Bike Lane FAIL: The Case of the Vanishing Bike Lane

03 Jan

The young woman pedaled slowly across town, the sun warming her back and offsetting the morning chill of a California winter day. She stops at the signal and waits in the bike lane, counting the seconds until she can cross the dreaded San Antonio Road. Little does she know the danger awaiting her on the other side.

Crossing San Antonio Road

The signal changes to green and she pushes hard on the pedals to cross the intersection as quickly as possible. First she’s riding alongside a vintage Chevy, then a sedan. As she reaches the center line she discovers the lane ahead has room for either her, or the pickup that’s now beside her. What will she do?

Normally I’d be excited by this newly painted bike lane on my former commute route. But when a bike lane vanishes without warning and forces people to merge in an intersection, it’s a bike lane FAIL.

Location: W Middlefield Road at San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, California, USA


Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Bike Lane FAIL


19 responses to “Bike Lane FAIL: The Case of the Vanishing Bike Lane

  1. Rachel Unger

    January 3, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Ugh – and the pavement is not that great there either, as I recall. :/ Glad you and the truck came to an agreement!

    • ladyfleur

      January 3, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      I took a little poetic license in the story. I knew there wasn’t room on the other side so I was prepared. But I did try starting in the bike lane vs in the center of the regular lane, which is what I did before the bike lane appeared. Many riders take the sidewalk here because it’s a gnarly intersection.

  2. annoyedcyclist

    January 3, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Reminds me of the funny headline in a British satirical paper a few years ago ‘Bike lane shorter than actual bike’

  3. Nancy L. Seibel

    January 4, 2014 at 8:16 am

    When bike lanes are poorly designed or end abruptly they can be dangerous. A sign alerting drivers and cyclists to the upcoming need to share a lane might help a little?

  4. Zeaphod

    January 6, 2014 at 8:37 am

    Charleston and San Antonio has the same problem.

    • ladyfleur

      January 6, 2014 at 8:49 am

      Charleston was my alternate to Middlefield on my old commute to Palo Alto, but I haven’t crossed there in a while. Did they add bike lanes on the Mountain View side of San Antonio there too?

      Since the lane is narrow on the Palo Alto side of both roads, I always took the lane when crossing San Antonio northbound. Most drivers were OK with it, especially since they did have the opportunity to pass in the left lane. But I had drivers in both places honk at me for taking the lane. One even paused long enough as she passed to motion that I should take the sidewalk at the JCC on Charleston instead. I’m sure she thought that was perfectly OK since people regularly take the sidewalk there because the road is such a hazard.

      Note that like Middlefield, the Mountain View borders is several hundred feet south/east of San Antonio, so the lane configuration at the intersection is completely within Palo Alto’s control.

    • Robert

      January 23, 2014 at 12:14 am

      At Charleston/San Antonio there is no bike lane either side, so your choice is the sidewalk, or the middle of the traffic lane. The problem at Middlefield is that on one side there is a bike lane, the other side there is not, so the design implies a merge in the middle of the intersection. I was told in riding school never to change lanes in the middle of an intersection…

      • ladyfleur

        January 23, 2014 at 9:36 am

        I crossed San Antonio on Charleston on Monday and you’re right, they didn’t add a bike lane so it’s not like Middlefield. I was on a slow bike and didn’t feel like standing my ground by taking the lane so I took the sidewalk. So there, call me a scofflaw. I really hate that we are put in these situations.

  5. Stuart M.

    January 9, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Hello from Japan! My sister lives in Mountain View and I visit her once a year. I hope I see you on your beautiful Velorbis(?) bicycle driving through the streets.

  6. Stuart M.

    January 10, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Oh no, it’s a Viva bicycle!

    • ladyfleur

      January 10, 2014 at 10:12 pm

      She has a Viva? So do I. In red. If your sister lives near Rengstorff & Central and her Viva is red, I’ve probably already met her.

  7. Stuart M.

    January 11, 2014 at 5:33 am

    No, no, I’m sorry. I first thought you had a red Velorbis bicycle, but then I saw the Viva logo on the downtube and corrected myself. My sister is not big into bicycling.

    • ladyfleur

      January 11, 2014 at 7:59 am

      Oh, I misread. That’s what happens late at night. But there is another woman in my neighborhood with a red Viva Juliett just like mine. Only one I’ve ever seen in the wild.

  8. Jean

    January 23, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Hope you notify the municipality. Or someone.

    • Phillip Tanks

      January 24, 2014 at 7:29 am

      This is Palo Alto, supposedly a bike-friendly city. However, the arrogant and self-absorbed head of transportation will NEVER admit to making a mistake. Never look back, just charge ahead and paint everything green and hope nobody notices the mistakes made through haste and poor planning.

  9. Ed

    January 24, 2014 at 3:02 pm

    I’ve contacted the Palo Alto transportation department about Middlefield and need to fix these on again, off again bike lanes. I’m not sure what the solution can be without taking out curbs and making more space. I think sharrow markings that help get cyclists predictably out into the full lane of traffic are one solution.

    It would help if more people complained directly in addition to the lovely work you do on this blog. Make your voice heard here:


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