News

Menlo Park: Wide support for bike lanes on Oak Grove Avenue

 

"Hello council members," said a child who took the podium, lifting onto her tiptoes to better reach the microphone. "I'm Irene Vail. I am in second grade at Encinal School." She went on to tell the Menlo Park City Council that she doesn't feel very safe riding her bike and would like to have bike lanes on Oak Grove Avenue.

She, with a number of other Menlo Park community members, voiced support of a plan proposed by the city's Bicycle Commission, which would be a pilot program to install bike lanes that connect Menlo-Atherton High School to downtown Menlo Park.

Though council members couldn't vote to approve the pilot project since the matter was not on the agenda, they did voice support for it. The proposal will be brought back to the council for action.

According to bicycle commissioners Jonathan Weiner and Bill Kirsch, the pilot would last during the 2016-17 school year before being revisited as a potentially permanent installation.

Heading from east to west, the bike route would start at Menlo-Atherton High School (Oak Grove Avenue and Middlefield Road), with 7-foot buffered lanes, and continue along Oak Grove Avenue, past El Camino Real to Crane Street, where the lane would narrow to 5 feet.

Riders would take Crane Street to Santa Cruz Avenue, where they would have to deal with a 530-foot stretch where the bike lane would disappear in favor of "sharrows" (lanes marked by white bicycle signs painted on the road that tell motorists that they are sharing the road with bicyclists).

From there, bicyclists would have access to the existing bike lanes to continue down Santa Cruz Avenue.

Heading from south to north, another bike route is proposed to stretch from Middle Avenue to Valparaiso Avenue, beginning on University Drive, then jogging east along Live Oak Avenue to Crane Street. In all, the proposed project would eliminate 112 street parking spots.

Bike lanes would be on both sides of the streets so cyclists could travel in either direction.

Several bicycle commissioners at the meeting said they had spoken with various stakeholders who could be affected by the bike lanes. Kevin Conner, sustainability director at Menlo School, said the school supports the project, and sees it as a way to increase safety and eliminate obstacles that could prevent kids from cycling to school.

Bicycle commissioner Cindy Welton presented letters of support for the project from Monsignor Steven Otellini, pastor at Nativity School and Michael Dwyer, operations director at Sacred Heart Schools.

Lydia Lee, another bicycle commissioner, said that even though she is a bike advocate, it can be hard to encourage others to bike without having proper infrastructure on the streets for people to be safe. Demand for bike lanes is evidenced by the kids who already ride their bikes. She said the plan could make "hundreds of students' lives better."

Fran Dehn, president of the city's Chamber of Commerce, said she supports the project, but wants to make sure that the proposed elimination of parking spots does not disturb downtown parking. Many of the cars that currently park on Oak Grove Avenue, she said, are from students at Menlo-Atherton High School. They would need an alternate parking location if those spots were eliminated.

Councilwoman Kirsten Keith offered a preliminary suggestion that perhaps nearby church parking lots, which typically remain vacant during the day, could be utilized.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by MLE
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 13, 2016 at 12:51 pm

I would be interested in why the bike lane would terminate at Crane rather than University?
Sharing that portion of Santa Cruz with cars while cars are also potentially backing up from the angled parking spaces doesn't seem like a comfortable situation--unless there is a plan to eliminate the Santa Cruz parking on that block in favor of bike lanes.


12 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm

Please install more bike racks downtown (like what downtown Palo Alto has). Safe bicycle parking is part of encouraging people to ride their bikes to downtown businesses. If people bike instead of drive, then there will be less demand for car parking spaces.


4 people like this
Posted by Bill Kirsch
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 13, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Dear Parent- The City has plans to add a substantial number of bicycle racks in the downtown area. Hopefully those will be in place by end of summer.


Like this comment
Posted by MP Taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 13, 2016 at 11:19 pm

"According to bicycle commissioners Jonathan Weiner and Bill Kirsch"
"Bicycle commissioner Cindy Welton"
"Lydia Lee, another bicycle commissioner"

How many bicycle commissioners do we have? And why do we need so many?


2 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 14, 2016 at 2:18 am

And so we are supposed to obey children in making important safety decisions? A child can never understand his or her own mortality -- that is part of being a child. And since when does an idea having lots of support mean that idea is therefore good?

How safe is it to encourage kids to ride bikes in this day and age when all too many drivers are driving distracted by their personal electronic devices?

This whole idea of adding bike lanes to streets that are already full of motor vehicles puts every bicyclist i great danger. And to see many people in our community supporting such a dangerous activity is really sad.

In any collision between a motor vehicle and a bicyclist, the bicyclist always loses.

What amazes me is that there are not many, many collisions between bicyclist and motor vehicles --but how many near misses are there?

I do understand that people want to avoid driving, but the danger to bicyclists when they share roads with motor vehicles is immense.

Paint on roads is not a physical barrier and provides only the illusion of protection.


Like this comment
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 15, 2016 at 11:43 am

An updated version of a letter sent to the City Council on April 12, 2016

To: Menlo Park City Council

Subject: An Oak Grove Bike Corridor Is Not the Best Community Bike Investment

I am a BIG supporter of the idea that Menlo Park should have a first class community bike network that enables bicyclists to ride to all popular destinations both inside and outside Menlo Park - safely, conveniently and comfortably. That why I have invested my time and effort investigating the problems, potential solutions, and City plans associated with our bike network. It’s clear that Menlo Park lags far behind neighboring Peninsula cities because too little progress has made during the past ten years. Unfortunately, the two major projects the city might field trial in 2016 - bike lanes on El Camino Real and a bike corridor on Oak Grove appear non-essential and potentially troublesome for both bicyclists and motorists. The project evaluation process remains extremely slow and has lacked professional rigor. Instead, it has largely been driven by the opinions and influence of a minority group of bike enthusiasts – both residents and outside bike advocates. I doubt that many residents understand where the projects stand, what lies ahead and the reasoning for the City Council’s decisions. This is unacceptable given the likely significant impact these projects would have on all residents and the City’s financial resources. However, this appears to be how our City normally works.

UNSETTLING DECISION-MAKING PROCESS

Menlo Park continues to make major decisions without adequate evaluation of potential project benefits and consequences.

• A bike network is a SYSTEM of bike paths and “improved” streets that enable bicyclists to travel to popular destinations safely, conveniently and comfortably (stress-free). Bicyclists typically use nearby neighborhood streets to access a bike network. The existing Menlo Park Comprehensive Bike Plan was developed with the assistance of a professional bike network consultant in 2004 and is CLEARLY outdated.
It does NOT consider contemporary bike network design methodologies and tools, existing and future traffic patterns and is not based on a strong understanding of the needs of our bike and non-bike communities.

• Menlo Park has NOT employed the services of a bike network consulting firm that could evaluate the absolute value of building the two proposed projects -– NOR the relative value of these improvements versus alternatives. Instead, each project appears to be shaped and supported by amateur cyclists, commissioners, council members, and residents who lack sufficient expertise in bike network design and sufficient data. The result: decisions are based largely on opinions and encouraged by an activist minority who prefer commuting by bike rather than vehicle and are able to do so.

• Both projects will have significant impacts on motorists, pedestrians and businesses yet none have been rigorously evaluated. There is no written proposal that even attempts to communicate the value of these projects, the impacts, costs, schedules, and trade-offs that these entail. No business would ever undertake a project without a well-written plan nor proceed without a sound set of assumptions. So how do the City Council and residents know whether these projects make sense and deserve high priority?

• The city has not performed appropriate public outreach for either project so only advocates – MANY not residents - are tuned into the sporadic city study process, attend relevant city meetings, and express their strong views.

• Field trials should be used to demonstrate the feasibility of new bike improvements, test assumptions, and collect resident feedback. The desirability should at least be shown before undertaking them. Clear specific and measurable success criteria should also be defined. Yet none have been published for either project. So how will residents know these projects were successful?

• Field trials are expensive as the work needed is comparable to that required for a final implementation. What will these trials include? Projected cost? Recently, the city received transportation improvement bids 40% higher than they projected for a project with a $500,000 budget. This huge disconnect needs to be considered when making current estimates for similar projects.

• I have personally submitted a number of ideas to the city that are supported with extensive analysis and offered to discuss them with city officials and the Bike Commission. Only a couple of commissioners and none on the Bike Commission or City Council have expressed any interest whatsoever.

A BETTER BIKE CORRIDOR

I have asked the City Council to reconsider its apparent pursuit of an east-west bike corridor on Oak Avenue between University and Middlefield as this project appears to be unnecessary, costly, have significant negative impacts, and has drawn attention away from what I believe are the more important needs of the Menlo Park bike community. Again, I have offered to discuss them. I may be wrong but believe our community would benefit from an open and honest appraisal

I recommended two strategic priorities. First, eliminate the unsafe and stressful conditions that currently exist on busy streets already popular with bicyclists AND motorists, ones where bikes must share lanes with heavy and faster vehicle
traffic. These conflict-producing streets include

• University Avenue between Middle and Santa Cruz Avenue.
• Menlo Avenue between University and El Camino Real
• Ravenswood between El Camino Real and Laurel.
• Oak Grove between El Camino and Laurel.
• Glenwood between El Camino Real and Laurel.
• Middle between University and the Safeway shopping plaza.

Next, create a core bike network grid that provides convenient, safe and stress-free east-west and north-south connectivity and serves bicyclists who live in every Menlo Park neighborhood. The three natural east-west bike corridors are Valparaiso-Glenwood (to Laurel), Menlo-Ravenswood and Middle. These would serve bicyclists who live at northern, central, and southern neighborhoods on both sides of El Camino. New north-south bike corridors are already recommended in the Specific Plan on University and Alma-Garwood Way.

I recommend that you read my comprehensive analysis at Web Link.

I oppose the Oak Grove bike corridor for many reasons.

• An Oak Grove bike corridor effectively duplicates the one that already exists on Valparaiso, one that will be improved in 2016. The budgeted improvements to Valparaiso and Glenwood will enable bicyclists at the north end of Menlo Park to safely, conveniently and comfortably ride to destinations between Middlefield and Alemeda De Las Pulgas using Valparaiso, Glenwood, Laurel, Encinal, and Ravenswood. This section of Ravenswood already has bike lanes.

• An Oak Grove bike corridor would only serve a small portion of Menlo Park residents as it would be inconvenient for bicyclists who ride between places either near or south of Ravenswood, Menlo and Santa Cruz, i.e., riding to Downtown from the Willows, Linfield Oaks, Menlo Oaks, Vintage Oaks and much of Bell Haven; and riding from neighborhoods served by Middle Avenue to Burgess Park, SRI, offices on Middlefield, the train station and Willow Road would require inconvenient detours.

• An Oak Grove bike corridor is not needed to serve students who must cross El Camino Real as the nearby Valparaiso-Glenwood bike corridor serves the same purpose for those who find a northern route to Menlo-Atherton High School and Hillview Middle School convenient. However, Oak Grove will be INCONVENIENT and therefore unused by the majority of students.

• An Oak Grove bike corridor would eliminate about 110 street parking places, ones that will increase in value once Station 1300 is completed.
Note: this is in addition to the more than 150 parking spaces that would be eliminated by bike lanes on El Camino. Total loss: 260 street parking spaces. How will this impact downtown and El Camino businesses?

• Access to the Oak Grove bike corridor from Middle and Santa Cruz would require bicyclists to share vehicle lanes on downtown Santa Cruz. This will deter many cyclists and create motorist-vehicle conflicts as vehicles travel much faster (25 mph) than the average bicyclist (10 mph). Bike riders are legally required to allow motorists to pass but many riders ignore this law and there is little room on Santa Cruz to do so. Finally, given the many distractions on downtown streets and the existing traffic flows this section will be unsafe for motorists and bicyclists. Why would the city encourage bicyclists - especially young riders - to put themselves in this dangerous environment?

• Station 1300 will increase vehicle traffic on the already busy Oak Grove so the relative attractiveness of biking on this street will decline. I do support bike lanes on Oak Grove that connect Station 1300 to Alma, the train station and Laurel as this will integrate this development into the existing bike network. Note: I also support bike lanes on University between Middle and Menlo Avenue.


A central Menlo-Ravenswood bike corridor would serve a greater number of bicyclists than the proposed Oak Grove corridor, eliminate less than 60 street parking spaces versus 110 and could be completed in early 2017. By incorporating a cycle path between Alma and Laurel and protected bike lanes on Menlo Avenue bike riders could enjoy a safe, convenient, comfortable and beautiful bike route between University and Middlefield, and motorists, a safe and less stressful experience. I highly recommend the City Council seriously consider this alternative before it commits to a field trial for a suboptimal Oak Grove bike corridor.

Editor, Re-Imagine Menlo Park


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