Almanac

News - April 16, 2014

Atherton studies ideas for making roads safer for bicyclists, pedestrians

by Barbara Wood

An El Camino Real shrunken to four traffic lanes, with a shared bike and pedestrian trail on one side and a bike lane buffered from traffic on the other, is just one of the projects envisioned in the draft master plan for bicycle and pedestrian circulation in Atherton presented to the City Council at a joint study session with the Parks and Recreation Commission on April 2.

The total cost of priority projects in the plan is $6.8 million, but consultant Casey Hildreth, an associate planner with Alta Planning and Design, said much of the funding could come from other agencies or grants, and the town would probably be responsible for about $1.5 million of the cost.

Mr. Hildreth told the town officials that they should think about how long they wanted to take to make the improvements. "It might take 20 years," he said.

But at least one council member saw a swifter implementation. "In terms of time frame for the dollar amounts you showed," Councilman Rick DeGolia said, "I'm thinking this is not a 10-year-project, this is a three-year project."

The master plan shows how bicycles could travel through Atherton and link up with bikeways in adjacent communities. It also lays out ways in which some simple changes could make Atherton streets more walkable, such as revising the town's rules for landscaping in the roadside setback.

Currently, Atherton allows ground-hugging landscaping of up to 5 inches in height right up to the roadsides. When the consultants looked at the walkability of Atherton's streets, "we found landscaping to be the number-one impediment," Mr. Hildreth said. "It's a nice rural environment, but if the goal is to prioritize walking," changes will have to be made. The town also needs to improve drainage in some areas and add barriers between walkers and traffic on some busy streets, he said.

In a report to the council about the master plan, City Manager George Rodericks and Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi said that the council still has a number of decisions to make regarding the master plan. They must to vote to accept the draft plan, do environmental analysis of the plan and its projects, approve the final plan, change the town's regulations for landscaping along streets, change regulations to allow bikes to go through Holbrook-Palmer Park, and put funding for projects in the town's budget, the report says.

Projects given priority in the draft plan include:

• New shared-use (bike and pedestrian) paths: El Camino Real from Selby Lane to 5th Avenue and from Atherton Avenue to Encinal Avenue; Watkins Avenue from the train tracks to Middlefield Road and Middlefield Road from Watkins Avenue to Marsh Road; Holbrook-Palmer Park from the corner of the park to the current Felton Gables pathway.

• Bike lane improvements: Middlefield Road from the town limits to town limits; Valparaiso from North Lemon to El Camino Real.

• Bike boulevard (shared with cars): Elena and Atherton avenues between Valparaiso and Austin avenues.

• Intersection improvements: Middlefield Road at Oak Grove Avenue and at Glenwood Avenue; and Valparaiso Avenue at Elena Avenue.

The draft plan also recommends two studies. The first, costing $100,000, would study El Camino Real between Selby Lane and Valparaiso Avenue for the feasibility of reducing the number of lanes and adding a shared-use trail. The second calls for spending $50,000 to study the feasibility and preparing a preliminary design for a trail or pathway along Marsh Road from Bay Road to Middlefield Avenue and from Middlefield Avenue on Watkins Avenue to the Dinkelspiel Station Lane Caltrain tracks.

See the full report at tinyurl.com/AthertonPaths02 .

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