By Marina Temkin | Special to the Almanac
The recently installed temporary bike lanes on Santa Cruz Avenue have left some Menlo Park residents worried that the street is not safe for walking.
On June 8, the city extended the bicycle paths and removed street parking between Olive Street and Arbor Road in preparation for building raised sidewalks along Santa Cruz Avenue.
Since then, the City Council has received several complaints about near-collisions between pedestrians and bicyclists.
The area designated for car parking used to function as the de facto pedestrian pathway, but after the change anyone walking along that stretch of Santa Cruz Avenue is forced to share the lane with bicycles.
"It was not much of a problem in the past, but putting up bike buffers before sidewalks was a poorly thought-out decision," resident Patti Fry said. Her main concern, she said, was the safety of children walking to and from Hillview Middle School once classes resume.
Councilman Ray Mueller alerted the city staff of safety complaints on June 26.
The Almanac learned late Thursday that the city staff has decided to narrow the bike lane to 5 feet, leaving another 5 feet for people to use as a walkway. The stripe was scheduled to be painted after the Fourth of July weekend.
"This [change improves from current conditions the safety of pedestrians and makes it more clear where cyclists and pedestrians should travel until sidewalks are finally installed," Ms. Fry said in an email after the staff announced the planned change. "I'm glad to see that the city has responded."
The City Council approved the installation of sidewalks along Santa Cruz Avenue between Olive Street and Johnson Street on March 10. But some residents are concerned about the sidewalk-building process.
A number of residents complained that the city has not shared a plan for the construction. "I looked and was unable to find a plan that would describe when and where the sidewalk construction would begin," resident Ollie Brown, a former member of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board, said in an email to the council.
Public Works Director Jesse Quirion told the Almanac that the project has received $1 million in funding and the city has hired the firm BKF Engineers to design the plans for sidewalks. The construction drawings will be presented to the council later this year, he said, adding that the staff hopes the project will be completed by summer 2016.
Some residents have also been upset about the removal of parking along Santa Cruz Avenue.
"I don't understand why the city blocked off the sidewalks and parking if it will take several years to do [the sidewalks," Mr. Brown said. "I am concerned for my neighbors (who) live on Santa Cruz Avenue; where will their services such as gardeners park? Where will their guests park?" he wrote in his email to the council.
But Mr. Quirion said that the city surveyed Santa Cruz Avenue residents and found that the parking was hardly used. "Seventy-five percent to 80 percent of residents surveyed said they don't want parking. They cared more for the heritage trees," Mr. Quirion said about a balancing act between making space at the edge of the street and saving the trees that grow along it.
The city also counted the number of cars parked between Olive and Arbor over a three-month period and found that the average number was four cars.
Statistics could be deceiving. "I recently posted a picture showing 8 service vehicles parked in just a half block west from my house on Santa Cruz, plus 3 more on the other side. Where will these workers park now?" a resident wrote on NextDoor, a social site for the community.