Nearly three years after 47-year-old Los Altos Hills resident Lauren Ward was killed by a truck driver while cycling on Alpine Road at Highway 280 in southern San Mateo County, eye-catching green and buffered bike lanes, the first for a freeway crossing in California, were finally installed there in mid-October.
Local residents and street safety advocates organized and persistently lobbied county officials to install bike lanes at the interchange, failing twice to secure grants from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority in 2011 and 2012. Under increasing pressure from residents and county leaders, public works staff cobbled together funds from three different sources in late 2012 and re-designed the interchange to include bike lanes. Traffic lanes were narrowed to 11 feet and wide green and buffered bike lanes were incorporated into the design using input from the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.
An alternative design favored by bike advocates would have reduced the number of merge zones (where motorists need to cross the path of bicyclists to enter the highway) from three to two was also proposed. Caltrans rejected that option, saying it might cause delays for motorists. Nevertheless, the chosen design is still considered an enormous improvement over the previous complete lack of striping.
“Our goal is to create an environment on the road where people of all ages and skill levels feel comfortable riding a bike,” said SVBC Executive Director Corinne Winter. “Smart, visible infrastructure like this removes the ambiguity that plagued this intersection previously, and allows for all users in the road to feel confident while sharing the road.”
The buffers disappear and the bike lanes are dashed in sections where motorists need to merge across the bike lanes to enter Highway 280, making it obvious to everyone where the merging should take place. “If you ride south on Alpine Road, you’ll see the huge improvement,” said San Mateo County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee Chair Steve Schmidt. “It seems like a more relaxed situation because it’s clear where everyone should be.”