Mountain View CA favors cars over bicycle lane improvements on El Camino Real

Mountain View California is an excellent place in many ways – that’s why I’ve lived here for about half of the last 23 years.  The climate is one of the best things we have going for us here, and it’s a climate that is perfect for bicycling.  For the vast majority of the year it’s sunny, almost no rain, almost never too hot, and never any snow.  While there are quite a few bicyclists in Mountain View, even a growing number of cargo bicyclists, the city council just turned down a proposal for bicycle lanes along a major road through Mountain View:  El Camino Real.

El Camino is the name for a road that supposedly goes all the way from San Francisco to Mexico City.  The name means “Kings Highway”, I believe.  Along this stretch of El Camino, it’s lined with shops and businesses of varying size.  It’s a four lane road with heavy traffic, sometimes stop-and-go.

Because of all the shops, especially because of Whole Foods, it’s a tempting road for bicyclists because it’s such an important corridor.

An October 18, 2013 news report in the Mt. View Voice discusses a vote in the City Council that denied a proposal for bicycle infrastructure improvements along El Camino. The discussion gives us a chance to ponder the range of needs for pedestrians, bicyclists, car drivers, and transit riders.

The quotes in the article are instructive:

“My preference would be bike boulevards parallel to El Camino Real,” said council member Ronit Bryant .. “When driving near a bicyclist on El Camino, I end up almost not driving because I don’t want to hit the bicycle. A bike boulevard seems much pleasanter for everyone.”
“I don’t know how you make El Camino Real safe enough to make it a real bike corridor,” Mike Kasperzak said.
Another council-member says the cars on El Camino are driving 40-50 miles/hr, which wouldn’t be safe for bicyclists.
“What I struggle with, is El Camino Real the right place to invest a lot of money to build a nice pedestrian-bicycle experience?” asked Chris Clark. “lt may be a better use of resources to direct people to quieter streets, [like Latham and Church].”

In other words, they’re wanting to favor cars over bicycles.

Earlier I mentioned the range of needs for the range of transportation methods.  Each of us transport ourselves with most of those modes at different times.  It’s not like car drivers are only car drivers, sometimes they’re pedestrians.  For example they might be shopping at Whole Foods, and want to get something from the Walmart or Trader Joes that is across the street.  Both those places are just a few yards away, close enough to make it desirable to walk.

Further, that intersection sees a lot of pedestrians anyway because of the locations of bus stops in the nearby transit hub on Showers, and the bus#22 stop in front of Whole Foods.

There are plenty of places along El Camino that someone might naturally desire to walk across the road.

As for bicycling along El Camino, I agree that the ride along Latham is more pleasant and safer.  In Palo Alto there is a bicycle boulevard on streets running parallel to El Camino, and I’ve taken that boulevard and it’s quite pleasant.  There’s another one that runs on Bryant in Palo Alto, that connects to one on Montecito in Mountain View, and runs all the way from Downtown Palo Alto to a hiking trail that runs along Stevens Creek.  These bike boulevards are very nice additions to bicycling in our area.

The council members above expressed their preference for not improving bicycle infrastructure on El Camino, but instead channeling the bicyclists to Latham and connecting that to the boulevard in Palo Alto.

To do that would relegate El Camino to cars.   As I said, there are plenty of places along El Camino where we naturally want to be pedestrians crossing the road on foot.  Further, there’s plenty of natural reason to want to ride a bicycle along El Camino.  Sprouts, or Ditmers, or Whole Foods, or Trader Joes, or Cost Plus, or
Walgreens, or Kragens, all have stores facing onto El Camino.

Forcing the bicyclist over to Latham as the connector road to these stores inconveniences the bicyclist.

And before you say “bicycles aren’t useful for shopping” see the picture above.  That’s my typical method for shopping, and I see plenty of others doing the same.

The suggestion that because traffic on El Camino is often 40-50 miles per hour is ludicrous.  First, I rarely see that speed on El Camino and I do drive and bicycle and walk and take transit along that road.  If anything, the more common occurrence is slow traffic due to too many cars.  Second, the speed limit is 35 miles/hr, so for a city councilman to say it’s okay that many are speeding, well, that’s irresponsible.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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