In an ongoing initiative to improve safety for children walking and biking to school in Woodside, the Town Council recently agreed to install three new crosswalks: one across Canada Road at Laning Drive, another across Mountain Home Road at Cedar Lane, and a third across Albion Avenue to connect a new trail to the Woodside Road crosswalk in front of Woodside Elementary School.
A fourth crosswalk, across Canada Road at Romero Road, will be relocated to the north side of the intersection and restriped. All the crosswalks will receive bright "ladder" stripes across the interior so as to increase their visibility to drivers, Woodside Town Engineer Sean Rose told the council.
The town expects to spend about $15,000 on the crosswalks, tapping the budget for 2018 road rehabilitation, a staff report says. As for the new section of trail at Albion, town crews will construct it. The Circulation Committee vetted the plans, the report says.
"We'd like to get all these improvements done by the time school resumes (on Aug. 20), but because of how we contract for them, that may not be possible," Rose told the council on July 24. The work may extend into September, he said.
"I really appreciate the input we got from the public when they were last here (in the council chambers)," Rose added. "That was very helpful to me. I had a lot of things in my mind about things that we're already doing, but hearing what they had to say ... has been invaluable."
Eroding rural charm
The council authorized the improvements in response to an upwelling of complaints at the June 12 council meeting by Woodside Elementary parents concerned about progress on the town's safe routes to school program. The focus of the complaints: Commuters, some of them sent to Woodside by Waze and other traffic rerouting apps, have been using Woodside surface streets as alternatives when traffic is crawling on Interstate 280.
Parents packed Independence Hall to share what they said they'd experienced: It's been one close call a month during walks to and from school, one parent said. Drivers routinely roll through the crosswalk in front of the school, said another. Commuters speed along normally quiet residential streets, said a third.
A driver turning on to Woodside Road from Albion in front of the school actually struck a student's bike as he was walking it across the road, despite the upright flashing lights that frame the crosswalk, another parent said.
"The once rural character of Woodside has been eroding for some time and in the last 5 years (that character) has eroded much more quickly due to the traffic increase during these hours (2-3 times what it was pre-Waze)," crosswalk campaign spokesman Peter Bailey said in an email to The Almanac.
"Our ultimate mission," Bailey added, "is to push back on the commuter traffic trend – making the community safer for all – and restoring our "sleepy town."
In 2014, the council authorized a new crosswalk at Canada and Romero and considered one at Mountain Home Road and Cedar Lane. They rejected the latter plan it on a 4-3 vote, with council members Dave Tanner and Anne Kasten and former council members Peter Mason and Tom Shanahan in the majority. Among the reasons cited during the discussion were the following:
• The crosswalk would end too near the driveway of a homeowner, who asked the town to install a camera to study traffic. That home has changed hands and the new homeowner has children in school and welcomes the crosswalk, Rose said.
• The Trails Committee wanted a diagonal crosswalk better suited for equestrians, but such crosswalks force pedestrians to put their backs to traffic and lengthen their exposure to traffic. The newly authorized crosswalk is not diagonal.
• Crosswalks and warning signs could undermine the town's rural character.
• The crosswalk should be put off until children have permission to use a path off Cedar Lane that would allow them to reach Woodside Road by going behind the fire station rather than passing by Roberts Market. That path remains off limits.