Bike Lane FAIL? Median Path in Los Altos Hills

09 Jul

If you’re designing a way for bikes to navigate a tough intersection, a great place to start is to ask bicyclists, right? Sounds great in theory but in practice, but you’ll find that bicyclists don’t always agree on what’s best.

Take this median path on El Monte Road, a high-speed four lane road that crosses under Interstate 280. At a local bicycle and pedestrian advisory committee meeting, one of the BPAC members proposed it as a good model for a redesign of a similar undercrossing just up the freeway. I strained to understand. Did he really think a narrow sidewalk would work for the packs of road riders that frequent this area? I mean, it’s so narrow that there’s even a “walk bike” sign. And the path is 1/2 mile long. No roadie would ever walk that far in their Sidis.

Median Path

The reality is that few people actually walk their bikes on this path and it’s very useful for people who don’t want to ride on the roadway and deal with high-speed traffic merging on and off the freeway. While I’ve ridden on the roadway on weekly basis and have had little trouble with drivers, not everyone wants to ride like that. Ironically, the day I took these photos, a driver nearly right-hooked me in his impatience to get on the freeway.

So is this path good for bicyclists? Yes, provided the city ditches the “walk bike” sign and doesn’t expect all cyclists to use the median pathway. Bicyclists don’t always choose the same path and that’s OK by me.

Note: “No Bikes” photo from Greg McPheeters. More on the Los Altos Hills attempt to ban bikes is here.

Location: El Monte Road at Interstate 280, adjacent to Foothill College.


Posted by on July 9, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


5 responses to “Bike Lane FAIL? Median Path in Los Altos Hills

  1. Matt

    July 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    A woman was killed here a few years ago. She was southbound on El Monte, trying to go under I-280. As you’re probably aware, the bike land on El Monte suddenly ends right before the onramp for North 280. She passed that onramp, but while trying to negotiate the merge of cars from the North 280 OFFramp (cloverleaf), she was passed on the left by a big rig. Somehow, approaching the underpass, she got caught under the truck and was dragged for a while. Lawsuit against the road designers. How she was hit is a mystery to everyone.

    So, the median is a great idea. But walk it?

    • ladyfleur

      July 9, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      I think I know the case you’re talking about. It was on a similar freeway underpass on Alpine Road. But it could have happened here just as well. All the 280 underpasses are problematic.

      The other issue with the median paths that I didn’t highlight much is that they require crosswalks to enter and exit, which require dismounting to be 100% legal. And yes, the walk your bike 1/2 mile is unrealistic.

  2. Matt

    July 9, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    (er, “bike LANE on El Monte…”)

  3. Matt

    July 9, 2013 at 11:46 pm

    Oh, you’re right. Alpine. But they look very similar!


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