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Bike Fun

By Janet Lafleur

About this blog: My love affair with the bicycle began with a crush on my first red tricycle that I pedaled in circles on the driveway. The crush grew into full-blown passion when my dad threw Stingray handlebars and a banana seat on my older sist...  (More)

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Planning Your Route: Secret Bike Passages

Uploaded: May 30, 2013
The best way to get around town on a bike is probably not the same way you'd go by car. A route that's convenient by car may be very stressful on a bike. Fortunately, there are bike maps that show you which faster-traffic streets have bike lanes, show you which roads to avoid, and clearly mark the kid-friendly, off-road bike trails. Bike maps are often available on paper so you can take them along on your ride.

Another option is using the bike directions setting on Google Maps, which can give you point-to-point directions and offers Street View which lets you visually check out the route. But sometimes Google gives you bike routes that aren't exactly what you'd choose. Like the time it recommended I take Central Expressway to get to my job near San Jose Airport. Not my idea of a pleasant ride to work, even though my friend Jack did it for years.

But both kinds of bike maps can be misleading. Some of the best routes are low-traffic, slower-speed neighborhood streets that don't get marked on the map because they don't have bike lanes and they're not bike trails. The secret is to look for the quieter streets (often marked in white or gray on the map) and to learn the secret bike passages.

Secret passages are unexpected connections just for people on bikes and on foot. You won?t find them behind a bookcase or under a staircase, but they're really common in neighborhoods built after 1950 where streets were designed to limit cut-through car traffic. Which is exactly where you need them the most. Here are some of our favorites:

Sneaking into Sunnyvale: Dana St to Sylvan Park
Getting from Downtown Mountain View to Sunnyvale is a lot calmer with this little connection that starts where Dana St ends at Moorpark. At the end of the crosswalk you'll see three posts guarding a short path to Foxborough St and into the Sylvan Park neighborhood. Another secret passage at the end of East Dana leads you to Washington St in Sunnyvale.

Connecting Downtowns: Castro Street to Los Altos
This short bike-only path fills a gap on Marilyn Drive for a route that can take you from the southern end of Castro Street to downtown Los Altos. When Dick meets me on a Friday night at the Caltrain station for a dinner date in downtown Los Altos, the Marilyn Drive connector helps us get to the restaurant in time for our reservation, even when there's a headwind.

Hugging El Camino on the South Side: Marich Way
Need to get somewhere on El Camino Real and want to avoid traffic? If you're south of El Camino, look to Marich Way. A secret bike connector on Marich Way will let you ride from El Monte Ave to San Antonio Rd on the south side of El Camino. The trick to getting to that store or coffee shop on El Camino is knowing which cross street to turn on. Guess wrong and you could be walking your bike on the sidewalk a long way.

Crossing San Antonio Road: Monta Loma to South Palo Alto
Crossing San Antonio Road can be challenging since most traffic signals are on busier streets, but there's a traffic signal at the old Mayfield Mall site just North of Central Expressway that lets you cross on quieter streets. It's been recently improved on the Palo Alto side with a larger waiting spot, but heading out of town you'll have to use an awkward crosswalk on the Mountain View side. Still, it's a rare easy crossing that takes you into Palo Alto.

These four are just a start. In the resources section below there's a link to a custom Google Map I created with many more. Just zoom into the area you'll be traveling, click on a marker and you may just find the secret bike passage you need.

How do you plan your bike routes? Do you use any bike-only passages as part of your trips? How did you find them?

Bike Fun's Secret Passages Map:
Mountain View Bike Map:
Santa Clara County Bike Map:
Local Journalism.
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Posted by commuter, a resident of another community,
on May 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm

I've found the Google Maps bicycling directions to be very reliable for finding quiet bike routes around Silicon Valley. It is much more complete than the official city or county bike maps.

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on May 30, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@commuter I use Google Maps a lot, especially with the Street View to get a look at streets I think might be an issue. I wish they offered bike maps/directions for mobile phones, though. I'm often already on the road when I need to look something up.

Posted by commuter, a resident of another community,
on May 30, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Google Maps bicycle directions works really great on my Android smartphone. I frequently use it to create or change my routes on the fly or just to see where a certain road or bike path leads. Since Android is a local product, it understandably works especially well in Mountain View.

Unfortunately, the map programs on some other brands of phones have very dubious reputations :)

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on May 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@commuter I didn't realize the Android supported Google Maps for bikes. Good to know.

Posted by Roight, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on May 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I LOVE being able to scoot through a bike passageway and around an otherwise 5-10 minute ride around. I hate it when I'm in my car and I know there's a secret path cut-through. Maybe I just need a super skinny car :)

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on May 30, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Roight There are definitely some routes that are faster by bike with the secret passageways than in a car. Going from Palo Alto's Town & Country to University Ave is so much faster via the Homer tunnel than driving around.

Posted by Greg David, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jun 2, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Greg David is a registered user.

Nice article.

What's the status of the easement between Leland Ave and Towne Cir.? I remember some time ago there was a hubbub about the condo complex locking the gate. Is that still the case?

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jun 2, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Greg I think the gate is probably still locked. About six months ago Dick and I tried to use it from the Leland Avenue side but it was locked.

I don't know much about the history, but it would be great to have a connection from downtown to the San Antonio Caltrain station that doesn't require riding on California St.

Posted by Pedal your fish, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Jun 3, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I LOVE these "Bike Fun" entries. More more more!

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jun 3, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Pedal your fish Thanks! If you like ice cream you'll find this Thursday's story a real treat...

Posted by Fou du vélo , a resident of another community,
on Jun 5, 2013 at 11:15 am

Very instructive maps. Now looking for a sequel showing safe ways to cross El Camino....

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jun 5, 2013 at 11:58 am

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Fou du vélo I wish I could point you to some low-stress ways to cross El Camino, but as you know they don't exist. :(

There are only a handful of streets and roads that cross El Camino and most have speed limits higher than 30 mph and multiple lanes of car traffic. Many people on bikes end up crossing like a pedestrian to avoid mixing it up with the high volume of faster traffic.

Dick and I usually cross at Castro, Escuela/El Monte, or Calderon. We ride in the regular traffic lane to cross, but we are on alert the whole time. It's not fun.

Do you have any suggestions for the MV city transportation committee to improve crossing El Camino on bikes?

Posted by resident, a resident of another community,
on Jun 5, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Los Altos has nice bike lanes on San Antonio Road, but last time I checked those ended at the Mountain View border, so biking to the San Antonio Shopping Center or San Antonio Caltrain station were essentially impossible. I hope that the San Antonio corridor is high on the city's priority list, because right now it has to be the worst part of town for bicyclists.

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jun 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@resident Yes, it's very unfortunate that the bike lanes on San Antonio Road in Los Altos do not extend across El Camino into Mountain View. It definitely makes biking to San Antonio Center more stressful to have to share a regular traffic lane with cars or awkward to have to cross like a pedestrian.

Altough I've heard it discussed, I don't think there's a timeline for adding bike lanes there. I recommend writing the MV City Council and telling them that bike lanes on San Antonio are critical. Email address is citycouncil at

Posted by Fou du vélo, a resident of another community,
on Jun 5, 2013 at 1:04 pm

re: crossing El Camino, ideally I'd like the City to look at ped/bike overpasses/underpasses. In the meantime, bike lanes should be enlarged and much better marked at each intersection (Palo Alto has a few good examples of great lane markings). Also the City should ensure bike lane continuity on each side of El Camino. Resident mentioned San Antonio, the same issue exists between Shoreline and Miramonte (the bike lane disappears as you cross El Camino into Miramonte). re: Escuela/El Monte, it's one of the ways I cross El Camino; it might make sense to put a bike lane on El Camino between Escuela and El Monte.

Posted by Janet Lafleur, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jun 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Janet Lafleur is a registered user.

@Fou du vélo I think you should send your concerns and suggestions to city council too. Under and overpasses are not likely to happen anytime soon, but road markings may be possible. I definitely suggest being specific about the intersections you've seen that work in Palo Alto.

Posted by resident, a resident of another community,
on Jun 5, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Some nice Palo Alto bike routes across El Camino are:
1. Sand Hill Road - bikes have their own signal cycle to cross El Camino; cars are not allowed to cross here

2. Serra Street - traffic calming on the Palo Alto side of El Camino reduces traffic speeds on one of the major bicycle routes into Stanford University

3. Stanford Ave - intersection was recently updated to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety. Car parking was removed for 100 feet in all directions to give bikes more space and improve visibility.

4. Matadero Ave - little used by cars, but proposed as a bicycle boulevard to connect neighborhoods and major bike routes on both sides of El Camino

5. Charleston Road - recently traffic calmed from 4 lanes to 2 lanes to reduce speeds and make more space for bike lanes. Unfortunately, the bike lanes end at the Mountain View border (near San Antonio Road).

Posted by Fou du vélo, a resident of another community,
on Jun 5, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Here's another example of clear bike lane markings through an intersection in Palo Alto @ Channing.

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