Bike Lane FAIL: Halfway Job at Central Expressway

22 Jan

Update: A few weeks after this story was posted, the Santa Clara County Roads & Airports department lengthened the signal timing so it’s much easier to ride across before the light turns red. Thank you!

Two years after I first wrote the city about problems with bicycling to the San Antonio Caltrain station and tunnel, there it was: a bike lane. No longer would I have to ride around the corner to push the pedestrian button and use a crosswalk that’s not particularly visible to drivers turning right on Central Expressway.

Bike Lane FAIL Mayfield

It doesn’t do anything to fix the reverse direction, but it’s an improvement, right? Guess again. It fails in two dangerous ways. First, it forces you to merge with the adjacent lane’s traffic to get around an oversized median. More seriously, the green light is so short that you’re likely to still be in the intersection when the light turns red. That puts you in the path of expressway-speed traffic just as you’re slowing to exit onto the sidewalk.

This is the fourth intersection within two miles of my home that has been “improved” since I started this series. All are critical connections across high-speed roads and all are more, not less, dangerous now. They include: a vanishing bike lane at San Antonio Road, a painful squeeze on Rengstorff Avenue, and a take-the-lane situation on Moffett Blvd that I only ride when I’m sure there won’t be vehicles barreling up behind me. Here’s a map.

At this point, I’m losing patience. Why does this keep happening? Don’t the engineers have the skill to design something that doesn’t set people up to be injured? Isn’t ensuring the crossing is safe a priority? Do they ever get on a bike and test these “improvements” when they’re complete? I’m tired of being their guinea pig.

Location: Mayfield Avenue at Central Expressway, Mountain View


Posted by on January 22, 2015 in Bike Lane FAIL


13 responses to “Bike Lane FAIL: Halfway Job at Central Expressway

  1. Russ Wood

    January 22, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    Hi Janet.

    It this bike lane even set up so it trips the light? BTW, that short light thing also happens at Old Middlefield and Sierra Vista in MV. The light from Sierra Vista crossing Old Middlefield Road is very short (at least at 6:30 AM). I come through here every work day and it’s terrible. I’ve commented on “Ask Mountain View” at least 2 times and nothing ever gets done.


    • ladyfleur

      January 22, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Yes, there’s a detector in the bike lane that sets off the signal. You can see it in the video.

      As for complaining about Sierra Vista at Old Middlefield, did anyone from the city ever get back to you at all? If not, I can give you an email address to poke the head traffic engineer. He’s the one that lengthened the signal time crossing Rengstorff at Montecito.

      • Russ Wood

        January 22, 2015 at 3:27 pm

        It’s been quite some time since I addressed the Sierra Vista/Old Middlefield issue (and gave up) that I don’t remember if I got a response. I want to say I did, but wouldn’t swear to it.


  2. Cor

    January 23, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Eh, no – I don’t think that any of the traffic engineers involved has experience on a bicycle or even do an acceptance test of the work after it is done, else they would notice these non-conformities. “Improvements” done at other places on Central make me think that some engineers actually are preparing to turn Expressways into future Freeways, which is a horrible idea. If you contact the city to complain about a signal or something else on El Camino or Central, do not be surprised when they say that they can’t do anything, since it is likely Caltrans that has jurisdiction – that is where you need to address your concerns. I don’t know if it helps to send them (and their lawyer) a notification of a dangerous situation, making them liable if an accident happens due to faulty design. Others may be able to give advise if this has any value here.

    • ladyfleur

      January 23, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Right, the cities don’t control the expressway intersections, Santa Clara County Roads & Airports does (not Caltrans). I had the email address of the county traffic engineer so I sent him an email last night. He routed it to the engineer that’s in charge of the project. We’ll see what he says.

  3. mike

    January 23, 2015 at 9:38 am

    So far, all of these “problem” intersections that I have experienced are Caltrans controlled. You can tell by checking the info on the stoplight control box. The governing body is listed, along with tell #’s etc. BTW, add short yellows problems to all Caltrans intersections. The 3 second yellow controversy is decades old, and this short signal time can be increased to 6 seconds, if Caltrans wants too. Also; the project at the former HP site has closed the access from Monta Loma to Palo Alto since May 19, 2014. The city of Mountain View public works told me that Palo Alto has OK’ed closing the underpass below San Antonio, and the project has moved along at a snails pace.

    • ladyfleur

      January 23, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Actually, three of the four problem intersections mentioned in this post are on Central Expressway, which is managed by Santa Clara County Roads & Airports (not Caltrans). I had the email of the county traffic engineer so I sent him an email last night. He routed it to the engineer that’s in charge of the project. We’ll see what he says. In Mountain View, Caltrans manages El Camino Real and the freeways (101, 85, 237) and I think that’s it.

      The Mayfield underpass closure is sorely missed by the many people who used it. I personally have always preferred using the traffic signal on Nilda/Mackay, which was significantly improved on the Palo Alto side.

  4. Cheryl

    January 23, 2015 at 11:00 am

    that is a shame. there was a cyclist fatality there years ago. People fly down that exit from San Anton to Central. saw a cyclist last night barely make it to the sidewalk.

    • ladyfleur

      January 23, 2015 at 11:01 am

      I didn’t know someone had died there. When was it? Do you know what happened?

  5. Richard Masoner

    January 28, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    If that loop detector under the bike lane is new, County Roads might have violated 21450.5, which says the agency must allow time for bicycles to cross “upon first placement [or] replacement of the loop detector of a traffic-actuated signal.”

  6. ladyfleur

    February 2, 2015 at 12:11 pm

    Good news! I got word back from the County traffic engineers who said they lengthened the green signal phase. Now I just have to test it.

    “The newly installed bike detector has been activated and programmed, now you should see a longer green if there is a bike call. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.”

  7. labicichica

    February 10, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Good report! More evidence of, “you don’t know it unless you do it”. Meaning, no one can understand what it’s like to bicycle for everyday transportation unless they do it. When are all these people (engineers, city council members, policemen, etc.) making decisions for us going to get on a darn bike? And I don’t mean just for a special event, but go by themselves to places they now use a car for?

    • ladyfleur

      February 10, 2015 at 4:51 pm

      Amen, sister. It should be a requirement for city staff. I will say, though, that the consultants from Alta did ride most (if not all) the streets in question. I was impressed when I was talking with Alex Sweet last night at the bike plan meeting that she not only had ridden the streets I was complaining about, she remembered the specific issues I mentioned. It made me feel so much better.


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