Neighbors' testimony trumped traffic statistics at the Menlo Park City Council's Feb. 26 meeting, as council members approved a set of safety measures intended to slow traffic on a 1,100-foot-long stretch of Oak Avenue in the city's West Menlo neighborhood.
The council voted 4-1, with John Boyle opposed, to spend $22,000 on a neighborhood traffic plan aimed to slow traffic on Oak Avenue between Vine Street and Oak Knoll Lane.
The plan includes the following changes for the segment of the street adjacent to Oak Knoll School:
• Build two raised crosswalks -- one at the intersection of Vine Street, and the other at Oak Knoll Lane.
• Resurface three existing crosswalks with a red "tire grip" material so they are more visible to drivers.
• Post a "School Area" sign on the street.
The speed limit is 25 mph on Oak Avenue, a common route for drivers traveling from West Menlo Park to Sand Hill Road and back. Though the street has three speed bumps, neighbors say conditions are unsafe for children who walk and bike in the area.
"I ask you to protect and promote pedestrian and bicycle safety," said Kristin Duriseti, one of four residents to speak in favor of increased safety measures on Oak Avenue.
Recent city traffic studies suggested the intersection isn't any more dangerous than other residential streets.
A three-day study by staff showed that out of 9,600 drivers who traveled in either direction on the street, only 34 (less than 0.04 percent) hit speeds higher than 30 mph.
Councilman Boyle pointed to the statistics in opposing the vote, and said that by installing raised crosswalks, which essentially act as speed bumps, the city runs the risk of pushing traffic to other neighborhood streets.
"Every car we take off this road is going to go somewhere else," he said.
But neighbors said the city's studies didn't take into account the number of drivers who roll through Oak Avenue stop signs, and drastically accelerate between existing speed bumps -- a message that resonated with the other council members
"I do put great weight on neighbors who live with this 24/7," said Councilman Heyward Robinson. "Because we have a population of people that do not really respect neighborhoods they drive through, [more safety measures are necessary."