Menlo Park postpones bike lanes on El Camino Real


The Menlo Park City Council on Tuesday night postponed installing bike lanes on El Camino Real for now; appointed new commissioners to the planning, parks and recreation and library commissions; and adjusted fees for city services.

Bike lanes

After a long discussion with passionate comments in support of and in opposition to bike lanes on El Camino Real, the City Council voted 4-1, with council member Kirsten Keith abstaining, a complicated motion to:

● Prioritize installing bike lanes to improve east-west bike infrastructure and have staff focus on moving forward with the proposed Oak Grove Avenue bike corridor.

● Work with Caltrans to add the missing fourth pedestrian crossings at El Camino Real's intersections in Menlo Park. Those are on the south leg of Cambridge, Middle, Ravenswood and Encinal Avenues and the north leg of Roble Avenue.

● Add a westbound bike lane on Ravenswood Avenue between the Caltrain tracks and El Camino Real, with a "bike box" or something like it painted on to the street to make it easier for bikes to turn.

● Reallocate funds that had been dedicated to widening the right-turn lane at northbound El Camino Real onto Ravenswood Avenue back to the city's "Transportation Impact Fund" for use on other transportation infrastructure projects.

● Select the bike-lane option that adds a painted, rather than physical, buffer on El Camino as the city's preferred alternative – to be considered for implementing as a pilot program at a future date.

● Ask the consulting firm, W-Trans, to analyze how to better address the El Camino Real bottleneck at Ravenswood Avenue. Councilman Peter Ohtaki recommended it look at different ways to spread that traffic out to other Menlo Park intersections. That item would return to the City Council in June on its consent calendar.

New commissioners

The council made a number of appointments.

● Planning Commission: Henry Riggs and Andrew Barnes will fill the vacancies of John Kadvany and Katie Ferrick, who had reached their term limits.

● Parks and Recreation Commission: Jennifer Baskin and Jennifer Johnson were appointed.

● Library Commission: Margaret Race was appointed. Two vacancies remain.

Fee changes

The council made a number of changes to the city's "master fee schedule." Administrative Services Director Nick Pegueros said the changes will increase city revenue by about $115,000, which would be put toward covering costs to improve IT services. See the city staff report on fee changes for more information.

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Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 4, 2016 at 12:23 pm

"Identify the bike-lane option with a painted, rather than physical, buffer on El Camino as the city's preferred alternative – to be considered for implementing as a pilot program at a future date."

What does this vague statement actually mean?

Someday the City will revisit the idea of bike lanes on El Camino? Why?

Does this mean no significant city staff resources or City Council time will be devoted to this "project" in 2016?

I thought that the City Council had previously asked city staff to evaluate a possible field trial of buffered bike lanes which are essentially paint without a strong physical barrier separating bikes and vehicles. Was I mistaken?

The City Council needs to be much clearer as to its intentions. Otherwise, they are simply kicking this can down the road.

18 people like this
Posted by Jim Zehnder
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Wow, a breathtaking capitulation on the ECR bike plan. What carries more weight in this discussion, a few reactionary people constantly posting, or all the data suggesting that bike lanes would not increase traffic and make the ECR corridor (and the city in general) more bike and pedestrian friendly? An extremely disappointing performance by the city council.

11 people like this
Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 4, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Having watched this entire segment of the meeting with great interest, I have to say that the council made a reasonable choice. And I'm a cyclist who is enthusiastic about new bike facilities in Menlo Park.

a) the staff have limited bandwidth. Creating safer routes to our schools (east-west) helps more people and is less controversial. They weren't going to be able to do both at the same time, so why not start with the project that will be higher impact and have broader support? The staff requested a postponement on the El Camino experiment and that's ultimately what the council decided to do.

Also, b) there's soon going to be massive construction along the El Camino corridor. We really don't know what the longer-term impacts of those developments will be but it's safe to say that running an experiment of bike lanes through a construction zone is probably not a great idea. And a failed experiment of this sort will not help our cause.

On El Camino, you're designing for a couple of different constituencies:
a) people who bike through Menlo Park on their way somewhere (mostly commuters, who are mostly skilled adults) and
b) people who might want to ride from Linfield Oaks or Allied Arts to the movies or Safeway or Menlo Velo or the yogurt shop. You're going to have a wider range of ages and skill levels in this group.

For Group A, Peter Ohtaki mentioned a potential work-around involving Alma and Garwood. But it's in the interests of Group A for us to coordinate better with adjacent cities. For Group B, again, it's best to wait and see what happens with construction. A well-designed East-West bike route will probably result in more casual cyclists around Menlo Park, which will ultimately yield more community support for lanes on El Camino. All in good time...

Other takeaways: there's really a range of comfort level on city council with the concept of biking in traffic. They wrestled collectively with this decision. This might actually be a fair microcosm of the diverse opinions within the city and the ways in which we will collectively evolve.

I was surprised that no one mentioned that getting ride of parking and going to a six-lane thoroughfare is probably way more damaging to the El Camino merchants than bike lanes.

I was glad that the animosity in evidence from a couple of speakers didn't seem to overly influence the council decision. They are being prudent, not weak.

7 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 4, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Agreed with CCB, but why is the answer always another study with some overpaid consultant?

Like this comment
Posted by Mark L
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 4, 2016 at 4:37 pm

Maybe they can start working on the Santa Cruz sidewalks and bike lanes they promised us.

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Posted by Pay Attention
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 4, 2016 at 6:35 pm

What was a odd was that Council Member Keith didn't even get a second to her motion. It seemed that she didn't try to line up a colleague to second her motion if, for no other reason, to have a discussion on the merits of her motion. I wonder if she didn't know all along there wasn't a remote chance to move an el camino real bike lane project along. Was she just placating bicyclists to keep her long endorsement list intact? Why does the council continually spend money on consultants and studies when it's clear there are not the votes to approve whatever the consultants show will be a working concept. Happy talk. It's what this council is great at. The most decision adverse council the City has had in a long time. Listen to the language. "Let's look at. Let's study. Let's prioritize. Let's come back to this. Staff doesn't have the bandwidth." Blah Blah Blah.

Like this comment
Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on May 4, 2016 at 6:56 pm

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

" It seemed that she didn't try to line up a colleague to second her motion "

That just means she was complying with the Brown Act. It's hard to line up support beforehand when discussing agenda items with more than one other person is against the law.

And Mark L, the bike lanes have been in on Santa Cruz for quite a while. The sidewalks take longer because they need to be properly engineered for drainage issues.

1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 5, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Daily Post (May 5, 2016) - : "(The) Menlo Park City Council wants bicycles throughout the city, but has voted against putting such lanes on El Camino Real."

This is an accurate statement according to our mayor. This decision took a lot of city time and effort but is the right one

Pivotal issue: bike lanes on El Camino do not make it safer so encouraging more bike riders is fundamentally a dangerous idea and creates moral and legal liabilities for Menlo Park. (my view)

Now let's improve east-west bike connectivity - at the north, central and south ends of Menlo Park. That is a critical need for both young and adult bike riders.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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