Cities unite for Midpeninsula bike route

New group poised to build dedicated bike path

In its most recent survey, the League of American Bicyclists gave accolades to almost every Midpeninsula city, singling them out as being among the most bike-friendly in the nation. But that picture doesn't look so good when you zoom out and examine the area as a whole.

Many cyclists trying to ride up or down the Peninsula can find it quite difficult to chart a safe route that doesn't involve fighting autos for road space.

For example, Middlefield Road has a roadside bike lane through Redwood City and Menlo Park, but that ends abruptly near the Palo Alto border. Meanwhile, Palo Alto has bike boulevards and paths along Bryant Street and just south of Alma Road, but those routes require turns and wayfinding signs as they approach Mountain View. Like scattered islands, each city's bike route network is often inconsistent with the next town over.

"It's really quite tricky to get north to south on a consistent route," said Emma Shlaes, San Mateo County policy manager for the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. "There are some good existing bike routes, but they inevitably end and you have to get on something else."

The good news is that Midpeninsula cities are now pledging to work together to brainstorm a better bike route. Over recent days, city councils in Mountain View, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Redwood City agreed to partner up to study a new dedicated bike route to connect their towns.

The idea first came up late last year during an annual joint forum for South Bay and Peninsula city managers held at Stanford University. A subgroup of city executives on the Midpeninsula held a breakout talk that included a presentation from students from the university's public policy school. The students proposed what might be called a bike express lane along three potential routes: Middlefield Road, El Camino Real and along the Caltrain corridor.

In recent days, elected leaders at each of the four cities eagerly signed up for the project, which is being called the Managers Mobility Partnership Effort.

While the idea has already generated excitement, it remains unclear whether any of these routes can actually accommodate new bike lanes. The Caltrain right-of-way could be a tight squeeze for a bikeway, especially as the line is upgraded in coming years with electrified tracks and bullet trains. El Camino could be just as challenging as recently demonstrated by the huge public outcry against adding dedicated bus lanes to the corridor.

At this point, the three suggested routes are just a starting point, none of which has been vetted yet, explained Mountain View City Manager Dan Rich.

"This was the first step -- we wanted to get this in front of our electorate before we go off and come up with work plans," he said. "This is not going to be a simple task, and even if we're all in agreement on what the route would be, doing it will still be challenging."

The cooperation among local cities on a regional bike route is new, but it harkens back to an idea that has been simmering for some time. Shlaes of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition says the concept seems to draw inspiration from the Grand Boulevard Initiative, an effort launched in 2006 to bring bicyclist and pedestrian improvements to El Camino, stretching from Daly City to San Jose. Progress on that initiative has been slow, in part because the project attempts to cover 19 separate cities spread across two counties.

For that reason, Rich said, the new mobility partnership is intentionally starting small, with just four cities plus officials from Stanford. Last week, public speakers and council members quizzed him on why other traffic-plagued Silicon Valley cities, such as Sunnyvale, weren't included in the working group. For that matter, the city of Atherton, located right in the middle of any bikeway route, was also not included.

"Any time you're trying to do something like this, the more people you have in the group, the more challenging it is," Rich explained. "It's already going to be challenging enough with just these four cities involved."

As part of the partnership, each Midpeninsula city will hold public outreach meetings in the coming months to help choose the best route. After a favorite route is picked, the cities will need to figure out how to split the cost for a professional study. Santa Clara County's recently passed Measure B transportation bond could provide a good pot of funding for building the bike route, at least for its southern section.

The bike route vision received an initial round of praise from Google officials, who have been active in expanding bike routes throughout Mountain View. Jeral Poskey, the company's transportation manager, urged city leaders not to lose their nerve as tough choices spring up for building the bike route.

"Please stick the course for this safe bikeway connection to our neighboring cities," he said. "But do remember that the hardest part is yet to come."


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25 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2017 at 9:38 am

While we're upgrading bike routes, can we remove the barriers on the Cal Ave underpass and that long bridge over 101? Road bikes speed through them anyway, and they're far too narrow for bike trailers. I shouldn't have to ride on the busy road next to the bike path just because I brought the kids with me.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2017 at 9:41 am

How about real mobility and get some bus transportation between the four cities.

13 people like this
Posted by commuter
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2017 at 9:45 am

In modern Silicon Valley, it is very common for employees to live in one city and work in an adjacent city. It is really about time that cities worked together to create bicycle routes that connected cities instead of splitting them apart. Many Google employees live in Palo Alto, but how do they safely get to Google by bicycle? The distance is only a mile, but the convoluted bicycle routes encourage them to drive instead, putting many more cars on the road.

Another tragedy is San Antonio Road. There are nice bike lanes west of El Camino, but they disappear with no warning once you get to El Camino and then what do you do? A bicyclist was killed here last year, possibly because he just did not know that his bike lane would disappear when he got to the other side of the intersection and then he got pinned by a passing car.

I am glad that cities are at least saying they have to fix these problems.

12 people like this
Posted by Reckless cyclists
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2017 at 10:57 am

Anyone who would ride a bike in traffic congested PA has a death wish. Cyclists don't obey traffic rules and are a danger to themselves. How often do you see a cyclist stop at a stop sign? Almost never!

29 people like this
Posted by Bike Commuter
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 12, 2017 at 12:16 pm

To @Reckless Cyclists: I bike to work rain or shine and stop at all crossings.

While I often see other cyclists not making a full stop at each stop sign (especially when no cars are at the intersection), I have seen MUCH MORE DANGEROUS behavior from drivers who fail to make a complete stop before turning right, and who cut across bike lanes without first verifying the lane is clear.

I strongly encourage cyclists to improve their cycling behavior, but we need to acknowledge that drivers need to improve their attention to pedestrians and cyclists to avoid deadly consequences!

19 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 12, 2017 at 1:11 pm

The article does not mention it but Palo Alto City Manager Jim Keene has played a strong leadership role in creating the Managers Mobility Partnership which is taking on this as its first project.
Also, the project will be looking at opportunities for Class 4 bike paths where the bikes are separated from cars creating better safety for bikes and cars along with better flow for bikers.
Thanks to the city managers, council and Stanford for taking this on.

16 people like this
Posted by A Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Please remember those of us senior citizens that do not ride bicycles, and that just drive cars, even if to only get around locally.

Not everyone can ride bikes, taking care of our needs, like shopping, without car transport. We enjoy the independence of driving ourselves, so in addition to not biking, groups of seniors will not be car-pooling either.

There is no other practical way of getting around. Our cities are not like New York. In many districts, it's hard to get around without a car in San Francisco too. If you are a senior, you are often just stuck at home or you need to pay for taxis that are not for the low income elderly.

This proposal is great for a certain segment of our population. But it is just not for everyone. OUR needs ought not to be forgotten, in the process of doing this nice thing for bicyclists.

The ideal of getting everyone off the roads and out of cars is not going to happen with anyone I know in Palo Alto, Mountain View or in Redwood City. No matter how much city hall and elected leaders would love to see no cars.

Please let's remember we seniors live here too. Our money and wisdom built up this area up for you to enjoy. Enhancing it is good. Destroying it is not good.

One day, you too, will not be able to ride your bikes. Please think about that.

6 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2017 at 3:22 pm

"While we're upgrading bike routes, can we remove the barriers on the Cal Ave underpass "

No. That is the equivalent of a sidewalk where pedestrians also (by definition) walk. It's to prevent people like you bombing down the tunnel at full speed endangering others. It's amazing how illiterate people become when they ride bikes. Seems they can't read signs that say "WALK BIKES" and "STOP."

As for a need for a bike path from Redwood City to Mountain View - tell us really how many people are going to commute on a daily basis between those two cities before we blow any more money on this. [Portion removed.]

17 people like this
Posted by commuter
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 12, 2017 at 3:42 pm

@Me 2 - be realistic. Just because a bicycle route goes from Redwood City to Mountain View does not mean everyone has to bicycle that whole distance every day, just like you don't have to drive the entire length of Hwy 101 from Canada to Mexico without making any stops in between. People will access the bicycle route from close to their homes and exit it close to their jobs or shopping or school or vice versa. Different people live and work in different places, of course.

5 people like this
Posted by Jake
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 12, 2017 at 4:12 pm

Solutions are obvious.
For commuters: turn all HoV lanes into HoT lanes. The goal is the get traffic onto the freeways so all the spillover traffic doesn't gridlock the ramps and backs up onto University and Willow.

Free-flowing traffic means less congestion, which means safer drivers and safer cyclists.

And as a cyclist you have to behave as a vehicle and share the road with cars. They painted sharrows everywhere so both motorist and bicycle know this.

Pedal harder and try to keep up with traffic.

If you want to be totally safe, sit on a stationary bike at the gym.

The "American League of Cyclists" is really just retired techies demanding to use the roads for leisure that us regular people need to commute to work every day.

Business comes before leisure so...


Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto

on Feb 12, 2017 at 5:44 pm

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16 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 13, 2017 at 1:41 am

We really need to keep in perspective the role different modes of transportation play in meeting our daily transportation needs. By my best estimate Caltrain carries less than 1% of the passenger mile traveled on the peninsula every day, and despite 30+ years of effort by bicycling's true believers, bicycles carry way less than 0.01% of passenger miles traveled every day.

The social engineering experiment to build a car-less utopia that was conceived in the Age of Aquarius began life with an idealistic but doomed "if you build it, they will come" strategy (culture is upstream of politic?), but when that strategy failed, things got nasty. The heretics who clung to their hybrid and electric cars, and refused to embrace the dis-empowering human powered technology would need to be tortured to help them see the true path to righteousness.

While bicycles have failed to find widespread adoption by the general public, they have found a secondary use in the real-estate development community where they have been re-purposed to serve as a tool to justify the construction of under-parked commercial and residential buildings, and to justify redevelopment projects that narrow roadways and reduce the number of public parking spaces.

11 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of another community
on Feb 13, 2017 at 9:34 am

They should build a bike boulevard next to the train tracks when they upgrade the tracks for high speed rail.

6 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 13, 2017 at 11:02 am

As a bike commuter whose biking range once covered from Foster City to San Jose, the #1 worst city-combo to bike through in the peninsula is Redwood-Atherton-Menlo Park. Bad surface, complex roadway, and tons of sharp objects on the road. PA-MTV-SV-SJ is a much better cluster that needs nearly no improvements. As for the "not everyone can bike" argument, what I can say is: if you pick up exercising and bike regularly at younger age, you can easily bike into 80s. There is no reason to drive a SUV to a starbucks 1/4 mile away. Bay area is not Chicago.

4 people like this
Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2017 at 11:44 am

My husband commuted for years on his bike from Mitchell Park area of Palo Alto to downtown. Bryant is a great bike boulevard. BUT then the office moved to Marsh Road in Menlo Park. Not too much farther, but 'you can't get there from here' -- at least not safely on a bicycle. After nearly getting hit and falling off his bike, he's back to the congestion of Hiway 101. Too bad.....

2 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 13, 2017 at 11:52 am


He should try Bryant - Bridge - Middlefield - Ringwood - Bay - Marsh. Ringwood is a bit dicey but bearable.

Like this comment
Posted by Help
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Is the safest way to cross San Antonio and finally get south or west of Central to cross on California Ave (in Mountain View)? I am looking for a safer path, but haven't found one.

Any thoughts?

6 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2017 at 12:54 pm

I'm glad to see this getting attention. Maximizing the utility of a bike route requires making it comfortable ("low stress" is the in vogue term) along its entire route. If there are high stress points, then many bicyclists will choose an alternative, or choose not to ride. I hope this project will lead to the identification and improvement of at least one low-stress route from Palo Alto to Redwood City. In contrast, from downtown Palo Alto to Mountain View you can take Bryant, then the lightly marked route through the circles (if you practice, you won't get lost), and a pleasant signed bike boulevard across Mountain View all the way past Moffett Blvd/Castro to the Stevens Creek Trail.

There are at least 6 other places where cyclists connect from Mountain View/Los Altos to Palo Alto (not counting El Camino). We should not expect cyclists to detour to get to the blessed route, so I hope this process will go beyond identifying one route and identify the active transportation network connections between our cities, and reduce stress on all these routes, not just one.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2017 at 12:58 pm

@bike commuter,
Biking is really on an upswing in Chicago. Also, most would walk it, not drive it in Chicago.
Walking is excellent in Chicago. I have never driven there, in fact. Yes, one takes public transit, taxis, ride-sharing at times, but I assure you walking and biking are surprisingly great methods of getting around there.
I a referencing your post above:
your post: "There is no reason to drive a SUV to a starbucks 1/4 mile away. Bay Area is not Chicago."

6 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2017 at 1:15 pm


To get across San Antonio, it depends which side of Central you are on.

If you are west of Central, starting at Wilkie Way Bridge, heading to downtown Mountain View, the direct route is:

Wilkie -> L on Del Medio, Rt on California to Mountain View. There are bike lanes, on California, but not much width and lots of parked cars.

If you don't like California, you can take R on Del Medio to Fayette, ride through the shopping center to Latham (use the button to cross Showers), Latham to L on Escuella to R on Villa.

If East of Central, follow the signs to Mackay in Palo Alto, cross San Antonio at Nita (try to wait and cross on the green, but many do not, because the red light is so long), Follow bike boulevard signs through Mountain View. (or left on Nita, Rt on Dell, Lt on Victory, Rt on Middlefield if a more direct route with bike lanes is your cup of tea.)

If you bring up Google Maps and click on Bicycling from the menu, you can see most of these routes.

Also, Mountain View has bike maps here:
Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Feb 13, 2017 at 1:23 pm

Great idea. Let's do it right.
In the meantime, please comply with the "walk your bike" signs, just as drivers and cyclists need to comply with "stop" signs. I know you can do it (even if it means "unclipping").

Like this comment
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 13, 2017 at 2:08 pm


I lived in the Hyde Park. Yes, it is great walking or riding CTA in the loop/near north in the charming streets near the Wrigley. At the South Side, I'd need to bike (sometimes all the way to the loop) around because you don't want to spend too much time on the street after dark.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 13, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Robert Neff supported the fiasco in front of Jordan with the useless bollards. Our city should not be taking advice from folks like Robert Neff. The only result is congestion and gridlock. It's not okay to *punish* single-occupant vehicle drivers, no matter what Mr. Neff thinks.

12 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 13, 2017 at 5:30 pm

I'm 68 and I run all my errands (food shopping, classes, movies) on my bike. It's great -- I don't have traffic and parking issues, I get exercise, I save on gas money and I have FUN smelling the jasmine and roses. I recommend all seniors challenge themselves to learn how to ride safely and get out of their cars.
We definitely need to improve the links between PA and MV and MP. The routes are circuitous, illogical, and take extreme caution at poor transitions. But we canned must improve the between-city linkages. I'm so glad that Jim Keene, our city manager, is helping to organize these meetings. Bravo, Jim.
And to all bicyclists reading this -- Yes, we riders all need to stop at stop signs and show the same respect to drivers that we expect from them.

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