Editorial: Drivers, stay calm -- give plan a chance


After a woman in a vehicle was struck and killed by a train at the Ravenswood Avenue tracks in February, the clamor for the city to "do something -- now" to fix the complex of roadway hazards in the Ravenswood-Alma Street area was pronounced.

To their credit, Menlo Park city staff acted quickly with a trial plan of new restrictions and visual elements put into place early this month.

As with any problem involving interrelated components, where any "solution" is bound to have unintended consequences, the solution to this engineering challenge was seen as a work in progress, to be studied, reviewed, tweaked and finalized over a six-month period.

The city's action has triggered another clamor that might be categorized under the heading: "What on earth could you be thinking?" Complaints have streamed into City Hall over the few weeks the trial has been in place, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The trial cannot be successful without the full process playing out, and that includes the public's reaction so that realistic changes can be put in place where needed. Reactions from the people who must navigate the roadway are valuable, and can include ideas for improvement that the city's staff might not have thought of.

Unfortunately, not all the reaction has been helpful. In addition to those who have contacted City Hall with complaints and ideas, the ranks of an unwelcome brigade of ill-tempered road warriors has swelled, with drivers inventing their own rules of the road as they dodge cones, ignore barricades, zip into lanes for oncoming traffic, and generally menace everyone else in their way, including pedestrians.

During the first week of the trial, according to an article by Sandy Brundage in this week's Almanac, police issued tickets to these warriors for violations including failing to yield to pedestrians, driving on the wrong side of the road, crossing the double-yellow lines, and ignoring traffic signs. Extra enforcement in the area is expected to continue, for which those of us who value our lives and those of our children and neighbors should be grateful.

Before designing the trial plan to improve safety in an area that in the last 10 years has seen five incidents on the train tracks and 15 vehicle-pedestrian collisions, members of the city's transportation staff looked at the problem spots and possible solutions. Although some of the strategies put into place may be fine-tuned or jettisoned altogether by the end of the trial period, drivers need to remember that the changes are part of an experiment. If they perceive problems, or if they have ideas on how to improve the components now in place, they can -- and should -- contact the transportation department at 330-6770, or

And to the road warriors among you, the police are on the alert. May the ticket you sign be at a cost to you alone, and not another driver or, worse, a child walking to the library.

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5 people like this
Posted by member of public at large
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 18, 2015 at 1:15 pm

"The trial cannot be successful without the full process playing out, and that includes the public's reaction so that realistic changes can be put in place where needed."

I propose that if the public's reaction includes stupid and unsafe behavior endangering not only the perpetrators but the public at large, the "full process playing out" should consider the possibility that the "experiment" is fatally flawed and that "realistic changes" would be declaring the "experiment" a failure, and terminating it.

1 person likes this
Posted by Experiments can fail
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 18, 2015 at 4:28 pm

While I agree that some adjustment time is part of the purpose of a trial, this experiment is getting early results: Failure.

In particular:

1) The right turn blockage EB Ravenswood to Alma SB is CAUSING backups on the tracks particularly when combined with the existing lane loss in the next block. This is increased danger.

2) The remaining crosswalk across Ravenswood produces unexpected backups in this configuration with no options for drivers who didn't read that situation 3 events earlier. Again leaving cars at risk on the RR tracks

We should learn faster and realize that THIS experiment is a FAILURE. Let's pause, reflect, and try the next one

Like this comment
Posted by Thoughtful editorial
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 21, 2015 at 5:27 pm

In the interest of safety it would be great if the rules could be followed to see if the new design works or not.

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Posted by Early Results?
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 21, 2015 at 7:42 pm

I am not sure you would call the early results a failure @experimentscanfail. I have friends who commute across town who swear that traffic flow is much better now through this intersection as rush hour.

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

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