Trust Google Maps

[Didn’t post this because I kept thinking I would add pictures, but it might as well be accessible while I fail to do so.]

A few weeks ago after work I was going to Merit Vegetarian Restaurant (548 Lawrence Expwy, Sunnyvale, CA). I asked Google Maps how to get there, since I haven’t been there before and I’m not very familiar with the roads in Sunnyvale south of my office.

It told me to take Maude to Fair Oaks. Maude is okay, but I wanted to take Arques, which is quieter and which I had to be on after Fair Oaks anyway, but Google was (sort of) correct: Arques is apparently not continuous, since two blocks of it serve as an offramp from Central Expwy. Which is, incidentally, a fantastic example of the way our road system is designed to favor cars. Arques would be an excellent through route for cyclists, except that it isn’t through because it’s repurposed as an offramp so that people can get to work faster because their roadway is limited-access. Fantastic.

I took Arques anyway; there’s less traffic than Maude and Fair Oaks. So I detoured by a block, managed to get into the left-turn lane on Fair Oaks to get back on Arques, and all was well. Until I got to Wolfe, crossed over, and discovered that there’s no bike lane on Arques for one block, presumably because of the way the road configuration at the intersection with Wolfe is set up. Fantastic, again.

When I finally got to Lawrence, I made another left turn and then discovered that Lawrence isn’t just an expressway, but a particularly sucky one. Unlike true limited-access, where there are only a few merge lanes at major intersections/exits, Lawrence in that section has a bunch of little roads that intersect it at “quasi-T” intersections: you can get off or on, but not cross the expressway. (Apparently Central in that same area has the same issue. Yuck.)

These are no fun for cyclists, to say the least. But luckily I wasn’t going far. I arrived at Merit with no further aggravations.

Leaving again, after a very good dinner of soup and tea, I recalled the quick search I had done earlier to find out how to get to Lawrence Caltrain (closer to the restaurant than my usual destination of (downtown) Sunnyvale Caltrain). Not surprisingly, Lawrence Caltrain is off of Lawrence, but the directions Google Maps gave me were strange, instructing me to do what looked like: exit right, make a U-turn, and go right back out to the original road. What? But both at the time I looked at it, and the time I left the restaurant, I was in a hurry and thought “Whatever. It can’t be that hard.”

As I left it started to rain, first lightly and then with increasing intensity. I got to the intersection of Lawrence and Kifer, which I recognized as the place to turn, but I saw a sign that I thought said to turn left for the train. That was wrong, it quickly transpired, but by that time I had already wasted precious moments waiting for a light to turn green for me (it didn’t), going down the wrong road, turning around, and coming back, and knew the train would have left without me.

Still, I wanted to find the darn place so that I could regroup and decide how to get home. So I went back the other way. I saw a sign that said “Caltrain Station San Zeno Way” but that didn’t tell me anything because I didn’t know where San Zeno Way was or how to get there. Little did I know that was actually the street that Google wanted me to turn on.

It turns out that what Google indicated in the first place was this:
At Kifer, exit right.
Go to the closest point where you can turn left legally, and make a U-turn.
Turn right on San Zeno Way, just before you arrive again at Lawrence.
Take San Zeno Way to the train tracks (a few blocks), and there you find the station.

Now, as it happens, as a cyclist there is something more clever you can do.
At Kifer, cross the intersection and stop in the pedestrian island.
Dismount your bike, cross the right-turn area, and walk around the little curve in the sidewalk.
Cross the next pedestrian crosswalk to the triangular island. On the other side of the island, get on your bike and start riding, heading in your original direction, but on San Zeno, not Lawrence.

What I ended up doing was giving up, taking Kifer back to Fair Oaks, and then California to downtown Sunnyvale (to get on California I had to run a non-sensored red arrow, so that was an adventure). There, I discovered the public restroom in the parking garage by the train was actually, miraculously, open.

And then, crazy person that I am, I decided to ride all the way home. Even knowing I would be completely soaked when I got back, and probably would only barely beat the next-hour train. Because the cool thing about cycling is that I am basically self-reliant when I do it, even in the dark and rain.

And it was dark and rainy, and people were driving crazily. I had someone turn left in front of me, blatantly, on purpose, when I had the right of way. People were going way too fast for the conditions. I was really glad when I got home. And much more inclined to trust Google Maps rather than my own opinions.

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