County seeking a bridge between cyclists, safety

For bicyclists in San Mateo County, U.S. Highway 101 can seem like a wall.

In order to get to the other side, bicyclists must either brave overpasses cramped with automobiles flying on or off the freeway, or perhaps ride miles to one of just a handful of safe bike lanes.

But little by little, that wall is cracking.

After a year’s delay, the Monte Diablo Avenue bike-pedestrian bridge over 101 in San Mateo is set to open at the end of July.

Also, the new pedestrian-bike bridge at Broadway in Burlingame will open by late August, according to Caltrans spokeswoman Gidget Navarro.

Meanwhile, Belmont officials say they are “confident” that next year they will finally nail down the financing for a new bridge near Ralston Avenue; while San Mateo officials continue to consider the logistics of building one near Hillsdale Boulevard.

As it stands, there are only two devoted bike lanes over Highway 101: one bridge that connects Menlo Park to East Palo Alto, and a dedicated bike lane in the center of the Third Street overpass in San Mateo, according to Paul Wendt, a member of the Peninsula Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission.

Cyclists can use other overpasses, but must share the narrow roadways with automobiles — an experience that can be intimidating, particularly when there are freeway onramps and offramps involved, Wendt said.

Among the more intimidating 101 overpasses frequented by cyclists is at Ralston Avenue in Belmont, which is frequented by cyclists en route to work at Oracle or other companies on the East side of the freeway, said Belmont City Manager Jack Crist.

He said a new bike-pedestrian bridge running parallel to the Ralston overpass was conceived years ago, and was fully designed using funds from a federal grant. The plans are now being approved by Caltrans. Already, the project has secured more than $3 million in funding and the city hopes to attain a grant of Measure A transportation funds for the rest of the $7 million project next year.

Wendt said the project would create a crucial link in one long-term vision for bike-route planners in the county: a bike-safe east-west route that connects the Bay Trail with the Ridge Trail.

But with the county becoming more bike-friendly, that dream may not be far off.

“Probably not next year, but within five years, maybe,” Wendt said.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

Overdue overpasses?

As it stands, bicycles can cross almost any U.S. Highway 101 overpass, but they generally have to share the road with automobiles.

Devoted bike lanes or bike-pedestrian bridges over Highway 101

» East Third Street, San Mateo (devoted bike lane)

» Ringwood Avenue, Menlo Park (bike/pedestrian bridge)

Proposed bike-pedestrian bridges over 101

» North of Ralston Avenue, Belmont (designed, awaiting full funding)

» Hillsdale Boulevard, San Mateo (route chosen, awaiting design and funding)

Bike/pedestrian bridges over 101 that are under construction

» Monte Diablo Avenue, San Mateo (estimated completion July)

» Broadway, Burlingame (estimated completion August)

Source: Caltrans, Peninsula Bicycle and Pedestrian Commission

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