The Whites Stripes: Tackling San Mateo at Fair Heights Bike Boulevard

Had the chance to ride the Fair Heights Bike Boulevard earlier this week, and saw the newest look for the intersection of San Mateo and Copper.


As the City tries to make the best of San Mateo-meets-Bike Boulevard, a very tough proposition, we see a great number of simultaneous treatments:


Let’s see. We have:

  1. Intense sharrow and dashed lines striping connecting Copper on both sides of San Mateo;
  2. New crosswalk striping;
  3. A green bike box on both Copper approaches;
  4. Sensors on the bike boxes to lengthen crossing time (although it appears they do not hasten the light, so to speak)
  5. A nice big purple (“Official Bike Boulevard”) colored street sign for Copper on the San Mateo-facing light;
  6. An adjacent Yield Sign with bicycle symbol; and,
  7. “Road dieting” (the bike lane-looking stripe in the immediate foreground, eastbound on Copper (this treatment features horizontal stripes further east to let everyone know it’s not actually a bike lane stripe).

Far from perfect, of course, but this IS San Mateo we’re talking about, and the City felt it didn’t have funding for improvements such as sidewalk/crosswalk extensions to reduce the time it takes walkers and cyclists to cross the always busy stroad.

In such a panoply of treatments, one definitely sees the City trying hard here to make this intersection comfortable for cyclists from 8-to-80 years of age, that informal and somewhat amorphous standard of what constitutes a bike boulevard level of safety and comfort.

Speaking frankly, I don’t if I would, despite the work so far, have my hypothetical eight-year-old daughter/son cross here at present. That said, as we’ve seen all over town in recent years, I’m thinking these treatments are an intermediary step toward more substantive changes, such as the aforementioned sidewalk extensions.

Change takes time, and while incremental improvements never make 100% of us happy (trust me, I hear about it), such steps prepare citizens, even those ambivalent or somewhat averse to making the streets safer for all users, for more radical and expensive endeavors down the road.

The key to all that thinking is to be constantly, inexorably, moving forward. Nationally, we’re already seeing the swift and terrible impact of stopping and going backward on issue after issue. We in local multi-modal advocacy need to calmly, yet firmly, make sure that doesn’t happen with regard to moving people on our roads here.

7 thoughts on “The Whites Stripes: Tackling San Mateo at Fair Heights Bike Boulevard

    1. There were others, vehicles, pulling up to the light, so hard to tell, but it appeared to not hasten the light, merely extended time to cross. More experimentation is needed to “prove” that, or we could call the folks at DMD Traffic Engineering, where I hear there have been some staffing changes.


  1. Update March 5, 2018:

    City Traffic Engineering has
    a) promised to put bags over the signs telling cyclists that there are detectors when in fact there are not
    b) failed to put bags over the signs telling cyclists that there are detectors when in fact there are not
    c) still not finished the detectors
    d) refused to resequence the light in the meantime, forcing eastbound cyclists to run the light, since there’s no crosswalk button on that side


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