Menlo Park: Bike lanes raise concerns by pedestrians


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.

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9 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Why isn't the city enforcing its property rights (which are also our property rights). Residents on Santa Cruz have plantings, fences etc on the city right of way. That property should be used to build the 5 ft sidewalks. Then there is plenty of room for bike lanes parking and safety.

I do not believe the city council has the right to unilaterally give away and gift city property and property rights to the property owners facing Santa Cruz Ave.

What say the lawyers?

2 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 1:20 pm

Which lane are skateboarders supposed to use? They pose a serious threat to pedestrians on downtown Santa Cruz Ave sidewalks, particularly to some of our older or infirm residents, but don't belong in the street either. I've seen some boarders lately in the street going in the opposite direction of car traffic. I don't like near-collisions on the sidewalk but zooming between parked cars & the median is risky too.

4 people like this
Posted by West Menlo Driver
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jul 8, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Seems every time Menlo tries to do something to Santa Cruz Ave it is a failure. This is another failure. If I lived on SC I would be furious to have my street parking removed.

10 people like this
Posted by red herring
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 8, 2015 at 2:41 pm

"the City Council has received several complaints about near-collisions"

Yes, but there have been no actual collisions. Previously, children had to walk out into the street to get around parked cars. This was a much more dangerous situation. Now, we have plenty of room for pedestrians and cyclists, who are no longer getting doored.

Like this comment
Posted by Oh please
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jul 8, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Several complaints...that could be 3! I bet from the same person. Nothing to see here, you were duped by false panic.

Like this comment
Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 8, 2015 at 5:00 pm

When the sidewalks are installed two feet will be taken from right of way in front of homes on Santa Cruz Avenue on both sides of the street.

5 people like this
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 8, 2015 at 5:12 pm

When I drove down Santa Cruz over 4th of July weekend, there were lots of families out biking with their kids. It looked great!

I want to go biking there with my kids sometime now. :)

Like this comment
Posted by Facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 8, 2015 at 5:46 pm

The City is not removing the bike lanes, nor the 2ft buffers. The street is just being striped to put in a separate pedestrian lane as well.

Like this comment
Posted by More facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 9, 2015 at 8:42 am

Our neighbors reported a collision with a popular elderly neighbor and a youngster on his bike.
Those of us who walk on Santa Cruz where there are no sidewalks felt as if the prior situation was safer for us than what the city has done. It was easy for us to walk around parked cars after making sure the coast was clear of cars and bikes. Then we were put into the same lanes as faster moving bikes. Now with version two of improving bike lanes while we continue to wait for sidewalks, we have our own much narrower walking area that is over next to the gutter. This is an improvement over version 1, but worse for pedestrians than where things started. Wasn't this a sidewalk project to help pedestrians?

The city decided to remove all parking based on a survey that polled ONLY the property owners on Santa Cruz (and a majority did not even reply to the poll). The "most popular" alternative was favored by only 19% of the 59% of the 68 property owners who responded to that survey. The decision to remove parking was based on feedback from 13% of all the Santa Cruz property. more details are at

Who was not surveyed? Not the people who walk or bike on Santa Cruz where there aren't sidewalks. Not the people who use that parking when they work in gardens or houses, when they deliver packages or mail, when they attend St Raymond church or school events or funerals or weddings, when they visit friends or attend events in downtown like this coming weekend. Not the property owners or pedestrians on side streets where the vehicles now will be parking.

The statement that there are only 4 parked vehicles at a time is laughable to those of us who live and walk in west Menlo and have seen many more. btw the Almanac reported this incorrectly as the staff report says on either side of the street, making the total 8 cars at a time even if that were true. The no-parking decision should be regarded as a trial so feedback from all affected constituents can be incorporated into the final design when we also will learn if utilities will be under-grounded.

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