News

Page Mill Road bike-safety fixes speed ahead

Santa Clara County Supervisors approve plans, funding for dangerous intersections

A highly dangerous section of Page Mill Road near Interstate 280 for bicyclists will hopefully become safer under a plan to add new striping, signage and flashing beacons.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Nov. 15 to approve the project, which extends roughly from Old Page Mill Road to west of the Interstate 280 on-ramp. The area has a notorious reputation for accidents and near-collisions between bikes and vehicles.

Silicon Valley executive Jeffrey Donnelly, 52, of Palo Alto, was struck and killed by a motorist as he rode his bicycle west on Page Mill Road near the intersection of Christopher Lane in Los Altos Hills on Nov. 3, 2015. His death sparked plans to add safety measures prior to the county's planned long-term upgrades.

Currently, bicyclists must exit side streets and, with poor visibility, cross the lanes of Page Mill traffic to get to a bike lane that is near the center median.

The interim changes include reduced speed limits, signage, beacons and road markings. The goal is to raise awareness, slow traffic and increase visibility. As part of the project, the county agreed to lower the speed limit from 50 mph to 35 mph along the hilly stretch of Page Mill east of Old Page Mill Road. Flashing beacons and signage will warn drivers and bicyclists they are approaching a bicycle crossing.

Cyclists heading westbound will have a more clearly marked route. An 8-foot-wide space for bicyclists will be cut through a traffic island between Old Page Mill Road and Page Mill. There, bicyclists can wait and watch for a break in traffic before merging onto Page Mill and riding in the bike lane on the interior (leftmost lane) of Page Mill, according to the county Roads & Airports Department.

Eastbound, bicyclists will now be able to move to the center of the road at the far end of the interchange, also reducing the number of conflicts with cars at the freeway ramps. A marked lane for bicyclists who want to turn onto Old Page Mill Road will also be added.

Colin Heyne, deputy director of Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, said the traffic-calming measures going westbound are the most important aspects of the plan.

"The speed limit is currently 50 mph until west of the northbound 280 on-ramp, and vehicles regularly travel in excess of 60 mph. This creates a situation in which there is no safe course of action for a person on a bike who is forced to merge across two lanes of traffic to reach the bike lane," he said.

"By reducing speeds to 35 mph and improving sight lines through the creation of a new bicyclist cut-through, the new design puts bicyclists in a much better position to be able to leave Old Page Mill and reach the Page Mill bike lane quickly and safely," he said.

The interchange at Page Mill and I-280 has a dangerous combination of very fast speeds -- given both the high-speed, uncontrolled off-ramp from the south and the downhill approach on Page Mill from the east -- and high popularity with bicyclists riding between Palo Alto and the hills, he added.

"The intersection was clearly not designed with either bicyclists or pedestrians in mind but rather to move large numbers of vehicles quickly," Heyne said.

Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt, who used to ride his bike along that route, stopped going there about three or four years ago.

"I felt it was unsafe. It was an area that was never designed for safe bike riding. It permits far too high of speeds where vehicles and bikes converge," he said.

"These improvements are very important. This is an area I've been raising concerns about for three to four years. I'm pleased to see the county come forward -- largely on the impetus of the city, which strongly encouraged the changes," Burt said.

The City of Palo Alto contributed $80,000 to the $525,000 project, which is funded by five agencies: a $250,000 Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) grant; $125,000 from the Transportation Fund for Clean Air grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District; $20,000 from the Town of Los Altos Hills and $50,000 from the County of Santa Clara.

Palo Alto had pushed for the changes, which are considered interim, because it could be years before the county has the funding to do a full and permanent interchange and expressway improvement. The county is planning to improve all of its expressways. But given the dangers, Burt and others felt strongly that something needed to be done soon, and that it was feasible.

After Los Altos Hills bicyclist Lauren Perdriau Ward was struck and killed by a big rig on Alpine Road near Page Mill in 2010, significant improvements were made at relatively little cost, Burt noted.

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who worked to secure the interim project, said that he felt it was important to move forward sooner than later.

"This is a heavily traveled and challenging intersection for both cyclists and drivers. We've got to find a way to make it safer -- right now -- even though larger, longer-term improvements are scheduled in the coming years. I didn't think we could afford to wait," he said.

He called the improvements "modest but significant."

Heyne said that in the long term far more substantial improvements are necessary to make Page Mill a "complete street," a street that serves all users, including drivers, people on bikes, and people who are walking.

"But given the urgency of the situation, the relatively minuscule budget, and the extremely challenging built environment, Silicon Valley Bike Coalition is proud of the extensive public outreach and thoughtful work County Roads and Airports put into this redesign," he said.

Simitian also praised the cooperative effort: It's a rarity for so many agencies to get together to solve a problem -- and so quickly. He praised the Bike Coalition for its continuous presence, which helped make a better plan, he said.

"It's been heartening to me to see people come together. This kind of cooperation is what we'd like to see more often. If everybody steps up to do their part, then good things can happen," he said.

Simitian and officials from Palo Alto and Los Altos Hills hosted a community meeting at Los Altos Hills Town Hall in April to incorporate public comments into two concept plans. The meeting filled the room and resulted in the final plan.

The County Roads and Airports Department will begin soliciting bids for the project immediately after receiving a Caltrans permit. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2017.

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Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Sky_angel
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2016 at 7:55 am

Call the lawyer to solve another problem with incident and your car insurance.
[Portion removed]
Awhile back when we were involved in an accident and the other drivers at the scene drove off, my husband and I made a pact: for every accident we witnessed we would wait and leave a statement. My brother-in-law told us he had done the same thing and a very grateful driver sent him a thank you note and a bottle of spirits for saving his driver record and his insurance rates. Outrageously, a car of 4 teenagers under the influence was driving in the wrong direction on a highway and crashed into another driver. However, they twisted the story and said it was the other driver going in the wrong direction. Without my brother-in-law's statement, he could have lost the case. I am sorry, but people will admit they are at fault to you personally and completely change their story later. Since making this pact, I have left three statements. One time I was on vacation standing in line outside at a popular restaurant and witnessed a car accident involving a teenager and a foreign couple who were tourists and did not speak English well. I advised them to call the police and file a report because they were afraid to. The two other times I was a car in the intersection witnessing the accidents. One involved a pedestrian getting run over. In the restaurant scene, the other diners advised me not to get involved.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2016 at 8:14 am

From my perspective, the fact that what has been an Expressway at this 280 intersection has a stop sign is just not an instinctive or intuitive approach to such an intersection. Whereas those who use it a great deal and become familiar with it, anyone who is from out of town or seldom use this intersection, particularly for those who want to continue straight rather than turn, are taken by surprise. Added to that the need for bikes to cross the straight on lanes to reach the bike lane is another surprise for those who are unfamiliar with it.

Good intersections should be intuitive and instinctive rather than a need to depend on flashing lights and signage particularly at times of low traffic flow to move through them. Otherwise, it will make them cumbersome and consequently dangerous.


6 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2016 at 9:11 am

This has been the most dangerous bike route in Palo Alto for as long as I can remember. Our kids love bicycling in the Arastradero Preserve, but we have to take them in the car because the bicycle route to get there is too scary, even when we are riding with them. Hopefully, these changes will really work, but I am surprised that the stop lights that families asked for are not included in this plan.


9 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2016 at 10:15 am

This is a grievously dangerous intersection - deadly actually - and should be avoided at all costs. To put the bike path between TWO lanes of traffic frequently traveling in excess of 50 mph is ludicrous.

I-280 makes a series of dangerous bicycle crossing sites including El Monte, Sand Hill and Alpine Roads. I suspect that bicycle riders were NOT consulted when these "intersections" were constructed many years ago.

It's time to spend some money and make them truly safe. This doesn't mean to "simply" add a flashing light. This means to provide a SAFE bicycle path over, under, around, through, whatever to get bicyclists from one side of I-280 to the other.

As more and more people begin to bicycle to / from work it's important that this project begin immediately.


3 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 2, 2016 at 11:02 am

I agree with James. This current effort is a Bandaid, and will help ONLY if the cars slow down. That is unlikely without some other physical features (stop signs, traffic lights, speed bumps, etc.) or constant enforcement. The latter will - of course - never happen. I always am afraid when I bike through this interchange, especially westbound.


Like this comment
Posted by Wolfie
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 2, 2016 at 11:21 am

One suggestion is to add a bike lane/sidewalk on the center divide, similar to that on El Monte at 280. While this would require crosswalks at both the east & west ends, it would reduce the distance & time that cyclists & pedestrians are exposed to car traffic. As an frequent bicyclist, I really do not like riding in a bike lane with car traffic on both sides of me, the proposed "fix" does not eliminate that problem.


4 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 2, 2016 at 12:06 pm

There have been bike fatalities going both directions at this interchange. The Eastbound change to move the bike lane left of the auto traffic will eliminate dangerous conflict points at those on ramps.

Here is a link to the interim plan drawing:

Web Link

The project page is here:

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Tickets ready?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2016 at 3:21 pm

in the end it all relies on drivers obeying the reduced speed laws.


Like this comment
Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 2, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Any Chance the underpass could be opened on El Camino at BofA? This would really help !!!!


24 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 2, 2016 at 5:44 pm

If it's that dangerous, which I question, then cyclists should proceed with caution and/or walk their bikes through that short stretch. Driving that corridor several times a day for many years I'd say that many cyclists have exhibited a great disregard for the traffic laws, rules of the road, and common sense. They frequently cut across lanes and fail to stop at the stop sign in both directions. As I see it it's they who create the hazards for the most part.


2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2016 at 8:59 pm

This is a joke, yes? The speed limit is already 35 mph going Westbound near Christopher Lane. These are the same vehicles accelerating onto the I-280 on ramp after screaming down a steep hill. Maybe one or two touch 35 mph but most don't now and they won't after this new signage goes up either.

In the Eastbound direction, vehicles are accelerating to merge with the vehicles exiting I-280 and they are all doing close to 50 mph.

So what happened to the stop light at the intersection of Arastradero and Page Mill? And maybe another where the northbound I-280 exiting vehicles try to turn left on Page Mill?


Like this comment
Posted by FixPageMill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2016 at 10:01 pm

I like this solution much better.
Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 3, 2016 at 11:32 am

Yes, the intersection was designed to move cars onto the freeway. We can't start transforming every thoroughfare into a Disneyland for bikes. Cars commute, bikes are usually for leisure rides at this location.
A single tragedy doesn't warrant massive spending and overreaction. Cyclists sharing the road with cars, especially near freeway ramps, on 84, on 92, on the 1 are ALWAYS at risk. You're living on the edge.


3 people like this
Posted by FixPageMill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 4, 2016 at 11:43 am

No one is suggesting Disneyland. This intersection needs serious change. Accidents like that which left the Donnelly children without their father will continue to occur at Page Mill and 280 until something substantial is done. New signage and all the paint in the world won't make that intersection safe for bicyclists. A bike tunnel, as shown here Web Link , would exist fully on public lands, take advantage of existing topography, and get bikes safely from Old Page Mill Road to the Arastradero stop sign. If it costs more than paint and new signs, so be it.


2 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2016 at 9:56 am

"If it's that dangerous, which I question, then cyclists should proceed with caution and/or walk their bikes through that short stretch. Driving that corridor several times a day for many years I'd say that many cyclists have exhibited a great disregard for the traffic laws, rules of the road, and common sense. They frequently cut across lanes and fail to stop at the stop sign in both directions. As I see it it's they who create the hazards for the most part."

While I can't speak to the illegal behavior of other bicyclists or drivers, I can tell you that the safest way to traverse this crossing (westbound) as a bicyclist is to come over the hill from Page Mill and use your downhill speed to (signal and) merge with car traffic leading up to the left-side bike lane, riding in the center, one lane at a time (timing gaps with cars). While this solution isn't ideal and may not work for timid bicyclists, it is perfectly legal, regardless of how much a driver may have to slow for a short period of time to accommodate the crossing cyclist. The problem is that many drivers are not aware that this is legal (and safe) behavior and deem it "dangerous", regardless of whether they're aware of the left-side bike lane issue or not. (If you call that "cutting across lanes" then I encourage you to read up on the actual "rules of the road" you profess, and stop honking at those of us who do obey those rules).

Those of us who bicycle here regularly have discussed the placement of "sharrows" with planners, but they can only be placed where the speed limit is 35 MPH or less, and currently that does not start until the very beginning of the left-lane bike lane, leaving little room for advanced notice for drivers or out-of-town cyclists who frequently find themselves stranded at the I-280 onramp.

Taking Old Page Mill instead of climbing Page Mill Road forces bicyclists cross two lanes of fast traffic at nearly a right angle, as Jeff was trying to do. What is WAY more dangerous for a bicyclist would be to get off of your bike and try to walk it across these two lanes of traffic. You may have good intentions, but your advice obviously does not come from experience bicycling this route. (If you don't believe me, then go park your car on Christopher Lane and try walking across this road under normal traffic conditions, as you're recommending bicyclists do... I'll even give you a bike to walk with).

Also, there is now a federal standard for signs that say "Bicycles May Use Full Lane". This would be an ideal place for one, and then we could take down that useless old yellow bicycle warning sign that nobody sees at the top of the hill because it's obscured by trees. (Older yellow "Share The Road" signs, like the one on nearby Arastradero, are dying a fast death because they're easily misinterpreted).


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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