Cities' collaboration leads to interim Peninsula Bikeway

A map of the planned interim Peninsula Bikeway, scheduled to launch Saturday, Sept. 8. (Map courtesy Alta Planning + Design.)

For the past two years, city managers from Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City, along with senior staff at Stanford, have met monthly to talk about the transit and mobility problems that impact the region.

The first outcome of their work together, an interim Peninsula Bikeway, will be unveiled Saturday, Sept. 8. The bikeway will follow, via coordinated signs, a preliminary designated route for cycling through Redwood City, Atherton, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View.

The city managers' partnership, called the "Managers Mobility Partnership," or MMP, was convened by Joint Ventures Silicon Valley and is a historically unprecedented collaboration, according to JVSV CEO Russell Hancock.

But it's just a start. The interim route, which avoids most busy roads, necessarily zigs and zags because there are gaps in the network of bike lanes and cyclist-safe routes between the cities.

"It's not as direct as you would want it to be," said Hugh Louch, principal at Alta Planning + Design, a consulting firm that focuses on multi-modal planning, describing the interim route.

"At this point, it's really piecing together what exists," he added.

Eventually, the coalition hopes to build a permanent bike route stretching from Redwood City to Mountain View that is more direct and higher-quality.

The Sept. 8 event is intended to launch the process for the cities to begin collecting public feedback on what people want in such a route and where it should be located. Middlefield Road, El Camino Real, and along the Caltrain tracks are potential options to explore for a route, Hancock said.

Once a site is chosen, the partnership would have to figure out how to design the project, conduct environmental analysis and build the bikeway. Each of those steps would require funding, and as of now, the partnership doesn't have a clear funding source.

Cities have each contributed funding to the work that's been done so far. But moving forward, funding and building the project will get complicated, Hancock said. The partnership might proceed by having each city pay for a segment of the project, or the group could look into forming a joint powers authority, which would have its own decision-making power, he explained.

Stanford policy students have already done some research into how to fund the bikeway project. They put together a 2017 report that suggested forming a joint powers authority and levying a parcel tax, or implementing lease-revenue financing. The students found that nontraditional fundraising options, like some public-private partnerships, social impact bonds and crowdfunding, would likely not yield enough to fund the project.

In a previous study, students analyzed the pros and cons of installing the permanent bikeway along El Camino Real or along the Caltrain corridor. Their analysis at the time found that it would cost about $18 million to build the El Camino Real bike route and $37 million to build the Caltrain corridor bike route, not counting the estimated $17 million cost to build a sound wall or the $200 million or more it would cost to add eight grade-separated rail line crossings for bikes.

Why bikes?

Connecting existing bike infrastructure with cohesive signage between the four cities and Stanford was identified by the partnership as the "lowest-hanging fruit" among its priorities that could be easily achieved, Hancock explained.

In other countries like the Netherlands and Denmark, Hancock said, many people cycle as their primary mode of transport, even though those countries are less naturally suited for cycling than the Peninsula.

"Good grief, it's cold there. They have to go up hills. It rains all the time," he said. In contrast, he said, his hometown of Palo Alto has a Mediterranean climate, flat landscape, and a population that's health-minded and environmentally conscious.

"Yet none of us are on our bikes," he said. "There's something wrong with this picture. Really, Silicon Valley should be the biking capital of America."

An unprecedented partnership

As part of the partnership, each city manager signed an agreement committing to work on transportation problems with the other city managers, Hancock said.

In 2016, the city managers agreed to a set of guiding principles that included shared goals of improving walkability; enhancing bike lanes and bike safety; making it easier for transit riders to get between home and work via shuttles, bike-share or car-share programs; encouraging Caltrain to operate more frequently and with greater capacity; and promoting signal coordination across cities.

The city managers agreed to meet regularly; to encourage their staffs to work across city boundaries; to find resources for projects through private sector partnerships and federal, state and local grant opportunities; and to collect data and track progress.

A key point of the partnership is that its members are city managers -- who are considered the top city executives -- rather than mayors or other elected officials. Still, city managers are expected to act in coordination with the elected officials they work for, Hancock said.

Among the other topics the group discusses regularly are U.S. 101, the Dumbarton corridor, grade separations along the Caltrain corridor, shuttles and signal coordination, Hancock said.

"A lot is beyond our jurisdictions," he acknowledged. "So of course, we could wave our hands and say, 'This is beyond us. Someone else needs to solve the problem.'"

But by working together, Hancock said, the partnership may wield more clout when it comes to applying for grants or seeking partnerships from the private sector than by seeking funding as individual cities.

These four cities and Stanford, he said, are not just a "random region." They drive Silicon Valley, and by extension, a large portion of the state and national economy, he said. "You need it to be firing on all cylinders."

If you go:

The interim bikeway's launch will be held Saturday, Sept. 8, with group bike rides starting from Mountain View and Redwood City between 8 and 8:30 a.m. and scheduled to arrive at Burgess Park, 701 Laurel St. in Menlo Park, around 10 a.m. Elected officials are scheduled to speak at 10:30 a.m., and at 11:30 a.m., food will be served.

There will also be opportunities for families and kids to test out a pop-up separated bikeway and test ride an e-bike, according to Menlo Park officials. Go to the Peninsula Bikeway website for more information.


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2 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 26, 2018 at 11:17 pm

I'm a dyed in the wool cyclist, so not a complaint about the intent here, but the Netherlands and Denmark are hilly? Mr. Joint Ventures Silicon Valley better go back to geography class. The highest point in Palo Alto is almost TRIPLE the highest point in either country.

18 people like this
Posted by commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 27, 2018 at 8:57 am

The vast majority of residents in the 5 cities listed in this article both live and work or attend school in the flat part of Silicon Valley (between Foothill Expy and the Bay). Bicycling is an ideal way to get to work or school and bicycles take up far less space than cars and freeways. Palo Alto built its Bryant Street Bicycle Boulevard and Mountain View built its Stevens Creek Trail both in the 1980s. We are glad that new non-convoluted bicycle routes for commuters are finally being built and that San Mateo County cities are finally participating. We hope that this route can be extended all the way from San Francisco to San Jose.

6 people like this
Posted by WP
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Aug 27, 2018 at 1:21 pm

I was in Copenhagen and Amsterdam this summer and there are indeed cyclists everywhere. My daughters and I rented bikes in Copenhagen and it was a delightful way to get around the city. As the previous comment noted, Denmark and Holland are both pancake flat, but let's give Mr. Hancock a hall pass for trying to get Northern Californians off the couch. The weather in northern Europe is certainly much colder and wetter in the winter than our idyllic climate, so that's a good point.

2 people like this
Posted by Nice here too
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 27, 2018 at 2:59 pm

"I rented bikes in Copenhagen and it was a delightful way to get around the city."

It's a lovely way to get around this area as well. Short errands actually become FUN with zero parking and congestion hassles, and you arrive at your destination in a good mood :)

5 people like this
Posted by Rail trail
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Aug 27, 2018 at 3:26 pm

I'm sure this has been considered already, but why aren't we seeing options to make a north-south bike corridor along the CalTrain tracks? Many cities do this very successfully. It would be great to have it here.

1 person likes this
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Aug 27, 2018 at 5:58 pm

That’s an early start. Would be nice to have rides after the speeches for late risersp.

16 people like this
Posted by Restripe Middlefield
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 28, 2018 at 10:24 pm

Looking at this map feels like looking at a pile of spaghetti. I biked Bryant south today from Menlo to MV and it adds a good 25%+ to commute times compared with other routes due to its winding course through the circles and vast number of stop signs (yes, I actually obey the law and stop at stop signs when cycling). The Atherton segment looks worse. Why can't Palo Alto take a look at the VTA bicycle maps and see that we already have (or should have) a great N/S route called Middlefield? PA takes a fat dump right in the middle of that beautiful, straight, purple highlighted route indicating bike lanes. I typically commute Middlefield daily by car and it's quite obvious that Middlefield would flow much better without the traffic/turn lanes and the associated lane dodging that has been proven to slow the flow of traffic. Middlefield in south RWC has the same issue with its four lanes of traffic. That stretch is dangerous to cars, pedestrians, and cyclists. For the sections currently without bike lanes, please just restripe Middlefield single lane each way with center turn/merge lane and convert the extra lane width to bike lanes on each side.

3 people like this
Posted by Mr. Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Aug 29, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Mr. Engel is a registered user.

Bikes, electric or not, scooters (electric or not), and any other personal self-powered-or-not conveyance is -- or should be -- a major adjunct for the future of urban and suburban public mass transit. We already know why.

Ocean rising flooding along the entire rim of the Bay Area is by now inevitable. Fossil fuel combustion in the generation of electric power (including for electric cars)and of course the direct burning of fossil fuels; e.g., gasoline, must diminish -- significantly. To put it bluntly, California, due to climate change, is ever more on fire. Every "avenue" to reduce fuel-burning transit should be pursued.

Meanwhile, rental electric bikes and scooters have suddenly become the rage in many, many major cities. The future belongs to the young and they are seizing these conveyance opportunities enthusiastically.

Our local Peninsula governments have a major, serious responsibility to facilitate these modes of transit.

When should our governments start moving aggressively in this direction? Yesterday!

Like this comment
Posted by DG
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2018 at 9:18 am

Silicon Valley Bike Coalition - North South Route

( Palo Alto - San Francisco Third Street)

Web Link:

Web Link

11 people like this
Posted by commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2018 at 11:54 am

The fact that the Menlo Park/Atherton portion of this "interim" bike route is so terrible (way to many twists and turns and needlessly crossing over the train tracks) proves that this project has a long way to go before San Mateo County is bicycle-friendly. Hopefully, the people behind this project are serious about making a permanent bicycle route that is actually usable for commuting. Look at how many people use the Stevens Creek Trail for commuting to work.

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

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