Bike Lane FAIL: Painful Squeeze in Mountain View

23 Jun

Another busy intersection, another re-design, another vanishing bike lane. Caltrain wanted to keep cars from getting caught on the tracks when the signal turns red. The county engineers wanted to push more cars through the intersection. Too bad no one considered what happens to people riding in the bike lane.

Rengstorff at Caltrain

The county’s plan shoehorned in a second left turn lane, which meant shoving the right lane further to the right, squeezing out the bike lane and forcing bikes and cars into an unexpected merge. Caltrain may be happy and the drivers turning left may be happy, but the right lane is now a painful squeeze for everyone. Is it too much to ask the traffic engineers to consider bike safety along with rail safety and vehicle throughput?

When the plans for this crossing and the crossing at Moffett were presented to the city council transportation committee, I spoke at the meeting and complained. The city engineer basically said it was the county’s design and there was little the city could do. I knew the changes would be bad, but they’re worse than I expected.

Location: Rengstorff Avenue at the Caltrain tracks/Central Expressway, Mountain View, California, USA.


Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Bike Lane FAIL


22 responses to “Bike Lane FAIL: Painful Squeeze in Mountain View

  1. Easy

    June 23, 2014 at 9:30 am


  2. ellycp

    June 23, 2014 at 9:50 am

    The first time I drove through this was a shock, too. The lane I was in took a sharp turn to the right and I thought another car slightly ahead was cutting me off. I never bike that way, but if I needed to I would probably plan to avoid that intersection all together.

    • ladyfleur

      June 23, 2014 at 9:58 am

      I haven’t driven it yet, but I expected that it is confusing and dangerous for drivers in the right lane just like it is for people riding in the bike lane. I usually ride through coming from Escuela so I avoid this merge completely. If I come this way again I’ll either wait for the car traffic to clear or make a right and the U-turn.

      I still can’t believe that engineers from multiple agencies looked at this and approved this design. There’s no way they’d allow two car lanes to merge at a stop light like this.

  3. fIEtser

    June 24, 2014 at 2:20 am

    Not surprising at all to see such a horrific design. If they’re unwilling to remedy it properly (i.e. redesign the intersection), then they need to do the next best thing and install bicycle-specific signals.

    • ladyfleur

      June 24, 2014 at 11:20 am

      An advance bike green with enough time to get across the tracks would work. It would also allow riders to get into the left turn lanes. That’s what the two women ahead of me did. They just did it at the end of the cross traffic’s signal where there was an easy gap to claim.

      But then again, it does nothing for riders that approach when the light is green, which is how I got pinched and nearly hit (on a trip before this one where I took the photos). Unless all bikes have to stop on green main signal and wait for it to go red and then they get the green bike signal.

    • Lizzie

      June 24, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      A bike box [area marked in green taking up the front of the right lane at the intersection] would probably work good here. Then bikes get to go before cars when the light turns green.

      • Lizzie

        June 24, 2014 at 4:43 pm

        On second thought, a bike box would have to take up both lanes at the intersection – for the through lane and for the right turn lane.

  4. Bike-Scoot

    June 24, 2014 at 2:57 am

    The change should be compared against the design guide that should have been used. If it conflicts with the guide, then the city is at risk of not being able to claim “design immunity” if a lawsuit results from a collision at that intersection. Cities usually care about liability risk. Bringing it up at the review meeting would put a design violation in public record, putting the city at even more risk, since they could not say they were unaware of the issue.

  5. Tracy C

    June 24, 2014 at 3:31 am

    I’m not sure what can be done about this now. Perhaps Rengstorff is a good candidate for the green bike lane pilot that the City just approved with the this year’s budget. The “mixing” area could be striped and make it more clear to motorists that that area must be shared.

    In case you missed it, according to the police data, the Rengstorff/Central intersection had by far the most bike injuries in of all locations in MV

    • ladyfleur

      June 24, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Thanks for the link to the injury map. I didn’t know Great Streets MV had it on their site.

      As for the green lane mixing zone, it would be better as would a bike box as someone mentioned. But I honestly wouldn’t expect very good compliance from drivers considering the long waits and heavy traffic. That’s where I see the most impatient, bullying behavior from drivers.

  6. anniebikes

    June 24, 2014 at 4:15 am

    I can’t blame the lone cyclist for stoppping on red, making sure traffic is clear, then bolting across the intersection. It may not be safer than waiting for a green light then vying with automobiles for lane access, but sometimes a cyclsit has to do what makes them feel safe. I’m sorry this intersection is now a mess.

    • ladyfleur

      June 24, 2014 at 8:05 am

      I completely agree for this scenario. Much safer than doing it the legal way.

  7. Thida Cornes

    June 24, 2014 at 10:21 am

    I am pleased that the mid block crossing to Rengstorfff Park finally has a traffic signal. I talked to Councilmember Ronit Bryant and as you wrote the design was county over city.

    Maybe the pedestrian crossing over Crisanto could be moved right or further towards Crisanto and then the bike lane could be where the current pedestrian crossing is now.

    The pedestrian crossing over Crisanto is so close to Rengstorff because there used to be a stop sign at Crisanto so cars needed a sightline across Rengstorff. Now there is a traffic light that only allows a right turn on green so cars can wait further back.

    • ladyfleur

      June 24, 2014 at 10:34 am

      The traffic signal’s new location is wonderful for people walking across Rengstoff and fine for those on bikes and driving on Rengstorff. The problem is that they shoehorned the fourth lane in, which meant forcing the right car lanes awkwardly to the right and abruptly into the natural line of people riding in the bike lane.

      I don’t think moving the crosswalk on Crisanto further right is a good solution. What good is it to move the bikes right when there’s no space for bikes at the tracks? It just moves the unexpected merge to the far side of Crisanto. And as you mention, moving the crosswalk to the right makes it harder for people driving to see people in the crosswalk.

  8. Bike-Scoot

    June 24, 2014 at 11:11 am

    The distance between the last dash on the bike lane before entering the intersection and the closest point on the bumpered lane marker appears to be less than allowed. The lane width may be under-spec at this particular point before the merge. This would expose the city to liability at this most crash prone intersection.

    What I have seen in Portland for when there is a squeeze through the intersection (nothing near this bad), is that they use a signal that detects the bikes. It gives a green for the bikes first (in the shape of a bike), allowing bikes to cross the intersection first, then gives the cars a green. It turns on a small blue dot when it sees a bike, so you know it will be doing this. Of course this only helps if you happen to get stuck at the light, so only a partial fix. To make it work for all cases it would need to sense you further down the road as you are approaching the light and then trigger the light. Without that, the only fix seems to be to remove the 2nd left turn lane.

  9. Bike-Scoot

    June 24, 2014 at 11:36 am

    San Francisco already has at least eight bike signals. The cost is the same as a normal signal, except for an additional $500 lens cover.

    Short example video….

    Everything you wanted to know about bike signals….

    Click to access 1354724032.pdf

  10. Bike-Scoot

    June 24, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Sorry, one more. This is the exhaustive document on the bike signal subject.

    Click to access SPR747_Bicycle_Specific.pdf

  11. Google

    August 11, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Very good info. Lucky me I came across your site by accident (stumbleupon).
    I’ve book marked it for later!


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