News

Tonight: Menlo Park holds workshop on reconfiguring El Camino Real

 

The city of Menlo Park will host a workshop at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, to discuss three alternative configurations for El Camino Real with the goal of improving the road for all users.

The options include expanding the number of travel lanes on El Camino in Menlo Park from two to three in each direction with no bike lanes (bicyclists would instead have a parallel route on another street) and two variations on bike lane configurations that would run along El Camino Real.

The alternatives have been developed based on feedback collected in the first two workshops and through an online survey. Following a presentation, participants will have an opportunity to ask questions about each alternative, provide feedback, and vote on their preferred option.

The workshop starts 6:30 p.m. in the Oak Room at the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center at 700 Alma St.

For more information, go to the city of Menlo Park's El Camino Real Corridor project page.

— Sandy Brundage

Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 19, 2015 at 10:25 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

On the contrary, people are riding bicycles on El Camino because they need to. Other cities have bike lanes on ECR (Sunnyvale, coming soon to Mountain View) and other towns are studying it. The parallel road suggestion is nice but it overlooks the fact that 1) the parallel roads are not continuous, the way ECR is and 2) the businesses and merchants and destinations are on El Camino. An "alternative route" is a nice idea for recreational riding, but if you are doing to a destination on El Camino, Alma is not a useful alternative.

People are riding bicycles on El Camino because that is their transportation and that is where they need to go. Let's make it safer for them and less stressful for people driving cars.

Roads are built for people, not cars. Don't believe me? Then show me where the cars were when the Spanish built El Camino Real.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 10:47 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The ONLY safe way to put bicycles on ECR is to establish a Class I pedestrian and bikeway which requires a minimum of 12 ft. on one or both sides of ECR. And the VTA wants a 12 ft lane in each direction exclusively for buses. That would leave room for a total of 2 or 3 car lanes total for both directions. That isn't going to happen.

In San Mateo County 1.5% of the daily trips are by bicycle and in Menlo Park it is 3.7% - does it make sense to allocate 15-20% of the ECR capacity to that use?

You want to "get by" with a Class II or Class III bike way then you will be mixing 200 pound bicyclists with 4000 pound cars. It does not make any difference who has the right of way- in this scenario the bicyclist loses. At 40 mph 85% of the pedestrians hit by cars die. Between 2004 and 2008 an average of 217 bicyclists were injured in San Mateo County each year. And between 2004 and 2008 a total of 13 bicyclists were killed in San Mateo County.

In San Mateo County 1.5% of the daily trips are by bicycle and in Menlo Park it is 3.7% - does it make sense to allocate 15-20% of the ECR capacity to that use?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 11:11 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is what the Atherton Town Council just decided regarding lane reductions on ECR:

"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 (emphasis added) 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 Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 19, 2015 at 11:20 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

What the VTA wants is a bit of a red herring in SamTrans territory, no?

What I see is that per your numbers bicycle use in Menlo Park is more than *double* the county average, and you are suggesting that deserves no accommodation?

Where do you get your numbers, anyway? I have heard that the numbers for commuters is higher than 3.7%.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 11:33 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Where do you get your numbers, anyway?"

Web Link

"What I see is that per your numbers bicycle use in Menlo Park is more than *double* the county average, and you are suggesting that deserves no accommodation? "

I did not say "no accommodation" I said that do do this safely on ECR would either cost one or two traffic lanes which I think is disproportionate to the level of use.

"I have heard that the numbers for commuters is higher than 3.7%."
Where do you get your numbers?


2 people like this
Posted by Dick Givens
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I was one of the 200 pound cyclists that Peter mentioned. He is correct; the cyclist always comes out the loser when in a collision with an automobile. I am an avid cyclist but I am dumfounded when the cyclist community stamps it feet over some real or perceived violation of their "rights" yet the cyclists continue to violate stop signs, right of way laws and traffic laws in general. Whatever, the result of the ECR debate I hope that the auto public and the cycling public begin to show some maturity in reaching a solution that accommodates each segments interest. No perfect solution but one that is accommodation and recognition.


8 people like this
Posted by Rainer Zaechelein
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 19, 2015 at 12:40 pm

I believe Menlo Park and the surrounding communities are at a crossroads when it comes to the El Camino Real thoroughfare. One could widen the road, add another car lane and remove storefront parking and create an auto centric community where it would be virtually impossible to consider alternate transportation (bicycles) to run errands and commute. It would also make the area less of a community with less character. On the other hand, one could develop a north/south thoroughfare for alternate transportation by turning that same real estate into a safe route for bicycles, turning the area into more of a community where more trips could be accomplished safely without a car. Regardless of what the current statistics show regarding the # of trips currently taken by bicycle in the are I strongly believe if there were safe ways to ride your bike on ECR it would happen. This area is one of the best recreational bike riding areas in the country and if there were safe routes people would use their bikes more for utility as well. Build it and they will come.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"one could develop a north/south thoroughfare for alternate transportation by turning that same real estate into a safe route for bicycles,"

You don't see bicycles on freeways or small planes flying into SFO and for the same reason - it is not safe to mix big iron with tiny iron.

As noted the only way to make ECR safe for bicycles is to add one or two 12 ft wide Class I path/bikeways. So the alternative is three car lanes in each direction or take one or two lanes away for the Class I lane(s).


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Posted by Sally Edwards
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 19, 2015 at 1:12 pm

The other thing that bicyclists forget (or don't realize) is that they are not as visible as cars and trucks, even in broad daylight. When the traffic is heavy, as it always is on ECR, a bicycle is a fraction of the visual target and easy to miss if another motorist is doing something odd. At dusk and after dark, the visibility problem is even worse. Bike lanes would help because, as it is now, bicyclists travel in the right traffic lane to avoid parked cars. Personally, I'm for a separate road for bicycles; I think everyone would breathe easier and be safer.


4 people like this
Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Riding a bicycle on El Camino right now is challenging. If you're interested but skeptical, take a look at the design options for protected bicycle lanes that will be one of the choices at tonight's meeting, and see if that addresses the concerns. Yes to what George said - most Menlo Park residents use ECR for shopping and errands. If it were safer, more people could take these short trips without driving, which is healthy and takes cars off the road.

Oh,and sure, you're might not be doing the family's major weekly shopping run on a bicycle, but when was the last time you went to Staples to pick up some pens or dropped in to Safeway for a loaf of bread or tube of toothpaste, no problem at all to use a bike.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Are those of you advocating separate bike lanes on ECR also willing to having street parking banned in your neighborhood? That would have an equally beneficial impact on bicyclists.


4 people like this
Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 19, 2015 at 3:04 pm

I don't disagree with Adina, but I also don't think there is any reason that bikes and cars can’t happily coexist on El Camino Real without significant changes to the current road configuration IF--and this is a big IF--car drivers would begin to respect bicyclists’ right to use the full right lane where the lane is too narrow to share side by side. Well-placed “sharrows” in the existing roadway, such as the ones painted on Menlo Avenue and on University Drive, would help to reinforce this message.

Another other change that would significantly improve safety (or at least perception of safety)--for both bikes on ECR and pedestrians crossing ECR--would be to lower vehicle speeds. If we can’t lower the speed limit to 30 mph or even 25 mph, we should at least step up enforcement of the current 35 mph speed limit. Does anyone really need to drive even that fast through downtown Menlo Park?

It is unfortunate that none of the alternatives proposed in the ECR Corridor Study consider any of these simple changes. Alternative 1, which removes on-street parking and creates 3 full travel lanes, will simply make ECR an expressway--the way it is now in Atherton. The alternatives that include dedicated bike lanes or separated bikeways will create their own problems, with awkward crossing conflicts at every intersection.

Peter Carpenter likes to voice his opinion that cycling is dangerous. In fact, most studies have shown that cycling is significantly safer than many other common physical activities. See, for example, Web Link. According to one study, swimming results in four times as many fatalities per hour of participation as bicycling. Should we be discouraging people from using the Burgess pool by scaring them about the risk of drowning?

What we really need on ECR are changes that slow vehicle speeds and that encourage bikes and cars to share the roads safely—same rights, same responsibilities, same rules, same roads.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 3:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter Carpenter likes to voice his opinion that cycling is dangerous."

Wrong, I never said that. I did say that " mixing 200 pound bicyclists with 4000 pound cars. It does not make any difference who has the right of way- in this scenario the bicyclist loses."

And "The ONLY safe way to put bicycles on ECR is to establish a Class I pedestrian and bikeway which requires a minimum of 12 ft. on one or both sides of ECR. "

And that "At 40 mph 85% of the pedestrians hit by cars die. Between 2004 and 2008 an average of 217 bicyclists were injured in San Mateo County each year. And between 2004 and 2008 a total of 13 bicyclists were killed in San Mateo County."

So use your own words to define your position and don't misstate my words.


2 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Peter is almost right, but he didn't go far enough. Putting a separated bikeway alongside a road is not enough. That would lead to horrible conflicts when cars turning right cut off bicyclists going straight, a problem that would occur at every intersection. The solution is to do what they do in Europe and install separate signals for cars and bikes so that they move at different times, and you ban right turns on red. I don't know if that is in the Menlo Park proposal, but it will not be safe otherwise. Unfortunately, separate signals leads to a reduction in overall intersection throughput because cars and bikes spend more time stopped, and most traffic engineers aren't willing to see that happen.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I totally agree with Donald's comments re separate roadways and separate signals for the
Class I lanes. And, as he notes, this will have the effect of slowing transit times for everyone.


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 19, 2015 at 6:02 pm

I recommend you read the analysis of El Camino Real lane configurations I have published on the Re-Imagine Menlo Park website/blog. Reducing vehicle lanes is a terrible idea. Expanding ECR to 6 vehicle lanes for its entire length is essential. Your factual feedback is welcomed; pure opinions are not. Web Link


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 19, 2015 at 6:22 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

Alma St. is currently a good alternative to riding down ECR. What we need is the cross-track bike tunnel at Middle Ave. for Central MP riders to get over to Alma easily, and Palo Alto to bring back the bike path along the soccer field at ECR/Alma/Sand Hill Road so that riders can connect to the bike path that goes along the Caltrain corridor. We could use a Caltrain-parallel bike corridor (perhaps Laurel St. connecting through to Oak Grove (or Noel Dr, pass through to Alma Lane) to connect with Alma).

Right now, I ride down University to Creek Drive, then have to use ECR down to Quarry Road because Palo Alto hasn't finished re-furbishing the soccer field and baseball field after installing their new reservoir. Get all that fixed and put up adequate signage directing cyclists, and we can leave ECR to motorized vehicles. I expect traffic on ECR will only get worse...I would not want to ride a bike on it even if there was a designated bike lane...too risky.


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Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 19, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

Just thought I'd add that when considering a bike corridor along ECR, Menlo Park should work together with Atherton, Redwood City, and Palo Alto to establish this (and, obviously, Caltrans). Nothing worse than a piecemeal plan with routes that change abruptly when you cross city borders.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 7:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The bicycle inclusive alternatives presented tonight are the ultimate example of a compromise between accommodation and safety - neither objective is met.

Both the bicycle inclusive alternatives are designed to attract bicyclists yet neither of them protects bicyclists from turning vehicles at the intersections. The result in both case will be more bicyclists and more bicyclist injuries/deaths.

By taking the sidewalks off the table the City has precluded a Class I bike/pedestrian path design.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 19, 2015 at 9:32 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here is what the California DOT Highway Design Manual states:

"(5) Separation Between Bike Paths and Highways. A wide separation is recommended between bike paths and adjacent highways (see Figure 1003.1B). Bike paths closer than 1.5 m from the edge of the shoulder shall include a physical barrier to prevent bicyclists from encroaching onto the highway. Bike paths within the clear recovery zone of freeways shall include a physical barrier separation. Suitable barriers could include chain link fences or dense shrubs. Low barriers (e.g., dikes, raised traffic bars) next to a highway are not recommended because bicyclists could fall over them and into oncoming automobile traffic. In instances where there is danger of motorists encroaching into the bike path, a positive barrier (e.g., concrete barrier, steel guardrailing) should be provided."

ECR is a State Highway, The bicycle path alternatives proposed do not meet this standard.


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Posted by Alma works
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 20, 2015 at 1:51 am

There is no way El Camino Real can ever be as safe or pleasant as biking from El Palo Alto onto Alma in Menlo Park. If we need to make a safe and easy bike route farther north, let's do that. There is already a very safe way to travel on El Camino with a bike... the SamTrans ECR bus.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2015 at 7:48 am

Nomenclature clarification:
There are currently 4 types of bike facility approved by Caltrans:
Class I is a bike path shared with pedestrians and separated from the road, as explained by Peter. There must be space or a barrier between the path and the road
Class II is a bike lane delineated by paint, on the road and not for pedestrians. A "buffered bike lane" has a cross-hatched area on one or both sides to provide more clearance from cars.
Class III is a bike route delineated only by signs.
Class IV is a new one called a "cycletrack" or separated bike lane, and Caltrans is required to develop geometric standards for them by the end of 2015. These are on the road and not open to pedestrians, but separated by a barrier of some type.

The plans I saw posted for El Camino had options for buffered bike lanes or for cycletracks. The cycletracks had numerous openings in the barrier to allow cars in and out of driveways. Cycletracks work best when there are no mid-block openings. How much do you want to bet that drivers turning onto El Camino will pull their car out across the middle of the cycletrack before stopping to look for an opening in traffic? They do that for sidewalks now. I like the idea of cycletracks, but this proposal doesn't look good to me. It is also premature to be proposing them because Caltrans hasn't produced the standards yet.


2 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 9:25 am

I attended the workshop last night and here are my initial impressions:

After almost a year the study has not evaluated the SAFEST alternative included in the Specific Plan, a bike route that parallels El Camino using Alma, Garwood and a connector across the private Greenheart property. This route completely avoids the risky crossing and mingling of bike and vehicle traffic at ALL El Camino intersections. (And when a Middle Avenue/Alma connection is made this will make east-west bike travel even better.)

Those who argue this route would be inadequate are offbase. This is a convenient route for north-south bike travel and east-west connections across ECR are numerous. There are few shops on El Camino that require one to travel on ECR for any significant distance. Walk your bike on the sidewalk for half a block from any intersection; it's as healthy as riding.

I seriously question the induced traffic projections shown for the three alternatives. Making ECR north of Ravenswood six versus four lanes increases peak hour ECR traffic from about 3100 to 4500 vehicles but reducing ECR south of Ravenswood from six to four lanes makes no real difference. How is this explained?

Fianlly, It is very difficult to accurately predict traffic volumes and patterns on El Camino Real due to the amount of new development in the local region, the health of the economy, the range of circulation options and human behavior. The Menlo Park Specific Plan assumed that the average daily traffic on El Camino Real was 38000 vehicles. But the El Camino Real Corridor Study indicates that in mid-2014 the numbers were actually 34600 at the north end and 46700 at the south end so the latter was 8700 vehicles (23%) higher than the baseline. Three new projects - 500 ECR, 1300 ECR and the Stanford Medical Center are expected to add at least another 4000 vehicles a day at the south end = total of 50700.

Given this uncertainty, It would be wise for Menlo Park to not dramatically change the number of lane configurations on El Camino, especially NOT reduce them. It would be better to preserve the existing lanes and find an alternative for bikes.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 20, 2015 at 9:55 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

One of the most troubling aspects of last night's meeting was how the "State of Menlo Park" ignored the State of California.

When I asked if the traffic simulations included compliance with the new State law requiring a 3 ft passing clearance between automobiles and bicycles the answer was "we did not consider State laws in our simulations".

The speaker later stated that the objective was to optimize the ECR corridor FOR the residents of Menlo Park and NOT for the people passing through Menlo Park.

And as noted above the two bicycle alternatives ignore the California DOT Highway Design Manual.

And, any changes to ECR, which IS a State Highway, will require a Cooperative agreement:
"Any project within Caltrans right of way that is sponsored by a local entity requires a Cooperative Agreement (Co-op). A Co-op is a legally binding contract that defines the project scope and assigns roles and responsibilities, funding commitments, schedule and any other important arrangements on which parties must agree. An executed Co-op is required before Caltrans can commit funds or resources to assist other entities with the development and construction of any project within Caltrans right of way. Cooperative Agreements should be initiated during the planning phase of project development." There was no mention that such an agreement has been initiated.

Menlo Park may well end up investing a lot of money in a plan that the owner of the property, the State of California, is not willing to support.

Of course if the City of Menlo Park really wants unilateral control of ECR then it could ask the State of California to relinquish its ownership of ECR within the city limits:
"Relinquishment: Options for Ownership
In some cases it may benefit the community to accept ownership of all or a portion of a State highway main street, which is accomplished through the relinquishment process. A relinquishment is a conveyance of all rights, title and interests of a State highway, or portion thereof, to a county or city. The relinquishment of facilities, such as the roadway, sidewalks, or both, allows local agencies to assume the administration, planning, design, construction, maintenance and operation of that facility. Relinquishment options should be initially evaluated in the early planning phase and throughout project development.
The removal of a State highway, either in whole or in part from the State Highway System, requires a relinquishment approved by the California Transportation Commission (CTC). Authority for the CTC to relinquish is given in Streets and Highways Code, Section 73, which outlines different types of relinquishments, including “nonmotorized transportation facilities: pedestrian ways, bike ways and equestrian ways.”


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Posted by Dana endrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 10:43 am

These are the primary arguments I have heard for creating either bike lanes or bike paths on El Camino Real and my reactions. I am an experienced recreational cyclist who rides and drives frequently. I welcome more well-reasoned and supported pros and cons and hope they are presented in a civil manner.

1. There would be more bike riders using El Camino if it were SAFER.

It is a fact that riding on El Camino Real will never be as safe as riding in a bike lane on a much less travelled route. The intersections where a highway crosses side streets will always be much more dangerous due t either cyclist or motorist behavior. Inexperience or young riders are particularly vulnerable no matter what signaling is provided.

2. Riding on El Camino is more CONVENIENT than existing or planned alternatives.

I believe this is not true. It depends on the rider and their origin and destination. Commuters who wish to travel a significant distance from north to south would find an Alma-Garwood route between Sand Hill and Encinal convenient and there are plenty of east-west side streets for entering and leaving this route. Local commuters can use sections of the Alma-Garwood route and existing cross streets. Recreational adult and young riders can easily avoid El Camino Real altogether. Cyclists who wish to shop at retailers on El Camino can ride on side streets to the intersection nearest their destination and walk their bikes on the sidewalk for at most a half a block. That’s both safe and good exercise.

3. Cyclists deserve greater RIGHTS to use El Camino Real.

This is a purely subjective position. El Camino Real is a state highway designed primarily to move traffic north and south on the Peninsula so most of the traffic is “pass thru” (80%?); ECR is not a Menlo Park-controlled street intended primarily to serve the needs and interests of Menlo Park. If every city attempted to transform their section of El Camino to primarily suit its needs and wants it would fail as a central artery. This means it would also fail Menlo Park.


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Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 20, 2015 at 12:08 pm

I’ll take issue with the arguments in favor of expanding ECR to six through lanes.
Garwood/Alma is a viable alternative to bicycling on El Camino? Hardly. There are three unprotected intersections, Alma/Ravenswood, Merrill/Oak Grove and Garwood/Glenwood plus the chaotic mix of traffic on Merrill at the Caltrain station AND four at-grade crossings of Caltrain itself. Not convenient, not safe. Don’t hold your breath, but the conceptual design for an undercrossing of Caltrain at Ravenswood, forced on the City by the HSR “Blended Plan”, will separate Alma south of Ravenswood from Alma to the north. A bike/ped undercrossing of Caltrain has been on the books since 1994 and there’s still no project on the horizon.
Cycling on El Camino is dangerous? That's debatable and it could be better. Well designed bike lanes on El Camino similar to last night’s Alternative 2 provide strong visual cues to both cyclists and motorists that will minimize conflicts at intersections and provide a direct, straightforward and safer n/s route through Menlo Park. Forcing cyclists to take circuitous routes through back streets, parking lots and along sidewalks exposes them to greater hazards, and creates more stress for all road users.
It is clearer than ever that expanding lane capacity on El Camino will attract higher volumes of traffic but and create more delays at the expense of users that we are trying to attract: transit users, pedestrians and cyclists who want to live, work and shop along the ECR corridor. As Mr. Givens reminds us, we aren't going to achieve a perfect solution. Last night we got to see one that most reasonably accommodates all users of ECR present and future, which was Alternative 2.


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Posted by John Onken
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 20, 2015 at 12:36 pm

I ride on ECR every evening, in the dark, and it's both safer and more dangerous at the same time. It's safer because there's alot more room than you think, so cars are fairly well away from cyclists. More dangerous, because of the street parking in random places which risks getting cyclists 'doored' at higher speeds.

But then the luxury of ECR is that often it's so jammed with traffic, it's like cycling next to parked cars on both sides.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 20, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I urge Menlo Park to invest in something they own, Alma, and not in something that the State of California owns, ECR.

The model is the Bryant St bikeway in Palo Alto where the bicycle route has the right of way at almost every intersection.
Web Link


Menlo Park should do the same with Alma and then connect it to the planned Middle Tunnel and to Palo Alto via Bryant and or Alma. If grade separation ever comes then the bikeway parallel to the tracks could easily remain at grade while the East-West auto traffic is routed over or under the tracks.


3 people like this
Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 20, 2015 at 1:48 pm

I'm writing this as a daily bike commuter, from Menlo Park to Mountain View (North Bayshore) and back. I've also done Menlo Park <-> Los Altos, among other commutes.

The MP portion of my daily commute goes from near Caltrain down Laurel to Willow, and then across the Willow bridge to Palo Alto. On the return trip, I take the El Palo Alto bridge to Alma, then Burgess to Laurel. For this specific commute, I don't ever have a need to cross ECR.

The primary easily fixable safety hazard (on the MP portion) is car parking in the bike lane on Laurel west of Ravenswood, since the bike lane is really too narrow to double as a parking lane (it's either / or). It's a cheap fix, at the cost of a minor inconvenience to the 1 to 4 drivers who park in that lane between 6PM and 8PM.

Having said that, a fast / straight route to Los Altos / Downtown Mountain View would be incredibly useful for many commuters, as well as people running errands (shopping / dining). In the same way that Caltrain and ECR both follow the logical route down the Peninsula, a fast / straight bike route down the Peninsula makes a great deal of sense. However, the devil is in the details - you have to have good traffic flow and quick (cycling) end to end speeds.

Also, Peter's arguments about speed and impacts make sense - given how slowly most of ECR moves anyway (if you want to go fast, go to 101 or 280), a stictly enforced 25mph speed limit could likely give most of the benefits of separated bicycle lanes and a much lower cost (and higher throughput - if you assume actual safe following distance, optimal throughput happens around 23-25mph).

Since 18-20mph isn't that hard to hit on a road bike, cutting the speed differential improves safety, improves bike / care coexistence, and is dirt cheap.


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Posted by Frugal
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 20, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Per Peter Carpenter: "North bound traffic from Palo Alto is only two lanes. " Really?

Peter, have you had a chance to check out the North bound lane of El Camino at Quarry Road?


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Posted by more issues
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 12:45 pm

This discussion leaves out important issues, such as:
Small businesses on el Camino depend on street front parking for deliveries and for customers. We need these businesses to remain viable.
Traffic going past pedestrians on really narrow sidewalks makes it dangerous for these side-walkers to be so close to a highway. Are there rules or guidelines for traffic speeds or separations in this sort of situation (i.e., a highway next to pedestrians)?
Even now Alma and Garwood do not align. How in the world are bikers expected to safely cross over Ravenswood and zig zag across oak grove? This is a "route"? Really?


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 9:46 pm

Menlo Park must decide whether or not to include El Camino Real in its city bike network

Note: I am a 30-year Menlo Park resident, experienced recreational cyclist and frequent local driver. I rarely ride in urban areas or on highways and then only when it’s unavoidable.

BACKGROUND

During the Specific Planning process Menlo Park studied ways to improve its bike network in and around El Camino Real and our central downtown business districts, and this work benefited from significant resident input. Now the City is currently conducting an El Camino Real Corridor Study that appears to be totally out of synch with general – not bike enthusiast – resident expectations. Read my post The Future Of El Camino Real to understand my perspectives on this study.

This post focuses on the need to provide safe and convenient options for cyclists of all levels both inexperienced and experienced

OPTION 1 – Build A Bike Lane or Separate Path on El Camino Real

El Camino Real is a state highway with heavy vehicle traffic crossing or turning at intersections where there would be either bike paths or lanes.

• Southbound : Thirteen intersections including three arteries and three collectors.

• Northbound: Eight intersections including two arteries and three collectors.

OPTION 2 – Keep Cyclists In Bike Lanes that are largely on Residential Streets

An alternative bike route that used Alma, Greenheart, and Garwood Street would cross fewer vehicle lanes of all kinds.

• Southbound and northbound: Ten intersections including one vehicle artery and four collectors

• Southbound: Vehicles DO NOT cross bike route at four intersections (Willow, Sherwood, Waverly and Burgess)

CONSIDERATIONS

* One should evaluate a bike network as a system for safely routing cyclists with a sensitivity to convenience.

• Menlo Park already has an extensive bike network that enables cyclists to conveniently and safely ride in existing bike lanes parallel to El Camino Real a convenient distance away using Alma. Add a bike lane on Alma between Ravenswood and Oak Grove, a connector through the Greenheart property, and bike lanes on Garwood Riders and there would be a continuous bike route from East Creek to Encinal. Cyclists can already travel in existing bike lanes east and west and cross El Camino Real at Ravenswood, Glenwood and Encinal.

• The Menlo Park bike network also already enables cyclists to ride a parallel route in existing bike Lanes on Laurel Street from Burgess Street to Encinal Avenue.

• Experienced cyclists will always pick safety over convenience when selecting a bike route and inexperienced cyclists should never be trusted to make the correct decision.

• Most bike-car collisions occur either at busy intersections – regardless of signaling – and mid-block where vehicles cross paths with cyclists when either entering or exiting public areas, e.g., parking lots, gas stations, retail malls.

• In many situations either walking or riding a bike for a SHORT distance on a sidewalk is safer than riding on a busy street, and it’s not significantly less convenient. Likely adds only 3-5 minutes.

• Riding on residential neighborhood streets is generally safer that riding on highways and urban streets as the latter has busy intersections, mid-block side “pull-ins and pull-outs”, cars either entering or leaving parking spaces and UNEXPECTEDLY opening car doors into bike paths.

• I believe projections for vehicle and bike traffic volumes and circulation paths are extremely unreliable. Both expected and ranges of possible outcomes must be carefully considered when potential outcomes are significantly negative.

• Palo Alto is one of the most progressive and renowned bike communities in the country and it has chosen NOT to build either bike paths or lanes on El Camino Real. This city has more experience with biking issues and a much better understanding of bike circulation challenges and solutions than Menlo Park.

A case study for the Palo Alto Bryant Street Boulevard is available at Web Link

MY RECOMMENDATIONS

• While a full-blown study for a Menlo Park Bike Network is NOT needed, I do believe our City should seek the counsel of an unbiased BIKE transportation expert BEFORE any controversial options are even proposed to residents.

• Do NOT add bike lanes or paths to El Camino Real; they are unsafe and unnecessary.

• Implement a well-designed and signed non-ECR bike route that uses Alma Street, a Greenheart connector and Garwood Street. Build a temporary Greenheart connector before this development is completed – likely in the next 4
to 5 years.

• Consider the addition of an “official” Alma, Burgess Drive, and Laurel Street bike route that could be built now.

• Ensure that a safe and convenient bike and pedestrian connector is provided between Middle Avenue and Alma Street when the Stanford 500 ECR project is developed.

• Evaluate the option of creating a dual-use sidewalk on the east side of El Camino Real between Middle Avenue and Ravenswood. This would be an interim solution available until the Middle Avenue-Alma Street connector was available.

IMPORTANT DETAILS

Download this post plus graphics and tables at Web Link

I welcome your constructive feedback.



4 people like this
Posted by more issues
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 25, 2015 at 10:59 pm

Alma/Garwood/Greenheart is not a route. It's a zig zag idea with numerous dangerous intersections and cross points. Garwood is on the west side of the tracks, Alma is on the east side. There is no way through the Greenheart project that goes north-south.

South of Ravenswood would be greatly helped with a path along the west side of the tracks, like Palo Alto has done behind Palo Alto Medical Foundation. This would allow bikers to get to Cambridge, Middle, Roble and points west,

Menlo Park has a very incomplet bike system that does little except for the most serious bikers. Paths are non-contiguous. It's nigh on to impossible to safely approach El Camino from east or west.

We need safe, connected routes for the people we want to get out of cars -- families, kids, adults running simple errands.


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Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

Dana Hendrickson, adding a third travel lane will make it more challenging for people to get a cross, both on foot and on bicycle. A bike lane on Alma does not serve well the needs of folks on the west side on El Camino with destinations on the west side of El Camino. Your proposal would have them crossing El Camino twice to go from Glenwood down to Cambridge. And the El Camino they would be crossing would be even more hostile to people walking and biking than it is today.

The consultant at the workshop was very clear that adding a third lane would not reduce travel times but simply increase the volume of cars. Induced demand is a known thing, it cannot be glossed over or ignored. I am not interested in pursuing an approach that will lead to the removal of eleven heritage trees at the corner of Ravenswood and ECR and that will increase the volume of car traffic. That will only make the cut-through problem in Allied Arts even worse than it is today.

If you do not believe that induced demand will apply to a widening of El Camino Real, I would be very interested in hearing why you think that is the case.


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 12:38 pm

more issues...

1. What's wrong with a "zig zag" route? I ride them every time I ride my bike. No BIG DEAL!

2. Greenheart WILL provide a north-south connector between Oak Grove and Garwood.

3. There are many more BUSY mid-block crossings and intersections on ECR than the Alma-based route.

4. There are many more intersections that will mix pedestrians and cyclists on ECR.

5. What do you mean by non-contiguous?

6. There are EXISTING bike lanes the entire length of Laurel. On Alma between East Creek and Ravenswood.
And on Ravenswood, Oak Grove and Encinal.

You need to look at a bike map.


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Posted by George C. Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 12:54 pm

The proposed El Camino Real (ECR) lane alternatives are not goals in themselves, just one means to achieve Menlo Park goals and priorities. Those goals include both pedestrian and bicycle safety use on and crossing ECR, which must be designed and built, as well as additional efforts made to prevent cut through direct or indirect traffic in our neighborhoods from ECR and new ECR projects. These additional efforts and new safe crossing facilities are essential City goals, and are not dependent upon, nor should they be sacrificed for, any purported “need” to try and accommodate apparently inexhaustible automobile traffic demand on ECR.

The least desired change to the ECR corridor according to the earlier survey is increasing travel speeds on ECR (only 17% positive, 32% neutral, and 51% negative). One explanation for this is that the highest priority among regular drivers and walkers is enhancement of pedestrian safety and crossings. Bikers and Transit riders favored inclusion of bike lanes followed by pedestrian safety. These positive goals of safety and increased environmentally friendly uses are contrary to increasing traffic volumes and speeds on ECR by adding automobile traffic lanes to ECR and through refusals to include bicycle lanes on ECR.

Adding safe bike friendly lanes along ECR would not only make crossing ECR easier and safer, those lanes would attract new riders and help reduce excessive automobile traffic from the projected thousands of new daily trips from the proposed Stanford and Greenheart projects. Attempting to divert bicycles on a maze along Alma, Garwood, and through specific plan projects is illusory. It just won’t happen, and would not be user friendly or safe enough it to attract new bicyclists from the added potential automobile drivers. Also, it is still possible to restrict automobile traffic to and from the Stanford and Greenheart projects through other means, including reduction of size. Sending bicycles elsewhere to allow more automobile traffic on ECR does not fulfill Menlo Park Goals.


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 12:56 pm

Tunbridge:

1. "adding a third travel lane will make it more challenging for people to get a cross, both on foot and on bicycle."

that's why we need to build a Middle Avenue to Alma Connector that crosses ECR and the train tracks.

2. "A bike lane on Alma does not serve well the needs of folks on the west side on El Camino with destinations on the west side of El Camino"

I do not understand why these people wold need to cross ECR twice since they start and end on the same side of ECR.

3." Induced demand is a known thing, it cannot be glossed over or ignored"

I do not disagree with the concept of "induced demand" nor have I said it should be ignored. However, the consultant has not explained the origins and destinations of these vehicles. Plus, he is using a computer model to predict "expected traffic". What is the range of likely outcomes? Risk? One cannot decide based solely on "expected values".

I am not a traffic expert so I cannot produce a similar model. HOWEVER, He DOES owe us a credible explanation of HIS numbers. That's what he is paid to do.

4. Did you see the huge difference in the number of intersections between the ECR and non-ECR options that I described in my earlier comment? And ECR has many more mid-block entrances/exits. These are the places where bike-vehicle collisions most often occur regardless of the signaling per bike safety studies.


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 1:09 pm

George, I suspect the survey results were heavily biased by a disproportionate % of cyclists because that community is actively promoting the idea of more bike lanes, rotes, and paths and this is quite natural. Also, none of my non-cycling neighbors I asked were even aware of the study, workshops, or survey.

Any regular cyclist worth his salt would have no problem whatsoever traveling what you refer to as the Alma "maze". In fact, they would be embarrassed to make such a statement.


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Posted by george C. Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 2:21 pm

Widening ECR won't cut traffic, but adding bicycle lanes will.

See Web Link


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Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 3:02 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

"I do not understand why these people wold need to cross ECR twice since they start and end on the same side of ECR."

Dana, the vast majority of the discussions about bike lanes on El Camino at some point involve Alma being proposed as the ideal alternative bike route. Which might be a choice for those folks east of El Camino, but I am specifically raising the question of the people on the west side of El Camino. If you don't want bike lanes on ECR, where do you suggest that people running errands on the west side of ECR go? Say getting some keys copied at AA Locks, dropping off a watch for repair at the clock place and then heading down to the Oasis to meet some friends and watch the game.

It's all well and good to suggest that Alma can be an alternative, but there has to be some recognition that Alma alone is not sufficient, because it's not a reasonable option for folks on the west side. That's my point.


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Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

I also have to take issue with "Any regular cyclist worth his salt would have no problem whatsoever traveling what you refer to as the Alma "maze". In fact, they would be embarrassed to make such a statement."

It is well understood that there are people who are interested in bicycling, and would be more likely to do it if they felt safer. People who are new to it, or people with kids. I would like Menlo Park to be a town that is bike-friendly to nine year olds. Getting across Ravenswood on Alma can be daunting, even when dismounting and walking the bike across the crosswalk, which I often do. There are plenty of other discussions on this site about the intersection of Ravenswood and Alma. It's a problem. Alma around the train station often has drivers circling for parking, anxious about missing a train or picked up a loved one at the station. They are distracted. I'm not embarrassed to say it's a problem, and we should do better.


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Posted by more issues
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 3:41 pm

DH - excuse me, but the north route from Oak Grove is Garwood, which would be opened up as a result of the 1300 ECR project, as it was going to be by the Derry project. It is not within the Greenheart project but a street called Garwood.

The zig zag route I reference would be northbound on Alma across Ravenswood to Oak Grove, then left across tracks and right on Garwood. That crosses Glenwood and stops at Encinal. Then what happens? Menlo Park goes to Watkins. How else but El Camino to continue north?

But let's use another example. Let's say I want to get to the Oasis from Linfield Oaks. I either have to south across the creek and then go on El Camino north, or I have to go to Ravenswood and go north on El Camino.

Ah yes, non-contiguous bike routes indeed. I have studied the maps and have biked around Menlo Park. See Figure 5-1 in the city's bike plan map. www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/372
Nothing on parts of santa cruz, middle, ravenswood. Some proposed improvements but nothing like what other cities have that supports kids and families.


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Tunbridge and "more issues".

Safety is FAR more important than convenience. Plus, the Alma route IS convenient enough!

1. The Alma + Greenheart + Garwood Bike Route would be MUCH safer than ECR.

2. The Laurel St Bike Route is safer than ECR.

Why?

Look at the graphics and charts on my website at Web Link

There are far fewer busy intersections.

AND there are far fewer mid-block points where vehicles would cross bike paths/lanes as they enter or exit public driveways and parking lots. This morning I counted about 30 on EACH side of ECR.

Busy intersections AND mid-block vehicle access points are where vehicles most often collide with bikes.

Also, intersections are where cyclists and pedestrians most often collide.

RE: Greenheart connector, "Garwood will be extended to connect Glenwood and Oak Grove and will be aligned with Merrill at Oak Grove to facilitate through traffic. This extension of Garwood will provide the missing link between Encinal and Ravenswood and thereby improve access to downtown and the CalTrain station for bicyclists and pedestrians. (Menlo Park Website) So this IS a north-south connector.

I have not said that Alma is already perfect, bike lanes do need to be added on the section between Ravenswood and Oak Grove. And a new project with no access to Alma is already been recommended to the city. Thi is a great time to fix this section.

Finally, anyone who wishes to get to a location on either side of ECR can do so by riding to an intersection on ECR and walking their bike for a few minutes.

We DO need a better network of bike lanes on the West side of ECR. How about Middle Avenue between Olive and University. On University from Middle to Santa Cruz, On University from Santa Cruz to Valparaiso? And if University is not feasible add a bike lane on Fremont between Middle and Santa Cruz. All of these are worth exploring.






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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 4:34 pm

Re; prior message, I meant to write

"And a new office project with no vehicle access to Alma is already being recommended to the city. So this is a great time to review and fix this section of Alma."


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 4:59 pm

The Santa Mateo County bike map says Middle Avenue between Olive and University is ALREADY a Class III bike route but I do not see anything on the street that indicates this is the case. Also, Olive should have a bike lane from Middle Avenue to Santa Cruz since many middle school kids bike on this street.

When I went to city hall today to get a bike map for Menlo Park I was given one dated 1991.

And there is nothing newer online.

Does not feel very bike-friendly.

Very strange!

Peace.


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Posted by more issues
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 5:23 pm

How about using Roble instead of Menlo/Ravenswood?

Yes, safety is really important. That's why so many parents and so few kids bike as much as would be possible if there were safer complete network. I like the other author's suggestion of design point is 9 year old. Let's face it, regular bikers will be willing to go a lot out of their way but tody'as non- or infrequent-bikers won't.


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Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

University is a very logical place for a proper bicycle lane. It's convenient to downtown and fairly central, and it runs all the way from Valparaiso to Creek. But putting in bike lanes on University is going to require removing a Very Large Number of parking spaces, and telling a lot of residents that no one can park in front of their house. This will be a tough sell politically. Will the people opposed to bike lanes on ECR come and speak out in favor of bike lanes on University or Fremont? I'm not holding my breath.

I have actually been thinking about this for a long time. A useful and politically feasible bike route on the west side of El Camino is really hard to identify. And it's bolstered my view that El Camino is actually the right place for bike lanes.


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Tunbridge, so I accept that we simply disagree. I believe safety is the MOST important criteria and would continue to actively discourage all my friends and family who bike to avoid ECR regardless of its configuration and regardless of their age and experience. Too many intersections and mid=block vehicle crossings = too much unnecessary risk especially when there are safer options. Palo Alto has built a much safer bike network, and I believe most bike network experts would agree their approach is far superior. Peace.


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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2015 at 9:25 pm

George:

Cutting lanes will increase congestion on ECR in Menlo Park; it will NOT reduce traffic. Drivers do not disappear when highway lanes are constrained. If it's still relatively easier to travel the length of ECR, drivers to/from Palo Alto and Stanford will either sit in traffic longer or take other routes through our neighborhoods. There is nothing magic about this. Where do you think they will go???


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Posted by Forget Alma
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 28, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Alma is not the best south/north bicycle route. The Ravenswood intersection is neither bike or ped friendly. Alma ends at Oak Grove and the left hand turn to reach Garwood is tricky with motorists trying to catch the green light at ECR. And once on Garwood, there's another impediment at the next intersection. Using the Alma bridge to Palo Alto leaves bicyclists the choice of getting back to Emerson or trying to cross Alma to reach the bike lane across the street.The best north/south bicycle route is Laurel that reaches Willow and then a left hand turn on Willow brings one to Waverly and the bridge to Palo Alto.

If there are deep underpasses of the train tracks at Ravenswood and OakGrove, there will also have to be an overpass of the deep approaches to the tunnels or Alma will be closed in both directions at Ravenswood and Oak Grove. The deeper the tunnel, the longer the approaches. It's simple geometry.

Keeping the tracks at grade will rob access to properties starting at the Axis business (slated to be redeveloped) down Ravenswood to Laurel. Visit the Redwood City Jefferson undercrossing for a reality check.

Anyone who thinks Middle is a potential bike route for school age children has to remember the entrances/exits of Safeway and the gas station plus the perpendicular parking at the park. Bike lanes won't help. Remember the 2 left-hand turns off ECR traveling north. I wouldn't want my kid using Middle. This is a dumb place for an undercrossing except as an amenity for the tenants of Stanford's apartments to reach Burgess park and the library.


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