New “Bike Lanes” On The East End Of Middle Should Please Everyone | Creating A More Vibrant Menlo Park | Dana Hendrickson | Almanac Online |

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By Dana Hendrickson

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About this blog: My wife and I moved to central Menlo Park in 1985 where we have raised two sons. A retired high-tech executive, I now actively participate in local and national community service programs. I am the founder and director of Rebuil...  (More)

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New “Bike Lanes” On The East End Of Middle Should Please Everyone

Uploaded: Feb 26, 2019
Installing new bike lanes in Menlo Park is always challenging. The streets where they make the most sense were not designed with them in mind, and they are often too narrow to safely and comfortably accommodate both bicyclists and motorists. This is especially true where on-street parking exists. So almost every new bike lane proposal triggers a contest between motorists who resist giving up their “rights” and bicyclists who demand their “fair share” of our roadways. And the bike lanes usually don’t get built. The new Oak Grove and University bike lanes are rare exceptions where both sides had to accept a significant compromise. It’s noteworthy that the city does not plan to add new bike lanes in the future on any downtown street or main approach.

Fortunately, the new bike facilities currently proposed for Middle Avenue between University and El Camino should please both motorists and bicyclists. This section of Middle is a critical gap in the city bike network, and fixing it will improve bike access to the Safeway Plaza, Middle Plaza and eventually, Alma. The city Complete Streets Commission deserves great credit for developing a creative solution for a street environment that presents a very difficult set of design challenges: a narrow roadway with turn lanes at El Camino, a busy vehicle entrance at the Safeway Plaza, heavy thru traffic and active Shell Station driveways. (Note: This design is far superior to an earlier one that encouraged bicyclists to cross El Camino at Cambridge rather than Middle.)


.... Proposed Middle Avenue bike facilities

The proposed solution employs an innovative combination of bike facilities:

(a) A separate 2-way bike path along the edge of the Safeway Plaza sidewalk
(b) A new bike entrance for the plaza near Peet’s
(c) A 2-way protected bike lane on Middle between the bike entrance and Blake Street
(d) A 2-way bike crossing at Blake
(e) Buffered 1-way bike lanes on both sides of Middle from Blake to University

.... Separate 2-way bike path along the Safeway Plaza



.... Protected bike lanes between plaza bike entrance and Blake Street

Together these new improvements will help bicyclists and motorists navigate the complex traffic patterns on a section of Middle that intersects El Camino. And perhaps, in another five to ten years a 2-way bike and pedestrian path will connect Middle Plaza to Alma.

The Middle Avenue bike plans are still in the concept phase and final design and approval is not guaranteed. Hopefully, the city council will give the go-ahead to a final design this year so construction can be completed before Middle Plaza opens in 2020. Again, “hats off” to the Complete Streets Commission for advancing this important bike project.

NOTE: a set of slides is included in the minutes for the December 4, 2018 city council meeting.
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Comments

 +   4 people like this
Posted by Former Cyclist, a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks,
on Mar 1, 2019 at 10:17 am

I don't understand this solution unless you are closing the automobile exit from the Safeway Plaza on to Middle. I see the arrow showing an exit onto ECR and then a U-turn, but that is a totally impractical option for drivers.. For reference I should say that I was at one time a diligent bicycle rider on the streets of Menlo Park, and empathize with cyclists. However, the 2-way bike path next to Safeway feels like an accident waiting to happen. The automobile exit from the Safeway plaza on to Middle can already be difficult for cars turning left. You would be adding one more view for those drivers (having to look to their immediate right for cyclists). You also add that view for drivers turning right onto Middle, when historically they only had to worry about traffic from the left.

As a bicyclist, I am not sure that I would use the 2-way path. I have always preferrred to ride in the flow of traffic and to cross streets on the road as opposed to in a crosswalk. You also might want to examine the use locally of 2-way bike paths adjacent to a busy street. The only one I can think of is on Middlefield Road between James and Ringwood. The intersection at Linden has had multiple accidents and near misses from drivers exiting Lindenwood and only looking to their left before turning right, which is a common driver habit.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Mar 1, 2019 at 12:12 pm

Former cyclist: good feedback.

1. An additional safety measure should be considered. Bicyclists should be able to activate a crossing signal at the Safeway entrance that (a) stops vehicles from exiting and entering the plaza, (b) alerts motorists to their presence and (c) indicates the amount of time bicyclists have to cross.

2. At the stop light, both pedestrians and bicyclists will have(a) separate well-marked crossings and (b) a timed crossing signal.

I agree it might be unreasonable to expect motorists to use the plaza exit on southbound ECR and then access the U-turn at Middle. The distance is short and there is usually significant southbound ECR traffic. This is much worse than what motorists experience when they use northbound ECR and u-turn at Cambridge to reach Sand Hill Road. Awful!

Unfortunately, Middle is too narrow for either buffered or "protected" bike lanes.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Cyclist, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Mar 1, 2019 at 8:38 pm

I applaud the new concept. Especially the bicycle entrance at Peets.
Long Overdue!
Not sure how I feel about the two way, as at some point cyclists will have to cross Middle Ave further to the S/W.
This seems to not have been taken into account, and further up towards University there simply is no space for two bike lanes. Patchwork there.

I am not too concerned about the Exit from Safeway plaza, as the traffic at the light is normally already backed up to and past the entrance, and cars attempting/forcing their turn towards ECL more often than not create hazardous conditions or block lanes.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Mar 1, 2019 at 9:01 pm

Menlo Cyclist:

The concept plans have a bike crossing near Blake Avenue where Middle is wide enough for buffered bike lanes on both sides. That is where the transition from 2-way to 1-way bike lanes will occur. This is far enough from University to allow crossing bicyclists to easily view traffic coming from both directions.

I think it is already often difficult for motorists who are exiting the Safeway Plaza and turning left to merge into eastbound traffic on Middle. Adding bicyclists traveling in BOTH directions in front of the entrance will add anxiety and risk.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Cyclist, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Mar 1, 2019 at 10:19 pm

Dana Hendrickson:

Is that at the improvised cross-walk where cars go top speed between ECL and University, (often 30mph+) and rarely yield to pedestrians?

So unless there is going to be a STOP sign or light, that is not a good solution.
The higher the speed (with most cars speeding on Middle and University), the greater the risk for the weak.

I traverse the area by bike and foot frequently, and I urge you to test the waters for yourself. I suggest rush-hour or after dark.
Even scary for a cyclist with a good 'kick' and the right timing.

I'd rather see a split approach to ECL, a split crossing at the existing crosswalks and the merge on the NE side.
Safest for cyclists approaching Safeway from the SW is crossing Middle at ECL and an entrance to Safeway for pedestrian/bikes at the corner of ECL and Middle.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Mar 2, 2019 at 9:36 am

Menlo Cyclist: Your concern about needing a safe crossing on Middle between ECR and University is very reasonable. One potential solution would to have a bicyclist/pedestrian-activitated crossing at Blake with flashing lights and a digital timer to alert motorists and assist pedestrians and bicyclists.

A bike network consultant - Alta Planning + Design is assisting the city.

Web Link

Thanks.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dan H, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Mar 2, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Please provide a link to the bicycle report mentioned in this article. I cannot find it on MenloParl.org


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Mar 2, 2019 at 5:04 pm

Dan H: a set of slides is included in the minutes for the December 2, 2018 city council meeting.

Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Cyclist, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Mar 2, 2019 at 10:25 pm

Thanks for the insight on how the game is played.
I now better understand why community and active cyclist engagement has been almost non-existent, explaining why we end up with solutions that are neither practical nor provide more safety.
I'll now take my bicycle and find a safe way home.
No my butt doesn't hurt, it just stopped caring.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by jim, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Mar 3, 2019 at 6:57 am

I applaud the new concept. Especially the bicycle entrance at Peets.
Long Overdue! Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by kbehroozi, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Mar 3, 2019 at 6:50 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

Menlo cyclist, Former Cyclist, Dan, and others"-please do feel free to come to a Complete Streets Commission meeting and share your feedback. I'm serious. We need input and community support to make this as good as it can be. Our hope is that it can be a bike route for Stanford employees between 500 ECR and campus, as well as (eventually) a solid option for kids riding from the Willows and Linfield Oaks to Hillview.

We are still in the early phases of this project"it hasn't yet gone to council, nor have we embarked upon a community engagement effort yet. There is lots of time to contribute/raise concerns/suggestions/etc.

We meet on the second Wednesday of each month in council chambers at 7 PM. You can watch our agendas to see when this will be discussed formally or you can come any month and make public comment. Thanks! Web Link


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Mar 4, 2019 at 11:52 am

Likely users of Middle Avenue bike facilities:

Phase 1 - 2020 (hopefully!)

(a) Bicyclists originating at Middle Plaza and accessing destinations on the WEST of El Camino including downtown, Stanford and Sand Hill Road.

(b) Bicyclists originating on the WEST side of ECR accessing shops in Safeway Plaza.

Phase 2 - after 2025

(a) Bicyclists originating on the EAST side of ECR south of Ravenswood accessing destinations on the WEST side including Safeway Plaza, downtown, Hillview and Sand Hill Road.

(b) Bicyclists originating on the WEST side of ECR south of Santa Cruz and Menlo Avenue accessing destinations on the EAST side including Burgess Park facilities, Willow Road and Middlefield


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Mar 14, 2019 at 9:28 pm

Several residents have privately asked me about the loss of parking spaces on Middle at Nealon that is proposed as part of this Middle Avenue bike project. My response: this should NOT be viewed as a requirement. After all, many young families currently use this parking when accessing the Nealon playground and it would be inconvenient to require they park much further away and haul their stuff to the picnic tables and play area, and the concern that this existing parking would present a threat to passing bicyclists has NOT been established.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Sam9850, a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest,
on May 2, 2019 at 9:53 pm

Sam9850 is a registered user.

I now better understand why community and active cyclist engagement has been almost non-existent, explaining why we end up with solutions that are neither practical nor provide more safety.



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