By Keith Menconi

About 50 residents turned out for a community meeting Monday evening to support or oppose a proposed off-road bike path along Regnart Creek.  The city wants to pave over a 14-foot-wide maintenance road along the edge of Regnart Creek to create an eight- to 10-footwide, two-way bike path. It would be known as the Regnart Creek Trail.

The western end of the trail would begin at Pacifica Drive and go east along the creek for about a mile, eventually connecting with Creekside Trail at East Estates Drive. The trail would constitute the central part of a planned bikeable corridor running east-west across the city connecting Cupertino High School in the east to Monta Vista High School in the west.

The city is working with HMA Engineering and Alta Planning + Design to draw up plans for the trail.

During Monday’s meeting, residents were invited to share their views by filling out comment cards, writing notes on large paper diagrams of the proposed route and discussing the particulars directly with the city staff and consultants.

Those discussions often became heated as some skeptical residents expressed their concerns.

“I would do everything against this,” said Phil Wang, who lives on Le Mar Drive. Wang is among the many residents whose property directly abuts the proposed trail.

He says allowing people to enter the currently closed-off creek corridor to the rear of his house would invade his privacy. “We have a lower fence and we have a sliding door without a curtain and people can see every activity inside my house through the fence.”

Wang also questioned the need to construct an additional path, given bike options on nearby streets and through Wilson Park. “Why spend extra money to build such a short path,” he asked. The plan is still in its early stages and the city has not yet come up with a cost estimate.

Wang and other residents also raised concerns about accidents, the safety of young bikers pedaling along a waterway, the route’s impact on traffic, and the possibility that opening up a long enclosed corridor with few exits could lead to increased crime.

“These fears don’t generally materialize,” said David Stillman, transportation manager for the city’s Public Works Department. “In similar trails, neighbors end up like having the trail behind their houses.”

Rather than increasing crime, he said, “generally communities with trails see that a sense of ownership leads to more community buy in.” He added that any future plan would attempt to address residents’ concerns, potentially by adding extra fencing and landscaping barriers to block off the path from residences.

Many residents also supported the plan.

“It would increase connectivity to many neighbors to the city center in a safe and pleasurable manner,” said Jennifer Shearin, vice chairwoman of the city’s Bicycle Pedestrian Commission and a member of local advocacy group Walk-Bike Cupertino.

She said the path would help reduce Cupertino’s traffic congestion by getting people off the street. “The only way to fix that problem is to get people out of their cars, and the only way to get people out of their cars is to make it something that they really look forward to and enjoy,” she said.

Planners will also need to work out other details including what material the trail will be paved with, how to deal with heavy traffic at the path’s Blaney Avenue crossing, and how to provide access from the trail to Wilson Park.

The city says planners will take another month or two to complete their study, then bring proposals to residents for more feedback.

The plan ultimately must be approved by the City Council.