News

Cover story: What to do about El Camino Real?

Menlo Park ponders options for bikes, cars and parking

One thing is inevitable in an area filled with well-educated, bright and articulate people – they will have opinions.

And when it comes to a topic that touches the lives of nearly everyone in the community, the future of El Camino Real, another inevitability is that there will be lots of those opinions.

The city recently released a lengthy report on a study of the 1.3 miles of El Camino Real that runs through Menlo Park and carries as many as 45,000 vehicles a day. The report looks at the current conditions of the state highway, the city's main north/south corridor, and examines what might happen if certain changes were made to the road.

Since the 62-page report, with an accompanying 567 pages of appendices and a 15-page tree report, was released on Aug. 3, the City Council has received at least 80 emails on the topic at their official town email addresses.

Not quite that many people spoke at an Aug. 25 study session for the council to discuss the report, but at least 26 of them did present the council members with a wide range of opinions, many of them heartfelt and sometimes in complete opposition to those of other speakers.

In the end, however, the opinions of the five elected City Council members will decide what to do about El Camino. What the council members seemed to agree on was that rather than making any permanent changes to El Camino, the city should conduct a trial of some kind of bike lanes to see how they work.

Next steps

Nicole Nagaya, the city's transportation manager, said the meeting gave her and W-Trans, the consultants working on the $459,713 study, a long list of tasks, including:

● Discussions with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District about the effect of bike lanes on emergency vehicle response.

● Discussions with Palo Alto, Atherton and Redwood City to gauge interest in a multi-city bike-lane trial.

● Discussions with the California Department of Transportation (which has jurisdiction over El Camino) about a trial bike lane, including timelines for designs, permits and construction.

● Discussions with local businesses on El Camino between Live Oak and Ravenswood avenues about alternatives for parking if on-street parking is removed.

● A closer look at the trees on El Camino near Ravenswood Avenue and how to protect them.

Ms. Nagaya said the council will get a progress report in October before deciding what it wants to do.

The options

The study lists a number of changes that could make El Camino Real safer, and considers four alternatives: doing nothing; six continuous vehicle lanes; the current number of lanes (4-6 vehicle lanes depending on location) with bike lanes buffered by painted lines; and the current number of lanes with bike lanes protected by 3-foot-wide curbs or planters.

How the alternatives would affect traffic and the time it takes to get through Menlo Park, as well as the length of vehicle backups at nine intersections, are all part of the study. How each alternative would affect bicyclists, pedestrians, aesthetics, parking and trees is also considered.

Visit tinyurl.com/ECR-DOCS to see the project page on the city's website.

W-Trans was told not to alter sidewalks, center medians or newly planted trees, and not to use grade separations or tunnels in its design.

None of the options reduce the current number of through vehicle lanes; but some right-turn lanes are eliminated. Two of the options, the one with six through lanes and one with paint-buffered bicycle lanes, add an additional through lane at Ravenswood Avenue.

All of the options would affect some trees on the corner of El Camino and Ravenswood Avenue, although one of the consultants has suggested more trees might be saved by shifting the sidewalk that now runs in front of the trees to run behind them.

Adding a third vehicle lane in each direction between Live Oak and Valparaiso avenues would be accomplished by removing on-street parking. Both the bicycle lane configurations would remove all on-street parking on El Camino, while bikes lanes with a physical separation would remove most right-turn lanes.

The views

Among those the council heard from on Aug. 25 was Sharon Delly, a Menlo Park resident whose family owns Menlo Clockworks on El Camino. Ms. Delly said that removing the parking, and its use as a loading zone, on El Camino could be a real hardship for businesses and elderly customers.

"Many merchants on El Camino depend on that parking for their livelihood," she said. "By taking away the parking, the city will lose revenue from these businesses because they may have to close."

Ms. Delly said a petition signed by 240 people opposes parking removal.

Sean Mulcahy, who owns the Leather Leather Furniture Gallery on El Camino, said parking is crucial. His customers "can't walk for blocks" to get to the store, he said.

Others argued that, rather than a hardship, replacing parking with bike lanes could draw more customers. Dale Hall, who works in Menlo Park and is part of the new environmental organization Menlo Spark, said other communities, including San Francisco and Oakland, have seen more business for nearby retailers after improving bike lanes.

"If you're in a car on El Camino, you're either flying by or you're at a stoplight," he said. "This just isn't a proposal to help out a small group of die-hard bicyclists," he added, but something that "will benefit the entire Menlo Park community."

Adding bike lanes and other safety improvements suggested in the report will also make El Camino safer for pedestrians, he said.

Ellen Barton, the active transportation coordinator for San Mateo County, said bicycle lanes bring new patrons to businesses. Making El Camino safer could help older people who "eventually do not usually drive in the later years," she said, and could make room for innovative ideas "such as pedal taxis."

Others, including former Planning Commission member Henry Riggs, advocated for more through traffic lanes, despite the fact that the report showed that would actually slow traffic by drawing in drivers who don't now use El Camino.

"We do need bike routes in Menlo Park. We also need to improve auto circulation for the 30,000 or so of us who have to drive daily on El Camino Real," Mr. Riggs said. "I am looking forward to an El Camino that handles real-life traffic."

John Duhig, an Allied Arts resident who calls himself "a septuagenarian cyclist," also liked the additional traffic lanes, because if traffic "isn't going to come down El Camino, it's going somewhere else," he said. "It will all be coming down the road where I live."

As for bike lanes on El Camino, Mr. Duhig said: "There's lots of other ways" to get where one wants to go on a bicycle. "I never go on El Camino," he said. "It's not necessary."

Others said the bike lanes would help students and families.

"I bike to school every day," said Stella Kaval, who lives on Willow Road. "I go to Hillview School and I'm in 7th grade." Bike lanes "would make me feel safer about biking and encourage more of my friends to bike."

Lydia Lee, a bike commission member who said she maintains a Facebook page called "Bike Menlo Park," said she lives on the north end of town off El Camino, about where people start driving faster as it opens up into three lanes in each direction. "My kids bike to school anyway, and we figure it out, we manage," she said. But adding bike lanes would make biking something to look forward to, she said.

Jon Johnston, the fire marshal for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, said the fire district worries that the plan did not take into consideration what changing El Camino would do to the time it takes for a fire truck or ambulance to respond to an emergency. "In no aspect (of the report) did they include emergency response," he said.

Steve Weinberger of W-Trans said that option 1, allowing 6 vehicle lanes in each direction by removing parking, "probably has the greatest impact to emergency vehicles and the response time" because it leaves cars no place to pull over.

With the bike lane alternatives, cars can pull into the bike lanes, he said. Even with a physically separated bike lane, the separation can be a curb that can be driven over, he said.

The idea of a trial was popular with speakers and with the council.

A trial of bike lanes could "actually let people see the proof ... so a pilot makes sense to me," said Councilman Ray Mueller. "I would like a pilot, but I'd like Atherton and either Redwood City or Palo Alto to also take part."

A trial could also help the city see exactly what is needed on El Camino. "It's hard sometimes when you're planning for things, to plan for the people who can't do it yet," said Councilwoman Kirsten Keith.

Comments

11 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2015 at 11:05 am

Ray is right; no trial should proceed without the other city being involved. Don't waste taxpayer money on a single city attempt to solve a regional problem


14 people like this
Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 2, 2015 at 12:33 pm

The Columinst should also check out the City Email Log to check public opinion, as the bike lobby urged members to attend the study session.

Many experienced bikers, including myself, believe ECR, with all its entrances and exits, will never be bike safe.

I, and many others had hoped the City Council would have directed to staff to come back with designating and reinforcing an alternate bike route that connected with the regional bike routes, including those in Palo Alto.

Henry Fox


3 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2015 at 1:08 pm

really? is a registered user.

What should be done about ECR? It's already done as part of the Downtown Specific Plan. It shows a Class 2 bike lane, wider sidewalks, etc. It is mute however about what the effect on the road and traffic itself will be, and how the street parking will be lost, but the goal can't be achieved without loosing it.

So this topic has been jabbered about a lot, but i think without the reference to the plan that's already in effect.


8 people like this
Posted by Why ECR for Bikes?
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 2, 2015 at 1:11 pm

As I posted on a prior thread, cycling should be encouraged, but not without due consideration to other factors and an open mind to alternatives. In this case, I believe that there has been insufficient effort put towards examining the greater issue of where MP residents want to go on their bikes, as well as alternate bike routes to ECR.

From my own experience, as well as discussions with actual and would-be cyclists, what our community really needs are safe east-west routes, especially for kids riding to MA and Hillview. Dollars put towards and ERC test won't be available for E-W studies.

As for an ECR test, I would like to see the city and its consultants explore the N-S alternatives of Alma, Laurel or Middlefield to the east, and University, San Mateo or Alameda to the west. Each of these routes has fewer cars, lights and commercial driveways than ECR. Most already have marked bike lanes. They also offer bridge connectivity with existing bike paths on PA's Bryant St and Stanford's Sand Hill Rd.

Before putting limited dollars toward an ECR test, I hope our city leaders will step back and think about the current landscape of bike paths, and what bike routes MP residents need most. I doubt ECR will rise to the top of the list.


6 people like this
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Water is a registered user.

Cyclists on El Camino are a hazard to everyone's health. Get off ECR or get on a bus!


6 people like this
Posted by The Ols Sage
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 1:43 pm

Why not take a bit of the Caltrain Easement for a bike lane- it could provide for an extra buffer between the train and pedestrian right of way and would move the bikes to a safer place off of ECR. As we all know the tracks parallel ECR - less than a block in most areas...


6 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 2, 2015 at 2:02 pm

I'd like to see a trial of bike lanes on El Camino Real. There's been way too much FUD around this issue.


14 people like this
Posted by Westside Trucker
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm

I was a biker for years so I have compassion for them. I am scared to death to drive down ECR trying to avoid bikes and not hit them or have them hit me. A lot of them are so arrogant they are dangerous. They wobble in and out, do not stop at stop signs, and ignore the " safety rules of the road " that we motorists abide by.

What is a young mother thinking when she is towing her baby IN A TRAILER down the slow lane on ECR . The hitch on the bike is the thickness of a pencil.


6 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2015 at 4:38 pm

Do other residents find it extremely odd and disturbing that Menlo Park would conduct an El Camino bike trial without first (1) having a bike network consultant like Alta Plan + Design analyze who would likely use it and (2) gauging the potential impact bike lanes and the loss over 100 parking spaces would have on motorists, small businesses, and property owners, and emergency service providers. A field trial is a significant investment of city resources including staff and the city is our city is currently relying on layman opinions rather than critical thinking. Can this be possible in this age and in Silicon Valley?


19 people like this
Posted by L.H.M.
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Dana, Menlo Park deserves better than that sort of hyperbole. According to the article Menlo Park hasn't approved a trial yet and is still gathering all of the information cited in the article. The constant cry that the sky is falling is getting old. The City has professional staff and engineering consultants working on this issue. In the last election you defended their work. Now when it suits your purpose, you attack their work. You could at least wait to see the final product before jumping to conclusions.


Like this comment
Posted by Bob McGrew
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 2, 2015 at 6:15 pm

Is there any good data on bike lane safety? A lot of people are concerned about safety of bike lanes on ECR. On the other hand, Willow and Sand Hill are also multi-lane heavily traveled roads in Menlo Park with lots of driveways and intersections, so we have an actual test of this. What's the bike accident rate on those streets?

Also, now that I'm looking, I often see lone cyclists on ECR when I'm driving it. I'm definitely concerned for their safety without a bike lane. What is the current accident rate on ECR without bike lanes?

If we had data on accident rates for comparable streets and for ECR as it is, we would have a really good estimate of whether bike lanes would lead to more or fewer accidents.


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2015 at 7:50 pm

Bob,
Collision (they are usually NOT accidents) data is available for El Camino and other streets. However, the number of bikes on those streets is not known, so there is no way to turn the collision numbers into rates per bicyclist or per mile biked or per hour biked or anything else that makes sense. We have very good data on the number of motor vehicles that use major streets, but essentially no information on bikes, so it is impossible to make rational data-driven decisions as you suggest.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"We have very good data on the number of motor vehicles that use major streets, but essentially no information on bikes, so it is impossible to make rational data-driven decisions as you suggest."

Wrong. The ECR Study includes bike volumes - Table 10 – Daily Bike Volumes page 52.

Why post factually incorrect statements?


4 people like this
Posted by Vic
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:04 pm

San Mateo County health officials gave a report at last week's bike summit that covered car-bike collisions in the county. You can download their presentation from Web Link

Slide 15 says that El Camino is less than 1% of the street mileage in the county but has 14% of the car-bike collisions (most of these in between Redwood City and the south border of the county) and 19% of the car-pedestrian collisions. So, even though there are lots of people biking a lot on other routes, El Camino seems extraordinarily dangerous. It also seems that people find it necessary or important to bike there despite the danger. You can read what you want into this data, but it seems pretty clear that El Camino should have a high priority if you want to address bike and pedestrian safety in the county overall.


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:28 pm

Peter,
Are there bike volume data on other streets so we can compare the rates? Information on one route alone is not enough.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Donald - you asked for bike data on major streets. The study include that data as does the presentation cited by Vic. The presentation cited by Vic also "says that El Camino is less than 1% of the street mileage in the county but has 14% of the car-bike collisions (most of these in between Redwood City and the south border of the county) and 19% of the car-pedestrian collisions"

Just admit that your statement is wrong.


7 people like this
Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:37 pm

Barbara Wood writes that all the the options require removal of some trees at the intersection of ECR and Ravenswood. This is not correct. An added right turn lane suggested by the Specific Plan EIR is the culprit. In addition to requiring removal of trees, this feature will pack more cars onto eastbound Ravenswood where it narrows from two to one lane, causing further congestion around the already dangerous Caltrain surface grade crossing and eventually to the Willow/Middlefield intersection.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm

L.H.M:

What hyperbole? The city has done nothing to reassure residents that it would undertake a thorough study of the potential positive and negative impacts of bike lanes on all relevant parties BEFORE conducting a field trial. Have you seen a plan? In the business world and most cities an idea would be analyzed first and promising ones tested, not the other way around. Why would you spend lots of resources on ideas based largely layman opinions??? There are bike network experts who can help Menlo Park. This is not a popularity contest. Agree?

Steve:

I agree that the Ravenswood modifications do not seem to make sense as the Ravenswood bottleneck would remain.
Also, I have not heard how east-west bike lanes could be accommodated in the future with the reconfiguration of vehicle turn lanes AND the addition of bike lanes on El Camino.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 9:11 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" This is not a popularity contest. Agree?"

Unfortunately the CC seems to be motivated by the size of the audience in the chamber rather than the wishes of the electorate. This encourages packing the audience as happened in this case and also referendums which occur far too often.


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2015 at 7:45 am

Peter, the ECR study included bike counts for El Camino and Middlefield, hardly a comprehensive data set. The presentation cited by Vic has crash data but no bike counts at all, that I could see. I stand by my statement that we lack enough data to make comparative assessments of different bike routes, with the exception of being able to compare El Camino and Middlefield.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 9:13 am

What Menlo Park Needs to Do Before Conducting A Bike Lane Field Trial on El Camino Real.

1. Determine the actual value (usage) of bike lanes for cyclists, especially for school age (children)– the largest group of cyclists. The evaluation should use industry best practices and be performed by an independent bike network design specialist. The value should be measured in terms of ABSOLUTE safety (not relative to existing conditions which are dangerous), RELATIVE convenience versus existing and planned alternative routes, and ACTUAL comfort (rider stress levels)

2. The city needs to evaluate the value of El Camino Real bike lanes in the context of the existing city bike network and all the other recommendations proposed in its Specific Plan (2012). Instead, a potential system component is being viewed in isolation rather than part of a bike network system.

3.The city needs to know whether a majority of residents – not simply avid bike riders - either want bike lanes on El Camino or actually oppose it. A field trial will be extremely controversial, think Measure M. It should avoid creating a divisive situation, by aggressively polling our citizens before subjecting them to a BIG experiment.

4. The city needs to rigorously evaluate the all the significant potential impacts – both positive and negative ones - that bike lanes could have on motorists, pedestrians, businesses, property owners and emergency service providers, e.g., fire and police departments, ambulances.

5. The city needs to reassess its priorities and determine whether residents believe east-west bike connectivity and greater access to downtown Menlo Park is viewed as more or less important than El Camino Bike Lanes.

6. The addition of bike lanes will require the elimination of ALL the street parking spaces on El Camino - over 150 - at a time when many new developments are already planned for El Camino. The city needs to evaluate the loss of parking in the context of future not existing conditions.

7. The re-design of the Ravenswood/El Camino intersection must accommodate the future addition of east-west bike lanes that would run on Menlo Avenue from University to El Camino, cross El Camino and continue on Ravenswood to Laurel Street. The city needs a design now.

A field trial will not satisfy all the above concerns but it will be controversial. The city should be well prepared to support its decisions with sound arguments and the best data possible.


Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 10:08 am

Another reason: (see my prior comment)

Both the field trial and a permanent implementation of bike lanes on El Camino are large city investments that would consume funds and staff resources, plus the attention of City Council members. The budget and staff impact of BOTH projects should be estimated BEFORE either is undertaken. It does not make sense to conduct a field trial if the City cannot afford an actual implementation. Are funds for a field trial included in the city's capital improvements budget?


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 10:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"being able to compare El Camino and Middlefield."

And the issue is ECR so why insist on data for everywhere else?

This is simply trying to distract the ECR discussion.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 10:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

If you have any interest in the correct way to address city wide planning look at this article on how Palo Alto is doing it - Comprehensive Plan including Circulation Element first and then specific implementation steps:

Web Link

Menlo Park seems to think that doing specific things first like Santa Cruz and ECR is better than doing the Comprehensive Plan and Circulation Element first.

State law is clearly on the side of Palo Alto's approach.


1 person likes this
Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 3, 2015 at 11:07 am

Dana, Your #5 & #7 deserve discussion, not that the others don't, but:
5. East/west connections are important but if history is our guide, progress on significant capital projects such as
pedestrian/bicycle under-crossings of Caltrain remains glacial (glaciers are now retreating) at best. Bicycle amenities on ECR, which can be accomplished for relatively little money, will make these future bigger infrastructure projects far more useful when they are built. Bike lanes will be a practical substitute for the short and medium-term.
7. Without a decision by the CIty, Caltrain and the Transportation Authority about the final configuration of Caltrain, at grade or elevated and how elevated and a grade separation design, the possibilities for better bike facilities on Menlo and Ravenswood are severely limited. However, I understand that this problem is currently being studied at our staff & commission level. There's hope!


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 11:15 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

A great article on intelligent approaches to urban transportation planning:

Web Link


The key is separation of bikes and cars:
"Many cities are exploring ways to keep petrolheads and pedalophiles apart. Over 100, particularly in Latin America, close some roads to cars on weekends. Paris is leading the way in Europe, closing over 30km; Dublin and Milan plan to banish cars from their centres. "

"In cycling, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the pacesetters, with a third of trips made by bicycle. More than half of Amsterdam’s residents use their bikes daily. London, New York and Paris all have plans to challenge them. All three cities are expanding their bike-share schemes and building new bike lanes, some on quiet roads with new, lower speed limits for cars, and others running through central areas and separated from motorised traffic."

And they also are emphasizing improving the walking experience - something totally unchanged in the current ECR effort because the sidewalks were ruled out of consideration for the study - "W-Trans was told not to alter sidewalks, center medians or newly planted trees, and not to use grade separations or tunnels in its design."

What part of "comprehensive" does the City not understand?


Like this comment
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Maybe something to agree on: The existing General Plan, over twenty years old, states ALL ECR signaled intersections should be four-way pedestrian crossings (Policy II-E-5). All three options examined in the ECR lane study included new four-way crossings at Ravenswood and Middle. East-west connectivity is a key Specific Plan goal, so creating a new Ravenswood crossing looks pretty useful. We don't have to do everything to do something significant to improve bicycle safety and transit.


Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Bob McGrew asked if there was data on bike lane safety and said "If we had data on accident rates for comparable streets and for ECR as it is, we would have a really good estimate of whether bike lanes would lead to more or fewer accidents."

This was a reasonable request for data to compare ECR to other locations, and I responded to let him know that the data does not exist. I think it IS worthwhile to have data on other locations, not to distract from the discussion but to add to it for comparison. If all you look at is El Camino, how do you know when you are successful? If you reduce the crash rate on ECR by half but it is still much higher than other comparable streets, would you be satisfied?


2 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 3, 2015 at 1:23 pm

Alan is a registered user.

Alma Street is a reasonable alternative that's parallel to El Camino Real in Menlo Park; it's only a block off, and is much safer. The problem is Atherton; you pretty much need to go all of the way to Middlefield for a continuous route that's parallel to El Camino Real. The Caltrain right-of-way is in the right location, but I'm not sure they have enough room for a safe parallel route.


Like this comment
Posted by william patterson
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 3, 2015 at 2:05 pm

How many times has the City of Menlo Park floated trial balloons regarding traffic behavioral changes, investing a great deal of dollars, only to have barriers, traffic slowing road improvements, removed because of citizen complaints? Santa Cruz traffic slowing, a disaster. Recent experiment yet will be removed due to complaints.
The bicycle lobby is very vocal, but remains a small group that will screw-up ECR. Bikes on El Camino, bad idea.


Like this comment
Posted by nORMAN
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Surely, this issue has been dealt with in other communities. Instead of reinventing the wheel let us find out what they have done.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Sure we could learn from other cities but that is not the Menlo Park way.

See above excellent web link and excerpts:
The key is separation of bikes and cars:
"Many cities are exploring ways to keep petrolheads and pedalophiles apart. Over 100, particularly in Latin America, close some roads to cars on weekends. Paris is leading the way in Europe, closing over 30km; Dublin and Milan plan to banish cars from their centres. "

"In cycling, Amsterdam and Copenhagen are the pacesetters, with a third of trips made by bicycle. More than half of Amsterdam's residents use their bikes daily. London, New York and Paris all have plans to challenge them. All three cities are expanding their bike-share schemes and building new bike lanes, some on quiet roads with new, lower speed limits for cars, and others running through central areas and separated from motorised traffic."

And they also are emphasizing improving the walking experience - something totally unchanged in the current ECR effort because the sidewalks were ruled out of consideration for the study - "W-Trans was told not to alter sidewalks, center medians or newly planted trees, and not to use grade separations or tunnels in its design."

What part of "comprehensive" does the City not understand?


9 people like this
Posted by Menloshopper
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 3, 2015 at 3:54 pm

@Alan: I agree that Alma is an excellent alternative -- but really only for bikers headed north, or perhaps headed south and toward Palo Alto. For those headed south and wanting to route near the shopping center, I don't think they'll cross over to the Alma side (assuming continuation from Valpariso along Garwood) and then come back again to the south/west side, it takes too much time. But then, entering into the neighborhoods on the Santa Cruz Ave side becomes kind of a jumble of streets without obvious paths and again slowing the rider down alot. If you are headed into central Stanford it can work well by heading to the bike bridge on San Mateo; but if you just want a straight shot through town headed south, it's unclear what's an alternate route. Part of the problem is that some of the best bike routes cannot be sanctioned by the city. For example, if you are at the Library and want to get to the Safeway, the best route is to get into the parking lot behind Cornerstone and exist at BevMo; the city cannot say that. Conclusion: some good alternate routes exist, and a few critical routes do not yet exist. 'Alternative' champions should work to solve this problem, imho. If people say there are alternative routes off of ECR, let's see a map of what they are for different destinations/routes. This is not just for convenience. There are real safety problems out there now because people are using ECR for transit, whether others like it or not; e.g. workers riding the wrong way on ECR late at night. They will not take 'alternate routes' which are so out of the way to make them impractical.


3 people like this
Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 11:43 pm

Personal observation here. Went running today on ECR to Palo Alto and back to MP along Alma around rush hour.

3 bikes on ECR. One riding north on the sidewalk. Illegal, but understand his safety concern in doing so. Two riding south not sure where they were going.

On Alma, lost count on number of bikes there were as there were more than a handful.

Cyclists will gravitate toward the safer route. Even with bike lanes on ECR, the volume and speed of cars there will influence most cyclist to still take Alma. Plus don't have to deal with stop lights on Alma.


5 people like this
Posted by Alma not enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 4, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Saying alma is a good alternative to el Camino real ignores the need for many of us to get both east-west and north-south within short distances. Let's say I'm at burgess pool and want to go to Safeway. How is alma helping me get there?

Palo Alto has a decent path that goes from train station behind Palo Alto medical foundation and points south. Why can't Menlo park do that, next to the train tracks on the west side?


1 person likes this
Posted by william patterson
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 4, 2015 at 5:27 pm

Perhaps we should consider all the blighted undeveloped properties fronting El Camino and their contribution to traffic. It is OK to have more traffic, but these developments (when ever the City can make a decision) will be instrumental in defeating any bike lanes. Back to other solutions, please.

More importantly, ALL cities along the El Camino have wonderful projects under construction Palo Alto, Los Altos, Mountain View, Redwood City, etc.

The building cycle will fail any proposed projects if we do not approve said developments soon. How long shall we view blighted sites, no approvals for our citizens use, retail, housing, medical offices, all that will contributed to our prosperity. We can planned things to failure. Move on City Council before we witness another 10 years of indecision.


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Posted by Mark De Paula
a resident of another community
on Sep 4, 2015 at 8:24 pm

I met the San Mateo County representative for the changes to El Camino Real, his name is Frank, and his office is in the SAMTRANS/CALTRAIN building.
I knew when I met and spoke to him for about an hour that cities, counties have no say on El Camino Real's future.
The new name is the Grand Boulevard, the State of California is running this show.
Our State representatives would be our only hope to stop this change.
Good luck on getting their help.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From the Grand Boulevard's own web site:
'The Grand Boulevard initiative will succeed only with the enthusiastic support of public agencies, leading businesses, non-profit agencies, neighborhoods and community advocates."

And regarding bicycles - NO endorsement of bicycle paths On ECR:
"9. Strengthen pedestrian and bicycle connections WITH the corridor
• Reduce the distance between corridor crossings to improve connectivity with adjacent neighborhoods where appropriate.
• For projects near the corridor, encourage design that provides easy access to the corridor or to cross streets."
• Provide pedestrian cut-through linkages to access parking lots, alleys and neighborhood routes between blocks, including additions to “Safe Route to Schools” paths.



1 person likes this
Posted by Alma not enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 5, 2015 at 9:39 am

@william p - the big vacant lot owners haven't brought their projects forward to be approved.
The council should be criticized for not finishing the specific plan review that the planning commission started. They should be criticized for not upgrading downtown parking lots and not championing grade separations, but they shouldn't be criticized for not approving projects that aren't in front of them. When the projects are in front of them, the council should make the right decisions so the projects are the best possible, including supporting safe bike paths along the RR Tracks , minimal new traffic, and substantial support of under or over crossings.


1 person likes this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Hi Steve:

You are right about the future train track crossing being a challenge given the uncertainties surrounding this Caltrain project. However, I believe there are huge benefits to providing much better east-west connectivity AND downtown access now - especially for school age children and Menlo Park can make adjustments at the tracks whenever Caltrain undertakes its work.

I have proposed improvements which benefit residents living on either side of El Camino.

1. Continuous bike lanes on Ravenswood and Menlo Avenues that run between Laurel and Crane Streets.
2. Bike routes on Live Oak between University and Crane and on Crane between LiveOak and Menlo Avenue.
3. Bike lanes on University between Middle and Live Oak.

These changes would eliminate the sharing of vehicle lanes on both University and Menlo Avenues, a situation that discourages riders especially at commute times when vehicle traffic peaks.

4. Extending Santa Cruz bike lanes from University to Crane and adding a bike route between Santa Cruz and Menlo Avenues.

A you say, it is impossible to know when the train crossing will change but I prefer that we not let that prevent us from enjoying well-designed improvements before then. The actual bike crossing of the train track is only a small component and can be modified, when necessary.


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Posted by william patterson
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 7, 2015 at 1:44 pm

@enufh The project that included a grocery store when submitted approximately 4 years ago was not approved to our local niche store opposed the proposal. Well, once again, failed.

The Dairy project was put on hold due to the prospect of litigation by our "caring?" citizens. Hopefully, Green Heart will proceed quickly to provide housing close to public transit.

Stanford project has not been brought forward recently although the most recent proposal was inclusive of community input. Why no resubmittal?
This town has no vision, implementation, or desire to help developers regardless of negative input and threats by special interest groups.

Drove through downtown Palo Alto this morning. Wow, what progress over the past few years.

Council and planning must be receptive and helpful to all proponents developing our Town.


1 person likes this
Posted by Danahendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Hi Bill:

There are a number of development projects moving forward.

1. Stanford is redesigning its plans to accommodate a larger mix of housing/office space and larger public plaza before preparing an EIR for 500 ECR.

2. I believe Greenheart is working on its EIR for 1300 ECR

3. A boutique hotel is planned for at 1400 ECR

4. A mixed use project has recently been approved for 1283-1295 ECR

5. Residential units are planned for 133 Encinal.

6. An office building is planned for 1020 Alma near the train station.

The areas on/near El Camino will be dramatically improved over the next 3-5 years. And there will be a lot of construction activity impacting this highway.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 7, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The areas on/near El Camino will be dramatically improved over the next 3-5 years. And there will be a lot of construction activity impacting this highway."

Just imagine how much of the east side sidewalk on ECR will be fenced off for a long time for these projects.

Look at how the south side sidewalk next to BBC on Santa Cruz has been lost.


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Posted by william patterson
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 8, 2015 at 7:30 am

All good news. I am hopeful those projects are realized


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Posted by Alma not enuff
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 8, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Don't rewrite history. The grocery store project was approved. Never built. The revised Derry project was approved by planning commission. Never take to council in depth of recession. Those were good projects. Better than greenhart office project that worsens housing crunch.


4 people like this
Posted by Victor
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 8, 2015 at 4:10 pm

Thank you, City Council, for the thoughtful deliberation and for supporting a trial.


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Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 9, 2015 at 10:45 am

Menloshopper:

You raise a great point about the lack of east-west connectivity in our existing bike network. Today we have two bike networks separated by El Camino Real.

I believe the best answer is to provide continuous protected bike lanes on both Menlo and Ravenswood Avenues all the way to Laurel Street. This would also improve downtown access from both sides of El Camino. We can also connect Santa Cruz Avenue near Peet's to Menlo via Crane and Middle Avenue to Menlo Ave via University, Live Oak and Crane.

You can see details of my proposal including illustrations at Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 11, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Another perspective:

"Busy thoroughfares aren’t meant for cyclists. They are meant for the cars, trucks, and buses that transport the vast majority of people moving through the nation’s cities. Those vehicles weigh thousands of pounds, operate at 300-plus horsepower, and are indispensable to the economic and social well-being of virtually every American community. Bicycles can be an enjoyable, even exhilarating, way to get around. So can horses, skis, and roller skates. Adding any of them to the flow of motorized traffic on roads that already tend to be too clogged, however, is irresponsible and dangerous."

"Bikes aren’t treated like cars for a very good reason: Bikes aren’t like cars. Which is exactly why they don’t belong on busy city streets. Cyclists and traffic don’t mix. It’s not just foolish to pretend otherwise. It’s deadly."
Jeff Jacoby

Web Link


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Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2015 at 10:40 am

The future of El Camino Real has already been decided by corporate big-wigs conspiring with local government agents. The public face of the operation is called the Grand Boulevard Task Force. The regional context has been set by a regional plan called the Bay Area Plan (aka One Bay Area). It is about advancing some special interests over others. Passenger cars will be banned on El Camino except maybe for rich Tesla owners charged a toll. Good luck even getting across the new Grand Boulevard amid and after its grand transformation.


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle

on Jul 4, 2017 at 3:41 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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