12. May 2014

Mountain View: a cyclist's point of view

Mountain View in California is a place where cars are the primary means of transport. But I was told that biking is an option, too. So, I tested getting around with a bike. Here is a short review.

I could not really imagine that a place in the Silicon Valley with so many cars would be suitable for cyclists, too. But in fact, I was positively surprised, even though there is a lot of room for improvement.

The streets are very wide, and the larger ones often have separate bike lanes. And, importantly, the cars can overtake in a safe distance to the cyclist. The generous width of the streets makes cycling much more comfortable than in places where one as a cyclist is squeezed between parking cars and impatiently overtaking cars.

Even though I could not observe the behaviour over a longer period of time, the drivers were patient and courteous. I was surprised as there seemed to be no sign of fierce competition between cars and cyclists regarding space and who might go first. Also, speeding seems to be not an issue (likely due to very expensive tickets).

There are aspects I did not like though. For example, when cycling along Steven’s Creek Trail, which is a concrete multi-use trail that allows cyclists and pedestrians to cycle/walk through Mountain View without having to cross a street. Unfortunately, there are many highways. The overpasses and underpasses were apparently built after the highways, and it shows. They are narrow and posts at the entrances of the overpasses make dangerous obstacles. One morning, I saw a cyclist crashing into the post. I turned and waited for a quarter of an hour until he found himself ready to continue his trip. While apparently not seriously hurt, he was still shaking and visibly distressed from the accident.

Concluding, it is quite possible to get around with a bike in Mountain View. But cyclists are still outnumbered by cars and the bicycle lanes and dedicated trails show that the planning and implementation happened only after the construction of the road network for cars. Here, Mountain View has a lot to do, just as many other cities.