September 8 marked the opening of the Peninsula Bikeway, a bike route on surface streets that connects Redwood City and Mountain View by way of Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto. Bike rides starting in the early morning on each end of the bikeway, an interim path that will be improved over time, culminated in the Menlo Park Civic Center.
Riders breezed into Burgess Park at about 10 a.m. – some 40 bicyclists who had started in Redwood City met about 50 riders hailing from Mountain View. A generally good time followed, with people trying out electric bikes and having miniature smoothies prepared by pedal-powered blenders. For the kids, there was a bike rodeo.
A number of officials spoke at a short ceremony at Burgess once the cyclists arrived. Russell Hancock, chief executive of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, commented on the flat landscape, the great weather and the health consciousness of Silicon Valley residents. "Silicon Valley really should be the biking capital of America," he said.
Joint Venture organized the Peninsula Bikeway by convening the "Managers Mobility Partnership" with the managers of the participating cities. The partnership was unprecedented, Hancock said for an earlier Almanac story.
Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki also remarked on the weather and how it is "perfect" for cycling.
The bikeway is part of a plan to create "a seamless and convenient bike network," Ohtaki said. Just 20 percent of students ride bikes to school, he noted, a figure that he said could be improved upon with more emphasis on the city's Safe Routes To School program.
Officials from Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City also made remarks, but there were none by anyone from Atherton. "The Town was a participant on the Bikeways Committee but not to the same extent as the other communities," Atherton City Manager George Rodericks said in an email, noting that town officials had not received an invitation to speak.
The interim bike route is "not as direct as you would want it to be," said Hugh Louch, a principal at Alta Planning + Design, in the earlier Almanac story when describing the bikeway's temporary route. "At this point, it's really piecing together what exists," he said.
"One important goal of the project was to get something on the ground quickly that could serve as an interim or first route and help identify how we can advance a long-term route," Louch said by email.
The route was not even one day old when this reporter joined with the riders pedaling from Sequoia High School in Redwood City to Burgess Park. The group included several children and three or four people on electric bikes.
Blue triangular Peninsula Bikeway signs sit atop street signs to show the way if you know to look for them.
Among the growing pains:
• A couple of intersections on the route through Redwood City did not have stop signs that favored cyclists, who were expected to wait for vehicle traffic rather than the other way around. On the Bryant Street bike boulevard in Palo Alto, stop signs are set up to favor cyclists.
• We were not instructed on etiquette for when a group of cyclists mixes it up with vehicles on well-traveled roads. Instead of riding two abreast, the rule of the day seemed to be whatever riders felt like doing.
• At Elena Avenue and Faxon Road in Atherton, we encountered the odd middle-of-the-road curbs Atherton uses to keep drivers from even the slightest trespass into opposite lanes.
Cyclists not infrequently cut across intersections diagonally when there's no traffic, something this reporter did on a dark night some years ago at Elena and Faxon. With headlights on, I hit one of these curbs. My bike, new at the time, still shows the marks from the experience.
These medians, Rodericks said, "were installed to address vehicles that cut across intersections and cause significant safety issues for stopped vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. ... Vehicles and cyclists that cut across intersections in this manner can create a hazard."
The town painted them with "bright yellow paint with highly reflective beads to make them more visible to all users of the roadway, even at night," Rodericks added. A casual inspection showed the paint to be much abused by many encounters with foreign objects.