Town to remove bike prohibition from El Monte Road
Two weeks ago, the Los Altos Hills city council directed Public Works Director Richard Chiu to paint "No Bikes" stenciling on El Monte Road, a popular road cycling route.
In California, local authorities are prohibited from banning cyclists from local roads such as El Monte Road. Cyclists responded by writing letters to the Los Altos Hills city council, the public works director and local newspapers. Long time cyclist advocate Bob Shanteau provided a lot of the legal ammunition and schooled the town's lawyer on the finer points of the California Vehicle Code, while the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition informed the city of the potential for road rage from motorists misinformed by the signage.
After this tremendous response, Los Altos Hills called 'Uncle!' and removed the "No Bikes" signs. From Los Altos Hills Public Works Director Richard Chiu:
The pavement marking was originally installed to encourage bicyclists to use the new pathway through the college. It was brought to our attention that some drivers may act more aggressively towards bicyclist with the markings in place. The Town wants to encourage various modes of transportation and does not want to do anything that would result in more drivers behaving badly. As a result, the Town has temporarily covered the markings and made arrangement to have it permanently removed by early next week.
> Notice how everything in their comment was about cars acting in the wrong, but their solution was to ban bikes?
Don't jump to the wrong conclusion. They're actually spending a lot of money to make it safer for cyclists by building custom bike infrastructure, which is a good thing you don't see very often. At this particular location, they've built an expensive bike path to create a separate route so that bikes don't have to be on the same dangerous, blind-curve, narrow, ascending road as cars. Once the signal lights are installed (which they're doing now), there'll be no reason for bikes to be on the road, they should indeed be using the path. The error was that the sign shouldn't have said "no bikes", it should have said "look, we built you a nice safe separate path right here, for gosh sakes use it!" :-)
El Monte is fine, I've ridden it countless times as I ride Page Mill to Moody and down Moody a lot on training rides. You make that right turn and go uphill where the road is still pretty wide. The road narrows but at that point you are going downhill and much faster. There isn't much traffic, and if there is traffic, the traffic self calms.
Of all the places I ride that I think are "sketchy", this is not one of them. And I would still use El Monte instead of the path because I will be less likely to get stuck with a red light at the intersection with the college.
The great majority of cyclists using this road are pretty experienced, the only approaches are Moody, which requires that you could climb 900 feet up Page Mill, and Elena which is a rolling twisting road in its own right, albeit less of a climb. They are obscure roads to anyone who doesn't live there, or isn't reasonably deep into the Peninsula cycling - it's not like it's the Portola Loop.
It was a good call on SVBC's part to point out that drivers will react very haphazardly to seeing bikes "blowing off" a sign that says "NO BIKES". But the signage had to go anyway.
> "And I would still use El Monte instead of the path because I will be less likely to get stuck with a red light at the intersection with the college."
And this is why car drivers get aggravated with cyclists. You're probably going to hold up car drivers waiting behind you for that entire stretch of road, or potentially cause an impatient driver to do a dangerous pass (not saying that's right, just that it's going to happen), just because *you* don't want to be inconvenienced by a potential traffic light on a path that was build specifically to get you off the road and make everyone safer.
I should add that a year ago they put an otherwise unnecessary stop sign on Moody, supposedly because of bike safety (there had been NO driver-caused accidents there). But who runs that stop sign? Cyclists. All the time.
All I'm saying is that if we want to promote safer roads, we need to be as conscientious as we want car drivers to be.
Anonymous - you're wrong in this instance. The speed limit is 25 MPH, and the narrow section is a moderate downhill. The only cars I will be delaying are the ones who are exceeding the posted speed limit. Which is of course unenforcable by radar because everyone speeds on that stretch.
The fact that everyone speeds there does not make it right - Los Altos Hills refused to raise the speed limit despite the fact that tickets issued there were being dismissed due to the above problem.
I rode through the area five times last week: eastbound and westbound on El Monte Rd, eastbound and westbound on the Multi-Use Path that's labeled "Bike Route", and eastbound on the (one-way) campus road.
That segment of El Monte Rd is a fine place for bicycling. It has recently been paved or resurfaced so the asphalt is nice and smooth. I noted no wheel-catcher drainage grates or intersections with short sight lines. The only intersections are a couple of driveways on the south side of the road. If City Council is concerned for cyclists' safety, perhaps there's been a series of muggings in that area, since it lacks streetlights?
The one-way campus road is fine for bicycling, with no surface problems, though there are a lot of minor intersections that are pretty busy with parking lot traffic.
The MUP is no worse than any other MUP for use at MUP speeds - 15mph max. Westbound a cyclist might gain enough speed on the long gentle downhill that they'd need to exercise particular care on the curves and near the bridge. The bollards at both ends are as much a problem as bollards on any such installation. (Why were these installed on a newly built facility, when cyclists are working to get them removed from other facilities? Do they anticipate frequent vehicular incursions, perhaps at the west end near the fire station?)
Eastbound on the MUP, the intersection with El Monte Rd at the campus entrance is a mess. There's a sign saying the path ends and the project will be completed in 2009. Presumably that means they will install a dedicated bicycle signal phase, and prevent right turns on red, because the geometry violates the design guidelines required for traffic to operate in the ordinary way. I considered trying to proceed eastbound with the left-turning traffic, but I chickened out (that's very unusual). Instead, I backtracked to the pedestrian crosswalk connection west of the bridge that provides bicycle access to the campus road. It would be good for the campus to erect a temporary sign (until the dedicated signal phase is implemented) on the MUP near that crosswalk, saying there's no access from the MUP to eastbound El Monte, and eastbound cyclists should use the campus road.
The NO BIKES stencil was quickly painted over, and has now been ground out of the pavement. Cyclists once again may choose their own route. There's no reason cyclists would want to use the MUP as a through route, though it might be convenient access for someone starting or ending their ride in those parking lots.