Bike Path FAIL? Chicanes on the Stevens Creek Trail

11 Oct

Sometimes a longed for bike improvement comes with something unexpected. For years, bicyclists had to hop a curb to enter or exit the Steven Creek Trail at Evelyn Avenue in Mountain View. When the city finally installed a nice wide curb cut, they also installed chicane fences and a directive to “walk your bike.” Among the local bicycle advocates, some cried foul, others defended it, and some like me are left pondering on the fence.


What do you think? Are widely spaced chicane fences appropriate where a bike trail meets a 35 mph road?

Location: Steven’s Creek Trail at W Evelyn Avenue, Mountain View, California, USA.


Posted by on October 11, 2012 in Bike Lane FAIL


17 responses to “Bike Path FAIL? Chicanes on the Stevens Creek Trail

  1. Brian

    October 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Stop signs on the 35 mph road are appropriate when it meets a trail. It’s most important for drivers to be aware of the crossing, especially since trails are used by kids and families. Cyclists expect trails to cross roads. Drivers have no idea what a bike trail crossing is or where they pop up. Is it a crosswalk? A normal intersection?

    • ladyfleur

      October 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      This trail dead ends at the road about 50 feet from a stoplight for the Hwy 85 freeway entrance. There’s no crosswalk across Evelyn at the trail or the stoplight, probably because there’s no sidewalk on the other side of Evelyn. There’s no stop sign now, just chicane fences.

      I don’t mind the chicanes. They’re wide enough to ride slowly through and they do warn people (esp kids) that there’s something dangerous ahead. My only real issue is the “Walk your Bike” sign which is silly. No one will walk their bike here unless it’s really congested, and it’s not required to be safe.

  2. humofthecity

    October 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    The fence chicanes maybe, but the “walk your bike” sign, no way, unless there’s also a sign somewhere in Mountain View that says “push your car.”

    • ladyfleur

      October 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      “Push your car” that’s funny. I agree. Maybe the sign should say “Slow” or “Cross traffic ahead” or simply “Trail ends.”

  3. Andrew Boone

    October 11, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Is walking required here by Mountain View City Ordinance? If not, the sigh should be removed.

    • ladyfleur

      October 11, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      I have no idea how the ordinance work. But I do know that similar chicanes along the Hetch Hetchy trail simply have reflectors, no signs.

  4. djconnel

    October 12, 2012 at 4:16 am

    At least there’s no bollards: those are deadly. But the chicanes are also dangerous. You’ve got riders and pedestrians each coming from each of three possible independent routes (counting the ramp from the bridge and the trail from the west as separate), and they all converge on the chicane wide enough for only one person. A pedestrian can squeeze around the edge, which I prefer, but if pushing a baby carriage that’s not possible. The “walk your bike” is an apparent attempt to reconcile the incompatibility of cyclists and pedestrians here. It’s not that big a deal if cyclists are going pedestrian speed here, but it seems an unnecessary complication, the sort of thing we see way too often apparently from designers who have little cycling experience.

    BTW, excellent reading if you haven’t seen it is chapter 1000 of the California Highway Design Manual which provides guidelines on bicycle facilities. It provides guidelines for bike lane – highway intersections and recommends cub cuts, which this path has, but is against barriers (primarily bollards) unless there is a significant risk of motor vehicle traffic on the path. Obviously that’s not an issue here.

    • ladyfleur

      October 12, 2012 at 11:45 am

      Dan, there definitely is an issue with motor vehicles getting on this path. The curb cut is wide enough for a big truck to get in, and they did have an incident recently where someone drove an electric golf-cart type vehicle way down the trail–at night if I remember right. Scary.

      I think the fences work well enough. They slow cyclists down appropriately to prepare for the stop ahead, or as they enter the slower trail from the faster road. Yes, if there’s traffic in the chicane the person on the bike may have to stop until it clears. But that’s not so bad and much better than having fast riders shoot through or kids racing ahead and running onto Evelyn.

      Now, if we could just get the sign changed to something more appropriate than “Walk Your Bike.”

  5. Ross Heitkamp

    October 12, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I communicated with the city before they installed this and requested a different design – a fence directly in front of the trail at the edge of the curb and the curb cuts on either side, so bikes would enter and exit the roadway at an angle instead of at 90 degrees.
    Their concern was less about bikes and cars. It was bikes and pedestrians. They didn’t want the bikes on the sidewalk for any longer than necessary, so crossing the sidewalk at 90 degrees was ideal to them – and that meant the barrier had to be before the sidewalk.

    • ladyfleur

      October 12, 2012 at 11:39 am

      Thanks for the background, Ross. I think this is all around a much better design than having a fence between the sidewalk and roadway. Until recently, I rode a trail everyday that had that kind of terminating fence–the Hwy 101 bike overpass at Embarcadero Rd in Palo Alto. It was awkward at best, dangerous at worst.

      As the city said, the chicane fence design keeps the bikes off the sidewalk and reduces ped conflicts there. It’s also makes left turns onto or from Evelyn much easier for people on bikes.

      And when the maintenance vehicles need to get onto the trail they can do it without having to stop the vehicle on Evelyn, which would block the bike lane and force workers to get out onto the roadway.

  6. Chris M

    October 12, 2012 at 11:41 am

    I don’t know this setting, but we have similar signs at certain points on our MUPs, too. I find ‘walk your bike’ signs silly in almost all settings; with sensible gearing, I can ride as slowly as walking, I have arguably more control of the bike, and I take up MUCH less space than when I stand next to my bike to walk it. As to the chicane, I like that pretty well as a hazard indication. Stop signs on MUPs are logical, but at least here they are frequently ignored my many cyclists who ‘can’t be bothered’ — while I also wish cars were required to stop for bikes, rather than the other way around, based on ‘greatest good for greatest number’ I suspect this solution makes the most sense.

  7. Andrew

    March 9, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Try getting through these easily on a cargo bike. It’s just more cycling unfriendly infrastructure.
    As for push your car, well:

    • ladyfleur

      March 9, 2013 at 9:02 am

      I wonder how bad this one would be with a cargo bike or trailer. The fences are further apart than they look. Now you make me want to try it with my trailer.

      But I hear you on how they don’t consider non-standard bikes in designing everything from trail entrances to parking.

      • ladyfleur

        March 9, 2013 at 10:13 pm

        OK, I went through the chicanes with a trailer and it worked just fine, much better than a half dozen other awkward pinch points on my route. And the Walk Bike sign has been replaced with Slow Down which is much more appropriate.

  8. Eric N

    February 13, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I commuted through this intersection for a year. The chicanes are unnecessary and a hazard especially for those with trailers, tandems and other non standard bicycles. There is a correct design of an intersection. Perhaps people have heard of them. Their are called stop signs.

    There is a hazard at the intersection. If you cross on green light you have no idea if you will have enough time to get across. The cars enter the intersection on a green at speed but the bicyclists have to stop at the intersection so it takes longer to cross. The light can change to green on central before you get across the expressway. I wrote suggesting a countdown signal but was told that if you need hit the pedestrian crossing button if you want to to be safe.

    P.S. I’ve seen the golf carts on the trail but I think this are used by maintenance staff. They have been operated responsibly every time I encountered them.


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