Bike Lane FAIL: Hack of a Bike Bridge in Sunnyvale

21 Feb

Little known fact: I have a degree in Computer Science and worked as a software developer for 12 years. It’s why I moved to Silicon Valley right after I graduated. As a software developer, I aspired to only create elegant solutions where the code flows naturally to meet the requirements for the software’s necessary functions.

As often as not, new requirements were thrown in after release that didn’t fit the existing structure. With no time to change the structure, I was forced to make a workaround, a kludge, a hack. It killed me every time because I knew that a kludge that solves the problem at hand has the potential to create bigger problems down the line.

Like this bike bridge, which provides a critical connection between Yahoo!, NetApp, Juniper Networks and Lockheed-Martin offices and their employees’ homes. A great idea, but it’s a hack in so many ways.

Moffett Park Bike Bridge FAIL 2
Yes, that’s a guard rail in the bike lane forcing you into traffic with a stop sign that drivers often blow through.

What bothers me most about this bridge is the wide, unused lawn on the other side of the road. If this were a freeway project, that land would have been appropriated to make a better interchange. Sadly, cities often shoe-horn bike projects to save money and everyone–on bikes, on foot, and in cars–are stuck with a hack.

Location: Borregas Bike Bridge at Moffett Park Drive, Sunnyvale, California, USA.


Posted by on February 21, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


9 responses to “Bike Lane FAIL: Hack of a Bike Bridge in Sunnyvale

  1. jillycube

    February 21, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    I remember encountering these before. Ruins my bike groove and I’m left with questioning “whyyyyy did they make it like this????” 😦

    • ladyfleur

      February 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      It is a buzz kill when suddenly you’re having to take the lane in front of a truck or a 20-something hot-shot in a new sports car. I don’t miss this commute.

  2. Rick Warner

    February 22, 2013 at 7:44 am

    Janet, a lot of us were involved in the planning discussions about the two Borregas bridges, and the various compromises. There were many designs, including ones that landed on the lawn or the miiddle of Borregas. Cost was a big issue, and getting land was going to mean the bridges would not be built anytime soon. Accepting the horseshoe design was a compromise to move forward and get the bridges built. When the bridges opened in late April 2009 the guard rail was not there; in fact it was added over a year later, as were the solar powered signs and the ‘soft hit posts’. The stubs for the pedestrian walk buttons were added at that time, too, but never implemented. The disappearing bike lane was necessitated by the width of the roadway and the bridge taking part of the lane. Note another major problem known at the time of approval of construction that has not been fixed: there are no sidewalks anywhere near the landing of that bridge; it is a crosswalk to nowhere! The city will demand sidewalks of new development or major renovations in that area, but we were informed they cannot do so outside of the permit process.

    There are big things in the planning for that area, some good and some bad. Sunnyvale has a master plan to close off Moffett Park from near there to Mathilda and re-route the westbound 237 off-ramp onto that with a bike lane continuing to the intersection. Not sure where that is in the planning/approval stages but it is part of an overall redesign to improve traffic flow along Mathilda.

    The more immediate concern is the new development from that corner across to Mathilda, leaving the Sheraton in place but not much else of what exists now. The plan will replace 473K sq ft of office space with 1.2M sq ft of office space. Tripling the office space in that band from Borregas to Mathilda will greatly increase traffic flow on Mathilda, Moffett Park Blvd., Borregas, and Mathilda; the question is what will be done to mediate the problems. The good part is that this will undoubtedly result in sidewalks on Moffett Park from the bridge to Bordeaux and on Borregas north from the bridge. But given that few drivers obey the speed limit along there, the frequent running of the stop signs at Borregas, and the massive congestion already existing on Mathilda there needs to be big solutions in the plan. The EIR process for this will start soon and we all need to get involved and make sure that the report does include required mediation. The development is being proposed by 3 companies; the first two I can find info on and the only listed officer is Jay Paul, who delevoped Ariba Plaza and Moffett Towers to the west of Mathilda; those developments have had large negative impacts on traffic in the area and were done with little mediation; time for us to make Mr. Paul pay for the problems he creates.

    • ladyfleur

      February 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Rick, I want to thank you first for your work with the city to get the bike bridges built and second for taking the time for the complete response. It details how difficult it is to get a bike/ped bridge built and how much effort concerned citizens need to do to make it happen.

      As I said in the post, the bridge and its counterpart across 101 are critical to giving people living between Mary and Lawrence safe active transportation options for getting to work. My point is that these bridges are retro-fits that are underfunded, and like so many similar projects the result is not as elegant as a solution for mainstream traffic. That is, cars and trucks.

      Sometimes motor vehicle-oriented retro-fits can be a little awkward, but on the kludge scale they’re never near what traffic engineers and city planners create for bikes and peds, even with an amazing amount of advocacy from cyclists and livable city folks.

      Once again, thanks for your work, and now I know who I need to talk to when I want the skinny on bike routes in North Sunnyvale.

  3. djconnel

    February 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    I agree with Janet: that infrastructure is a disaster. It’s a fatally dangerous design which will sooner or later result in someone being killed. Coming off the bridge almost requires getting off the bike and walking to avoid the risk, but if bike infrastructure requires walking, it’s utility is substantially compromised and the goal of encouraging people to get out of their cars is lost. While I appreciate the necessity of pragmatism, these bridges are enormously expensive, and if you don’t get them right the first time, the opportunity for revision is very limited.

    • ladyfleur

      February 22, 2013 at 4:43 pm

      I don’t know that I’d call it a disaster. But it is a kludge that puts people on bikes in awkward and dangerous positions, more so on the approaches than actually getting off the bridge, IMHO.

      I haven’t ridden it in rush hour, but I suspect you would not have to walk your bike. You’d have to stop at the bottom of the bridge which is no biggie, and probably have to stop sometimes at the guardrail if the car traffic is heavy. It’s a route to work that I’ve done before, but not since they did all this work.

      As for pedestrians, may the Force be with them.

  4. Elaine

    April 23, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I just used the Borregas bridges to get from the Sunnyvale CalTrain to NetApp which is near the Bay. I thought the two bridges (one over 101 and the other over 237) were FABULOUS. Together with the quiet Sunnyvale Ave over Central, it was a very enjoyable ride. There is no comparison with taking the overpasses where the cars enter and exit those two freeways. I’m quite sure that those two bridges have saved at least one life, and encouraged many others to ride to work, since they were built!

    Congratulations on a job well done.

  5. Easy

    June 26, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Why oh why didn’t the bike lane in your large picture at least have a way to continue up onto the overpass?

  6. DarylJ

    June 5, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Ok, I agree that the guard rail is a hack, but I am very thankful to have these bridges in place. In days prior we’d have to take Mathilda over 101 and under 237. That was no picnic. Ditto for the Fair Oaks route. So sure, complain a bit about a few small items, but I’m very thankful for the work done to get these bridges over two huge obstacles and allowing cyclists to keep off of the busy arteries.


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