Some parents pick up their children from school using bikes; others use cars. This has launched a quest by the city of Menlo Park to figure out how to safely allow both -- a quest for the moment centered on Nativity School on Laurel Street, but one that could lead to the elimination of parking in bike lanes along other city streets.
A parent last year whose child attended Encinal Elementary School, located not far from Laurel Street, complained to the city that parents from Nativity School parked in the bike lanes.
"This forces bikers to have to ride in the road (w)here cars are. It's extremely dangerous," the parent wrote in an email to the transportation department in August 2012. "Please change the parking restriction to include 'No Parking between 2-3:30 pm' in front of the school. Thanks."
Jesse Quirion, the city's transportation manager, confirmed that staff is looking at removing parking in bike lanes along Laurel Street, but said no decision has been made yet. The City Council would have to approve any changes, he said, after the bicycle and transportation commissions review the modifications.
According to Nativity School Principal Carol Trelut, the school has a drop-off/pick-up zone off Oak Grove Avenue that can't accommodate the flow of parents for the school's current 275 students, in part because students from Menlo-Atherton High School illegally park in the private school's lots.
"M-A is notorious at taking pretty much a lot of the spaces that are available," Ms. Trelut said, noting that her staff has lodged complaints with both the Atherton and Menlo Park police departments. If enrollment grows at M-A, Nativity School will have to hire private security to patrol the parking, she said.
Losing the eight parking spaces in the bike lane "would have a huge impact," she said.
Forcing cars off Laurel Street could create a safety hazard instead of solving one, Ms. Trelut said, in situations when Middlefield Road becomes closed to traffic -- as it was on Friday, Sept. 27.
"It is the only thoroughfare off of Middlefield Road that you can get a clear shot through, so they have to keep it moving and they have to (be able to) pull out for emergency's sake," the principal said.
Ms. Trelut added that the parking spaces on Laurel Street are used by the parents of kindergarteners, who have to walk their children into the school.
Traffic studies Nativity School conducted found at most six to 10 bicyclists traveling along Laurel Street during pick-up and drop-off times, according to Ms. Trelut. "I just don't understand why" anyone thinks eliminating the bike lane parking is necessary, she said. "Just leave the parking the way it is."
Numerous parents with children attending Nativity School told the Almanac they wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. They're also wondering why the city wants to start with a location near a private rather than public school.
"We need a common-sense solution that makes the safety of Nativity School's children a priority," one mother, Erin Glanville, said.
A community meeting will be held Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at Nativity School to talk about the potential removal of parking in bike lanes.