News

Menlo Park Planning Commission again recommends bike lanes on El Camino Real

But this time vote is not unanimous

After a lengthy dissection of a 7-0 vote made at a previous meeting to recommend adding bike lanes, but not car lanes, to El Camino Real, the Menlo Park Planning Commission on April 20 stood by its recommendation, but this time it wasn't unanimous.

Commissioner Katherine Strehl dissented and John Onken abstained on the 4-1-1 vote. Andrew Combs was absent.

The request to revisit the issue was brought by Commissioner John Kadvany. After the original vote, taken on April 6, city officials received emails questioning why unbuffered bike lanes were favored for a busy state highway instead of more car lanes or bike lanes physically separated from other vehicle traffic. Several public speakers at the April 20 meeting made similar comments.

Commissioner Katie Ferrick, in making the motion to uphold the original recommendation, said she thought the unbuffered bike lanes struck a balance between creating an illusion of bicycle safety, as buffered lanes could, versus slowing traffic down by adding car lanes. The design alternatives study carried out by consultants W-Trans came to the "counterintuitive" conclusion that more car lanes equaled longer travel times, she said, but that conclusion is backed up "by quite a body of evidence."

Mr. Onken said he was abstaining not because he objected to the recommendation, but to the timing. With a general plan update underway that will involve looking at the circulation element (the blueprint for travel around the city whether by vehicle, bike or foot), he felt making a recommendation for the El Camino Real would be out of context.

He compared it to ordering from a dessert tray that presented a few choices before getting the rest of the meal. "There are a lot of other things going into this meal that are not part of this discussion," he said, including safety issues and emergency vehicle response times brought up by Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman, who backed adding more car lanes instead of bike lanes.

Ms. Strehl opted to dissent, for the same reason, and added that upcoming projects along El Camino Real, which have not yet been submitted to the city, could also influence the decision. "I feel like this is the wrong time to be making a recommendation of this sort," she said.

However, Commissioner Vince Bressler said that since people are already biking along El Camino Real, the time was right to do something to make the road safer. "If we make the recommendation, the project designs that follow will be forced to take that into consideration," he said. "If we're wishy-washy now, who knows what will happen?"

The City Council will make the final choice of a design option after considering the recommendations of the planning, bicycle and transportation commissions.

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by waze
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 22, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Having six lanes for cars on ECR may benefit drivers from Palo Alto and Redwood City as they drive through Menlo Park. Then, apps like Waze will send more vehicles our way so people dining at the Cafe can enjoy 1/3 more exhaust with their meal from the parking lot that ECR becomes during commute times.


2 people like this
Posted by concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 22, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Morons, all of them ! No one ever listens to the Fire Chief/Fire District, where safety is paramount. Please don't
complain if you need emergency services & it is delayed by biking lanes instead of "emergency lanes"..No one is
going to feel for you...


14 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 22, 2015 at 2:03 pm

Thank you Planning Commission for staying with the right decision.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 22, 2015 at 3:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Watching the Planning Commission trying to deal with this issue in the absence of a current General Plan and a current Circulation Element that complies with the law and City Council's Complete Streets Resolution was like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

"If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there." – Lewis Carroll

And I was appalled to have one of the Commissioners tell me that he did not know what the California law was that requires a city to have a current General Plan. That was in spite of his oath as a Planning Commissioner to support and uphold the laws of California. And another Planning Commissioner suggested the fire engines (which require a 12 ft lane) could easily use a (six ft wide) bike lane. And then to top it one one Commissioner attacked personally the Fire Chief, another Fire Board member and myself for having the audacity to tell the truth.

All in all an interesting and sad evening.



3 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 23, 2015 at 8:29 am

really? is a registered user.

@concerned and Peter-
take your argument to Council and you might have a more respectful/informed ear. But if you feel dishonored by the antics of some Commissioners,keep your cool as returning fire is unproductive. Watching the session on line (if you can stay awake), some good points seemed to have been made.


5 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 23, 2015 at 8:33 am

SteveC is a registered user.

Now is the time for the City C take over and do the right thing.


15 people like this
Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 23, 2015 at 11:59 am

Please help me understand how it would be easier for a fire truck to negotiate three lanes of grid-locked cars in each direction than a relatively empty 6-8 foot bike lane with a 3-foot painted buffer zone. Can’t fire trucks drive on paint?

By the way, Caltrans recently released a Strategic Management Plan (see Web Link ) that includes the goal of tripling bicycle mode share and doubling walking and transit mode share by 2020. It also seeks to reduce vehicle-miles traveled per capita by 15 percent in the same time frame.

Bravo to our state department of transportation for finally starting to understand that local roads need to be designed for use by everyone, not just automobile drivers. Let’s hope our city council members agree and that they vote to proceed with adding buffered bike lanes to ECR.


3 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

David:

fire trucks, as noted above, require a 12 foot lane. Even driving on paint doesn't get them a 12 foot lane in your scenario.


5 people like this
Posted by wondering
a resident of another community
on Apr 23, 2015 at 8:31 pm

I am wondering how fire trucks deal with the current situation on El Camino where the third lane has numerous parked cars.


9 people like this
Posted by Roberto
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 23, 2015 at 9:41 pm

How did the fire chief become an expert on bicycle safety? What are his qualifications? Is he an experienced bike rider, or is he one of those car drivers who claims to know what is best for bikes?


12 people like this
Posted by LAFD is OK
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 23, 2015 at 10:23 pm

The Los Angeles Fire Department has “no concerns” about the transformation of auto traffic lanes to bicycle passageways. Web Link

Milick is the commander of the LAFD’s Hydrant and Access Unit, which partly oversees issues related to the right of Fire vehicles, Fremaux said in a phone conversation with Patch.

“He basically said that the bicycle striping on the street does not interfere with either Fire vehicles or bicycles having to pull over out of the way” for Fire trucks,” Fremaux told Patch.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:42 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What is not in the report and what almost nobody understands are horizontal dimensions of the proposal for ECR.

At the meeting last week it was quietly mentioned that the automobiles lanes would have to be made narrower to accommodate the bike lanes.

IF the automobile lanes are full and the bike lanes are 6 ft wide with a three ft painted buffer there in NOT sufficient room for a fire engine. The above referenced LAFD photo show a fire engine going the wrong way in an automobile turn lane, not a bike lane.

Why were there no horizontal dimensions of the proposed lane alternatives in the ECR study?
Probably because the cramming required would have been obvious and unacceptable.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 8:46 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"How did the fire chief become an expert on bicycle safety? "
By picking up lots of injured bicyclists and because public safety is one of his assigned job responsibilities.

"Is he an experienced bike rider,"
Yes. Prior to his accident he frequently rode more than ten miles each way to work.


Like this comment
Posted by wondering
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2015 at 9:23 am

It appears to me that removing the parked cars on El Camino would create more room on the road for both bicyclists and fire trucks, as well as for visibility of pedestrians crossing the street, thereby increasing the safety of everyone.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 10:17 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"t appears to me that removing the parked cars on El Camino would create more room on the road for both bicyclists and fire trucks,"

In those area where parking is currently allowed removing that parking would increase the width of the available right of way. However, where parking is not allowed adding buffered bike lanes would reduce the right of way available for motorized traffic.

Sadly there are no horizontal dimensions on the ECR Study alternatives so we do not know how much space will actually be available on ECR block by block including provision for right turn lanes that somehow protect bicyclists. Why no dimensions?

The City is trying to making decisions regarding ECR in the absence of:
1 - a current General Plan
2 - a current Circulation Element that complies with the State Law on Complete Streets
3 - any actually dimensions for each of the lanes in the proposed alternatives.

And for this they are spending $500k?


4 people like this
Posted by ReportReader
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 24, 2015 at 11:01 am

On El Camino Real lane widths in the report, current lane widths are presented on four pages after page 3 or so. So any narrowing would be from those but will depend on the part of El Camino affected. I appreciate input from the Fire District, but along with David above do not understand how eliminating parking makes it more difficult for fire engines. Even if the bike lanes have a physical divider, this likely can be driven over by larger vehicles. Lane width narrowing is taken to be a standard means of traffic calming, but others may disagree.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 24, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Report Reader - Please provide the dimensions for each of the lanes on each of the blocks on ECR under each of the three alternatives and your source for those dimensions.

Thanks.

Note there is not a button on a fire engine that can be pushed to narrow its width by one, two or three feet.

And anyone who thinks that the "road diet" of removing lanes reduces traffic please go look at Willow Road East of Middlefield to 101. That used to be 4 lanes and is now 2 lanes - why hasn't the traffic diminished?
Why does the Fire District find this section of Willow Road virtually unusable 6-8 hours a day? What is happening to fire and ambulance response times because of this 'road diet"?
Remember diets can be dangerous and even deadly.


Like this comment
Posted by wondering
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2015 at 12:57 pm

The proposal for El Camino in Menlo Park is to remove parked
cars, not to remove any lanes of traffic.


Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 24, 2015 at 1:08 pm

The addition of bike lanes should be accompanied by a couple of other changes:
1) No parking at all on El Camino;
2) No right turns on red lights from Santa Cruz onto El Cam; ( I pity cyclists dodging parallel traffic+parked cars+right-turn- on-red cars moving over 2 lanes to make a left at the next intersection.)
Re: Lane width reduction - that will be even harder for cars to avoid huge multi-axle trucks which take up a lot of lane width & make very wide turns.

It's too bad we have shrubbery-filled medians in which jaywalkers are usually not visible, as those could be used by emergency vehicles.


2 people like this
Posted by SCB
a resident of another community
on Apr 24, 2015 at 4:11 pm

SCB is a registered user.

I think you all should listen to Peter Carpenter. El Camino is dangerous for bikers no matter what you do to it. There is just too much auto traffic on El Camino for bikers who would like to remain alive. What percentage of people who use El Camino are bikers? So why let bikers determine what El Camino should look like? Bikers are such a small percentage of traffic, they should not have a word in determining the makeup of El Camino. No bike lanes for ECR!! A miniscule amount of the population should not be deciding the roadways, and they are the only ones for it. So forget about this ridiculous idea!


2 people like this
Posted by katherine
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 24, 2015 at 6:16 pm

ROBERTO,

In case you didn't know, the Fire Chief biked daily from his home in Los Altos to the Fire District offices on Middlefield Road in Menlo Park, NEVER biking on El Camino (he used Bryant through Palo Alto which is designated that street as the primary "bike" route. He did this until he had a tragic accident, leaving him a paraparetic. So, the Chief does know something about bicycling and safety issues.


Like this comment
Posted by weak commission
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 12:08 pm

A 7-0 vote is proof that there is no real backbone to this commission. It is an awful decision but no commissioner wants to "do nothing" and they thought it was easier to put cyclists at risk than to agree to more traffic. Stand up!!!!!!


10 people like this
Posted by John Onken
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 25, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Thanks @weak commission.

I should remind you that we're not a weak commission. We meet every two weeks.


Like this comment
Posted by nuff said
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 25, 2015 at 4:48 pm

quite the substantive response from a planning commish member.


8 people like this
Posted by Roberto
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 26, 2015 at 6:16 pm

So the Chief is an expert on bike safety because he rode his bike every day for 10 years, just the way the people who drive their car every day for 10 years are traffic safety experts. He is also an expert on bike safety because his paramedic crews pick up injured bicyclists, just the way my garbage men's supervisor is an expert on nutrition because his crews pick up food discards.

No disrespect to the chief, but riding a bike does not make you an expert in safety. There is an organization that certifies bike safety instructors, the League of American Bicyclists (Web Link). These people are trained and tested and REALLY know the facts about how to bike safely, not just superstition and their own experiences. Even so, they are not necessarily bike planners, but it would be good to have one of them look at the plans and give feedback.


2 people like this
Posted by biker
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 27, 2015 at 12:59 pm

In my opinion-- keep bikes off of busy streets. i ride my bike a lot and i see other cyclists on el camino presently and alma street and even Oregon Expressway and it makes me cringe. it just doesn't make any sense for cyclists to think that if they get hit by a car--even if they are in the right, that somehow they will be saved because of a bike lane. cars simply aren't looking for cyclists--especially when they come up full speed or even slightly slowing down on the right side of a car or when they don't stop at stop signs or do the california role through stop signs. cars just aren't looking for cyclists--who is going to lose in that situation. i stay off busy streets feeling that my life is more important than being road kill or heaven forbid it might take me 5 minutes longer to get somewhere--but, at least i get there. have you ever been on a freeway or even a busy street and having some motor cyclist come up from behind and try to squeeze between two cars--scares me to death, because i am just not looking for something small and unexpected to jump into the picture. same with bicycles--cars just aren't in the mind frame to be looking out for you. no matter how much you try-- you will never be a car, you are still a bicycle. doesn't matter if there is a bike lane or not-- do the right thing and stay off of busy roads--there are plenty of other ways to get the same place--and to arrive there alive.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 27, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"No disrespect to the chief, but riding a bike does not make you an expert in safety. "

I suggest that you do your homework and see how perfunctory are the requirements to be a League of American Bicyclists Instructor. The Fire Chief, with two decades of bike riding experience on OUR roads and more than two decades of experience picking up injured and dead bicyclists from OUR roads, is vastly more qualified to speak to this issue than a League of American Bicyclists Instructor.


10 people like this
Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 27, 2015 at 11:10 pm

Adding buffered bike lanes to El Camino does not endanger cyclists as much as doing nothing. Few cyclists use ECR when there are useful alternate routes, but for some trips, ECR is simply the fastest and most direct route, and the road should reflect that fact and accommodate cyclists. Also, bicyclists should be able to patronize the businesses on ECR. It is no doubt true that the addition of buffered bike lanes on ECR would attract more riders. This is good! There is an effect called "safety in numbers", which has been demonstrated in many locations. When there are more cyclists on the road, the bicycle accident rate goes down, benefiting all cyclists. Bravo to the Planning Commission members who were not swayed by the scare-mongering of some of the speakers at the meeting.


Like this comment
Posted by biker
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 28, 2015 at 9:01 am

there is also a rule called "doing the smart thing" bicyclists on ECR under any circumstance or wild ideas of safety because there is a lane--is not the smart thing--doesn't matter how much research or finances go into the project--it simply is not the smart thing. it is dangerous enough to ride on "designated" bike streets such as Bryant. If someone wants to do shopping on ECR as one comment-er said, there are ways to avoid riding on ECR for miles to get to that store. Too much nonsense in all of this. if you want to arrive safely, do the smart thing. but, again, it is entirely up to you how you want to arrive at your destination.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 9:21 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

When a flew a small single engine Cessna I had the "right" to fly into SFO but I never exercised that "right". Why, because mixing a small airplane with the "big iron" was inherently dangerous.

Yes, bicyclists have the "right" to be on any street except freeways but sometimes exercising that "right" can be the wrong decision. And encouraging that "right" by painting millimeters thick buffers on the street creates a false illusion of safety.

Instead Menlo Park should do what other smart communities have already done and that is produce an updated Circulation Element that includes a viable and safe city wide bike path network. And then build that safe bike network.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If you want to see how having a current General Plan with a Complete Streets compliant Circulation Element allows an informed discussion on installing new bicycle paths then please read this report:

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:51 pm

Peter Carpenter thinks that if only Menlo Park would plan and execute a "safe bike network", then all would be fine, and no bicyclist would ever have to risk riding on a busy street. Even if such a network could be constructed, and it would take vast amounts of real estate probably obtained by eminent domain, unless you are talking about bike lanes, which are not safe, according to Carpenter, the network would not take a cyclist past the city limits of Menlo Park. Also, it is useful to look at the available alternative routes to El Camino. I live in the Willows, just northeast of Willow and Middlefield. I bike to Redwood City regularly. From my home, taking El Camino would be out of my way, but look at Middlefield: The section in the County, between 9th Ave. and Douglas, is arguably more challenging for a cyclist than El Camino. Because of all the parking, one has to take the curb lane to avoid the door zone for that entire distance, about 0.8 miles. For another alternate route, I would take Coleman to Ringwood, then Bay, Marsh, Florence, and Bay into Redwood City. Again because of parking, one has to take the lane from Florence to 5th Ave. Motorists who wish to pass a bicyclist must use the center left turn lane, which is illegal. Alameda de las Pulgas is available for those already in far western Menlo Park, but going into central Redwood City from Alameda without using an arterial is not straightforward, and Alameda itself is an arterial with mere bike lanes, so I guess it isn't safe, either, according to Mr. Carpenter. There is a route to Redwood City somewhat closer to El Camino that starts at Valparaiso and Elena, but it has seven right turns, six left turns and as many stop signs. The fact is, that if you are going to actually travel from here to there on a bike, or in a car, sooner or later you are going to have to travel on an arterial, so it really is important that arterials, like El Camino, Middlefield and Bay Road be complete streets. Since the focus of this discussion has been El Camino, it seems to me that the people objecting to making El Camino a complete street are seeing El Camino as it is today, that is, challenging and perceived as unsafe for bicyclists, and they lack the imagination to see it as greatly improved for bicycle travel by the addition of buffered bike lanes.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 30, 2015 at 7:00 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Robert - You take great liberties in lying about what I have said.

I do not believe the ECR is now nor can it be a safe bike route without Class I bikeways.

I have never raised the safety issue with respect to other route.

A city wide bike plan is mandated by State Law.

Put your talents to being constructive and start by reviewing Palo Alto's bike plan anthem Bryant St bikeway in particular and then new Arastradero Plan referenced above.


2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 30, 2015 at 7:54 am

really? is a registered user.

Here's one of my favorite maps illustrating the need for joined-up thinking when it comes to bike lanes:

Web Link


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

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