On February 16, 2017, the San Mateo County Bike and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (SMC BPAC) voted to recommend bike safety improvements to westbound Sand Hill Road at Highway 280. The committee added the consideration that when westbound has been completed work on eastbound Sand Hill Road should be pursued. This is a huge win that came after months and years of advocacy and meetings by various groups, stakeholders, and individuals.

The existing bike lane on westbound Sand Hill Road was added in 2002, after a field visit with Caltrans. This bike lane is dotted between the through and auxiliary vehicle lanes and varies in width from 4’10” to 5’ wide. (Caltrans standard is 4’ minimum for bike lanes in the Highway Design Manual, 301.2). The westbound bike lane crosses a lane of traffic before the 280 onramp and then the bike lane is sandwiched between two lanes of westbound traffic. Cars that exit 280 onto the westbound overpass come around the corner rapidly and often cross the bike lane to head west into Portola Valley. At the same time, other cars heading west on the overpass merge onto 280 southbound, again crossing the bike lane to do so. Currently, there is no bike lane in the eastbound direction.

In 2013, SVBC led the Roadway Safety Solutions Team (including representatives from San Mateo County Department of Public Works, City of Menlo Park, California Highway Patrol, and Caltrans, among others) on an analysis of several intersections of concern, including a collision analysis and site visit of Sand Hill Road at Highway 280, to discuss ideas for safety improvements. San Mateo County Department of Public Works submitted two grant applications to address this interchange but was unsuccessful. During this period, the County discussed potential work with Caltrans to get an understanding of what was feasible and the associated costs. City of Menlo Park was able to make some improvements on the portion of Sand Hill Road in its jurisdiction in the past couple years and have planned several other changes.

Over the past year, dedicated advocates have worked closely with the Menlo Park Bike Commission, Supervisor Don Horsley, and the San Mateo County Department of Public Works to develop low-cost, short-term improvements to Sand Hill Road for people biking. Supervisor Horsley and the County Board of Supervisors designated $120,000 for improvements to this interchange for Fiscal Year 2017/18. While both westbound and eastbound Sand Hill Road need improvements for safety, there are complications in the eastbound direction that result in a potentially higher cost and longer time frame.

After discussing the six proposed modifications to the westbound bike lane and the need for improvements on both westbound and eastbound Sand Hill Road with the SVBC Peninsula Committee, the SVBC Policy Advisory Committee, and the volunteers working on this project, SVBC decided to endorse the proposed improvements to the westbound bike lane while encouraging the County to find resources to address eastbound Sand Hill Road. See our letter to the SMC BPAC.

At the SMC BPAC meeting on February 16, San Mateo County Public Works presented the proposed improvements, which mainly consist of green pavement outlining the bike lane on the overpass and within the transition zones adjacent to the overpass. Several members of the public spoke in support of the improvements but also emphasized that the eastbound direction needs attention. The SMC BPAC had received the SVBC letter before the meeting and generally agreed with our perspective. One additional item that they discussed was the high motor vehicle speeds in an area where there is significant bicycle traffic and, in particular, in areas where motor vehicles are changing lanes in order to get to their destinations. While setting speed limits is counter-intuitively based on the speed most cars are going, the SMC BPAC argued that narrowing lanes could help to lower speeds. All of the improvements will ultimately need to be approved by Caltrans.

The SMC BPAC concluded that they will use the SVBC letter as a basis for their recommendation to the Board of Supervisors in support of the westbound improvement project, to move quickly to look at eastbound Sand Hill Road, and to lower the speed limits through the interchange.

After the Board of Supervisors approves the recommendation, San Mateo County Public Works will work with Caltrans to get the project approved and permitted by May and if all goes well, green treatment will be applied to the road by September.

In this instance, the bike community’s willingness to coalesce for the westbound improvements moved the needle a little toward prioritizing and getting funds for the eastbound project next.

We appreciate all the time and energy that Supervisory Horsley; the San Mateo County Department of Public Works; the San Mateo County Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee; City of Menlo Park City Council, Bike Commission, and staff; the SVBC Peninsula Committee and the many dedicated volunteers have put into this effort. In particular, we want to thank new SVBC member David Gildea for leading the charge and previous SVBC Ellen Fletcher volunteer of the year Cindy Welton for connecting all the stakeholders.