Safety measures approved for Oak Avenue

Raised crosswalks in store for Vine Street, Oak Knoll Lane

Neighbors' testimony trumped traffic statistics at the Menlo Park City Council's Feb. 26 meeting, as council members approved a set of safety measures intended to slow traffic on a 1,100-foot-long stretch of Oak Avenue in the city's West Menlo neighborhood.

The council voted 4-1, with John Boyle opposed, to spend $22,000 on a neighborhood traffic plan aimed to slow traffic on Oak Avenue between Vine Street and Oak Knoll Lane.

The plan includes the following changes for the segment of the street adjacent to Oak Knoll School:

• Build two raised crosswalks -- one at the intersection of Vine Street, and the other at Oak Knoll Lane.

• Resurface three existing crosswalks with a red "tire grip" material so they are more visible to drivers.

• Post a "School Area" sign on the street.

The speed limit is 25 mph on Oak Avenue, a common route for drivers traveling from West Menlo Park to Sand Hill Road and back. Though the street has three speed bumps, neighbors say conditions are unsafe for children who walk and bike in the area.

"I ask you to protect and promote pedestrian and bicycle safety," said Kristin Duriseti, one of four residents to speak in favor of increased safety measures on Oak Avenue.


Recent city traffic studies suggested the intersection isn't any more dangerous than other residential streets.

A three-day study by staff showed that out of 9,600 drivers who traveled in either direction on the street, only 34 (less than 0.04 percent) hit speeds higher than 30 mph.

Councilman Boyle pointed to the statistics in opposing the vote, and said that by installing raised crosswalks, which essentially act as speed bumps, the city runs the risk of pushing traffic to other neighborhood streets.

"Every car we take off this road is going to go somewhere else," he said.

But neighbors said the city's studies didn't take into account the number of drivers who roll through Oak Avenue stop signs, and drastically accelerate between existing speed bumps -- a message that resonated with the other council members

"I do put great weight on neighbors who live with this 24/7," said Councilman Heyward Robinson. "Because we have a population of people that do not really respect neighborhoods they drive through, [more safety measures are necessary."


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Posted by ConcernedNeighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 28, 2008 at 8:59 pm

The volume of traffic going down Oak is unlikely to change. It is the shortest access point to Sand Hill -- speed bumps will not alter the space-time continuum and shift this reality. They will, however, force people to be more cognizant of their driving behavior on that street. I wonder if Mr. Boyle's dissent is driven more by his residence on an adjacent side street rather than a true substantive objection to the proposal ... just wondering ...

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Posted by Itisabouttime
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 29, 2008 at 8:00 am

Since Mr. Boyle lives on a cul-de-sac, he would not be impacted by any conceived (though short-sighted and very old argument by Mr. Boyle)increased traffic on other streets. However, he has some "squeaky wheel" acquaintances and friends in the neighborhood who would be most unhappy if he had not dissented.

I agree with Concerned/Neighbor that the volume of traffic will not decrease, but I do think it will increase over time with the expanding school. It is the Oak Knoll student population that should be the overriding factor in making these changes. Even though students are not necessarily walking and biking to school on Oak Ave. from Sand Hill, the changes will improve intersection visibility and the speed at which vehicles travel on Oak coming from Sand Hill.

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Posted by rich rollins
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 29, 2008 at 8:43 am

Many west menlo residents just seem to take the current situation for granted. A simple glance at MP circulation element from 1952 and on will show that wide straight Olive, and University, were designed to go across the creek. When Dave Day of PenPac proposed the Stanford Creek subdivisions west of Lemon, the city restricted Oak to 24 feet in width because of the proximity of Oak Knoll School (dictating the need to prevent Oak from becoming a thoroughfare). So what happened?
The city was talked into abandoning the Olive/Bay Laurel intersection by those residents so Olive could never be extended. That became private driveway for the 2 Bay laurel neighbors. It was part of a "deal" to annex the area east of Olive that had been county.
Fast forward to MP Council mtg. , Nov. 12, 2002, Mayor Schmidt pushed for the Sand Hill widening, saying that it would divert cut through traffic away from West Menlo streets like Oak, Oakdell, Santa Cruz, Middle. Jellins asked McClure that if the intersection design of 2 outbound lanes at Oak would attract too much cut through traffic (if Sand Hill was backed up, as it gets daily), then what control did the city have to restrict that Oak/Sand Hill intersection. McClure responded that the city had control of the intersection, and that is reflected in the agreement with Stanford.
Safety measures on Oak are for the benefit of all the kids who go to Oak Knoll School and playground, as well as the many cyclists, pedestrians and joggers who enjoy using Oak to access Sand Hill and Stanford lands. Drivers are not denied access to Sand Hill, just forced to drive at a uniform safe speed consistent with the width and alignment of Oak Ave. west of Lemon.
4 of the current council members understand that they are attempting to rectify a street system redesigned by previous politicians from the dais. This is not rocket science.
The city library reference dept. has all this historical material if anyone is interested.

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Posted by LLOYD HUFF
a resident of another community
on Feb 29, 2008 at 1:04 pm


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Posted by Kristin Duriseti
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 29, 2008 at 2:24 pm

Obviously, I am quite pleased with the Council's decision to improve the safety of Oak Ave. for our community -- thank you! I do not believe the raised crosswalk at Oak Ave. will aggravate drivers, but will serve as a necessary reinforcement of the stop sign and will raise the visibility of children in the crosswalk. While we are particularly concerned about the many children who walk and bike along Oak Ave. and Oak Knoll Lane to attend school and use the playfields, it is equally important to note that the many pedestrians and bicyclists, myself included, who travel along Oak Ave. to connect to Sand Hill and the shopping centers at Stanford and Sharon Heights will benefit as well.

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Posted by West Menlo Walker
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 29, 2008 at 8:37 pm

Thank you to the Council for listening to neighbors who experience what the statistics don't show. This is a narrow section of road, heavily used by cyclists, pedestrians, dog-walkers, and school children. Safer crosswalks and a posted "School Area" sign make sense.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on Mar 1, 2008 at 5:33 pm

Lloyd Huff,
Courts have invalidated tickets given by automated systems, and our lawmakers seem more interested in making these systems illegal than making them legal. Also, you cannot change fines arbitrarily. There are schedules set out by the state, and cities have no authority to change them. This uniform statewide control can be frustrating to local authorities at times, but it protects us from out-of-control local leaders. For example, several local jurisdictions have posted signs trying to tell bicyclists to do things not required by the law, and they have eventually had to take them down because they have no authority to make up their own signs and rules.

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Posted by Haveyouthoughtof
a resident of another community
on Mar 2, 2008 at 7:27 pm

I live in an area where the community have signs either on posts and or hanging above the street that flash red during drop-off (for 30-40 mins) and pick-up (for 30-40 mins) time around schools. They are set many yards away from the school (in either direction) and traffic immediately drops to 15 miles/hr from 30 miles/hr. We also have crossing guards at the intersection by the school. I think the combination of a guard and flashing light would be a must at Hillview on Santa Cruz.

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Posted by just looking on
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 6, 2008 at 6:01 am

If you think you have traffic problems now, just wait. As predicted by several council members when the Schmidt plan to open up the bridge and allow Stanford all they wanted without anything in return except perhaps a bicycle path, you are now getting the resulting increased traffic.

Just wait until the new hospital gets built with its 50% more space and they add the new hotel and commercial space to the Stanford shopping center. On top of all of this is Standford's medical extension in Redwood City, which will bring even more cut though traffic. And, oh by the way, Stanford wants to build medical offices on the now vacated auto lots on El Camino which they own.

Drivers will seek out avenues to get to their destinations in the most efficient way. If that means cutting through west Menlo, than, as predicted, that will be the way.

West Menlo had a chance to speak out then and refused, now they are going to pay the price.

just lookin on.

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 6, 2008 at 10:24 am

There is no merit or proof that Stanford wants to build medical on El Camino. This is something I agree we should watch, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. From what I have read Stanford has said the do not plan to do so. That is the only public quote I have seen -- can you point me to something different?

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Posted by or consequences
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 6, 2008 at 7:50 pm

Schmidt pushed hard for a bike tunnel under the ECR car dealer land owned by Stanford. Stanford got its widened bridge and unbridled development opportunities in the Sand Hill corridor. Couldn't have happened with a smaller Sand Hill/santa cruz intersection. Schmidt didn't get his bike tunnel. Not yet anway. Stay tuned 'cuz some think he might run again for council in Nov. Btw, Kinney and Jellins voted in favor of Sand Hill widening, Borak and Collachi against, though Schmidt tried hard to get a unanimous vote.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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