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Atherton struggles for safer crosswalks

Original post made on Dec 11, 2012

You can't always get what you want. But if the town of Atherton accepts what's on offer by the California Department of Transportation, will it ever get what town officials believe it ==I really== needs: safer El Camino Real crosswalks to avoid the kinds of accidents that have killed and seriously injured numerous pedestrians and bicyclists over the last few years?

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 11, 2012, 8:18 AM

Comments (28)

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Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 8:40 am

Half a million per signal. So four well placed signals would be about $2 million. A heck of a lot cheaper than the insurance payouts for two fatalities or four serious injuries, not to mention the grief and loss of family members. Share the cost with the insurance companies, it will save them big bucks. Of course the PI lawyers might complain, safer streets are bad for business.

BTW five years for fixes is insane. What's wrong with one year.


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Posted by Harleybrit
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Working in the area being discussed, it has amazed me that the crosswalks are not made much more visible to drivers. Lighted crosswalks appear to grab the attention of approaching vehicles.
Just my 2cents.


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Posted by walker
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 11, 2012 at 12:34 pm

What about a pedestrian overpass bridge?


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Posted by Ranch Gal
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I have been driving up and down that stretch of El Camino for over 30 years now, I know that the "pedestrians" are few and far between. I think all that is necessary is the blinking crosswalk lights such as are on Middlefield Road South of Costco and North of 5th Avenue. They are 100% effective and at a fraction of the cost of a bunch of new traffic lights. Middlefield Road did not wait 4 years for those blinking crosswalk lights. Guaranteed. They were installed immediately after the many accidents there. Let's go for the blinking pedestrian activated crosswalk lights and get this DONE!


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Posted by Central Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 1:12 pm

No surprise, that when I had transmission troubles, the Shell station suggested I change the transmission fluid, the transmission shop recommended a rebuild and the dealer discussed the idea of a new car.

Ask a traffic safety engineer what to do and they will suggest a traffic signal. Yes, that may be part of the solution.

A more effective solution is to solve three parts of the problem: the road, drivers, and pedestrians. Yes, fix intersections so that they are visibly marked and of sound, safe design. Then, continue to educate drivers and pedestrians (and cyclists!) to encourage a safer walking, biking and driving experience. Road signs, banners, instruction in schools, news articles, police monitoring, warning and ticketing. Honest, it works!

Two million dollars for four signals won't solve the problem, but might be part of a bigger and better, maybe less costly answer.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Why is Atherton getting a free pass when it comes to public safety?
I don't understand why Atherton hasn't made its own improvements that would protect pedestrians by adding sidewalks and curbs along ECR as have all other towns along the corridor. The ECR roadway through Atherton is crowded by vegetation, signs, and power poles that obscure pedestrians and bikers approaching crosswalks from the side of the road.
Atherton could be making the situation much safer for pedestrians by installing sidewalks along ECR, as all communities north & south have already done.
Get with it Atherton.


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Posted by downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Selby is not the most urgent location for a new signal. It has a crossing guard when school children are present and there is already a signal about a block away at 5th Avenue. The distance between 5th and Atherton Avenue is much longer, so why not put the signal there instead?

Illuminated crosswalks are less expensive & then maybe Atherton or Caltrans would clean up the almost non-existent bike lanes & cut back shrubbery that overgrows the fences.


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Posted by A neighbor at selby
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm

How is it that Menlo Park can get a lighted crosswalk at Hoover stret, and Redwood City can get flashing crosswalks on Middlefield (which have really worked to slow traffic for pedestrians), but Atherton will need to wait more than five years to get any improvement.

It does not add up...


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Posted by el camino reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm

Steve says "Atherton could be making the situation much safer for pedestrians by installing sidewalks along ECR, as all communities north & south have already done."

First we do not do sidewalks in Atherton and second Caltrans is responsible for this corridor including area alongside the roadway.
Steve you need to address public safety questions to Caltrans


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 6:57 pm

@el camino realty

I hope your "..we do not do sidewalks in Atherton..." wasn't meant to sound as arrogant & entitled as it reads. Maybe Atherton should consider joining the rest of the county & the 21st century and think about becoming a more participatory neighbor by amending its policy to allow sidewalks on El Camino, Alameda, Valparaiso, etc.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

Downtowner:

Atherton would rather spend its money on a joke of a police department before it sullies itself with actually installing curbs, gutters and sidewalks. God forbid an Atherton citizen should have to make arrangements to have their mail taken in, like the rest of us unwashed, while they're on vacation vs. relying on their over paid under worked police department to do it for them.


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Posted by el camino reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 11, 2012 at 7:42 pm

To Downtowner: I do not think you would understand. This is the Mission Statement on the Towns website: The Town of Atherton desires, insofar as possible, to preserve its character as a scenic, rural, thickly-wooded, residential area, with abundant open space with streets designed primarily as scenic routes rather than for speed of travel.
We do not subscribe to the kind of progress you are making in the 21st century.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 11, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Stanley Roberts from channel 4 news just posted a great YouTube video of what it is like to be a pedestrian crossing El Camino Real. He is filming around Milbrae, but drivers have similar (or even worse) manners in Atherton. Web Link


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 11, 2012 at 9:45 pm

I grew up in Atherton & my parents still live there. I do understand the Mission Statement. I also understand the insularity many of the residents wish to maintain & cultivate. It's time to consider a change. It is no longer practical to pretend that El Camino, Alameda, Valparaiso, etc. are not major thoroughfares used by the ever-increasing population in southern San Mateo County. Putting sidewalks on the main streets will not ruin the "scenic routes" of Lindenwood. Park Lane, Polhemus, Barry Ln, Isabella, etc, or any of the cul-de-sacs. Either change or stop allowing the demolition of "old" Atherton homes in order to build much larger structures housing more people & requiring a lot more service help, thus increasing the traffic on the peripheral roads.


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Posted by el camino reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2012 at 5:32 am

Downtowner states, "Either change or stop allowing the demolition of "old" Atherton homes in order to build much larger structures housing more people & requiring a lot more service help, thus increasing the traffic on the peripheral roads."
Downtowner raises an interesting observation about Atherton. If you believe the "big" houses have facilitated more population you are wrong because the towns population has gone down from about 7,500 five years ago to about 6,800 in the 2010 census. You are right that the ever increasing population in adjacent communities is burdening the roads and streets as well as major thoroughfares. Once again for the final time Atherton has no control over SR82 (ECR) and the attendant infrastructure like traffic lights, sidewalks, bike lanes, trees and vegetation. That is belongs to Caltrans by law and Atherton can only try to work with them.
Atherton's population swells each day (estimate 10,000) by people using the surface streets to go to work in Menlo Park etc and also to attend or drop off students to the nine schools located in Atherton.
Downtowner I am sure you are aware of the traffic on ECR in your town and here you are considering ever increasing density of housing, stores, business office building etc. To suggest Atherton is causing the problem with big houses or criticize the desire not to provide the infrastructure to facilitate even more traffic is a case of pot kettle black.


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Posted by concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Dec 12, 2012 at 12:30 pm

It is about time they installed a light at Selby Lane. I know that for years the town officials have said that it would increase traffic on Selby Lane. My mother lives on Selby Lane and I know that the traffic has increased already. As far as their being a crossing guard on ECR and Selby. Two of them have already been hit by cars. The intersection definitely needs a traffic light.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:20 pm

El Camino Reality -
You wrote: "First we do not do sidewalks in Atherton and second Caltrans is responsible for this corridor including area alongside the roadway."
Second point first: Yes, Caltrans controls the right-of-way along ECR but I believe that cities are responsible for the installation & maintenance of curbs & sidewalks that border the highway. I certainly don't see CALTRANS crews installing & repairing sidewalks in other cities. I believe Caltrans grants an encroachment permit once they've approved city plans for the improvement. It still comes down to the city (Atherton in this case) coming up with the plan for sidewalks and the money to pay for them. Web Link
First point about Atherton not doing sidewalks, per the town's mission statement that you thoughtfully provided. While Atherton "desires, insofar as possible, to preserve its character as a scenic, rural, thickly-wooded, residential area, with abundant open space with streets designed primarily as scenic routes rather than for speed of travel" - the times and population have changed such that this is no longer possible wrt ECR and perhaps Alameda as well. This is a heavily used state highway with semi-trailers and cement trucks sharing the road with many commuters, all traveling at speeds somewhat above the posted 35mph. It is not a rural country lane as you apparently would prefer it to be.
Given what it is, it needs improvements such as sidewalks, curbs, and pedestrian controls to make it safe for residents to walk & bike along and to cross. Until Athertonians come around to recognizing this reality we can expect continued pedestrian injuries & deaths to occur along ECR.
It's your choice at the moment. But if more people are injured or die in the face of Atherton's reluctance to face these facts, a judge, ruling on their lawsuit, may be making the decision for you.


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Posted by Janet L
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm

@el camino reality
To apply the town's mission statement to a state highway like El Camino Real is a farce. How can you claim that the sidewalkless ECR is a "street designed primarily as scenic routes rather than for speed of travel"?

The lack of sidewalks and safe crossings promotes high speed car travel on ECR and gives people no attractive alternative to driving. If you truly wanted ECR to be scenic you'd want people walking and riding bikes along and across it instead of racing their cars across town.


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Posted by el camino reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Janet L and Steve Please watch the linked video and then tell me how sidewalks,curbs and safe crossings are going to change this? The only thing that is going to help are traffic light at pedestrian crossings. Caltrans is currently processing Athertons's application at ECR and Selby Lane but say it will take five years to install.
If you look at some of the above links you may begin to understand this is not Atherton's problem/responsibility because it is Caltrans that gets sued and pays out money.

Web Link


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

el camino reality -
As I count them, there are currently 8 intersections along ECR in Atherton. We clearly can't have pedestrian crosswalks at all 8 intersections, hence the need for curb-protected sidewalks to allow pedestrians to walk safely along ECR to get to an intersection with a controlled walkway.
Thanks for the linked video. It clearly shows that painted pedestrian walkways alone don't do a good job in stopping traffic for pedestrians. In this video, the pedestrians really needed to make themselves more visible, given they had no walk lights they could activate.
Atherton currently has at least one intersection on ECR with pedestrian-activated flashing crosswalks and it works well to alert cars that a pedestrian is crossing. There are several of these on Middlefield in RWC that also work well. Looks like Millbrae, along with Atherton, would benefit from more of these. But to fully do the job of ensuring pedestrian safety, sidewalks are still needed.


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Posted by el camino reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Steve, please tell me where the pedestrian triggered light is located on ECR within Atherton town limits.
While your solution might be sidewalks up and down ECR where do you then put the bike lanes? There is not enough room for both and you can't put bikes on sidewalks. None of the accidents in the last four and a half years involved pedestrians along side the roadway but only in crossing situations.


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Posted by Janet L
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2012 at 3:58 pm

el camino reality: I agree that a signaled crossing is the safest for people on foot and would be very happy to see one at Selby. But that doesn't help people cross between 5th and Fair Oaks, which is 1/2 mile distance. And even if one were added in that stretch how would walkers get to that signaled crossing without sidewalks?

As for Caltrans, five years to get a light installed or blinking crosswalks is far too long. They're not building a new road or widening a freeway. If they aren't already, the Atherton town council should be putting pressure on Caltrans for a quicker solution.


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Posted by el camino reality
a resident of Atherton: other
on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Janet L
I am not sure I understand your question about walking between 5th and Fair Oaks. I believe there is adequate room now on both sides of ECR for both bikes and pedestrians and although I am not sure some of it is striped and designated bike lane. They are repainted everything right now so I don't know the end result but the right hand lane will likely have a solid white strip that delineates the traffic lane. Right now some pedestrians and many bikes use this, and there seems to be no vehicle/pedestrian/bike accidents. What I do not understand is the need for sidewalks and curbs to feel this makes one safe. If a vehicle is going to get you it will get you whether on a raised sidewalk or on a level path.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 12, 2012 at 4:54 pm

ECR -
Looks like you're right about the triggered pedestrian light. I was stopped by one while driving south on ECR around 7:30 AM last week. I thought I was in Atherton but I may have still been in RWC.
I realize that the roadway is crowded thru Atherton and there might not be room for both a bike lane & sidewalk along the full length without moving fencelines back 5 or 6 feet. However, there are stretches where both would fit just fine.
Start with the intersections with pedestrian crossings, add crosswalk lighting, and extend sidewalks where feasible north & south from the intersection. It may not be perfect but it would be an improvement.


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Posted by Janet L
a resident of another community
on Dec 12, 2012 at 5:12 pm

el camino reality: Between 5th and Fair Oaks ECR is a six lane highway with a shoulder. There's no bike lane no sidewalk. Bikes and walkers often use the shoulder because that's all they have.

While it's true that a car can certainly hop a curb, there's a huge difference in walking on a lit sidewalk and walking on a shoulder of a highway where speeds average 40 mph.

When was the last time you walked here? Would you let your 12 year old child do it? What about your 85 year old mother/grandmother? I wouldn't.

I believe that all people should be able to walk along El Camino Real with the protection that curbs and lights afford. And preferably with other changes that reduce the average speed to the actual speed limit. This isn't some country road, it's the middle of the San Francisco Peninsula.

If you don't think it's safer to walk along a sidewalk than on the shoulder of a highway then I'm wasting my time.


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 13, 2012 at 9:43 am

Janet -
Well said. You summarized the situation and the solution very clearly in your last post.
I fail to understand how Atherton is able to avoid it's responsibility to ensure pedestrian safety along their section of ECR. All other cities up & down the peninsula provide sidewalks & curbs for their residents.


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Posted by Scholar
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Residents in the neighborhood got together and achieved getting sidewalks installed along Alameda De Las Pulgas near Sharon Heights in West Menlo Park maybe six or ten years ago, by bringing it up to the County Supervisors with a petition and general advocacy. The sidewalks make it much safer to walk there. Before the sidewalks, the road shoulders were dirt and rocks and scary to walk on, like a country road with lots of traffic.


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Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 13, 2012 at 2:17 pm

All of this discussion serves to emphasize that we are all responsible for our own safety. Do not assume that cars will stop for you just because you are in a crosswalk. Do not proceed on a green light unless you can see that cross traffic is going to stop. Drive defensively. Bike defensively. Walk defensively.


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