists call a warning. In no event is it even in their own interest to jump into the cyclists' path. Cite 'em, and let them (try to) explain their behavior to a judge if they don't want to pay up. Word would get around more completely then!

Posted by Eric
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 14, 2018 at 8:29 am

I've traveled the trail about 200 days per year for the last 12 years-- walking, running, biking, and kick-scooting. Over that time, I've seen 10-15 accidents. The most common case by far is bikes falling over sideways when the rider turns onto wet wood or a wet paint line and the wheels lose traction. Fortunately, the city has made some progress here, replacing some dangerous wood with concrete and (I think) removing at least one painted line in a dangerous spot.

Bad passes are what scare me the most. In particular, bikes threading between pedestrians walking in opposite directions, passing a bike that is in the midst of passing someone else, and passing just before a blind turn. Speed increases the potential injury, but such dangerous riding can break bodies even at posted speeds.

One thing I particularly hate is when I'm coming up behind a pedestrian, obviously about to pass, and another biker silently comes up behind me and attempts to pass us both or boxes me in, forcing an emergency brake. Yes, I try to look out for this, but a quick "ding!" or "passing" call (or short pause) in this obviously risky situation would make all three of us safer.

I'm not perfect either, of course. Sometimes I get lost in thought and make a bad decision or just can't calculate how this pedestrian is moving relative to that bike and my bike on an arching bridge or whatever and do the wrong thing. And, for the most part, most other walkers and riders also seem to be doing their best as well.

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