News

Mountain View lays out $81 million plan for El Camino Real

New bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, bus stops are part of long-range plan of improvements

El Camino Real, the historic roadway that runs through more than a dozen Peninsula cities, has its share of problems as well as opportunities. It is considered dangerous for cyclists, unpleasant for pedestrians, slow for drivers and inconvenient for bus riders. Despite that, El Camino is bustling with activity, and developers seem to be falling over each other for the chance to rebuild properties lining the avenue.

A potential win-win solution has been obvious for a long time. More than 15 years ago, the nonprofit think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley urged Peninsula cities to seize a "golden opportunity" by harnessing the demand for redevelopment to transform El Camino Real into an urban neighborhood corridor.

Slow but steady, that plan reached a major milestone in Mountain View last week, as the City Council approved a new set of guidelines for redesigning El Camino to meet its current needs. This so-called "streetscape" plan lays out $81 million in future improvements along the roadway with much of that funding expected to come from future developers.

In particular, the road map for El Camino Real calls for a series of new protected bikeways that would be built out over the next three years. At this stage, these new bike lanes would be built along about a 1.5 mile stretch from Sylvan Avenue to Castro Street. In addition, El Camino Real would be built out with three new bike and pedestrian crossings at Pettis Avenue, Bonita Avenue and Crestview Drive.

More bike improvements could come in future years as part of street repaving performed by Caltrans or through new development projects that are submitted to the city.

To make room for those bike improvements, city officials would not take away any of the six traffic lanes. Instead, Public Works officials say they intend to gradually remove on-street parking along El Camino Real, which would free up space for bike lanes, wider sidewalks and other upgrades. In total, city officials identified 556 parking spaces along El Camino Real that could eventually be removed.

One challenge flagged by City Council members is how bike lanes will coordinate with bus stops. This can be dangerous because bike lanes can often overlap with where bus drivers need to pull over for a passenger stop. In this situation, a bicyclist can either stop and wait for the bus, or risk trying to ride around it in traffic.

To fix this, Public Works staff say that they want to build special bus "islands" on the roadside to separate bus stops from bike lanes, but it would depend on the available space along the curbs.

"The bus-bike conflict has always been a challenge," said Councilman Lucas Ramirez. "This bus island concept is a way to mitigate that, and it sounds like we're going to do that to the greatest extent possible."

While those safety improvements were important, council members also prodded city staff to make the roadway a pleasant place to be. Councilwoman Alison Hicks said she took a stroll with a friend along the El Camino Real, an experience they "did not enjoy," she said. For pedestrians, she recommended the street could benefit from wider sidewalks, more trees, pocket parks and covered walkways.

"I have concerns that we're not doing enough in these cases," Hicks said. "I think there's much more potential on El Camino Real than just safety on crosswalks."

Like so many other issues in Mountain View, plans to upgrade El Camino Real were limited by land constraints. Along with the extra space from removing street parking, developers will also have to contribute land as they build along the street according to the rules laid out in the 2014 El Camino precise plan.

It still likely wouldn't be enough room to incorporate everything on the city's wish list, said Assistant Public Works Director Dawn Cameron. At a minimum, the city has to provide 4 feet for sidewalk access, and in many cases the city would have little space for more than a tree. As developers began submitting new projects, there may be opportunities to nudge them to do more, she said.

In one last amendment, the City Council added language to encourage private developers to improve the aesthetics of El Camino Real.

The streetscape plan was approved by the City Council in a 5-0 vote with council members Chris Clark and John McAlister recused.

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Comments

10 people like this
Posted by SC
a resident of The Crossings
on Oct 10, 2019 at 9:44 am

Another way to fix the bus/bike conflict would be to upgrade the two center lanes for transit use, like the VTA's plan for BRT that was shot down a few years ago.


13 people like this
Posted by A Talking Cat
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 10, 2019 at 9:46 am

A Talking Cat is a registered user.

This is a great move! We need to make our city's streets safer for cyclists. Looking forward to replacing on-street parking with something much more useful than free real estate for unoccupied cars.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Karasev
a resident of North Whisman
on Oct 10, 2019 at 1:53 pm

Just let the bikes roll onto sidewalk (with caution) near bus junctions. People have this totally irrational fear of bikes when walking — cars & trucks are orders of magnitude more dangerous to bicycles than bicycles are to pedestrians.
To see real hazards of bike vs ped, look at any of the trails here with blind turns and mixed transport modes. Roads are SAFE with bikes on sidewalk.
I say this as a frequent driver, biker, and pedestrian with strollers & toddler.


11 people like this
Posted by Darin
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 10, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Darin is a registered user.

Great... Another design for ECR that intentionally has busses stopping in the middle of the right-most traffic lane. As a cyclist, I'd feel a lot more comfortable passing a bus that was completely off to the right, completely out of the traffic lanes. As a motorist, I don't want busses stopping in the middle of the traffic lane. As a bus rider, I want to catch the bus from a stop along the sidewalk, not from a stop out in the middle of some island. The proposed plan is poor for cyclists, motorists, and bus riders.


13 people like this
Posted by Ped Crossings?
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Oct 10, 2019 at 2:53 pm

Hope the extra ped crossings are not of the type where a single pedestrian can saunter up, push a button, and immediately stop 50+ cars. Why would anyone go to a regular intersection?

El Camino is slow enough without 3 additional choke points.

Further, pedestrian cross buttons and blinking lights on Shoreline should be synched with the nearby intersection lights, rather than being immediate.

The blinking lights have also created an unsafe dynamic on 2 fronts: a) The pedestrian feels safe by virtue of the blinking light and may not be as vigilant, b) When there are no blinking lights, drivers believe there are no pedestrians, and they in turn, aren't as vigilant as they should be.


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2019 at 5:50 pm

That's excellent news!!!! I'm sure cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, where 50% of the people bike, have figured out how to accommodate bicycles and buses. It shouldn't be so hard to find a good solution.
I'm all for more rooms for bikes and cars! Who needs parking spaces in a world of electric bicycles, and autonomous shared vehicles.


2 people like this
Posted by Steven A.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Oct 10, 2019 at 7:02 pm

Crossing at Pettis would be useful. There's no crosswalk between El Monte and Shoreline but people walk across six lanes - it's dangerous.


3 people like this
Posted by Halfdome
a resident of Waverly Park
on Oct 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

Excited to see the project to start. But with 81mm, can we really finish it on time and without increase of extra budget?


5 people like this
Posted by From Here
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 10, 2019 at 9:13 pm

What a waste of 81 million. How about we ban bikes from el Camino. Problem solved and money saved. The real problem is MV is over crowded as well as all the other Bay Area cities. Stop building housing as we are full!


16 people like this
Posted by Jake
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 11, 2019 at 1:08 am

Jake is a registered user.

The first poster suggests the VTA's bus-only lanes that would waste the center lanes on infrequent buses and wipe out left turns not at intersections. STILL A bad idea. Maybe the VTA should be combined with PG&E so we can all just stay home in the dark and import natural gas to heat up alphabet soup. VTAPGE.


20 people like this
Posted by CerferJeff
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Oct 11, 2019 at 8:53 am

I ride my bicycle and take VTA all over Mountain View every day, and I consider El Camino Real to be a lost cause. There is just no way to make 6 lines of traffic moving at 45 mph pleasantly intermix with bicycles traveling 12 mph and pedestrians traveling 2 mph. It's like oil and water. Want more bus riders? I would prioritize stopping homeless people from sleeping in the isles of buses, whom I had to step over when I rode home Wednesday night on bus 22.


6 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Oct 11, 2019 at 12:56 pm

What are they going to do about the RV's parked on El Camino? $81M for beautification won't mean much if the RV's are still there.


8 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Oct 11, 2019 at 2:35 pm

Again Where re these massive number of bikers going on El Camino? The Mathilda street has new bike lanes and I have yet to see any bikes. Even with all the Apple Google etc nearby with free commuters bike none are seen used on that street. 81 million for ~50 bikes is a waste, we can give them free Uber shuttle rides instead. Jeff is correct the speed differential is too great for safe movement. Even the motorize ebikes that may benefit would be wary as too many hazards on the road, people and turning cars and buses. Why did the city allow San Antonio Center stores build so close to the street? Where is the bus lane bike lane or even a right turn for cars? we seem to build for whats popular now and not for the future.


1 person likes this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 11, 2019 at 4:18 pm

Is this music to my ears or what? Has Caltrains heard enough complaints that finally they WILL do something about fixing the cracks and potholes in that terrible, terrible intersection by repaving in that area? Why did they have to wait for another project to come along in order for them to fix the problems that have been ignored for years? Is this the way Caltrains operates? Maybe they were waiting for the right moment to get something in return for this or perhaps they were waiting until those cracks in the road actually turned into a giant sinkhole that would then swallow up all the cars that drove through there.

That intersections DOES need some improvements, not only to the road, but also for the people that frequent that area. We have to embrace our cities roadside culture, which include bicyclists, pedestrians, walkers, walkers with dogs. But I have to agree with DC though- is it necessary? I rarely see any bicyclists on El Camino. Why you ask? It's a racetrack for motorists where it has been transformed into an extension of Highway 101. I would be scared to ride my bicycle through there even though they did add some bike lanes. Who's going to protect me if someone comes barrelling down the road and accidentally runs me over? I'd rather ride my bike through the neighborhoods where the slowerly posted speed limit signs at least give me some sort of peace of mind.


Like this comment
Posted by Bart
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2019 at 4:36 pm

Those crosswalks will be great because you don't want to get caught jaywalking across El Camino - at least in Milbrae.
Web Link


9 people like this
Posted by Roger Twank
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Oct 12, 2019 at 6:45 pm

As an avid cyclist, I am deeply disappointed to see this plan. Spending $81,000,000.00 to improve bike lanes on 3 miles of road is a ridiculous waste of resources. Even if they doubled the amount I would never allow my kids onto El Camino on a bike.

A much better idea would be to develop adjacent streets for bike traffic, and discourage bikes from using El Camino.

If this plan goes through, encouraging cyclists onto El Camino, there WILL be fatalities, and the City of Mountain View will be liable.

Please don’t do this.


13 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2019 at 7:32 pm

I would not bike on El Camino even if it had a bike lane. I don't have a death wish. The money would be better spent on making California Street more bike friendly. Make it one lane from San Antonio to Shoreline. Street parking could mostly be kept, a protected bike lane added each way, and a median added with trees. That would be a good, useful way to spent $81 million.


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