Monday, December 21, 2009

Crossing Highway 101 on bike between San Francisco and San Jose

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to a large number of bike commuters. The geography and demography of the area is a bit unique on the Peninsula from San Jose to San Francisco - unlike "typical" cities with jobs in the center ringed by suburbs of houses, the jobs and residences are dispersed. On my ride from San Francisco to Santa Clara with the googlers there are people who peel off in San Mateo, Foster City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Cupertino, and other enclaves I'm missing. We see dozens of cyclists riding the other direction as well.

One problem is that the Peninsula is split by a chunk of asphalt - US Highway 101. There are jobs on each side, and residences on both sides. On the west side, people tend to ride along the Caltrain tracks (or actually take their bike ONTO the Caltrain). On the East side, there is a route that is somewhat more pleasant in spots, including many miles of bucolic bike paths along the bay, populated by a seemingly unending parade of Kiteboarders and Feral Cats.

The problem? At some point you will need to cross the 101. Since it's a limited access freeway, that usually means an overpass with high speed traffic merging in and out of lanes to either exit or enter the freeway. This can lead to tragic results in some cases. But collisions - I believe - are less frequent than one might expect, most likely because people either learn very quickly how to cross the overpasses, find an alternate route, or give up and find another way to get where they are going.

This blog post will be a catchall to inventory a series of upcoming blog posts on the various crossings of 101, from the hairiest and scariest (Holly, Oyster Point) to the most serene (Steven's Creek Bike Path). I'm going to list them here and build the links in as the series grows. Feel free to suggest crossings that I may have missed - the overpasses are obvious but there are all sorts of "hidden" methods of getting from one side to the other. And if you'd like to volunteer to help the project, please do.



List of 101 crossings from San Francisco to San Jose

Cesar Chavez - San Francisco
Sierra Point - South San Francisco
Oyster Point - South San Francisco
Grand - South San Francisco
S. Airport - South San Francisco
San Bruno Ave - San Bruno
Millbrae Ave - Millbrae
Broadway Bike Bridge - Burlingame
Peninsula Ave - San Mateo
Monte Diablo Bike Bridge - San Mateo
3rd Ave - San Mateo
Fashion Ave - San Mateo
Hillsdale - San Mateo
Ralston - Belmont
Holly - San Carlos
Whipple - Redwood City
Maple - Redwood City
Woodside (84) Redwood City (legal?)
Marsh - Menlo Park
Ringwood Bike Bridge - Menlo Park
Willow - Menlo Park
University - Palo Alto
Embarcadero - Palo Alto
Bike Bridge - Palo Alto
Adobe Creek Seasonal Bike Underpass - Palo Alto
San Antonio - Mountain View
Rengstorff - Mountain View
Shoreline - Mountain View
Stevens Creek Trail - Mountain View
Moffett - Mountain View
Ellis - Mountain View
Mathilda - Sunnyvale
Borregas Bike Bridge - Sunnyvale
Fair Oaks - Sunnyvale
Fair Oaks Bike/Ped Bridge - Sunnyvale
Lawrence - Sunnyvale
Bowers - Santa Clara
San Tomas Aquinas Bike Trail - Santa Clara
San Tomas - Santa Clara
Lafayette - Santa Clara
De La Cruz - Santa Clara

I think I have been crossed all of these except the following
De La Cruz, Borregas, Adobe, Woodside, 19th, 3rd, San Bruno, Airport. Some of them I am looking forward to visiting, some (De La Cruz) not so much.

Should be fun.


blobree said...


There are two additional crossings between broadway and 3rd ave. Peninsula Ave/Coyote pt and Monte Diablo ped bridge. The former has much construction right now, the latter is often strewn with glass, but ridable.

Also, 3rd has a nice bike lane in the middle of it. While a rider needs to wait for the light, it's much safer than the high speed crossings.

Lastly, I believe the 19th ave crossing is actually Fashion Island Blvd. I have taken this a number of time and prefer it to Hillsdale for getting to that train station. Btw, what caused you to cross at Hillsdale last week?

Hope this info is helpful,

murphstahoe said...

"Btw, what caused you to cross at Hillsdale last week?"

I was riding from SF and had a 10 AM meeting, so skipped off route onto the Caltrain when I ran out of time, which happened to be Hillsdale.

Yokota Fritz said...

You wanna borrow my HERO cam for video of some of these crossings? Or maybe we can meet up at some of these so we'll have bike's eye views of a cyclist crossing over.

Nick said...

Whipple in RWC is one of the worst. There's actually a dedicated off-road bike path on the overpass itself, but to get to it, you have to go halfway down an onramp and cross right where cars are accelerating to freeway speed around a blind curve!

You're much better off just going out in traffic and crossing straight over the bridge in a regular lane, but that's no picnic.

Annoyingly this deathtrap is between my house and some nice bayside riding.

Btw, have you heard about the Menlo Park NIMBY's that want to tear down the Willow Road bike bridge because the wrong sort live on the other side?

murphstahoe said...

"There's actually a dedicated off-road bike path on the overpass itself"

Only going Eastbound.

"Annoyingly this deathtrap is between my house and some nice bayside riding."

Another afficianado of the Bridge to Nowhere!???

Peter said...

i hope it leads to a discussion of priorities for bikes all up and down 101. specifically, i'd like to address the 'bike path' vs. the 'modified overpass'.

i think we should modify existing infrastructure, instead of building new stuff. first, slow traffic to 20 MPH within a 1/4 mi radius of the freeway -- that includes all entering and exiting traffic.

we should not have to build a bike/walk-only bridge along the corridor -- let's just fix what's there.

anyways, i'm hoping we have this debate, and then redirect the bike/walk bridge money accordingly. for instance, the one overpass in Redwood City (forget which) is ready for bike lanes, everyone agrees it needs to happen and is willing to do it, but we just lack the money for drawings.

Tom Ames said...

Another crossing: Sierra Point Parkway, just North of Sister Cities/Oyster Point.

murphstahoe said...

Thanks Tom. I mentally omitted that one because "it's not an overpass" but then again neither are bike bridges. And there is a freeway offramp that enters Sierra Point.

It's good to cover because on the East Side you need to know where you are going if you want to continue South - either a somewhat hidden bike path or through hotel parking lots and up a narrow concrete ramp onto a patch of dirt onto a wooden bridge and around the dumpsters into another parking lot and... :)

Tom Ames said...

I figured it might not meet the criteria for "crossing", but that freeway on-ramp is indeed nerve-wracking enough to take some notice of.

I usually take the "narrow ramp->patch of dirt->wooden bridge" route myself.

NewBiker said...

Hey Murph, do you have any thoughts on safely crossing the 101 at Millbrae Ave.? Tips or alternatives? I'd been planning to bike as part of my regular commute but I've tried the route and Millbrae Ave seems pretty tricky. If I can't figure out a safe way to do it I may have to resort to a car. Really hoping to avoid that, and would appreciate any advice you can offer!

murphstahoe said...

Hey NewBiker -
When I would cross there West to East I would take the far left lane - the only lane that goes through and turns left as the right two lanes are freeway onramps.

Well, a distracted driver rear ended me and I eschew it altogether.

San Bruno Ave is fairly good. South of there is the pedestrian and bike overcrossing at Broadway

NewBiker said...

Good to know, thank you!!