Menlo Park: 'Laurel Mom' spearheads plan for kid-friendly bike route


In October, Laurel School's upper campus, the new site for its third- through fifth-graders located at 275 Elliott Drive in Menlo Park, will open its doors for 300-plus students. The current Laurel School site, located at 95 Edge Rd. in Atherton, will continue to operate for kindergarteners through second-graders.

What is known with less clarity is how the children who will attend it will get to and from school.

Encouraging kids to ride their bikes to school decreases car traffic and could reduce childhood obesity, City Councilwoman Catherine Carlton said. "We need to make sure kids can get to school safely."

Jen Wolosin, the mother of one of the soon-to-be third-graders at the new school, has taken it upon her shoulders to help the city of Menlo Park figure out a way for kids to get to the school safely by walking or biking. A self-titled "Laurel Mom," Ms. Wolosin says even though her family lives close enough to the current Laurel School campus to walk or bike, she doesn't feel comfortable commuting with them through harrying traffic conditions, so she drives.

She said her 8-year-old daughter has been practicing riding her bike to prepare for her commute to the new school. She said she asked herself: What would it take for me to feel comfortable letting my kids bike to the new campus?

The "Revised Laurel Connector Bike Plan" is Ms. Wolosin's idea for what could be done on Menlo Park streets to make the streets safer for kids walking and biking to school. It would start at Menalto Avenue and Oak Court and end at the San Mateo County line on the 800 block of Coleman Avenue.

It recommends restricted parking on several streets, new stop sign installations, no stopping zones, crosswalks, improved sidewalks, reduced speed limits of 15 miles per hour, crossing guards, and sharrow markings to be painted on the road, which are painted symbols of bikes intended to remind drivers to share the road with bikers in the same lane.

The proposed route skips over stretches of Coleman Avenue that fall into unincorporated county land. She created a video of what an average school day looks like on the unincorporated stretch of the street. It shows the road congested with heavy traffic while teens, children, and adults with preschoolers weave through the cars while walking and biking.

Recently, she and other community members worked with the county to get "no parking" signs installed on the street, which is expected to happen in coming weeks.

A previous version of the plan proposed restricted parking near the business area at Gilbert and Menalto avenues. After meeting with business owners there, she made some alterations to the plan.

She is planning a door-to-door campaign to the roughly 350 houses on streets affected by her proposal, and is rallying people to attend an Aug. 23 City Council meeting to show their support for the plan.

"I feel like this is doable," she said, adding, "I have no illusions this will happen overnight."

See Ms. Wolosin's proposed route here, or offer feedback via an online survey.

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27 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 5, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Really sad that cities don't automatically build and maintain safe bicycle routes to all public schools. Thank you Mrs Wolosin for picking up the slack. I hope that your work is implemented before the start of the school year.

1 person likes this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 6, 2016 at 4:53 pm

And painted lines on roads are supposed to protect our precious children -- how?

It's a crying shame that our school district is too poor to afford school buses -- with well-trained and excellent drivers. In one of the wealthiest cities in the entire country.


5 people like this
Posted by MPCSD Employee
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2016 at 10:16 pm

Louise68-MPCSD does have school buses, and some amazing drivers. One of the drivers is Wilfin Morales. In 2011, "Popular bus driver Wilfin Morales has been named California Department of Education Classified School Employee of the Year. He will be honored in Sacramento at a luncheon on May 16 for his outstanding service to children and the Menlo Park City School District." See below for the full article.

Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Stop the Madness
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Aug 7, 2016 at 9:43 am

It looks like Ms. Wolosin's proposed plan calls for No Parking zones (at certain times of the day) for portions of Menalto Ave, Elm St, Central Ave, Gilbert Ave, Santa Monica Ave, Coleman Ave, and Walnut St.

Imagine not being able to park on the street in front of your own home. What happens when you want to have friends visit, or when deliveries are coming, or repairmen, gardeners, and contractors are coming to do work on your home?

Parking restrictions will make it seem that we are rapidly becoming like San Francisco.

When I grew up in Menlo Park 35 years ago, we biked to school and literally everywhere else, too. Bike lanes in those days were few and far between. Somehow we managed to survive just fine.

I'm sure everyone wants to support safe biking routes, but pushing for No Parking restrictions over large areas of the community is a bit much in my opinion.

36 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 7, 2016 at 10:21 am

@Stop the Madness - 35 years ago was before the iphone and SUV. Street safety has to adapt for the modern world. Losing a few parking spaces around town is a minor cost for greatly improved safety for our children.

2 people like this
Posted by Not minor
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 7, 2016 at 6:07 pm

It's not a minor cost for the people who would lose parking in front of their houses. It sounds like the advocates for no parking on certain streets haven't really thought it through, if that's their position. Or maybe they just mean that it's minor to them because the proposed prohibition on parking is on streets other people live on.

11 people like this
Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 8, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Actually, those parking restrictions already exist near the other MPCSD schools and the neighbors have survived the inconveniences. It isn't an unknown strategy. Surely the safety of kids and the encouragement of bike riding and not driving are worth the tradeoff. Because wouldn't it be awesome if you didn't have a carline blocking your access for 45 minutes a day? That's what the delivery people don't like.

3 people like this
Posted by Be balanced
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 9, 2016 at 3:28 am

The no parking restrictions are often a nightmare.... At Encinal, parents simply can't drive to the school and get out and go into the school unless they get one of a few coveted parking spots. As a result, it frankly feels like a place I-- as a parent-- am disconnected to. There is simply no place to park and I don't live close. They need to be common sense restrictions.... Don't recreate Encinal.

3 people like this
Posted by No parking?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 9, 2016 at 11:01 am

Since when did parked cars become such a huge safety issue? Granted, if a driver is sitting in their parked car and then suddenly opens their door into traffic, there is a certain amount of risk to bicyclists, but that has always been the case.

I would be much more concerned about the drivers who are actually driving down the road at 35 to 50 mph. I think that's the real danger.

3 people like this
Posted by lack of parking affects everyone
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 9, 2016 at 12:45 pm

If no parking zones are implemented on some streets, then I suspect that the adjacent streets would see an increase in the number of parked cars.

For example, if you can't park on Gilbert Ave, then you'll just have to park on Santa Margarita Ave, Marmona Dr, Barton Way, Shirley Way, Nova Lane, Pope St, or Laurel Ave.

Furthermore, if you can't park on Menalto, Elm, Central, Santa Monica, Coleman, and Walnut then you'll just have to park on whatever streets are adjacent to these.

The impacts of no parking can ripple out and affect a lot of people. Imagine all the people circling around the blocks in the neighborhood looking for a place to park.

15 people like this
Posted by Jen Wolosin
a resident of Laurel School
on Aug 9, 2016 at 2:57 pm

Dear Neighbors,

Last night (8/8) the MP Bicycle Commission passed a motion to recommend to the City Council to direct MP Transportation Staff to dedicate resources to study Safe Routes for Laurel. I don't have the exact wording, but it essentially was telling our elected officials to prioritize creating safe biking for our kids with regards to Laurel (if any of you were there and have a better summary of the motion, please post). Nikki Nagaya, Tranportation Manager for MP, indicated that even if this issue becomes a priority for our City, due to limited resources available, that it will likely take up to 18 months for a study to be completed and recommendations to begin to be implemented.

I am extremely pleased that the City (at least the Bicycle Commission, the City Council is up next on August 23rd) understands the importance of creating Safe Routes. As you may have noticed, the REVISED Laurel Connector Bike Plan is not included in the motion that was passed. As I've been saying all along, my intention was to start a conversation about Safe Routes. I put something out there and many in the community were able to share their thoughts on it. All that being said and done, it was never going to be up to one Laurel Mom, or voices on NextDoor, to determine exactly what transportation measures were or were not going to be adopted. There are processes in place (City directs resources, Transportation Department conducts study, gets public opinion, makes recommendations, City Council votes, etc.) and I'm just thrilled that the process will hopefully begin soon. Getting the neighbors talking about these issues and placing it on the radar of city officials is a win. Assuming the City Council agrees with the Bicycle Commission and agrees to direct City Staff to study this issue, it will be time for the professionals, the real transportation engineers (not me) to look at data, figure things out.

While I'm hopeful that the City Council will agree with the Bicycle Commission, this is not a slam dunk. Whether you agree with the specifics of the REVISED Laurel Connector Bike Plan or not, please let the City Council know that this issues demands attention and immediate study. There are many competing priorities in Menlo Park, please put our children at the top of the list. I'm concerned that if the best case is an 18 month process, then we are already behind the ball (Upper Laurel opens October 17th).

What can you do?
1. Attend the City Council meeting on August 23rd and let our city council members know that you agree with the Bicycle Commission that Safe Routes to Laurel must be a priority and a study must begin immediately.
2. Send an email to City Council at and let them know the same.
3. Spread the word.

As for the REVISED Laurel Connector Bike Plan (Web Link), feel free to continue to check it out and provide feedback via Survey Monkey (Web Link). I plan to share ALL the data (positive and negative) I'm collecting with the Transportation Department and I think it can greatly help in giving them a head-start on understanding concerns/challenges with various solutions. Even though I clearly hit a nerve with many neighbors, I still believe this exercise has been worthwhile in drawing attention to this important issue and getting the attention of the City. I'm not sure if I will be actually canvasing door-to-door anymore to collect feedback...given that I'm out of town and that there's only 2 weeks before the City Council meeting, and given that the REAL issue is getting the City to prioritize this issue, continuing to focus on one plan seems a bit extraneous.

Thank you all for your attention to this issue to date and for your many constructive comments and thoughtful feedback. I look forward to seeing many of you on the 23rd at City Council.

Jen Wolosin

4 people like this
Posted by Not minor
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 9, 2016 at 7:26 pm

Regarding this suggestion: "There are many competing priorities in Menlo Park, please put our children at the top of the list."

I think this is quite a useful statement, because it helps me to clarify why I think the original proposal (with its 24 hours/day, 7 days/week residential parking ban) and the later revised proposal don't make sense to me. I am a big fan of children; I have some myself and I think they are pretty amazing human beings. But there is no age at which I've felt that my children and their cohorts should have their needs prioritized over everyone else in the neighborhood or city. Are kids' needs just as important - certainly. But are they more important - no. Other people have needs too: older people, disabled people, busy families with caregivers, and more. All of this should be considered in a balanced way, to provide good transportation options for children while preserving the rights and honoring the needs of others.

3 people like this
Posted by eduardo
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Aug 9, 2016 at 7:58 pm

re: Dawn - The reactions to the original and revised proposals were in the context of removing parking along Gilbert and other streets, in the way towards the school, not in the immediate area of the school (e.g. the new restrictions proposed for Oak Court and Elliot Dr).

That said, like Jen, I'm very happy that the Bicycle Commission is recommending a study. I've lived in The Willows since '98 and our kids have carpooled, walked to, and biked to school at different ages. I believe the biggest sources of risk in the route are the way car drivers (and bikers) don't follow traffic rules, the difficulty in crossing Willow road, and the extra, and rushed, traffic from cut-traffic through Marmona and Pope to avoid Willow Road and University.

Gilbert Ave will never be a sleepy street; personally, it seems to me the best solution is to go through Willow Oak Park and then on Elm Ave, but I know there are many issues involved, so looking forward to have the Transportation Commission conduct the study.

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