It may be hard to imagine El Camino Real as a Great Street, but the City of Mountain View has begun work on a focused plan for El Camino Real to address housing, land use, mobility, and design options. Known as a “precise plan,” city officials and council will work over the next twelve months to identify opportunities and refine alternatives for the future of El Camino.
One of the first public meetings is a city council study session on Tuesday, October 15 at 6PM at City Hall, where high level strategies will be discussed to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety and access both on El Camino and from the surrounding neighborhoods. No decisions are made at Study Sessions but public input is taken and considered by City Council.
El Camino Real is currently outside the boundaries of the Great Streets focus area, but the El Camino Real Precise Plan is an opportunity to build on the pedestrian, bike, and people-friendly streets central to the Great Streets vision and we’re interested in taking a closer look at some of the opportunities for the corridor, especially for biking. We’ve identified some of the issues below, but would love to hear your ideas in the comments and hope you share them with city council.
The recently adopted city-wide planning blueprint, known as the General Plan, envisions El Camino Real as a “vibrant transit and pedestrian corridor” and bicycling is deemphasized since the street has heavy, fast-moving traffic, with many trucks. Only the fearless confidently pedal El Camino Real, but others ride the sidewalks since there’s often no other route, which endangers pedestrians and complicates bike trips. However, with new development slated for El Camino, and numerous existing retail destinations, strong bike access could play an important role on the street. Alternatively, parallel neighborhood streets such as Latham/Church could prioritize bicycling, but some destinations on El Camino would still be difficult to reach.
While bicycle improvements are debated, the need for better pedestrian access is undisputed. Pedestrian crossings on El Camino are few and far between, with a half mile between some crossings. Crosswalks can feel dangerous with drivers not stopping for pedestrians and the walk sign set for only the healthiest and fastest walkers. Additionally, sidewalks are narrow, with poor lighting and the concrete is marred by years of neglect. The Precise Plan will set standards that increase the sidewalk width, but there may be additional elements to improve pedestrian safety and access.
“Improved transit performance,” was identified by the city as a key goal for El Camino, but with the numerous barriers to biking and walking on El Camino Real complicates transit use before you even reach the bus stop. While larger projects such as VTA’s Bus Rapid Transit Project will be debated in the future, transit use in general will be suppressed without safe, direct, and attractive walking and biking routes to transit.
Let’s discuss what bicycle and pedestrian improvements could make El Camino a Great Street. Leave a comment below or send a note to council! You can also get in touch with lead city officials for this project here.