How fast is too fast on Stevens Creek?

15 MPH speed limit gets mixed response from commuters, trail users

Stevens Creek Trail has turned into a wildly popular travel route for Mountain View residents, serving as both a recreational hub and a commute path to and from the jobs-heavy North Bayshore area. On any given day, hundreds of people -- on bikes and on foot -- pour through each trail head during the peak commute hours.

But with the increased usage, frequent trail users are questioning whether a 15 mile-per-hour speed limit is the best way to keep the mixed-use trail safe for both bicyclists and pedestrians. Some residents claim bicyclists are out of control, zipping around blind turns at high speeds, while others say the speed limit feels excruciatingly slow.

The speed limit was imposed in 2015, when the Mountain View City Council approved a pilot program allowing electric bikes, electric scooters -- eventually electric skateboards -- on both the Stevens Creek and Permanente Creek trails, encouraging their use as an alternative to driving on city streets. The pilot program ended last year, and both the city's Parks and Recreation Commission and the Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee recommended making the pilot a permanent ordinance. City Council voted unanimously in December to approve the recommendations.

Council members also agreed to a speed limit on both trails of 15 miles per hour, with an emphasis on education rather than enforcement, to get trail users to adhere to the new rule. Since then, 100 speed limit signs have been added along the trail, along with 60 "etiquette" signs reminding trail users to yield to pedestrians, reduce speed around turns and to announce themselves when passing on the left.

Committee members and public speakers more or less agreed that electric bikes -- and the very occasional electric scooter -- should continue to be allowed on the city's major trails. Electric skateboards were only allowed on the trail as of Dec. 1, 2016, and still remain in a trial period. The major sticking point at both committee meetings, however, was the speed limit imposed on trail users.

"I'm pretty much tired of being forced to be a lawbreaker with this ridiculously low, 15 mile-per-hour speed limit," said resident David O'Brien at a Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee in October. The speed limit does nothing to improve safety on the trails, O'Brien said, and a speed limit closer to 18 or 19 miles per hour would be more appropriate. Stronger enforcement of the existing speed limit, he said, would only reduce trail usage.

"If we do get strong enforcement ... it will lead to a great decrease in commuters" O'Brien said. "The first time I get a $250 speeding ticket I will never get on that trail again."

On the other side, Sunnyvale resident Don Myrah told Parks and Recreation Committee members earlier that month that speeding is a big problem on the city's trails, and that the city hasn't done nearly enough to control the problem. He said he recently recalled seeing three head-on collisions on Stevens Creek, including one incident on the Highway 101 underpass where a bicyclist moving close to 25 miles per hour struck a senior citizen, who was later taken away by an ambulance.

"Nothing is really being done out there," Myrah said. "Putting up a sign isn't going to do it, and it isn't going to slow people down."

City data shows that traffic on Stevens Creek Trail has increased by a staggering 96 percent from 2012 to 2016 during morning and evening commute hours, with about a three-to-one ratio of bikes to pedestrians using the trail during the peak hours. Trying to share the trail when it's so busy can be a challenge when everyone is moving at different speeds, said Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee member Greg Unangst.

"If you have two bicycles passing each other and there's a couple pedestrians there, yeah, there's going to be some issues," he said. "There's just not quite enough room."

Some speakers at the Parks and Recreation Committee meeting advocated for a variance in speed limits, with lower speed limits around sharp turns and blind spots on the southern end of the trail and higher speed limits on the northern end, where bicyclists have close to a half mile of visibility. Patrick Moore, co-founder of Safe Mountain View, told committee members that the speed limit is fine, and suggested the problem stems from bicyclists simply not knowing how fast they are going. He suggested that the trail include signage and marks that allow bicyclists to gauge their own speed without the use of a digital device.

Other agencies in the Bay Area seem to agree that a flat 15 miles per hour limit across the entire trail system is the way to go. Santa Clara County's parks have the same maximum speed for all trail users, whether on bikes, horses or on foot, said Greg Bringelson, the county's park program coordinator roads and trails. Similar to Mountain View, Bringelson said speed enforcement is used sparingly, and more as a tool for education rather than enforcement.

"I think once people realize that when an enforcement tool is out there, they tend to slow down," he said.

County trails, though used primarily for recreation rather than commuting, have seen a similar explosion in usage in recent years. Preliminary trail count data for this year has been "mind blowing," Bringelson said, with thousands of people heading through some trail heads over the course of a week.

Jeral Poskey, a Shoreline West resident and Google's transportation planning program manager, said it may come down to a change in attitude on the trail. Particularly with electric-assisted bikes, he said it's tempting for commuters to try and go as fast as possible rather than taking travel at a slower pace.

"I think a lot of people who are used to saying 'I'm going to set my personal best, and this is my race track' are just going to need that attitude adjustment," he said. "I think occasionally there has to be that heavy-handed enforcement because some people get it, and some don't."

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22 people like this
Posted by employer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 21, 2017 at 6:51 pm

We need to do everything we can to encourage more people to bicycle to work instead of clogging streets with single occupancy cars.

20 people like this
Posted by tsm
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Feb 21, 2017 at 7:10 pm

I have a big problem with pedestrians that walk side by side knowing full well there is oncoming traffic and cyclists behind them. When walking I always make plenty of room for bikes.

17 people like this
Posted by Judy
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 21, 2017 at 7:15 pm

I think part of the problem is that a mixed use trail needs to be wider than our trail is, with a third (marked) lane for pedestrians. It's ridiculous for cyclists to be limited to 15 mph on what may be a long commute; it's ridiculous for children to walk to school while someone rides by at even 10 mph. If the trail were straightened out and widened in most sections, it would be safer to pass and have enough space for everyone.

3 people like this
Posted by Commission
a resident of Gemello
on Feb 21, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Kevin, it's the Parks and Recreation Commission, not the Parks and Recreation Committee. (BPAC is a committee, though)

11 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 21, 2017 at 9:49 pm

Stevens Creek Trail is part of my 12 mile (each way) commute. I tend to be pretty slow anyway, so I doubt I'm breaking the speed limit, but if others are able to commute more quickly, I think we should enable that in whatever way we can (e.g. widening the trail where possible, as was suggested). It is a great non-polluting and healthy alternative to driving, but people still seem surprised that so many people are choosing to commute by bike on trails.

6 people like this
Posted by Jes' Sayin'
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2017 at 10:47 pm

I've seen no rule or law prohibiting walking side by side.

19 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2017 at 7:51 am

Interesting how some cyclists think they should be able to do whatever they want with disregard for others. I wonder how such thinking transfers to everything else they do as they go about their lives. The trail was designed to be enjoyed by everyone. Let's keep it that way.

7 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 9:02 am

In the city of Mountain View the traffic speed limit - in front of schools, on school days at commute time, for student safety, is now 15 MPH. This applies to two lane residential streets where 'the normal' traffic speed limit is 25 MPH. The police do try to enforce that (and crosswalk laws),

This is another place where the City has tried to work very closely and cooperatively with the elementary school district. Scads of kids, with shepherding parents, commute to school across both the HW 85 Stevens Creek Trail bridge (Huff School) and the Central Expressway bridge (Landels School). It would be irresponsible for the public safety of little kids to raise the speed limit above 15 MPH in these narrow places.

11 people like this
Posted by the nanny state
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 22, 2017 at 9:32 am

Is there nothing better to do than to waste government efforts on a 15 mph speed limit on a park trail? Why not be happy that the trail gets used a lot and let it be?
Maybe make add some additional trails instead, or strengthen the trail network / options for biking and other non-car modes of transportation otherwise? Do something useful please.

11 people like this
Posted by Doubles
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 22, 2017 at 10:44 am

@tsm, I also have a huge problem with cyclists in bike lanes running side by side on major streets (like foothill for example) when they know cars are coming. Sometimes even triple, like it's social hour. There should be a law against it. Have no problem at all with cyclists sharing the road, give wide berth to them as much as possible but it IS a problem when they're riding double. These expressways are meant to carry more traffic, faster and riding double causes issues. This has to be a good, common sense compromise for all.

26 people like this
Posted by Observe it all
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2017 at 10:51 am

"Interesting how some cyclists think they should be able to do whatever they want with disregard for others."

Not really, it's human nature and it is absolutely not just a bicycle thing. Why just look at how some people behave in cars, and how some people, while walking will steadfastly refuse to make any accommodations to let others go by. I've even seen some step into the path of others to make them go around.
Selfish people with bitter attitudes do all sorts of things, and yes, some ride bikes as well.

13 people like this
Posted by billa
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 22, 2017 at 2:24 pm

I am cyclist and a pedestrian using Stevens creek trail and I am for a strict speed limit. I rather see a safe environment for all people, animals and especially kids to enjoy the trail . I normally ride about 10MPH and lot less under pass 101.

22 people like this
Posted by Competitive Cyclist AND Pedestrian
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 2:51 pm

As a pretty darned experienced cyclist, I take issue with some of both sides' arguments here.

First, @Doubles, what the heck are you talking about? The bike lane is made for well, bikes, and if 2 or 3 can ride next to each other - within the bike lane - what exactly is your problem? If they are riding in your lane, which I have seen, for no good reason (a good reason would be debris all over the place) then I can see your point. In fact, I have told people to get out of the road in that instance. But in the bike lane...that should not be a problem.

Second, for those of you who think you should be able to jam along at whatever speed on your bikes on a mixed use are dead wrong. Learn to share and be a good citizen rather than making everything about you. I guarantee you that 15 mph steady riding on a trail with no lights will get your slim butt to work much sooner than riding on streets with traffic and lights. I refuse to walk on that trail with my wife or my dog at many times of the day due to careless cyclists. Yet I always try to make room for them if I know they are coming. I have even had one run into me instead of going around or letting me know they were there. Their response? "I didn't want to cross the yellow line." Seriously?

Lastly, @Observe it all, thank you. Great post.

6 people like this
Posted by Darin
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Darin is a registered user.

As a practical matter, how many everyday cyclists have speedometers? How many will know whether they're breaking the 15mph speed limit? I've never had a cycling speedometer, and I have no idea what 15mph feels like while cycling.

I do make a point of slowing down when passing pedestrians or other cyclists on mulit-use trails though.

13 people like this
Posted by Competitive Cyclist AND Pedestrian
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Oh, and more important point: MOST people on that trail whether on bikes or walking are nice people who "share the road." As always, it is just a few who cause all the problems.

11 people like this
Posted by Nihonsuki
a resident of Stierlin Estates
on Feb 22, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Nihonsuki is a registered user.

Google has set up separate bike and pedestrian lanes, and as a biker and a walker I think those work the best. If Stevens Creek Trail is really getting a lot of usage, I think it needs to be widened with separate lanes. The trail underpasses are way too narrow as they are.

7 people like this
Posted by Heatman
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2017 at 3:31 pm

I used to ride my bike on SC Trail on my days off during the recession. Few people on it and the trip was very relaxing. Then the economy started to heat up and over the next few years, I felt like I was riding my bike on 101. Now it's a lot more stressful. Sure, there's plenty of blame to go around but ask yourself the question: who is going to cause more damage, bone-headed pedestrians who are walking 3 abreast or a bike passing another on a blind curve at 15+ mph? It's a beautiful trail and we should all take the time to enjoy it.

23 people like this
Posted by DJ Bahl
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 3:46 pm

My son (15) was on the trail earlier this year. He was riding his bike for exercise toward shoreline park. He was hit by another person riding a bike. My son was on the part of the trail that goes under a road. As he approached the center just before he started going back up, a biker swerved into his lane. The biker swerved because he was going really fast and had just gone around a pedestrian. This put him into my son’s lane. As my son tried to avoid a head on crash, he hit the fence. He got scraped up pretty well, broke his phone and damaged his bike. The other biker who was a 20 something male just rode off. He didn’t even stop to see if my son was ok. If the person was going the posted speed limit, he wouldn’t have hit my son.

6 people like this
Posted by Common sense
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Sorry to hear of that incident, DJ Bahl. Incidentally, given circumstances as described above, if that "20 something male" could be identified, I believe in principle he could be charged with a "20001" (very first offense in the CA Vehicle Code), -- hit-and-run with bodily injury, a felony.

20 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Feb 22, 2017 at 5:36 pm

If 15 mph is too slow for you, bike on the streets. Much as you'd like it to be, the trail is not a bike superhighway for bikes.

9 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 22, 2017 at 5:48 pm

15 mph is the speed limit near our schools in order to protect our kids.

Seems perfectly reasonable to have that speed limit on a trail with many kids, strollers....

16 people like this
Posted by Trail guy
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2017 at 5:49 pm

The people who complain about only going 15 MPH are presumably unaware of the high number of bike accidents on the trail. I live near the trail and have seen many people injured where the trail goes under Middlefield road. An old lady who was laid out flat on her back. A little girl knocked off her bike and with a knee scrape. Many other incidents at this spot as well. I have seen the fire department show up a few times to help people who took a knock on the head.

Now I'm assuming the people who complain they want to go faster just don't understand how many people are hit and are not being really selfish when they say that. We should give them the benefit of the doubt.

It's a mixed use trail and that means if you're on a bike, like I am sometimes you have to go slower than if it was just you. Safety is more important than your meeting you're late for.

Other comments said we should just widen the trail and they presumably don't know that's not so easy. That's an understatement. Many spots are a tight fit between the trail and Middlefield or under route 101 or where the trail is right next to 85 and there's no practical way to widen it. Its a major construction to replace the midddlefield overpass and probably millions of dollars and permitting issues concerning the creek so not cost effective. It's going to have to stay the way it is im afraid and people have to learn to slow down and give pedestrians the right of way, like the law says.

Will bike people do this? Part of the problem is people just don't know their own speed so how do we fix that? For those that do know their speed but won't change probably enforcement is going to be necessary.

11 people like this
Posted by juanO
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 22, 2017 at 9:22 pm

I've lived in Mt. View 30 years and have been a runner for 45 years.
BIKES ARE THE PROBLEM. No mincing of words. It's a fact.
They do go around the blind corners like a bat out of you know where
They actually get mad and angry if they have to slow down
They are the majority that scare us runners and especially the little kids with parents.
I've never seen anyone hit, but even I have felt the wind of the bike itself on my arm.
And I always first get mad, then I feel lucky I wasn't hit.
Slow it down it you can

6 people like this
Posted by ResidentSince1982
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:15 pm

ResidentSince1982 is a registered user.

How about some SPEED BUMPS under Middlefield and under 101?

How about it?

8 people like this
Posted by Doubles
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 22, 2017 at 11:28 pm

@competitve; yes, the lanes are made for bikes and again, I am 100% for sharing the road. But when you're riding double on Foothill, most often one is on or even over the line. As a conscientious drivier, and one who wants to respect the laws, I try to give the right amount of clearance to the cyclist. But when they're riding double it's not always easy, the cyclist is often in the "car" lane and I either have to slow down or wait for left lane traffic to pass so I can move into that lane. I drive Foothill several times a day, cyclists do this ALL THE TIME. So I'm with you, I take issue with it too.

11 people like this
Posted by Take your earbuds out
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2017 at 7:10 am

Runners: Never make a U-Turn mid trail without checking behind you. This, as well as others mentioned here is a repeating danger caused by pedestrians locked in their own earbud world.

3 people like this
Posted by Darin
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Darin is a registered user.


Speed bumps severe enough to matter to a cyclist would become tripping hazards for pedestrians, and difficult obstacles for wheelchair users.

Bike "mazes" are a more practical approach for slowing down cyclists, but they can be difficult obstacles for wheelchair users too. Not to mention the barrier they create for atypical bicycle configurations (e.g., parents towing kid trailers, or tandem teams).

9 people like this
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2017 at 4:02 pm

I'm not too sure who came up with the idea of bikes and pedestrians sharing a trail. Just because motor vehicles can't use it, doesn't mean that bikes and pedestrians are compatible users of the same space.

Bikes are vehicles, granted non motorized vehicle. The bikes using Stevens Creek are generally used as a means of transport by commuters or by serious bikers who view their ride as a sport. These types of riders are not ideally suited to sharing the same space as say a family or a couple on a leisurely stroll.

My question I suppose would be is what is the purpose of this trail? Is it supposed to be an alternative transport route or a recreational hiking trail. I honestly don't think it can be both. BTW I have walked along it and found it to be a place where friends can't hold a conversation while walking. Too many interruptions from people on bikes hurrying to get where they are going with very little concern for those other users who are out to enjoy the view.

9 people like this
Posted by 20 year Trail Runner
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2017 at 10:00 am

"Is it supposed to be an alternative transport route or a recreational hiking trail."
Yes, at it has served those purposes very well for the past 25+ years, making it one of the most appreciated and loved parts on MV.

"I honestly don't think it can be both."
25 years of history and experience proves otherwise.

"BTW I have walked along it and found it to be a place where friends can't hold a conversation while walking."
I have not had the same experiences but during my runs I have come across groups of ladies walking 3 abreast and all chatting away,oblivious to their surroundings and refusing to make any accommodations to other trail users.
(They painted that yellow line for a reason)
That only happens now and again though. Most people just smile and say good morning.
There are in fact many trails that prohibit bikes if you are really bothered. No need to make everyone bend to your definitions and desires when history has proven the trail to be a wonderful resource for so many.

13 people like this
Posted by Bill McFarland
a resident of Willowgate
on Feb 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

I ride my bike on the trail for exercise a few times a week. One day as I was approaching the 85 underpass heading south, a cyclist decided to pass me on the blind curve just as I entered the tunnel. Surprise! There were two cyclists coming in the opposite direction (one behind the other in their lane). That idiot almost caused a 4-bike pileup. It was within a half-second of calamity. We yelled at him but he took off.

I would appreciate it if people would ride their bikes on the trail using the same code of rules as when you drive a car (California DMV Handbook):

Do not pass on a blind curve.
Slow down as you enter a blind curve or a narrow tunnel.
If there is an obstruction or slow-moving person or vehicle in your lane, pass only when you have a clear safety margin.
Ring your bell or announce that you are passing.
Do not ride side-by-side.

I saw the aftermath of a crash at the 85 underpass one time. There was blood spattered on the trail, a guy sitting to the side with his bike taking care of his wounds, it was not pleasant.

9 people like this
Posted by People Person
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2017 at 1:43 pm

I really wish everyone would be safer in their cars, bikes and while walking/jogging. Reading all the posts it is clear: PEOPLE do stupid things and their mode of getting around does not limit or increase that behavior.
I wish people would think more and act more safely

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of North Whisman

on Sep 25, 2017 at 2:19 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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