Menlo Park council pumps brakes on Middle Avenue bike lanes

Council urges more public outreach before removal of street parking

A rendering of the proposed bike lanes that would run along Middle Avenue from Olive Street to Arbor Road. Other lane configurations were proposed along other segments of Middle Avenue to El Camino Real. But the City Council told staff to do more outreach before moving forward with Middle Avenue bike lane proposals. (Image courtesy city of Menlo Park.)

The Menlo Park City Council chastised staff May 21 for not doing enough public outreach before drawing up potential plans for new bike lanes on Middle Avenue that could eliminate street parking for up to 135 cars along the road. This came after the proposal triggered a widespread email campaign to the City Council, in which some residents asked for more opportunity for compromise, or for the idea to be abandoned altogether.

Ferah Kutlu, for instance, asked that the council consider banning street parking only at peak times when children are riding their bikes, or only during the school year. "Please remember that children bike at certain times of the day, week and academic year but we live on this street," she wrote.

Others argued that the real problem on Middle Avenue is the speed at which vehicles travel, and that adding bike lanes may not help with reducing speeds. Middle Avenue resident Erica Hsu wrote to the council, "It's quite often (a) car barely stops at the Middle/Olive stop sign then fully speeds forward or their tires peel out as they turn onto the intersecting road. What happens if a driver loses control and slams into a house surrounding the intersection? There is no speed enforcement to prevent this dangerous behavior, which highlights the second concern below."

Supporters of the project and staff explained they wanted to expedite it so construction would align with efforts to resurface the road and be completed around the time Stanford University finishes its development project at 500 El Camino Real and the city completes the bike and pedestrian undercrossing beneath the Caltrain line. Staff members are also facing deadlines to apply for grants to fund the project, they explained.

Several members of the Complete Streets Commission noted that they fully expected to do more outreach and that consultants would do more engineering work; these plans were merely conceptual, they said. But that didn't dissuade several council members from insisting that presenting the plans seemingly fully-formed so early was not procedurally appropriate.

"This is not how we do things," said Councilwoman Catherine Carlton.

"I think we all need to take a step back," added Councilwoman Betsy Nash.

While Councilman Drew Combs said he appreciated staff's "boldness" in quickly pursuing the project, he added, "The result of boldness sometimes is that you get slapped down. I think we are responding to what we've heard from the public … (that) what is envisioned here is substantive change, and (residents) don't know there has been ... enough process."

Mayor Ray Mueller asked that Assistant Public Works Director and Complete Streets Commissioner Bill Kirsh hold at least two community meetings on the proposal before bringing the matter back to the council.

In a separate item, the City Council voted 4-0, with Mueller recused because his home is nearby, to approve plans to remove 17 parking spots to extend bike lanes on Santa Cruz Avenue between Olive Street and Avy/Orange avenues. The parking spots will be removed on the south side of the street across from Hillview Middle School.


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3 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 25, 2019 at 9:37 am

Did anyone do outreach to the residents on the south side of Santa Cruz between Olive and Avy before taking away their street parking?
How many, if any, bicycle car accidents have occurred on that stretch? Was any thought given to apply the no parking only during school commute hours and days?

2 people like this
Posted by No Easy Solutions
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 25, 2019 at 7:36 pm

The city does a poor job of parking enforcement outside of downtown. Just take a look on Sunday, when people park their cars on bike lanes on Santa Cruz. So whats the point of removing parking spots, when there is lack enforcement.

2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 25, 2019 at 8:39 pm

Smart decision. Too often there is too little - if any - genuine outreach to residents who would be affected by city projects. Hopefully, this is a sign of a different attitude by our new city council. You can view my analysis of this project on my Almanac blog,

Street Parking Should NOT Be Removed For Bicyclists On Middle Avenue (Part 2) Web Link

Now the council needs to adopt a community-driven approach to grade separations and create a community advisory committee staffed with subject matter experts, business planners, and representatives for residents and businesses. This should have been done years ago and it is still not too late.

2 people like this
Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 28, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Robert Cronin is a registered user.

Whatever: What would be an acceptable number of bicycle-car accidents on Santa Cruz? As far as making parking permission a function of school hours and days, do you assume that only school boys and girls ride bikes?
No Easy Solutions: It may not make sense, but parking is permitted in bike lanes unless specifically prohibited by sign.

1 person likes this
Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 28, 2019 at 6:48 pm

Robert Cronin: The city proposes banning street parking so it is reasonable to assume that no parking signs would accompany new bike lanes on Middle. Also, there is already 11-foot wide space along the vehicle lanes. That is sufficient for parking and bicyclists of all ages. Finally, note that the stated rationale for the proposed bike lanes is greater safety for Oak Knoll and Hillview students. This is an unsupported claim (opinion).

1 person likes this
Posted by Robert Cronin
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 28, 2019 at 10:25 pm

Robert Cronin is a registered user.

Dana Hendrickson: Eleven feet would be a door-zone bike lane.

6 people like this
Posted by cyclist
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 30, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Different consultants, with credentials for successful integration of alternative transportation are needed.
Doesn't take an expert to see that the current ones just propose expensive changes with dubious/unproven value....

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

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