News


Cities' collaboration leads to interim Peninsula Bikeway

Temporary route covers nearly 16 miles

For the past two years, city managers from Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City, along with senior staff at Stanford University, have met monthly to talk about the transit and mobility problems that impact the region.

The first outcome of their work together, an interim Peninsula Bikeway, will be unveiled Saturday, Sept. 8. The bikeway will follow, via coordinated signs, a preliminary designated route for cycling through Redwood City, Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View.

The city managers' partnership, called the "Managers Mobility Partnership," or MMP, was convened by Joint Venture Silicon Valley and is a historically unprecedented collaboration, according to JVSV CEO Russell Hancock.

But it's just a start. The interim route, which avoids most busy roads, necessarily zigs and zags because there are gaps in the network of bike lanes and cyclist-safe routes between the cities.

"It's not as direct as you would want it to be," said Hugh Louch, principal at Alta Planning + Design, a consulting firm that focuses on multi-modal planning, describing the interim route.

"At this point, it's really piecing together what exists," he added.

Eventually, the coalition hopes to build a permanent bike route stretching from Redwood City to Mountain View that is more direct and higher-quality.

The Sept. 8 event is intended to launch the process for the cities to begin collecting public feedback on what people want in such a route and where it should be located. Middlefield Road, El Camino Real, and along the Caltrain tracks are potential options to explore for a route, Hancock said.

Once a site is chosen, the partnership would have to figure out how to design the project, conduct environmental analysis and build the bikeway. Each of those steps would require funding, and as of now, the partnership doesn't have a clear funding source.

Cities have each contributed funding to the work that's been done so far. But moving forward, funding and building the project will get complicated, Hancock said. The partnership might proceed by having each city pay for a segment of the project, or the group could look into forming a joint powers authority, which would have its own decision-making power, he explained.

Stanford policy students have already done some research into how to fund the bikeway project. They put together a 2017 report that suggested forming a joint powers authority and levying a parcel tax, or implementing lease-revenue financing. The students found that nontraditional fundraising options, like some public-private partnerships, social impact bonds and crowdfunding, would likely not yield enough to fund the project.

In a previous study, students analyzed the pros and cons of installing the permanent bikeway along El Camino Real or along the Caltrain corridor. Their analysis at the time found that it would cost about $18 million to build the El Camino Real bike route and $37 million to build the Caltrain corridor bike route, not counting the estimated $17 million cost to build a sound wall or the $200 million or more it would cost to add eight grade-separated rail line crossings for bikes.

Why bikes?

Connecting existing bike infrastructure with cohesive signage between the four cities and Stanford was identified by the partnership as the "lowest-hanging fruit" among its priorities that could be easily achieved, Hancock explained.

In other countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, Hancock said, many people cycle as their primary mode of transport, even though those countries are less naturally suited for cycling than the Peninsula.

"Good grief, it's cold there. They have to go up hills. It rains all the time," he said. In contrast, he said, his hometown of Palo Alto has a Mediterranean climate, flat landscape, and a population that's health-minded and environmentally conscious.

"Yet none of us are on our bikes," he said. "There's something wrong with this picture. Really, Silicon Valley should be the biking capital of America."

An unprecedented partnership

As part of the partnership, each city manager signed an agreement committing to work on transportation problems with the other city managers, Hancock said.

In 2016, the city managers agreed to a set of guiding principles that included shared goals of improving walkability; enhancing bike lanes and bike safety; making it easier for transit riders to get between home and work via shuttles, bike-share or car-share programs; encouraging Caltrain to operate more frequently and with greater capacity; and promoting signal coordination across cities.

The city managers agreed to meet regularly; to encourage their staffs to work across city boundaries; to find resources for projects through private sector partnerships and federal, state and local grant opportunities; and to collect data and track progress.

A key point of the partnership is that its members are city managers -- who are considered the top city executives -- rather than mayors or other elected officials. Still, city managers are expected to act in coordination with the elected officials they work for, Hancock said.

Among the other topics the group discusses regularly are U.S. Highway 101, the Dumbarton corridor, grade separations along the Caltrain corridor, shuttles and signal coordination, Hancock said.

"A lot is beyond our jurisdictions," he acknowledged. "So of course, we could wave our hands and say, 'This is beyond us. Someone else needs to solve the problem.'"

But by working together, Hancock said, the partnership may wield more clout when it comes to applying for grants or seeking partnerships from the private sector than by seeking funding as individual cities.

These four cities and Stanford, he said, are not just a "random region." They drive Silicon Valley, and by extension, a large portion of the state and national economy, he said. "You need it to be firing on all cylinders."

If you go:

The interim bikeway's launch will be held Saturday, Sept. 8, with group bike rides starting from Mountain View and Redwood City between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and scheduled to arrive at Burgess Park, 701 Laurel St. in Menlo Park, around 10 a.m. Elected officials are scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m., and at 11:30 a.m., food will be served.

There will also be opportunities for families and kids to test out a pop-up separated bikeway and test ride an e-bike, according to Menlo Park officials.

Bicyclists will be meeting at two locations in Palo Alto to travel to the launch event in Menlo Park, Palo Alto city officials said. One group will be departing from Mitchell Park at the Cowper Street entrance at 9 a.m., then head to East Meadow Drive and Bryant Street to meet a Mountain View contingent before traveling to the event. Another group will leave the Bryant Street side of Palo Alto City Hall at 9:30 a.m.

Go to the Peninsula Bikeway website for more information.

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Kate Bradshaw writes for The Almanac, the sister publication of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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Comments

14 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2018 at 3:14 pm

We're really looking forward to a safer and more direct bicycle route connecting Palo Alto to Menlo Park and Mountain View. Our kids have friends in both cities, but the existing convoluted bicycle routes are too dangerous for children. They are probably too slow for adults as well. We don't want to have to drive the kids everywhere, especially when the distances are so short, but we have to right now.


Like this comment
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 27, 2018 at 4:34 pm

Just use Strava's heatmap to see which roadways are used more frequently. Some routes in this Bikeway map are not that popular.


Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 27, 2018 at 5:32 pm

"In other countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, Hancock said, many people cycle as their primary mode of transport, even though those countries are less naturally suited for cycling than the Peninsula."

And they're in more dense areas. What's missing with this comparison is how far a typical bike ride is in the Netherlands and Denmark, and what type of riding there is. I seriously doubt they are biking a lot through suburbs. But without hard data, I'm afraid we are just going to have to assume that this comparison is apples-and-oranges.


6 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2018 at 8:37 pm

Pat Burt is a registered user.

Interestingly,over half of all commuters into Copenhagen from surrounding suburbs ride their bikes to work. And that is despite them not having a bit worse weather than us.


6 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 27, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Whoever had the great idea to include California St. in Mountain View as part of the "Peninsula Bikeway" should be arrested for attempted murder. That street is deadly, I know semi-professional bikers who will not bike on that street. Cars speeding 40 MPH on one side, parked cars on the other side just waiting to open their doors into you, it's a death trap.


12 people like this
Posted by Restripe Middlefield
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 28, 2018 at 10:04 pm

Looking at this map feels like looking at a pile of spaghetti. I biked Bryant south today from Menlo to MV and it adds a good 25%+ to commute times compared with other routes due to its winding course through the circles. Why can't Palo Alto take a look at the VTA bicycle maps and see that we already have (or should have) a great N/S route called Middlefield. PA takes a fat dump right in the middle of that beautiful, straight, purple highlighted route indicating bike lanes. I typically commute Middlefield daily by car and it's quite obvious that Middlefield would flow much better without the traffic/turn lanes and the associated lane dodging that has been proven to slow the flow of traffic. Please just restripe it single lane each way with center turn/merge lane and convert the extra lane width to bike lanes on each side.


1 person likes this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2018 at 10:48 pm

We agree with @JR that there are too many scoflow car drivers on California St in Mountain View. I hope that the police aggressively crack down on them to make the street safer. Widening the bike lanes on that street can help a lot.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2018 at 11:04 pm

Robert Neff is a registered user.

I'm glad to see this collaboration. I think it would be more useful to connect and highlight the bike networks as they connect to destinations in and between the cities, not just identify one route. It would be good to encourage common signage standards, instead of unique per city, and a regional map showing low stress routes.


2 people like this
Posted by actually been there
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 29, 2018 at 10:55 am

For Me 2

Here are some facts about the Netherlands and Denmark from a former resident.

They are both less dense than here. By comparison, the population of the entire nation of Denmark is less than the population of the Bay Area.

Bike lanes are in fact everywhere. Being less dense countries, that statement applies to city, suburbia, and rural.

Not a historian, so can't debate on the reasons, but definitely the attitude there is to use and enable bikes, whereas here it's to prioritize cars and build roads just for them.

One thing Mr. Hancock did get wrong was saying there are hills there. There aren't. Whatever geographic relief in DK or NL is mere bumps compared to California. Riding a bike from Page Mill & Junipero Serra to Foothills Park you'll get more elevation change than there.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2018 at 3:41 pm

The main difference about cycle paths in Europe as to bike lanes here are that European cycle paths are completely separate from motorized vehicle roadways. They have their own stop lights when crossing other streets and the bike riders obey the stop signs and other cycle path rules which many on bikes do not do here.

If we could find some area to put in separated cycle paths, we might be somewhere near getting European numbers of bike riders.


2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 30, 2018 at 8:37 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

""It's not as direct as you would want it to be," said Hugh Louch, principal at Alta Planning + Design, a consulting firm that focuses on multi-modal planning, describing the interim route."

Alta Planning & Design, Josh Mello's former employer who brought you Ross Rd etc.

"The Sept. 8 event is intended to launch the process for the cities to begin collecting public feedback on what people want in such a route and where it should be located. Middlefield Road, El Camino Real, and along the Caltrain tracks are potential options to explore for a route, Hancock said. "

Again with Middlefield Road?? Just say no. Again. If it was too dangerous and crowded 15 years ago and again 4 years ago, it's even more dangerous and crowded now.

As always, no outreach to those of us on Middlefield.


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

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