Menlo Park: Speed hump trial wins council approval

Cars drive down Marmona Drive in Menlo Park on Thursday, September 13, 2018. Photo by Magali Gauthier/ The Almanac

Nine speed humps. One yield sign. One road closed to vehicles, plus a few advisory speed limit signs. Yet it took, by one resident's calculations, 528 days to get the Menlo Park City Council to approve a six-month trial for such traffic-calming measures to be enacted in the Willows neighborhood.

Still, when the council voted 3-0 in favor of the plan on Sept. 11 (with council members Rich Cline and Ray Mueller absent), it appeared to give the parties present what they wanted. Marmona Drive and McKendry Drive will get four speed humps each; Blackburn Avenue will get one; and Baywood Avenue will get none. Clover Lane will be closed to vehicle traffic, though pedestrians and cyclists will still be able to access it.

Accompanying signage, including a yield sign on Baywood Avenue at its intersection with Blackburn Avenue, and some "Speed Hump Ahead" warnings will also be added. The humps will have breaks in them so that they can be crossed easily by emergency vehicles.

Susu Ribaudo, a Marmona Drive resident, said she began a city process to marshal neighborhood support for traffic changes in April 2017 with a goal, she explained in an email to the City Council, "to restore the safety and quiet of the neighborhood." She said she doesn't let her kids play in her family's front yard because of the speeds some cars reach while cutting through the neighborhood.

"It's an accident waiting to happen," she told the council.

Kristin Ocon, also a resident of Marmona Drive, recalled a similar proposal to add speed bumps from about 25 years ago, which failed at the time – to her disappointment, she told the council.

"I'm thrilled to see this come back again," she said. "Give it a chance after all this time."

While the residents of Marmona Drive preferred that speed humps be installed, it was equally clear that the residents of Baywood Avenue felt very differently toward the prospect of the humps.

When staff circulated a survey to gauge support for the plan in February, it was supported by 102 of 174 households, with 25 against it and 47 non-responses. The support meant the proposed trial crossed a 51 percent threshold and could move forward.

The next month, residents of Baywood Avenue submitted a petition requesting that no speed humps be added there, according to staff.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," summarized Leslie Gordon, a resident of Baywood Avenue. "Please don't throw money at a problem that doesn't exist."

One thing residents did appear to agree on was the effectiveness of the right-turn restrictions the city recently implemented in the neighborhood as a result of crippling traffic that had been occurring because of changes at the Willow/U.S. 101 interchange. That step has lowered traffic speeds and volumes in the neighborhood, according to traffic data reported by staff.

An arduous process

Ribaudo told the council that the process she and other supporters followed to develop a "Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan" was slow and arduous.

According to staff, the procedure was established in 2004 and lays out a very thorough process to ensure there is neighborhood consensus before such a matter comes before the City Council. Since then, this is only the fourth such plan to come forward.

The process involves: submitting a request and petition for a neighborhood traffic plan; collecting data; hosting neighborhood meetings and preparing a plan; surveying the community about the plan; submitting it for review by the Complete Streets Commission and the City Council; installing the proposed changes on a trial basis; conducting a follow-up survey; and having the commission and council review the trial outcomes. Only after those hurdles are cleared can the changes be made permanent.

In addition, traffic-calming measures have been a notoriously fraught topic in the Willows. In 2011, a $120,000 traffic plan for the neighborhood was shelved, due partly to lack of consensus.

Mayor Peter Ohtaki told the petitioners that one of the outcomes of a citywide Transportation Master Plan, when complete, may ease the process by which neighborhoods pursue traffic changes. That plan is currently a 177-project working paper that is in the process of being reviewed by an oversight committee dedicated to the plan. On Sept. 12, the city's Complete Streets Commission is scheduled to review aspects of the working paper that pertain to city pedestrian and cycling networks.

According to Public Works Director Justin Murphy, the speed humps won't be installed for at least a couple of months. The project has to be sent out to bid, and then the construction – mainly pouring pavement – will depend on weather conditions, and could be delayed if the winter is cold or rainy, he said.


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3 people like this
Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 12, 2018 at 11:16 am

Why did the City Council make Susu do all this work herself? It's just wrong. Susu is a hero.

The City Council, not so much.

6 people like this
Posted by JSYK
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 12, 2018 at 11:59 am

Looking this over, this should not impact how bikes travel in the area, though reduced vehicle speeds will make it safer. The road closure will not affect bikes.

25 people like this
Posted by Left Turn
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm

Speed bumps are a nuisance - City should be looking to reduce commuter traffic volume on residential streets, not accommodating it.

7 people like this
Posted by Tim D.
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 12, 2018 at 7:10 pm

Speed humps are not a nuisance, they are a good reminder to drive the speed limit. If you think the City of Menlo Park can do anything to reduce commuter traffic you are dreaming. As housing prices on the Peninsula continue to climb the people that work here (on the Peninsula) are moving further away to afford housing. Don't expect that to change anytime soon.

Susu, thank you for your dogged and determined efforts to see this through.

37 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 12, 2018 at 7:12 pm

Why are we spending precious tax dollars on a problem that's already been resolved. The traffic calming measures put in place have effectively eliminated cut through commute traffic.

30 people like this
Posted by Retain turn restrictions
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 12, 2018 at 7:52 pm

Hoping they retain the turn restrictions (including no left onto Baywood 3-7pm), as well. I'll be happy to have both, but I'd rather have the restrictions and no humps than humps and no restrictions. They turn restrictions have been very effective and knocking down the traffic volume (including the majority of the speeders).

31 people like this
Posted by Danny
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 12, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Tim D., the turn restrictions have done exactly that - limit commute traffic. Look at the data in the staff report. Traffic volumes have been nearly cut in half as a result of the turn restrictions. Speed bumps create an inordinate amount of noise and air pollution. Squealing breaks, scraping air dams and gunning engines all day and night - these poor folks are not going to have any peace on their streets.

Like this comment
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 12, 2018 at 8:46 pm

Brian is a registered user.

Great work Susu. It took a lot of perseverance but you got it to happen. Even with the reduction of the cut through traffic, and whit is has been reduced there is still a good deal of people going through the Willows and making the illegal right onto Willow, speed are still a problem.

I hope this trial proves the effectiveness of the humps and they are kept in place.

23 people like this
Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 14, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Be careful what you ask for Willows residents - the speed bumps on Laurel cause a racket at all hours of the day and night, especially with the police vehicles coming and going.

7 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 14, 2018 at 8:29 pm

Why is Menlo Park spending more than $100,000 on a problem that doesn't exist? This is government waste epitomized. The data collected by the city doesn't even meet the criteria for a NTMP?

2 people like this
Posted by Lives on humped street
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2018 at 5:45 am

I LOVE our speed bumps. I not not, repeat, do not hear any of the doom and gloom fear some people are trying to put out there. No revving engines, no squealing brakes, and only once in a great while will I hear an airdam scrap(only if I'm outside and a chevy Volt is going by. They always scrape)
What we do see are cars driving at a regulated speed and easily stopped if something darts out because of that regulated speed.

Any speeder will look for a way to speed. The bumps make it impossible, which is why some don't want them. As a resident of a humped street, I've not found their fear to be warrnted. Not for the past 10 years anyway.

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

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