Menlo Park police have been more visible lately along Ravenswood Avenue, concentrating traffic enforcement efforts there.
The problem intersections are two -- at Ravenswood and Alma Street, where trial traffic-control measures designed to improve safety were put in place earlier this month, and at Ravenswood and Laurel Street.
Police will be monitoring the area and issuing tickets as long as traffic violations persist, according to Menlo Park Police Department spokeswoman Nicole Acker. The ticketing is being driven by complaints, she said.
The Laurel Street intersection does not have left-turn arrow signals, so northbound drivers who are turning onto Ravenswood and those who are going straight ahead on Laurel end up negotiating the right of way. But with just one lane for traffic coming along Laurel from the north, backups occur and drivers intent on crossing Ravenswood have been using a bike lane to swerve around vehicles waiting to turn left toward Menlo-Atherton High School.
In addition to being illegal, such maneuvers also block vehicles in the intersection coming from the direction of the Civic Center and waiting to turn west toward El Camino Real, Ms. Acker said.
Police issued 10 tickets at Laurel and Ravenswood between June 18 and 24, including nine on June 24 for illegal use of a bike lane, according to police department records.
Meanwhile over that same seven-day period at Alma and Ravenswood -- a busy intersection recently reconfigured to prevent turns that might slow traffic in the vicinity of the Caltrain railroad tracks -- police issued nine tickets for violations that include failure to yield, making a U-turn in a business district, and driving on the wrong side of the road, records show.
A Palo Alto woman was killed near this intersection on Feb. 23 when a southbound bullet train struck her vehicle, which was still on the tracks when the crossing gates came down. It was the third train versus vehicle incident at this crossing in three years.
With a $750,000 grant from the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, the city of Menlo Park and Caltrain are considering a long-term project to improve safety at this location.
In a temporary fix, the city added medians and curb extensions on Ravenswood east of the rail crossing with the aim of channeling Ravenswood traffic quickly through the area, leaving the railroad tracks free of traffic when the crossing gates come down.
But the reconfiguration also blocks significant Ravenswood traffic that normally turned on Alma Street to get to the library, the Civic Center and nearby neighborhoods.
The change has transformed that part of Alma into something like a dead-end street. Traveling on Alma from Ravenswood is no longer possible, but "people are still trying to turn right on Alma," Ms. Acker said.
When traveling north on Alma toward Ravenswood, drivers cannot turn toward town but must head east toward M-A.
And despite the presence of the curb extensions and orange cones blocking access to Alma, some drivers headed east on Ravenswood cross the tracks and pause at the intersection, Ms. Acker said. Such pauses may reflect an unanticipated problem, she said: GPS devices are telling people to turn right.
As if matters weren't complicated enough, there is a crosswalk on Ravenswood that is governed by pedestrian-activated warning lights and located just a few car lengths from the tracks.
People are fighting the trial fix. A petition at Change.org, "Stop the madness! Stop the Alma/Ravenswood traffic experiment," had 98 signatures as of mid-morning on Friday, June 26.
Among the complaints, petitioners say that the intersection at Alma and Ravenswood is now less safe, that traffic backups are still a problem, and that bike safety to M-A will be compromised when school restarts in the fall.