By Dana Hendrickson
Let's Improve Biking In Downtown Menlo Park - NowUploaded: Aug 8, 2019
Bike lanes are the gold standard for building bike networks. They dedicate a space to biking and separate bicyclists from motorists using buffers, and often, physical dividers. While bike lanes do not protect bicyclists from vehicles, they remind motorists and bicyclists where they should travel and provide some measure of comfort for both. Most of the primary approaches to downtown Menlo Park – Ravenswood, Oak Grove, University and Santa Cruz - have bike lanes on at least long sections. However, with the exception of a section of Oak Grove, none of these bike lanes extend into the central business district. So there, bicyclists must share single lanes with busy traffic and lots of on-street parking, and unfortunately these conditions can produce frustration, resentment and occasional uncivil behavior. While our city cannot eliminate these occurrences, it can help reduce them. Hopefully our city will someday increase the amount of off-street parking so some on-street spaces can be replaced with bike lanes; but these changes are likely years away. In the interim, I recommend our city make a number of smaller but consequential improvements that would significantly benefit both motorists and bicyclists. These include various types of visual aids like “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs – some with flashing warning lights - and colored street markings (“sharrows”). If these aids are well placed, street sharing downtown would be safer and much more welcoming for bicyclists.
Existing Bike Facilities
New Bike Visual Aid Recommendations
• Replace the faded white sharrows on Menlo and University with ones that use a much more visible green background.
• Add “colored” sharrows to downtown Santa Cruz and the section of Oak Grove between Crane and University.
• Install “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs wherever there is a transition from bike lanes to shared streets, e.g. Oak Grove at Crane, Santa Cruz at University, University at Live Oak.
• Install “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs at each intersection on downtown Santa Cruz and Menlo.
• Install “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs with flashing warning lights at each end of the short section of University between Menlo and Santa Cruz. Install a “Watch for Bicyclists” sign at the exit of the parking plaza next to Draeger’s.
All the main downtown streets are already popular with bicyclists. I encourage the Complete Street Commission to consider these bike network improvements. The visual aids would encourage bicyclists to "take center of the lane" when necessary, as it is safer than riding along a string of parked car, and move to the right when crossing intersections. The changes would also make street sharing less stressful and remind motorists lane sharing is both acceptable and lawful.