Image: Caltrans District 4’s proposal to close Highway 35 to bicyclists from Westmoor Avenue to Hickey Boulevard.

UPDATE: As of May 17, due to the outreach to Caltrans by people like you, the sign order to prohibit bicyclists was temporarily placed on hold. Continue emailing sergio.ruiz@dot.ca.gov to show support so there is a strong case with the Office of Traffic Safety. Stay tuned for further updates. 

Earlier this week, SVBC received a notice from the Caltrans District 4 Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator, Sergio Ruiz, that the District’s Office of Traffic Safety is “pursuing a bicycle prohibition on the State Route 35 freeway interchange with State Route 1 between Hickey Boulevard to Westmoor Avenue due to the number of ramps in each direction and number of lanes bicyclists need to merge across with motorists traveling at freeway speeds… Signs will be installed in the next couple weeks alerting bicyclists of the freeway prohibition.” As state highways, State Route 35 and State Route 1 are both under Caltrans’ jurisdiction and thus they are able to prohibit access to bicyclists (CVC 21960). There is no requirement for posted notice or hearings regarding proposals to close highways to bicyclists (as there is for proposals to close crosswalks to pedestrians).

This decision is the result of an investigation following a collision two years ago in which a person biking died. There is pending litigation as the result of this collision and pending liability for Caltrans. This seems to have accelerated the prohibition decision. However, this road is well used by people biking. This is the primary bike route south out of San Francisco on the west side of the city. It is a popular route for SF2G (a bike club with hundreds of members who commute from San Francisco to various destinations in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties). The Strava heat map supports this usage (see an analysis of this particular segment). According to the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System, there have only been about five collisions involving a bicyclist and one fatality in the last ten years at State Route 35/State Route 1.

After posting this news to our email groups, people reacted strongly against the proposal. There were alternate routes in the notice, meant to list some of the streets that are at least partially open to bicyclists. They are Skyline Drive/Gateway Drive to the west of Route 35 and Southgate Avenue/St. Francis Boulevard/Callan Boulevard to the east. Feedback from our members on the alternate routes is negative; the alternates are:

  • very steep and require a lot of climbing,
  • include some tricky left turns from multilane roads and intersections,
  • out of the way, and
  • include several turns requiring a lot of signs for people to follow them.

Following our sharing of the notice, the District 4 Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator received numerous emails from our members and bicyclists from San Francisco to San Jose expressing their opposition. On Tuesday, May 16, he met with the District’s Office of Traffic Safety to share the concerns and feedback he had received from bicyclists. His recommendation is to create interim treatments at the interchange to accommodate bicyclists instead of the prohibition. SVBC supports:

  1. A reversal of the decision to prohibit bicyclists on this segment of Highway 35.
  2. Interim improvements that would make the SR 35/SR 1 interchange safer for people biking, including maintenance of the existing shoulder.
  3. A longer-term design process looking at bicyclist access and safety on Highway 35.

Please continue to provide feedback directly to Sergio Ruiz, Sergio.ruiz@dot.ca.gov.

In addition, we are disappointed that Caltrans has no process or regulations requiring public notification and outreach prior to the prohibition of bicyclists on a previously accessible state highway. SVBC will be contacting Caltrans Headquarters and state staff regarding this issue. Proposals like this should be shared publicly in advance of the decision. Meanwhile, the District’s Bicycle Advisory Committee should absolutely vet these decisions. Caltrans has a Complete Streets policy and a goal to triple bicycling by 2020. The state and the District are working on Bicycle Plans. Let’s help them achieve their goals. Please submit comments regarding this interchange, the lack of this process, and other Caltrans’ roads bike access issues here: Caltrans D4 Bicycle Plan Survey.