Woodside: Commuters and weekend through traffic are making roads less safe, parents tell council


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.


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21 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 14, 2018 at 12:54 pm

This isn't the 19th century anymore. Woodside needs to install real stop lights that are easier for distracted drivers to see and understand.

17 people like this
Posted by awatkins
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Blaming the town’s traffic and safety problems on Waze is pathetically brainless and pointless. For one thing, almost all modern GPS devices and mapping programs have real-time traffic-based rerouting, and you are not going to make them all go away.

We have a police service agreement with the county Sheriff’s office, paid for by Woodside. And we have ample laws to cover all the offenses being reported here. What I don’t see much of is people being ticketed, nor for that matter sheriff’s cars patrolling for them. Either we aren’t applying enough pressure to get the enforcement we need, or we need to pay for more enforcement.

Punishing the 99% of us who drive safely by (for example) impeding traffic flow with stop signs is just replacing one stupidity with another.

Deborah Gordon blames all the wrong parties: it’s not Caltrans’ fault, and it’s not Waze’s fault. It’s the drivers’ fault, so let’s go after the problem at it’s source with the tools we have: the police. Deborah Gordon and the rest of the council have the authority to do so right now. What are you all waiting for?

3 people like this
Posted by Hatewaze!
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jun 14, 2018 at 1:03 pm

Waze is the worst. When 280 is clogged they route through Portola Valley from Alpine and then down Arastadero where they have the left turn right away. If you are coming into Portola Valley from Arastadero you have to wait for 20 minutes or more to be able to turn left onto Alpine. Communities should be able to Opt-out of allowing their local traffic routes to be used for these Apps. Not making he world a better place!

10 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 14, 2018 at 1:10 pm

I agree that Woodside needs traffic signals especially at Canada and Woodside Roads, Kings Mountain and Woodside Roads, and in front of the school. Paved sidewalks wouldn't be a bad idea either. Also there was much reporting in the article about reckless drivers, but myself and my children have had multiple near misses with cyclists that blow through stop signs, use trails, and behave as if they own the roads.

11 people like this
Posted by No Signals
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Jun 14, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Traffic lights and stop signs are outdated. How about roundabouts? That would slow traffic without all the inefficient stops and starts.

14 people like this
Posted by Deep Pockets
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 14, 2018 at 1:43 pm

Woodside has more than enough money to pay for more cops, sidewalks, and traffic lights.

10 people like this
Posted by awatkins
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2018 at 2:03 pm

To those who expect the town 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."

If you wanted to feel like you live in a slow, rural community, buying a place on a state highway that is an arterial leading to the coast, and right in the middle of the busiest part of Woodside, was not the way to go. Moving to a location with well-known traffic and safety problems and then expecting the rest of us to make it the way you want is at best unreasonable and totally unrealistic.

As for those who still want to blame Waze for all of this: all it takes is a map and an IQ over 90 to figure out how to drive around a jammed freeway. This is not something Waze invented. Waze is also not responsible for the continuing population growth and traffic levels in this area. This has been going on since the ‘50s; in the 70’s 280 was free-flowing at all times. Here is the county’s population history:

Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Grownup
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 14, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Waaaaaa, we moved to an expensive suburb and now we are mad that it’s getting too crowded. I swear every issue of the Almanac has some story titled “Woodside residents voice concerns over “blank”.” Live and let live, NIMBYs.

10 people like this
Posted by awatkins
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Jun 14, 2018 at 2:10 pm

Click on “Resident Population” for the graph of SMC population over time.

Grownup: You’re right, but that’s more a reflection on the Almanac than Woodside. Essentially the only thing about Woodside they report on is Council meetings, and unfortunately there is a small portion of residents that thinks the town council is their Mommy. If the Almanac reporter got out into the community and talked to individuals outside of Council meetings, he would be able to report on Woodside itself, not just a tiny part of the town government. Don’t hold your breath.

4 people like this
Posted by MenloMarge
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jun 14, 2018 at 3:38 pm

These problems are happening all over the Bay Area due to jobs, tech, and many more people here. If you want to reverse it, go tell tech companies to move out--ooops many tech company execs now live in Woodside! Woodside should go to Palo Alto to see their new traffic calming/protection devices near schools. Also Woodside Road is one of the very few ways to get to the coasts due to the coastal mountains which we all love.

Like this comment
Posted by Sally k
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 14, 2018 at 4:17 pm

The number of cars traveling east bound are Teslas and other high end cars very likely residents heading to work. West bound traffic is often landscaping trucks, and construction workers doing their jobs rebuilding estates all over town.
Curbing their driving might be difficult.

2 people like this
Posted by Ursula
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jun 14, 2018 at 4:18 pm

Everyone should drive as if they're being dash-cammed. That's what I and a lot of people I know, do. I drive a large SUV and am routinely tailgated on Woodside Road between Portola and Canada; primarily by smaller vehicles. In different sections and roads I'll always pull over. But not on that section because there are no good places to pull over and because I don't want to facilitate someone zooming by the school in particular. I also use a dash cam. The more of us who use them, the more the word will get around, and the more people will drive as if they're being documented. Let's deal with the reality that too many drivers don't care or don't stop to think that they're putting people at risk. And that most of them probably don't want to get caught.

Like this comment
Posted by Kathi
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 14, 2018 at 8:08 pm

There is a growing problem on Canada Road between the stop sign at The Glens and Jefferson Boulevard. Virtually everyone ignores the speed limit leaving that sign if they are Wazers or through traffic, especially during rush hour. I think a couple more stop signs or speed bumps, or enforcement of existing speed laws, would make bicyclists, runners, local drivers and horses crossing the street much safer.we moved to Woodside just 15 years ago and it truly was rural and enjoyable then; now it’s getting quite suburban.

9 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 14, 2018 at 8:18 pm

It takes an awfully thick skin to be willing to drive near here at a mere 5 mph OVER the speed limit. Folks seem to be semi-aware that there is speed enforcement on Woodside Rd from Canada to Kings Mtn (especially during school drop off hours), but 84/Woodside turns into every man for himself west of Kings Mtn. You will be run off the road if you have the temerity to drive the 25MPH speed limit from King Mtn to just before Wunderlich. "Everybody" knows there is little to no enforcement, and woe betide you if you aren't willing to cross the double yellow to facilitate passing cyclists in the blind turn west of Why Worry Ln; expect to be honked at and flipped off. Same goes for the blind hill around Oak Hill.

As for the Waze cut through from PV through to Canada, there is a solution that would be way more cost effective than paying for an enforcement officer. The town could pay an electric vehicle driver to simply drive the loop from PV along Canada at precisely the speed limit. WAZE would no longer register the loop as a shortcut and traffic would both subside as well as have a moderating influence.

my $.02

2 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jun 15, 2018 at 7:40 am


12 people like this
Posted by Not A Nimby
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jun 15, 2018 at 12:50 pm

Not wanting masses of distracted, hurried drivers flying through your neighborhood does not make you a NIMBY, and I am sick and tired of hearing this condescending term being used for residents of what are now wealthy towns. Wealth has NOTHING to do with wanting your children to be safe, and yourself to continue to be able to walk to the local grocery store. Wealth has NOTHING to do with being annoyed that WAZE and other traffic routing apps are now sending bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic through your formerly quiet town. This is a matter of the right to live in your own town, safely, and not worry that your children are going to get killed in a crosswalk.

I'd like to see a lot more ACTIVE police presence in the areas mentioned, especially during rush hour. Ticket everyone who goes through the stop sign or puts a person at risk. Perhaps these areas will gain a reputation for not being such a fast short cut, after all. Arastradero is a horror show. We see it every day in PV. Canada Road and Albion, of all streets, have become daily highway alternatives.

Last note: Few of us chose to live in these little towns simply for their "cache." There was certainly no cache to living in PV when we bought here---it was just a sweet little town that was a ways off the highway. Woodside has always enjoyed a slightly shinier reputation, but people have traditionally bought there because they liked space, wildlife, quiet, and horses. If they wanted to show off money, they could easily have gone to Palo Alto or Atherton. Stop accusing people of being NIMBYs simply because they want to retain the quiet character of their small towns. I suspect it's out of jealousy. I'm sorry you feel that way. We were lucky to move in before prices skyrocketed. I'm sorry if you are angry because that didn't happen for you, but guess what? There's always going to be someone who has something you want, does something you want, or has more of something than you do. It's a reality for everyone. Make yourself miserable over that, and you are going to have a very unhappy life. If you don't like your life living in this area, there are many other areas of the country that are lovely, and much more affordable.

6 people like this
Posted by CouncilFail
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 15, 2018 at 5:20 pm

Woodside's council always acts as if the public is bringing them news. They don't proactively study and act on any issues. They listen to the loudest voice in the room and if the crowd changes from one meeting to the next, they change their votes too. We certainly don't have Woodside's best with this motley bunch of do-nothings. Hope you are paying attention Woodside and vote them out this fall. Get some advocacy going for issues that matter here, and yes, like safe routes. By the way, don't forget how Tanner voted against a CROSSWALK on Mtn Home!!

7 people like this
Posted by YIMBY
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2018 at 5:21 pm

"Stop accusing people of being NIMBYs simply because they want to retain the quiet character of their small towns."


2 people like this
Posted by Cayo
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 16, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Having grown up in Woodside in the '70's I can attest to the fact that this is nothing new. Many times I was nearly hit walking along Portola, Woodside or Mtn Home Rd. Of course there is much more traffic as there are many more people now.
"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.
My solution was to walk to school along the horse trails. What should we try now?

1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
6 hours ago

Not a NIMBY has a good point. Just because Portola Valley wants to retain its character, does not mean that you should name call someone a nimby. Yes, we are a very wealthy town. Home prices average almost 5 million. The reason it is so expensive here is precisely because of the town’s character. If we install traffic signals, etc, then our town’s character is destroyed and therefore our property values. No one here wants that.

I would like to add that opinions from cities like Menlo Park or Redwood City are often slanted because of their paradigm. If you live in a city where traffic lights etc are the norm, it is unfair to push your viewpoint when applied to neighboring towns completely different from your own.

Portola Valley and Woodside enjoy a certain exclusivity and haven that many other communities do not. We are very fortunate for this. Let’s keep our towns characters and not overreact to the problems a few non resident thru traffic is causing.

2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Woodside: other
2 hours ago

Exactly what "character" is Woodside and Portola Valley trying to preserve by not making their streets safe for local children to walk to school? I'm talking about what other cities consider to be common sense: sidewalks, crosswalks, and stop lights. Are these towns supposed to be for retired people only?

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