News

Atherton moving to put stoplight at El Camino & Almendral

Intersection is site of July 2014 fatal accident

Atherton's City Council is quickly moving toward installing a pedestrian-controlled stoplight on El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue, where a 32-year-old Atherton resident, Shahriar Rahimzadeh, was fatally injured in July 2014.

The item will be considered when the council meets on Wednesday, April 15, in the town's council chambers, 94 Ashfield Road. The proposal from engineering firm Stantec Consulting Services Inc. says the town intends to start installing the stoplight by this fall.

This project is moving much faster than plans to install pedestrian-controlled stoplights at the Isabella Avenue and Alejandra Avenue intersections with El Camino Real. According to City Manager George Rodericks, the reason is that the town is paying for and managing the installation of the Almendral stoplight while Caltrans will pay for and install the other two lights. They aren't expected to be ready until 2017.

The stoplight would remain dark unless turned on by a pedestrian or bicyclist. The controls could be over-ridden by fire and other emergency vehicles.

The contract is proposed to be on a time and materials basis not to exceed $45,988. It is on the council's consent calendar, which means that unless a council member or someone from the audience asks to have further discussion, it can be approved without discussion.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 15, 2015 at 1:48 pm

Safer crosswalks are badly needed on El Camino Real. Glad at least one is finally happening.


Like this comment
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 18, 2015 at 5:07 pm

Many pedestrians view crosswalks as a way to force traffic to stop and walk out in front of traffic on the assumption that traffic will stop. On this part of El Camino where traffic moves briskly, the pedestrian crosswalk creates a suicide risk. Unlike the tracks at Caltrain, such crosswalks may be an inducement to suicide because they may result in a judgement against a driver for failing to stop.

I have crossed that part of El Camino many times at rush hour. There are long gaps in the traffic created by traffic lights well upstream. With patience, it is possible to cross safely by waiting for the traffic to clear. If it is not possible to cross both sides of the road at once, there are islands where a pedestrian may wait.

My suggestion follows from the work Hans Monderman in regards to improving safety by encouraging direct communication between road users instead of using signals, signs and crosswalks. Web Link

Simply remove the crosswalks on that uncontrolled part of El Camino.


2 people like this
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 18, 2015 at 5:28 pm

The article states that lights are planned for Isabella Avenue and Alejandra Avenue. That will extend the congestion now confined to Menlo Park and Redwood City, and is a very bad idea.

Presently the spans between traffic lights on El Camino to permit most vehicles to hit only green lights while traversing Atherton on El Camino, in both directions. Bi-directional "green waves" are only possible if there is a large distance between lights. The addition of lights at Isabella and Alejandra will make it impossible for drivers to continue to benefit from green waves in both directions, simultaneously.

At least ten thousand cars travel that part of El Camino every day. The additional lights will force tens of thousands of stops and restarts with attendant costs in time, fuel consumption, noise and additional risks of rear end collision.

It's a poor, meddling policy that is likely to be counter-productive for traffic safety. It will intensify an already severe congestion problem.


Like this comment
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 19, 2015 at 2:40 pm

How about a couple of pedestrian bridges? Cost?

Fines for pedestrians crossing anywhere else?

And jail if they are repeat offenders.


5 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 19, 2015 at 5:47 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

Dana Hendrickson wants to punish people for crossing El Camino Real by putting repeat offenders in jail. Are you kidding me? First, what a shameful and useless waste of taxpayer dollars. Second, you know this is going to fall disproportionately on low income people, right? The folks who have to take the bus, and have to get across the street to their bus stop, do we help them get across the street safely? No, let's throw them in jail. Gobsmacked. Utterly gobsmacked.

And pedestrian bridges wouldn't work on ECR for a host of reasons 1) who's going to pay for them? 2) To make bridges effective, you have to fence both sides of the road (look at how many barriers Menlo Park had to put up on Ravenswood at Alma, if you want to oblige people to go a certain route, you have to make other routes impossible.) 3) the Atherton residents with homes backing on to ECR, they will object to any pedestrian bridges that would impact their privacy.

Still stunned at the suggestion that we jail people for crossing the street. Wow.


Like this comment
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2015 at 11:08 am

Thank you, Tunbridge, for your response to Dana. You echoed my thoughts in a much more cogent manner.


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Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 20, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Fines for pedestrians would be fine so long they are imposed only on pedestrians who step out in front of traffic. As far as I know, this is an important distinction missing from the definition of jaywalking in California. Within a crosswalk, Californians have legal right to stop scores of cars. Most are polite and sensible enough not to do so, waiting until such time as they can cross without interfering with traffic. But some do intentionally embark on a collision course with vehicles and, as I pointed out, getting injured or killed may result in a large award.

The widely spaced lights on El Camino in Atherton allow for smooth, bi-directional traffic flow. This is a green policy that saves fuel. It also saves time for Atherton residents, and saves even more time for people transiting through. If some 20,000 drivers, a rough estimate of the daily vehicle count in both directions, spend an extra 2 minutes waiting at the new lights, that's 40,000 minutes a day. There are less than 1,000 waking minutes in a day so the new lights will in effect eat up 40 person days every day.

That's 40 days lost per day. Has even one of the citizens or officials responsible for the new lights considered this? I bet not.


5 people like this
Posted by Win-win
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 20, 2015 at 6:25 pm

@Bruce McHenry - You may not have noticed, but these lights Atherton is planning to put in on El Camino are "pedestrian-activated stoplights," not conventional lights. I believe they are green at all times unless a pedestrian or bike rider pushes a button to change them. It really is not possible that there are enough pedestrians and bike riders wanting to cross El Camino to make the impact you are describing. The fire district also wants to be able to pre-empt at least the first light planned, at Almendral, which would mean that emergency vehicles would not be slowed down by the light and could even be sped up if they need to make a turn.
This seems to be a way to save lives at little impact to commuters. Too bad Caltrans can't fast track a project that would save lives.


Like this comment
Posted by Thank you!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 21, 2015 at 4:49 pm

Always appreciate efforts to try make it safe for pedestrians!


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Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jun 21, 2015 at 9:52 pm

Win-win,
I did notice that the one $45,000 light is to be pedestrian activated, but there are two more lights planned. Are they also going to be pedestrian activated, or will they be on fixed timing? How much will the average delay be?


Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Mr. Tunbridge: as happened many times before, I am always amused (but not stunned) - with the outrage I provoke in you with my poor attempts at satire. But I readily admit your long responses are always funnier than my feeble attempts. How about this one? Perhaps we could save of wealthy Atherton's cost of fine management and bridge-building and even reduce the "burden on the poor" with collection boxes along El Camino. I bet quite a few motorists would stop and contribute something if the purpose was clear, and we could also ask them to subsidize the "poor".
Whoops! Am I responding to YOUR satirical comment? :)


3 people like this
Posted by Win-win
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 22, 2015 at 2:21 pm

@Bruce McHenry - The articles say all three lights would be pedestrian activated hybrid pedestrian beacons. Atherton has also said it is not possible to build pedestrian bridges across El Camino due to the requirements that they be ADA-compliant, which would mean they would require a very long run up so a wheel chair could use them. Do you know of any of these on El Camino anywhere???


2 people like this
Posted by Lev
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 22, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Instead of building pedestrian bridges over El Camino, why not build an auto bridge over Atherton? Cars can gain the elevation easier than pedestrians, who would then be free to cross under wherever they want. None of the people driving on El Camino really want to go to Atherton, anyway, and Atherton doesn't want those people in their town, either, so everyone would be happy.


2 people like this
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 22, 2015 at 9:23 pm

Win-win,

There is a pedestrian/bike bridge for a bike path over El Camino and the Caltrain tracks parallel to 85 in Mountain View. It extends far beyond the tracks and El Camino on both sides on county land. I do not believe there is an comparable opportunity to cross El Camino. If there was, I would not advocate for one due to a low cost to benefit ratio.


2 people like this
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 22, 2015 at 9:33 pm

There are median strips on El Camino throughout Atherton. These are places where prudent pedestrians can wait. I've crossed El Camino many times at rush hour. With some patience to wait out the long light cycles, it is not difficult to cross safely.

At rush hour, car queues accumulate. If all the cars cannot get through on the green cycle, the remaining cars add to the number of cars waiting on the next green. The new pedestrian lights will last at least 30 seconds due to the width of El Camino. There is no way to time the pedestrian light in the long lightless span without interfering with the green light sequencing on one side of the street so the cars the pedestrian stops will miss the next sequenced green. At capacity, the addition of these cars at the next light will prevent the light from clearing. The smooth traffic flow now seen though Atherton will be disrupted and there will be traffic having to restart with consequential noise for surrounding residences.

California traffic law requires vehicles to stop once a pedestrian steps into a crosswalk. On major streets like El Camino, this can leads to unsafe condition like the one that must have killed Mr. Rahimzadeh. A pedestrian can step into the crosswalk on El Camino without there being a buffer lane of parked cars. He is immediately in the roadway where cars average 40+ MPH. Obviously, prudent and sane people wait for traffic to clear before crossing.

While the vehicle code attempts to protect foolish pedestrians, it also gives them the right to create dangerous situations. Drivers who slam on their brakes in an attempt to obey the law are likely to be violently rear ended.

My solution is cheapest and arguably just as safe as installing expensive pedestrian lights. Just eliminate the crosswalk. Then pedestrians who need to cross will then be more likely to exercise caution, be patient and wait to cross until they are not interfering with traffic.

As for kids, it is very bad to teach kids to obey the lights without looking out for traffic. No DON'T WALK light ever killed a child. A pedestrian light might be safer for kids on any given instance of crossing El Camino, but it won't teach them that the most important thing is to look out for traffic and stay out of the way.


2 people like this
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 22, 2015 at 10:03 pm

The old, probably now deceased, traffic engineers who put in the widely spaced lights in Atherton's section of El Camino knew what they were doing. The wide spacing allow traffic to get only green lights - in both directions.

One push of the pedestrian light button at rush hours could easily cause hundreds of starts and stops from 40+MPH. Traffic engineering can really bollix things up. Hans Monderman demonstrated that.

From Web Link:

In 1982, Monderman was appointed road safety investigator in the town of Oudehaske at a time when budget cuts had derailed plans for traffic calming measures, even though there had been several recent traffic fatalities. To save money while still keeping the streets safe, Monderman approached the idea of removing signs and street furniture in order to create a flat, even surface where travelers of all modes had to negotiate rights-of-way amongst themselves. The plan exceeded even his own expectations, cutting vehicle speeds by forty percent. The absence of all traffic controls increased driver awareness, forcing them to slow down.

Web Link=
Web Link

video: Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 23, 2015 at 6:42 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Bruce:

only one problem using the study you cite; in 1982 there were no cell phones and people were far less likely to be driving distracted. That is a big part of the problem now. Eliminate traffic control devices now and you just give the distracted driver a longer period of time to stare at their phone without looking up.

The next time you see APD on ECR north of Almendral working radar, stop and ask them what speeds they're writing tickets for and how many people they cite for talking on their phones. You'll be amazed. They don't call that spot a "duck pond" for no reason.


8 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2015 at 10:23 am

Bruce, it is wonderful that you are agile enough and alert enough to cross El Camino with no assistance, but not everyone is that fortunate. Many people are slower, need to watch their footing carefully, and can't see traffic as well as you do. Should we just throw those people under the bus, so to speak, or should we try to provide them safe crossings? The current trend at the national, state, and local level is to provide safe access to everyone. Caltrans has a new Strategic Management Plan (Web Link ) that lists safety as the first goal, with system performance the number four goal. The plan even calls for doubling the number of pedestrian trips by 2020, while reducing the number of pedestrian fatalities by 10% each year. I don't think there is any way in the world that you will get them to agree to remove crosswalks on El Camino.


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Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 23, 2015 at 11:57 am

Donald,

Thank you for the link.

Rahimzadeh was 32. It is rather unlikely that a lack of agility was the cause of his death. Typically, pedestrian fatalities in that kind of situation arise when one car stops abruptly for the pedestrian who then gets hit by a driver who did not slam on his brakes. Note that the instances of sharp braking for inconsiderate pedestrians results in quite a few rear end collisions, and some of these are very serious too.

As for not being able to see you down the road and having enough time to cross, I disagree. The entire section is straight. One can see very far down the road when it's empty and that happens every couple of minutes. In the unlikely event that there is an elderly pedestrian inching across, drivers can see that hundreds of yards in advance and slow accordingly with no risk of being smashed from behind.

The risk of fatal injury goes a very rapidly with speed, something like the fifth power. The work of Hans Monderman demonstrates that drivers are willing to drive more slowly if they are not held up by traffic lights. The problem with traffic controls and is that they make people pay attention to them instead of being considerate for others.

When a pedestrian pushes one of the proposed crosswalk light buttons, do you think they will care if they create an hour of cumulative delay for drivers?
Would you care about it? Judging by the lack of likes on my posts, one might assume that nobody does.


6 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 23, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

I'm noticing that you are awfully concerned about the potential for delay to people driving cars, and appear to have zero concern for the delay to or safety of people on foot, going so far as to call them "inconsiderate." (If the car behind them had been following at a safe distance, they would have had adequate time to react. The rear-end collision is the fault of the person following too closely.)

Our use of single driver cars is going to change in the future. Cars take a vast amount of resources and cost us in a myriad of ways, and millennials aren't interested in owning cars. It's a functional tool, not an expression of their identity.

Given that the safety of people walking is greatly enhanced by cars slowing down, I personally am not terribly troubled by a few moments of delay. I'd prefer everyone to arrive safely at their destination.


4 people like this
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 23, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Tunbridge Wells,

You are correct that SOV, Single Occupancy Vehicles, are on the outs. There's a long running case now of SOVs picking up passengers at known bus stops before crossing into SF on the Bay Bridge. If and when drivers start running ridesharing software, they will pick up additional passengers who would otherwise drive themselves. This would reduce the vehicle count and congestion. It's even conceivable that using smartphones to do the tolling, HOT lanes could be designated on multi-lane surface streets like El Camino. That would encourage ridesharing app use, either to qualify as HOV or to defray the toll.

But getting back to pedestrian crossing where there's a high volume of quickly moving traffic, do you dispute my contention that pedestrians who walk out into the thick of traffic and force it to stop are inconsiderate? Is that what you would do? Do you think that pedestrians should walk out into an uncontrolled crosswalk whenever they want, just like the law appears to imply?


9 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 23, 2015 at 2:58 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

You may very well believe that pedestrians crossing at uncontrolled crosswalks are inconsiderate. You are free to explain that to the police when they pull you over, or you can check out the vehicle code. Pedestrians have the right of way, even at uncontrolled crosswalks. Web Link


4 people like this
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 23, 2015 at 3:21 pm

TW,

I am perfectly aware of the code, and you could also have found You Tube videos of the police running traps: Web Link

My question was not about the code, it was directed at you personally. Do you walk out into uncontrolled crosswalks on a collision course with traffic?


5 people like this
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 23, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

You're free to call it entrapment, but that doesn't make it so. Entrapment implies that absent government inducement, the person would not have done it without the government luring him or her into acting. Second, entrapment only applies to criminal acts. Failing to yield to a pedestrian is not technically a crime, it's an infraction. So a search on youtube may well generate a bunch of hits of people complaining about police entrapment, but that isn't what's actually happening.

To answer your question, how do you define "collision course"? Obviously I am not going to step directly into oncoming traffic. Am I willing to step out into a legal crosswalk, when the car is far enough away to yield safely? Sure. And you would too, I'm quite sure of it, if you had to get to the other side of the street.


4 people like this
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 23, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Point taken on the legal definition of entrapment. That does not change my opinion of ticketing operations where pedestrians and paid officers imprudently walk out into traffic.

You are quite wrong about my behavior as a pedestrian. I find that there are always intervals when I can cross without interfering with traffic. When there's a lot of traffic, I turn left or right and keep going. If my destination is straight ahead, I wait, and do so well back from the crosswalk because I do not want to interrupt the traffic flow.

If there are only one or two cars, I never force them to yield to me as a pedestrian. I always wave them on first. I would much rather go behind than ahead of them. That is safer for me. It is also faster for the drivers and does not delay me.

I often cross mid-block after I have observed that the lights have turned red for traffic. That is the one time I expect the turning cars to yield to me or, more precisely, to not over accelerate since their next light is red.




4 people like this
Posted by Bruce McHenry
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 23, 2015 at 5:17 pm

As for my meaning of collision course, that would be walking out into the street such that you are creating a risk of getting hit and depending on traffic to yield.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda

on Sep 26, 2017 at 11:39 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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

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