Almanac

News - September 15, 2010

Traffic jams a fading memory at Woodside School

by Dave Boyce

While the morning routine of dropping off kids at Woodside Elementary School continues, the most annoying aspect of it — being stuck in traffic — now appears to be a thing of the past.

In September 2009, arriving in a vehicle around 8:15 a.m. with the intention of traversing the quarter-mile of Woodside Road on either side of the school meant spending the next 10 to 15 minutes in a stop-and-go crawl.

Pedestrians, skateboarders and cyclists had their own troubles on this two-lane stretch, whether going to school or just passing by. On-campus parking was very tight so parents who wanted or needed to walk their toddlers to class tended to park in the only available spaces: bike lanes.

Bike-lane parking, which is illegal, then blocked sight lines for residents trying to leave their driveways. With no sidewalks available, everyone, toddlers included, competed for space in the traffic lanes.

Such tie-ups were not at all in evidence to this reporter on a recent Tuesday morning. Kids pulled along their wheeled backpacks in an uncluttered bike lane. Families on bikes rolled toward the crosswalk at an easy pace. Recreational cyclists heading somewhere else pedaled through unhindered. In the traffic lanes, the crossing guard kept backups to no more than six or seven vehicles at a time, and for less than 30 seconds.

A profound change, apparently brought about by adding some 30 parking spaces to the campus, no-parking signs on the north side of the road, and regulated parking on the south side. The town plans to cover the signs for special events at the school.

The signs are a first step, Public Works Director Paul Nagengast said in a recent e-mail. Staff will be monitoring the situation should problems resurface.

Another key ingredient: cooperation and conversation among the stakeholders, including town staff, deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, and the communities connected with the school, the town library and the Woodside Village Church, said Kevin Bryant, the assistant town manager.

"I don't think we've really had a bad day," Mr. Bryant said, referring to the new school year.

The bad old days

Back in 2008, at least one bicyclist concerned about blocked bike lanes on Woodside Road between Canada and Kings Mountain roads complained to the California Department of Transportation, which then wrote to the town proposing to install no-parking signs.

The Town Council agreed with that proposal and in July 2009 advised irate parents to cooperate with the school in addressing the traffic jams and stop complaining about Caltrans, cyclists, and proposed changes to their tradition of illegal parking in the bike lanes.

"You're not going to hear me say this very often (but) this is not a bicyclists' problem," then-Mayor Peter Mason said at the time. "We've got to come up with ideas that solve the problem. Otherwise, we're all going to keep doing the same stuff."

Advice that has apparently been taken.

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