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Atherton puts study of El Camino lane reduction on hold

 

Atherton's City Council has decided to put off a study of reducing the number of lanes on El Camino Real while waiting to see what Menlo Park decides to do on its neighboring stretch of the state highway.

Instead of studying future lane reductions, the council plans to concentrate on improving existing conditions on the road.

In October, the council had given the go-ahead for a study of the effects of reducing its 1.6 miles of El Camino from six travel lanes to four, but had not yet approved a contract for the actual work. Community Services Director Michael Kashiwagi estimated the study would cost about $150,000. The study would have looked at alternatives, such as reducing the width, but not the number, of travel lanes.

Mr. Kashiwagi said that since 2013, when the town started serious negotiations with Caltrans about ways to make El Camino safer, much of the conversation has centered around reduction of travel lanes. "It has also been acknowledged that this change could be costly to study and implement," he said.

With Menlo Park about to finish its own study of what to do with its stretch of El Camino, including the option of increasing the number of travel lanes, the Atherton council members said that now is not the time to go ahead with the study.

"I think we should suspend the study on El Camino at this point in time," said council member Bill Widmer. "If Menlo Park comes back with a surprise we could always reopen it."

Council member Elizabeth Lewis agreed. "We don't live in a 1.6 mile island," she said. Whatever Atherton does should "be complementary" with what neighbors are doing, she said.

Council members said the town should also see what comes out of a March 16 meeting in Atherton to discuss the Grand Boulevard Initiative, which is working on making improvements to the entire length of El Camino, from San Jose to Daly City.

Atherton plans to look at current conditions on its stretch of El Camino, including how many pedestrians and bicyclists use and cross the street. The council approved investigating adding either a conventional stoplight or a pedestrian-controlled stoplight (called a hybrid pedestrian beacon) on El Camino at Almendral Avenue.

The council asked the town staff to communicate with residents of Selby Lane to see what could be done to make that intersection safer that would be palatable to those residents.

"The most important focus for us is on the crosswalks because that's where the accidents are happening," said Mayor Rick DeGolia. When the town builds a new civic center, the need for residents to safely cross from one side of Atherton to the other will be very important, he said. "I think we need to look seriously at every single one of these unprotected crossings."

Comments

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Council did not put the study on hold - they HALTED it.

"1) halted the Operational Study for possible lane modifications on El Camino Real;"


5 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Atherton: other
on Feb 19, 2015 at 2:08 pm

That is right. Keep it at three lanes. That way drivers can continue to race down the street, mowing down pedestrians, so that they can come to a screeching halt when they reach Menlo Park, which long ago wisely concluded that the way to discourage drivers from treating ECL as a race track is to not configure it as one. Maybe it is time to learn from our apparently more thoughtful neighbors in MP


6 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 19, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Maybe a better answer would be to have the police actually start enforcing the speed limit, and the laws against distracted (cell phones, texting, etc.) driving. In fact now that Atherton is apparently flush with cash again, perhaps we should even consider spending even just a little bit of the money to add one or two officers and start cracking down on the rampant and dangerous speeding throughout Atherton.


Like this comment
Posted by Barbara Wood
Almanac staff writer
on Feb 19, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Barbara Wood is a registered user.

The language used at the meeting was "suspend the operational study."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the language from the Town's web site:
"Following discussion and public comment from residents addressing the possibility of a signal at Selby Lane (negatively affecting local traffic) and need for a protected crosswalk at Almendral, the Council took the following actions: 1) halted the Operational Study for possible lane modifications on El Camino Real; 2) directed staff to gather data along the Atherton section of El Camino Real (waiting for response from a grant opportunity and the results of Menlo Park’s analysis); 3) moving forward with a traffic control device at Almendral and El Camino Real and working with the Fire District for funding and pre-emption possibility; and 4) moving forward with an outreach program for a Selby Lane traffic control device or traffic control solution without limiting options to signalization."


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I apologize for what might be interpreted as my accusing Barbara of not doing her job. Reporting, particular of elected officials’ meetings, is a difficult job and I believe that she does such reporting very well.

I was not at the Atherton meeting and did not know if Barbara actually did attend. I relied on the official report of the meeting and I used its wording. I felt that Barbara's wording implied a different outcome.

My apologies.


2 people like this
Posted by Dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 10:55 am

So how could Atherton actually reduce the number of lanes on El Camino Real without increasing cut-thru traffic on Valparaiso, Atherton Avenue, Selby Lane and other cross-streets? Also, have speeders been killing pedestrians? Or, have pedestrians taken too many risks because there are so few places to safely cross ECR? Hmmm.... Think about it.


Like this comment
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 20, 2015 at 11:59 am

Bike transit north-south through town, and very close to ECR, will be wholly changed with a Middle Avenue tunnel and completion of the Alma Street segment behind 1300 ECR (Greenheart project, at the car wash). I like aspects of the ECR bike options, but the cost and complexity make me skeptical of their possibility when such a good parallel path can exist with good access to ECR. This doesn't necessarily mean the six-lane option is preferable, as auto travel times may not be that much improved, if at all, with slower traffic at peak times, like today, just occurring for many more cars. That's often what happens in many other contexts when extra lanes are added, there's nothing 'fishy' going on here in the modeling. The numbers presented last night also suggest, contrary to dogma held by our public works staff in the past, that additional 4-way pedestrian crossings alone would not have that big an impact, although any modified cross-walk times needed were not discussed. Those crossings can be designed to help bike crossings too but without total north-south ECR bike buffer. I agree that painted sharrows designation and speed limit enforcement could help too, and could be done pretty much right away. City council may be much more open to a prudent selection of targeted changes, but that needs to be combined with a serious commitment to the Middle tunnel and statement of transit strategy. As long as they fail to do that, bicycle supporters will naturally look for the next best alternative.


7 people like this
Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Parallel bike routes don't work for many trips, especially if you ride a bike for all your shopping and errands, not just to school or work.

Here's an example: my husband and I took Caltrain to Menlo Park for dinner at Cook's Seafood. Even though we hate doing it, we biked on El Camino to reach Cook's since that made it a short 1/3 mile trip. The shortest alternate route (Menlo/Crane/Blake/Roble) is more than twice as far.

Then, after dinner we went across the street to Bev Mo to pick up a dessert wine (easy), and then to Safeway to get eggs for breakfast the next morning (not easy). Safeway was only 1/10 of a mile down El Camino, but it was no longer rush hour and the car traffic was moving too fast for us to feel safe. The alternate bike route (Roble/University/Middle) would have been 9/10 of a mile, so we ended up riding on the sidewalk slowly and yielding to people walking.

Note that these three destinations--Cook's, Bev Mo, Safeway--are all within a few hundred feet of each other, but because El Camino prioritizes car traffic, it's inconvenient and unsafe for people who don't want to drive for such short distances. That's broken.

Unless you regularly shop and do errands by bike you have no idea how challenging it can be. Parallel bike routes aren't enough.


7 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

Amen Janet LaFleur. There are a lot of merchants on El Camino who would get a lot more business if El Camino were more bike-friendly. People on bikes spend more money locally, this has been shown in many places. Let's make it easier for people who want to stop and spend time and money on El Camino! Let's not optimize for people to just zoom past on their way to somewhere else.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 9:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Janet - Once you reached Cook's the rest of your trip could have been done legally and safely on the sidewalks. Bicycles are prohibited only on the sidewalks in downtown Santa Cruz.

And of course when operating a bicycle in Menlo Park it must be licensed:
"11.56.010 License required.
It is unlawful for any person to operate or use a bicycle propelled wholly or in part by muscular power upon any of the streets, alleys or public highways of the city, without first obtaining from the police department of the city a license to do so. (Prior code § 5.1)."


Like this comment
Posted by Joseph Baloney
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Peter-"Bicycles are prohibited only on the sidewalks in downtown Santa Cruz"

Nope. Menlo Park Municipal Code (quoted below) prohibits bike on sidewalks in ANY business or commercial district.

11.56.120 Restriction of operation of bicycles on business district pedestrian facilities.
It is unlawful for any person to ride or operate a bicycle on any sidewalk within any business or commercial districts and zones within the city. (Ord. 900 § 1, 2000).


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 21, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

JB - Thank you for the correction.

Janet - You can easily and legally walk your bike between your Cook's, Bev Mo, Safeway destinations.


1 person likes this
Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2015 at 9:26 am

@Peter Carpenter Yes, I can push my bike on the sidewalk all over town. But that's hardly convenient or comfortable, is it?

When we expect people who drive cars to park in the middle of town and walk up to a quarter mile to shop or dine then let's talk about people pushing their bicycles on the sidewalk instead of riding them.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 22, 2015 at 9:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Janet - You have four options:
1- walk your bike on the most direct route between these three stores
2 - ride your bike on side streets
3 - ride your bike on ECR
4 - leave your bike at the first store and walk to and from the next two stores

None of these options seem particularly onerous. When I go downtown I frequently park once and then walk to a number of stores as in option 4.


1 person likes this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

Peter, one of the other highly requested items in the survey is more bike parking downtown. Bike theft is a bigger problem than you may realize. Rather than leave the bike and walk, as you suggest, people often prefer to keep their bicycles closer by, both for security and for convenience. The walking is not the problem. The lack of adequate secure bike parking is the problem.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 22, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The lack of adequate secure bike parking is the problem."

Fine - then solve that problem and don't waste time and money with alternatives 2 (the Russian Roulette option) or Alternative 3 ( the Darwinian Selection option).

I note that the secure biking problem was not even raised at the public meeting.


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Peter,
The Menlo Park code that requires anyone to get a license from the city before biking in MP is illegal. The state pre-empted the licensing from cities many years ago. It is legal to require RESIDENTS of a city to license their bike with the state, but you cannot require NON-RESIDENTS to get a license before traveling on your roads. There is ample precedent to support this. Menlo Park should update their municipal code to reflect the current reality.

CVC 39002 (a):
A city or county, which adopts a bicycle licensing ordinance or resolution, may provide in the ordinance or resolution that no resident shall operate any bicycle, as specified in the ordinance, on any street, road, highway, or other public property within the jurisdiction of the city or county, as the case may be, unless the bicycle is licensed in accordance with this division.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 22, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Donald - Thank you for this information. Exchanges of information like this are what makes the Town Forum a "thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion."


3 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 22, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Janet, not sure if you've ever ridden your bike from ~Middle Ave. to Sand Hill to get onto Alma. This is probably one of the scariest sections of El Camino I've ridden. If we want to promote more bike travel, some of these sections really need to be improved.


Like this comment
Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of another community
on Feb 22, 2015 at 9:06 pm

@Peter So kind of you to list the options I already knew. But as I said, I don't find them convenient or comfortable, and I don't know many people who actually would do what you described.

Frankly, if we weren't so stubborn in wanting to ride a bike we'd drive from Mountain View to Menlo Park instead. That's what so many other people do, and in fact what we did until 5 years ago. In that case:

(1) Our car would add to rush hour congestion on El Camino or 101 and the resulting pollution.
(2) Our car would fill one of the limited parking spots at Cooks.
(3) We'd drive across the street to Bev Mo, adding to traffic on Roble.
(4) We'd drive 1/10 mile to Safeway, adding again to traffic on El Camino.
(5) Then we'd drive home to Mountain View.

Is it really better for Menlo Park and for our planet for people who are willing to ride a bike and take transit to drive a car instead?

@Mike No, I haven't ridden El Camino between Middle Ave to Sand Hill/Alma. We took the sidewalk instead because it did not look pleasant or safe. That's exactly why I think the bike lanes of Alternatives 2 & 3 are important.


2 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 23, 2015 at 8:29 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

Peter, to clarify, I was referring to bike parking as part of the issue for people like Janet who come to Menlo Park to spend money. I was not referring to bike lanes. And bike parking downtown did come up at the meeting the other night, it was briefly mentioned by one of the presenters as one feature that was highly requested in the first El Camino survey, along with improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities on El Camino. Bike parking is not generally as controversial as bike lanes, so it did not generate much discussion. But it was mentioned.

The population of the bay area is growing, and density is going to increase. We simply cannot squeeze more cars onto the streets that we have. We cannot expand the streets to fit the cars, nor would we want to, as that would entirely destroy the character of this place we all call home. One of the few things cities along the Peninsula can do to manage vehicle congestion is to make bicycling a safer and more attractive option. Studies have shown that when more people are on bicycles, traffic is safer for everyone. It's happened in New York, in Washington DC, over and over in this country.

One of the reasons that the section of ECR between Middle and Sand Hill is so intimidating is because it has three lanes of traffic instead of two. This is exactly one of the reasons why adding a third through lane to El Camino is a terrible idea and exactly contrary to the results of the survey, which was making El Camino friendlier to people on foot or on bikes.


2 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 23, 2015 at 4:09 pm

Hi Janet:

Walking a bike on an ECR sidewalk to ANY mid-block destination likely adds AT MOST 3 minutes to one' travel time versus biking all the way.

I ride from West Menlo Park to destinations ON ECR, go to the nearest intersection and then hop off my bike and walk the remaining distance. It's really not hard nor inconvenient, and it is great exercise!

Do you believe cyclist should expect "door-to-door access" everywhere?

I think it's simply unrealistic.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 23, 2015 at 4:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"This is exactly one of the reasons why adding a third through lane to El Camino is a terrible idea"

Actually I think many of us have posted good reasons why a third lane is a good idea and a bike lane is a very bad idea.

" and exactly contrary to the results of the survey, which was making El Camino friendlier to people on foot or on bikes." The survey results were from a very biased population - sort of asking one age group what they wanted when you should be taking a random sample of all age groups.


Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 23, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Tunbridge:

During the February 19 workshop the consultant did NOT provide a comprehensive treatment of the impact of each alternative on either pedestrian or cyclist safety AND a safer yet still convenient bike route was NOT included. He displayed diagrams and projected "expected values" for vehicle and bike traffic data and left it entirely up to the audience to figure out the POTENTIAL impact on BOTH safety AND the convenience of travel for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.

Expected value data projections alone do NOT convey the amount of uncertainty surrounding them, and the consultant did NOT explain why some of his projections were so counter-intuitive. Take a look at what Palo Alto has done with one of the most highly regraded bike networks in our country. There are no bike lanes or paths on their stretch of El Camino Real. There is a case study of the the Palo Alto Bike Boulevard at Web Link


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Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 23, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

"The survey results were from a very biased population - sort of asking one age group what they wanted when you should be taking a random sample of all age groups."

Peter, the survey was an open survey that was publicized in a bunch of different places. That you disagree with the results does not justify dismissing them simply because you believe the population was biased. It may quite possibly be that many people are interested in walking and biking and making El Camino less hostile to people walking or on bikes.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 23, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Turn - When a survey is distributed to anyone who wants to reply and advocates of certain responses encourage others to reply then the results are simply not statistically valid. Anyone could have told you and the contractor that before the results were tabulated.

In addition the survey questions were clearly biased towards bicycling so it is no surprise that the number of respondents who stated that they rode bicycles is 10 times the recorded number in the most recent County survey of actual bicycle use:

"In San Mateo County 1.5% of the daily trips are by bicycle and in Menlo Park it is 3.7%"

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 23, 2015 at 6:36 pm

Tunbridge, you might not like to hear this but Peter is right.

Even the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (I am a member) has been advocating for bike paths and lanes among the local bike community.

Like many other residents I was totally unaware of the previous survey and I suspect most remain unaware of the current one.

I asked 6 neighbors this past weekend and they did not know there was a ECR Corridor Study underway. Clearly a higher % of cyclists do know about it.

So, no the survey results will NOT be representative of the broader Menlo Park community and, as I have said previously, the survey is FLAWED.

When a large number of non-cycling residents get the chance they will kill the idea of bike lanes and bike paths on EL Camino Real.

And that's best for the SAFETY of ALL cyclists.




Like this comment
Posted by dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 23, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Hi Mike:

I ride a great deal locally and NEVER go on ECR.

I do occasionally ride my bike from "Middle Avenue to Sand Hill Road".

If I am heading south to Palo Alto I take University to Creek to El Camino Real (via the short sidewalk) to Alma.

If I am heading south Stanford I take Arbor to Sand Hill.

If I am heading west I go up Oak Ave to Sand Hill.

If I am heading north I work my way thru neighborhoods to the Alemeda.

None of these routes feel unsafe nor inconvenient.

What has been your experience?


2 people like this
Posted by Janet Lafleur
a resident of another community
on Feb 23, 2015 at 10:53 pm

@Dana Take a look at the car parking minimums and guidelines required in your city and their restrictions. I know that on El Camino in Mountain View, businesses can only have off-site parking if it's within 600 feet of the business and it can't be on the other side of El Camino or any major road.

That's right, people that arrive by car can't be expected to cross busy roads or walk more than 600 feet, but somehow people who arrive by bike are expected to walk further or ride on roadways that people who arrive by car can't be expected to walk across? That makes no sense.

Oh, and all that car parking doesn't come cheap. A garage spot can be as much as $50,000. Who that cost is passed on to? For a private lot, the cost is passed to customers. For a public lot, the cost is borne by the taxpayers.

I don't think being able to ride a bike safely on the same streets that cars drive on is too much to ask.


Like this comment
Posted by Westside Trucker
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 24, 2015 at 10:54 am

Need more police activity on ECR. Especially at commute times. It is a race track!


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

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