A bicyclist is injured every nine days in Mountain View, on average, according to data compiled this week by the police department. Bicyclists say they want city officials to take note of where injuries happen and find solutions to make bicycling safer.
The city has seen 203 bike-related injuries since September of 2007, according to the data compiled at the request of the Voice. None of the injuries were fatal. By press time, police could not clarify how many of the bike-related injuries involved cars or exactly how many involved hurt bicyclists.
Most of the injuries, 167 of them, occurred at intersections along the city's busiest traffic arteries with speed limits of 35 miles per hour or more. El Camino Real leads the list, with 47 bike-related injuries, followed by Rengstorff Avenue (31 injuries), California Street (27), Shoreline Boulevard (24) and San Antonio Road (14).
"I think that's really important data to pay attention to," said Eugene Cordero, Mountain View resident and meteorology professor at San Jose State University. "As a bicyclist whose primary mode of transportation is a bike, it's very alarming to hear we've had over 200 accidents in the last five years."
"I would encourage the City Council to use that number of 200 injuries and say, we want to reduce that by 75 percent in the next three to five years," Cordero said.
City officials have apparently not regularly considered such data while planning the city's bike infrastructure. It was compiled by police spokesperson Jaime Garrett for this story.
"If there are clusters of injuries it would seem to make sense to figure out why those areas are dangerous and make them safer," said Elly Phillips, who regularly bikes with her 4-year-old son in tow on a trailer bike.
The city's much-loved Stevens Creek Trail does not run near Phillips' home, near El Monte Avenue and El Camino Real, so her top priority is "having bike lanes that are safe."
Fastest, but not safest
Cyclists say the most dangerous streets in Mountain View also happen to be some of the best, most direct routes for cyclists. That's unfortunate because, as Mountain View cyclist and blogger Janet LaFleur points out in her blog, "at 20 mph, 85 percent of pedestrians or cyclists hit by cars will survive. At 40 mph, 85 percent will die."
After last week's story on the state of the city's bike network, cyclists logged on to the Voice's Town Square forum to say they agree that there's still much more work to do. They expressed, among other things, concern about the removal of bike lanes on Calderon Avenue, a lack of bike lanes on El Camino Real and a busy stretch of Middlefield Road near San Antonio Road, and bike boulevards that don't favor bike traffic over car traffic, like Palo Alto's bike boulevards do.
Mountain View has 54 miles of designated bike routes and a bronze rating for bike friendliness from the League of American Bicyclists. But as reported last week, the city's efforts to increase safety for bicyclists are on hold. Bike lanes that run the length of Calderon Avenue and San Antonio Road from California Street to El Camino Real are the only new bike route projects planned, aside from creekside trail extensions that are unfunded and years away. Both bike lane projects are unfunded, estimated to cost $340,000 and $1.3 million respectively.
"I definitely think the city should prioritize improvements for areas where they have the most injury," LaFleur said She also called for "prioritizing routes that involve schools."
LaFleur said it's worthwhile to compare Palo Alto's success in encouraging Gunn High School students to bike with the number of bicyclists at Mountain View High School, as both schools are tucked away at the edge of their respective cities and require riding on similar roads. Over 696 Gunn students reportedly rode their bikes to school on a single day in October last year, while 171 bikes were counted at Mountain View High on August 28 this year, said Assistant Principal Donna Peltz in an email. Gunn had similar numbers over a decade ago, recording 180 students on bikes in 1999.
"I live within a couple tenths of a mile from two schools," LaFleur said. "A lot of the kids who go to those schools have to cross those roads" where cars go over 35 miles per hour. "So almost every parent feels that it's only safe if they drive their kids to school, which results in more traffic."
Low income residents need a boost
After the death of William Ware, a pedestrian at a bus stop who was killed this year by a car speeding down California, resident Jarrett Mullen called for the narrowing California Street from four lanes to three to allow wider bike lanes and to slow traffic.
"If you see cars barreling by at 50 to 60 miles per hour when the speed limit is 35, that has an impact on your well-being," said Mullen, leader of the Rengstorff Great Streets Initiative, which aims to make streets near Rengstorff Park safer and more pleasant for the many residents there without cars. "If you feel unsafe, you are going to feel stressed, you are going to feel marginalized. There is large number of people interested in riding but they don't feel safe, so they don't."
Cordero said he agreed that the Rengstorff area is "pretty under-served." "When you build good bike infrastructure, such as buffered bike lanes, people feel safer," Cordero said. "And ultimately, I think it really improves the community."
San Jose is a good example of a city "systematically" improving its bike network, Cordero said.
"I work in downtown San Jose and the transformation there has been amazing." Cordero said, referring to 6 miles of new "extra-buffer bike lanes" there, including some that create a protected bike lane between parked cars and the curb.
Cordero also points to the Shoreline Boulevard overpass over Highway 101 as another dangerous place for cyclists, and says a brightly-painted bike lane where speeding cars cross paths with cyclists to get on and off the freeway would be a big help.
"I would invite the City Council members to do that ride themselves," Cordero said of that section of Shoreline he uses to get to Gold's Gym, and which numerous Google employees might also bike if it were safer. "Then they might feel more motivated to find a solution. Maybe we should start doing rides around Mountain View with City Council members."
Phillips had similar comments.
"It's like nobody has gone along my route of travel and said, 'How can you get safely down this street?'" Phillips said.
Phillips said one her pet peeves is garbage cans left in bike lanes, which can cause a danger for her and her son when she has to ride around them.
"I feel like the city is focused on cars and not on bicyclists or pedestrians, which is a shame," Phillips said. "I find so many place are easily bike-able, even with a small kid. The distances aren't huge. It's the logistics, like crossing El Camino Real."