In order to offer safer passage by bike to Menlo Park's new high school, TIDE Academy, the Menlo Park City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night (Aug. 20) to remove 165 parking spaces on Jefferson Drive, between Chrysler and Constitution drives and on Chrysler Drive between Constitution and Commonwealth drives.
In response to initial opposition to the plan from council members Cecilia Taylor and Drew Combs, the council agreed to permit roughly 15 to 20 parking spots on Commonwealth Drive and five to seven spots on Chrysler Drive.
TIDE Academy, located at 150 Jefferson Drive, opened on Aug. 14 and has capacity for 400 students and 35 faculty and staff members; it is expected to serve students from East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Redwood City, though it's open to all students in the Sequoia Union High School District.
District Superintendent Mary Streshly told the council she supports the addition of bike lanes. "What we're really hoping is that the links of the bike pathway happen as swiftly as possible because we want to encourage students." She added that about 15% to 20% of students are already biking to school or expressing interest in biking.
The area doesn't have the cleanest track record for vehicle safety: Between January 2016 and December 2018, there were 19 collisions reported on Chrysler Drive, six on Jefferson Drive, and one at their intersection, according to a staff report. Having vehicles parked on both sides of the street may have contributed to a limited sight distance that could have contributed to the accidents, the staff report said.
Adding bike lanes and improving visibility for drivers by getting rid of the parked cars could actually improve safety for all road users, district staff argues.
And traffic conditions are likely to worsen: There are about six new developments and six proposed developments in the area near Jefferson and Chrysler drives, according to staff.
But council members also identified downsides to eliminating street parking. Combs argued that the broad parking ban would make it so that there's no place for people who are lost to stop and consult a map, or for people to park and ride their bike to wherever they're headed. It would leave only private parking as an option for an entire section of the city.
Taylor echoed these points and added that she was particularly concerned with pedestrian safety in the area. "It's not just bikes that live in this world," she said. "Pedestrians come first to me."
Council members discussed the possibility of allowing parking to continue on one side of the street and installing a two-way bike lane on one side, but Assistant Public Works Director Nikki Nagaya said that, because of the number of driveways along the route, it could create new dangers — for example, if drivers don't check both ways for cyclists before exiting the driveway.
The bike route could also be used by Facebook employees or workers at the other businesses in the area.