Google “Bike Vision” in Limbo After Mountain View Rejects Office Expansion

Northern Santa Clara County's many streets with "moderate to high traffic stress" and hazardous intersections discourage many local commuters from bicycling. Image: Alta Planning + Design
Northern Santa Clara County’s many streets with “moderate to high traffic stress” and hazardous intersections discourage many local commuters from bicycling. Image: Alta Planning + Design

Google’s “Bike Vision Plan” [PDF], which calls for a network of bike-friendly streets in and around its Mountain View campus, may not become a reality if the Mountain View City Council rejects the company’s plans to expand office space.

On May 5, the council approved just one office building, at Landings Avenue, and held off on approval of the other three expansion sites. Without those approvals, Google won’t cover the costs of several major improvements for walking and biking.

Image: Google Bike Vision Plan [PDF]
Image: Google Bike Vision Plan [PDF]

Google envisions a regional network of low-stress “Bicycle Priority Corridors” in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, and western Santa Clara that would enable 20 percent of its employees to bike to work, up from 10 percent today.

“Bicycle networks should be safe enough, complete enough, and comfortable enough for people of all ages to ride on them,” Google’s Bike Plan says.

“Google is committed to reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips and encouraging healthy transportation options for their employees,” the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition wrote of the company’s proposal, which aims to keep the current number of car parking spaces available to employees and visitors fixed as Google expands in Mountain View’s North Bayshore office district.

As tech company campuses grow, the SVBC “recognize[s] the tremendous impact their land use decisions can have on changing every day behavior,” the organization wrote on its website:

As the saying goes, if you build it they will come — A company that builds a sprawling campus with ample amounts of car parking will perpetuate a car culture and continue to apply the brakes to our ability to create a community that values, includes, and encourages bicycling for all purposes for all people.

The city may still receive some of the $200+ million for public projects originally offered by Google, with the approval of the Landings Avenue development and two smaller office projects submitted later in May — Charleston East (595,000 square feet) and Huff (328,000 square feet) — which haven’t yet been reviewed. Google says it will include the same public benefits offered with the Huff Avenue building (immediately east of Landings) as part of its four-site May 5 proposal, which includes resurfacing the San Francisco Bay Trail. Google’s offer to fund a $5 million regional grant program for bike projects (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara would be eligible), is also contingent on approval of the Huff offices.

Charleston East was already entitled for office development in a 2007 lease agreement with the city, and doesn’t include any specific public benefits package. All of Google’s new office buildings, however, would be connected by a public walking and bicycling trail called the “Green Loop,” which Google is currently building from Permanente Creek eastwards.

The Landings Avenue offices will include a new bike/ped bridge over Highway 101 just east of Rengstorff Avenue, and a new bridge over Permanente Creek to connect with the Permanente Creek Trail, which crosses over the highway to the south. LinkedIn, which was awarded 1.4 million square feet of new office space development on May 5, has offered to build another bike/ped bridge over the highway just west of Shoreline Boulevard connecting to a protected bike lane along the street north of the highway.

Google's two-dome office development at Landings (left) will include a new Highway 101 bike/ped bridge, and the company's re-submitted Huff office project will incorporate the company's "Green Loop" mixed-use path. Image: Google
Google’s office development at Landings (left) will come with a new Highway 101 bike/ped bridge. The company’s Huff office project would, if approved, incorporate the “Green Loop” walking and biking path. Images: Google

Google had originally offered to pay for several other street safety and active transportation projects, such as new bike/ped bridges and paths, upgrades to the Stevens Creek Trail and SF Bay Trail, and a bicycle boulevard on Latham and Church Streets. Also included, however, were funds for a “Highway 101 Interchange Improvement Study” that would undermine such efforts by adding more traffic lanes and reconstructing interchanges to allow for higher traffic volumes on Highways 101, 237, and 85.

Next up for review is the Charleston East project, which includes a section of the Green Loop walking and bicycling trail. The Mountain View City Council will consider it on July 2.


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