For about 30 minutes on Tuesday evening (June 12), the Woodside Town Council heard stories from parents and other concerned citizens about the unsafe aspect of local roads that children use – and could use in greater numbers if they were safer – for walking or biking to and from school on Woodside Road.
Residents blamed the safety problems on commuters, directed by cloud-based congestion rerouting software and trying to avoid crowded arterials during the week, and out-of-towners passing through Woodside on their way to somewhere else on weekends.
The council, town staff and the town's Circulation Committee have been working on the Safe Routes to School problem for years, and Mayor Chris Shaw pledged to collaborate with the residents in the months ahead.
"It would be unfair of us not recognize the work that the Circulation Committee has done over the last five years because it was a lot of heavy lifting to get the (Woodside Road) bike lanes done and the narrowing (of traffic lanes)," Shaw said. "What you all have done by showing up tonight is to re-energize that process."
Residents weighed in with anecdotal accounts.
Fiona Ryan of Woodside Road, who said she has two small children whom she and her husband are trying to "bring up wild," reported seeing about one close call a month as she walks them to school, often because the driver was talking on a phone. Her husband was almost struck while walking in a bike lane to the grocery store on Woodside Road, she said.
Drivers need to slow down, Ryan said. "It's a very important issue. I really appreciate you guys taking the time ... to get whatever needs to be put down on the roads to make people move slower, to make this town feel like a slow, rural community. That's why we came here."
Resident Joel Hornstein reported that his son's bike had been damaged in front of Woodside Elementary when a driver turned on to Woodside Road from Albion Avenue and hit the bike while he was walking it through the crosswalk on Sunday, June 3. Because she was turning on to Woodside Road, the driver may not have seen the flashing lights that frame the crosswalk, he said, but added that the family was "tremendously shaken" by the experience.
It's not just a weekday problem, and Waze, the traffic rerouting app, is partly to blame, Hornstein said. "On weekdays, it's the Wazers who zoom through Albion," he said. "They're on Albion because I-280's jammed shut, Cañada's jammed shut and now they've really got to make up for lost time. ... On the weekend, it's joy riders who, like this woman, just aren't paying attention."
The crosswalk at Cañada and Romero roads needs enhancements, a Romero resident said. The line of sight for northbound drivers on Cañada is blocked by a rise in the elevation of the road, he said, adding that they need to be warned that a crosswalk is ahead and that it may be occupied.
Melissa Zdrodowski told the council that she listens for sirens if her children are more than two minutes late in arriving home from school. She reported seeing close calls between pedestrians and vehicles when she walks to school with them. And on weekends, "people are zipping through" the crosswalk at Albion and Woodside, she said. "People roll through there all, all, all the time."
"The town has been trying to solve this problem for a long time," said Sten Mawson of Romero Road. "I think if horses had to go to school, we would have solved it." Every child living within a mile of school should be able to walk there, he said.
Steve Lubin of Palm Circle spoke of a fundamental problem. "I don't think the town has taken kids walking to school very seriously," he said. "I don't think the designs we have for Woodside Road or Cañada Road make it look like we're serious about kids being there. It makes it look like (the children) are allowed the leftover spaces after the cars are through, (that the roadways) predominantly accommodate cars."
Councilwoman Deborah Gordon called for "a multi-pronged approach" in dealing the the problem. What can be done "that will cause people to behave differently?" she asked. There are values embedded in traffic rerouting software, such as speed, that are not aligned with values the community would embrace, she said.
As for Waze, she said that the company may need a setting that does not route traffic on streets where there are schoolchildren. "Somebody has to want to make that a value," she added.
"We can't be so arrogant as to say that none of us have done this bad behavior," Gordon said, noting that she herself has seen parents driving in bike lanes. "Be mindful of what we're doing and keep our kids and our grandkids safe," she said. She added that people should be contacting the state Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Woodside Road. "Make your voice heard," she said.
Councilman Dave Tanner noted that Cañada Road could accommodate more stop signs. "If you inconvenience them, they won't come," he said, adding that it also might inconvenience those who live there.
In a discussion later in the meeting on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the council requested an amendment allocating about $300,000 per year for the next several years to hire a second full-time motorcycle officer for Woodside's exclusive use in traffic patrol.