Will Google's $5m Plan Make Cycling in the Rest of Silicon Valley Easier?

June 19, 2015
Cycling is safe and easy inside the search giant’s Mountain View HQ, but getting to the site from elsewhere in Silicon Valley means crossing fast-moving expressways and busy train tracks. Is Google’s new bike plan the answer?

Inside the Googleplex – the tech giant’s headquarters in Mountain View, California – hundreds of multi-coloured bikes are scattered around. With bright yellow frames and big blue and green rubber tires, they’re seemingly everywhere – clustered at the edges of parking lots, lined near building entrances, or clumsily toppled over into the office park landscaping. The bikes make it easy for Google’s employees to move between its many office buildings, spread over roughly two miles of land at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay in a neighbourhood known as North Bayshore. Inside the Googleplex, biking is safe and easy.

Outside the Googleplex, not so much.

“Getting to and from North Bayshore is not exactly pleasant,” says Shiloh Ballard, executive director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. The neighbourhood is on the other side of a highway from most of the rest of Silicon Valley, and a bike ride to the Googleplex would typically involve crossing busy train tracks, navigating arterial roads with high speed limits and braving the valley’s expressway system that has essentially turned many surface streets into mini freeways.

Ballard’s group is one of many that have become concerned about how people can bike from the residential areas of Silicon Valley to North Bayshore, where Google, Microsoft, LinkedIn and dozens of other companies are located. And, since the city of Mountain View recently made available more than 2.2 million square feet of commercial construction rights in North Bayshore, even more people will be heading to the area in the near future.

In an effort to improve the bicycle commute to North Bayshore, Google set out to rethink the area’s bicycle infrastructure network. Working with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, the company commissioned an urban planning consultancy, Alta Planning + Design, to look not only at the area immediately surrounding the Googleplex, but at each of the cities in the general vicinity. The goal was to envision a bike network that would help people get from their homes to the tech offices in North Bayshore, but also for the entire community to have better bike access. The result is the recently released Bike Vision Plan for North Santa Clara County. The plan outlines a potential future for the area that moves away from its suburban office park present towards a Copenhagen-like future of bikeable streets and interconnected neighbourhoods.