San Carlos Real Estate Agent, San Carlos Realtor San Carlos Needs to Become More Bike-Friendly. | The White Oaks Blog
Living in San Carlos July 15, 2011

San Carlos Needs to Become More Bike-Friendly.

by Chuck Gillooley

Not the City of Good Cycling…Yet.

San Carlos is a great place to live if you’re a avid bicyclist, or even a casual recreational rider.   That’s because we’re just a short jaunt from some of the most spectacular series cycling loops in all of Northern California.   The roads that meander through the hills of Woodside, Portola Valley, Emerald Hills, and San Mateo are some of the most scenic roads in the entire Bay Area, and offer challenges to cyclists of all levels.  Whether you’re out for an easy 10-mile spin, or you want to ride your bike all the way to the Pacific Ocean, there are numerous, spectacular ways to do just that.

And while people from all over the Bay Area must shlep their bikes on the backs of their cars to enjoy our scenic roads, San Carlos residents are lucky in that they can simply roll right out of their garages and into pedal into cycling paradise.    It has literally become one of many positive decision factors when home buyers choose to make San Carlos their new home.   You only need to see the exodus of lycra-clad residents spinning toward the hills each weekend morning to understand this.

Just Don’t Ride Downtown.

But for a town that’s literally in ground-zero for road cyclists, San Carlos is not a friendly place to ride your bike.   Have you ever tried riding a bike downtown to treat yourself to an ice cream at Cowabunga Creamery, a gluten-free scone at Zest Bakery, or pick up a few last-minute items at Bianchini’s Market?  Just driving downtown is difficult enough, but navigating a bike down Laurel Street is a white-knuckle experience.   And once you get there, what do you do with your bike?

There are a number of areas where San Carlos doesn’t get a passing grade in embracing two-wheeled travelers:

  • Dedicated Bike Lanes.  With the exception of the striping on both Alameda de Las Pulgas and Brittan Avenue, there are virutally no dedicated bike lanes in the city.   Granted, we’re cursed with narrow side streets, and most residents still park the majority of their cars on the streets (instead of in the driveway or in their garage), so there’s not much room to work with.  But much more can be done to create a separation between cars and bikes on our roads.   Those “sharrows” that were painted on Cedar and various other streets aren’t enough.
  • Bike Lockers.  If you’re brave enough to pedal to the downtown shopping district, what do you do with your bike when you get there?  There are very few bike racks, and no bike “lockers” that I’m aware of.   San Carlos still enjoys a relatively low crime rate, but there’s no way I’m leaving my bike unlocked in front of a store.
  • Promotion.  Much of getting the mind-set of residents to embrace the idea of leaving their cars at home comes from City Hall itself.   Making San Carlos more bike friendly needs to be a clear and consistent message from our city leaders.  It needs to be encouraged to the point that it becomes part of the city’s fiber.   Just think of the town of Davis — it’s synonymous with college… and bicycling.

Lots of Upside.

Aside from the obvious health benefits, there are many positive outcomes to making San Carlos a bike-centric city.   I know that many parents would absolutely love to have their kids pedal to school each day, but they won’t do so because it’s simply not safe.  Think of how much congestion could be alleviated in the neighborhoods around our schools if more kids pedaled to school instead of being dropped off every day?

What’s in it for downtown?  Cycling makes the trek downtown just as enjoyable for the journey as it is for the destination — in other words, if it’s fun and safe to get there, then more people will likely make the trip.  And that only bodes well for shop owners.

I applaud the “green” mindset of our current City Council.  The current push to eliminate plastic bags and styrofoam containers is just one example that shows that the state of our environment is a priority for them.   I hope that as the city becomes more financially stable,  they put that same priority (and funds) into  making San Carlos “The City of Good Cycling”.

That would be a good thing for everyone.
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San Carlos Needs to Become More Bike-Friendly., 3.5 out of 5 based on 11 ratings
Comments 4
  • Thanks for bringing this to everyone’s attention, Chuck. While the majority of people share the road, I’ve had a few close calls during my commute to Caltrain. Having dedicated bike lanes would let less experienced bikers feel safe, and make the same choice of public transportation. Biking to local farmer’s markets also means navigating streets without bike lanes, and when we arrived we had to lock our bikes to a small tree because of the lack of racks. Being bike friendly will help our community stay great.

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  • A more radical but maybe better solution would be to pedestrianize Laurel St full time. Maybe allowing delivery trucks before 9 am and after midnight (or maybe have them use the rear entrances to the stores). There is such a fun vibe when the farmers market is downtown and it isn’t just because of the fresh fruit. It’s because people really do want to walk with their friends, and know their kids are safe scootering/biking. People can enjoy each others’ company and hang outside one of our wonderful eateries without having to listen to (and smell) noisy car engines. The bike is the future – just look at all the cool cities in Europe.

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    • It’s an intriguing idea, but right now too much of the Laurel Street business still relies heavily on the “drive-up” clientele. Until there’s a larger density of downtown living areas (ala Wheeler Plaza) that would help feed a pedestrian-only shopping district, I’m afraid the downtown businesses would suffer too much to get their buy-in.

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  • At least if it were pedestrian only, the pedestrians who currently treat laurel Street as a public plaza will no longer be breaking the law.

    Lest we forget who is paying most of the taxes (or fees) for road projects, upkeep and maintenance. Why, if cyclists want preferencial treatment while limiting road use for cars are they not willing to pay registration fees for all the changes that need to be made to accomodate them. I woudl like to know how many people will actually use the beautiful and expensive pedestrian overpass at Ralston and 101.

    More and more, drivers are not given understanding that they pay for. I ride my bicycle downtown and in some cases to Toyota 101 to pick up my car after service. I wouldn’t call it dangerous, you just need to pay attention and FOLLOW the same rules of the road that drivers are expected to follow.

    I honestly don’t think many more people will use bicycles if more lanes are installed. The San Carlos topography is a little hilly and not necessarily conducive to mass ridership, especially little kids going to school…especially Heather; do you really see (or have ever seen) children riding bicycles UP Melendy? Look at the streets in White Oaks…you can barely fit a car on some of those streets, let alone a car and a bicycle. What possible solution can there be to give cyclists more room to get downtown? For the sake of some parking spaces for Carlmont students and bike lanes that end at Cranfield, it is nearly impossible to get in and out of the north side of San Carlos because there are not sufficient lanes to move automobile traffic through.

    Lately in the news, some cyclists in SF have been shown to ignore the rules of the road and have received serious physical injury. It is a trend that defiance and scorn of the vehicles around you is not going to give you an advantage.

    Yes, I know that does not prove that all cyclists don’t follow the rules, but I defy you to find anyone that does not regularly see cyclists AND pedestrians regularly breaking the laws of the road and causing drivers to take emergency actions.

    Until ALL users of our PUBLIC roads can obey the rules, this debate has no merit.

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