People enjoying a bike ride into or out of Portola Valley along Alpine Road can breathe a sigh of relief as they pedal their way through this picturesque slice of San Mateo County. Once one of the most intimidating freeway underpasses in the county, this junction with Highway 280 has now been repainted, with bike lanes on both sides dyed a bright green and outlined with striped white buffers. The new design is meant to give people on bikes – and the motorists whizzing by on the way to the highway – a clear and safe route through the underpass.
The troubling history of this intersection made it a priority location for an innovative redesign. Nearly three years ago, cyclist Lauren Ward was tragically struck and killed by a truck as it approached the 280 on-ramp. Before the redesign, the bike lanes on Alpine Road disappeared as they approached the ramps, leaving a lot of guesswork for bike riders and drivers. In the years since the collision, Ward’s husband Bob has collaborated with Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to advocate for safer infrastructure – particularly improved highway crossings. “This is a great improvement in bicycle safety and is a great example of San Mateo County and Caltrans working quickly to make things happen,” says Bob.
This morning, we organized an event to commemorate the completion of the fantastic new facility. Bob Ward, Chris Hunter of San Mateo County Supervisor Don Horsley’s office, Santa Clara County Supervisor and former California State Senator Joe Simitian, Caltrans Deputy District Director for Planning and Local Assistance Lee Taubeneck, CHP Captain Mike Maskarich, and me, filling in for Corinne as M.C. Everyone's comments were honest and from the heart. It was acknowledged that the project started from tragedy, but the result was undeniably positive. As Supervisor Simitian phrased it, the new design is a “launching point” for future collaboration and innovation in safe roadway design. After everybody had spoken, many of us hopped on bikes for a spin down the new lanes. Highway patrolmen Mike and Art even broke traffic on Alpine Road so our group would have a traffic-free left turn out onto the road. With Bob in the lead, we headed across the rejuvenated intersection.
The eye-catching treatment is intended to alert motorists to the presence of bicyclists, show both bike riders and motorists where they should be on the road, and increase predictability all around. The response this morning was overwhelmingly positive. Let's hope we see more examples of collaboration and innovative thinking applied to our highway crossings and other barriers to bike travel!
See more photos from the event at our Flickr page