Atherton City Council to examine reducing lanes on El Camino

Town officials to also explore amending heritage tree ordinance

Atherton's town staff is recommending removing a lane from each side of El Camino Real in town to better accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, and reduce car accidents, according to a staff report that the City Council will review during a Wednesday, Nov. 6, study session.

The change would make the town's section of El Camino Real consistent with Menlo Park's configuration of the roadway — two lanes in each direction, according to the report, put together by Public Workers Director Robert Ovadia. Nearby cities such as Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City also envision bike lanes along El Camino Real, according to the report.

"The streetscape is auto-oriented and the experience for pedestrians and bicyclists is poor," according to the staff report. El Camino Real "is considered 'incomplete' since it is designated primarily for vehicular travel, with minimal or no facilities to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. There are no designated bicycle lanes, and though there are designated crossings and bus stops, there are no pedestrian facilities on El Camino Real in Atherton."

Providing a contiguous bike path through the town along El Camino will help promote alternative transportation modes, according to the staff report.

El Camino Real consistently ranks among the streets with the highest number of traffic collisions in town annually. From January to the end of September of this year, there have been 18 collisions on the roadway in Atherton. This is down from a high of 46 collisions in 2016 because of safety improvements to the roads by Caltrans, according to the staff report.

The town adopted a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan in 2014, which recommended studying a two-way, shared-use trail along the west side of El Camino Real; 8-foot sidewalks with buffered bike lanes on both sides of the roadway; and transit-bicycle priority lanes with sidewalks, according to the staff report.

In 2016, the town approved a contract to develop a Complete Streets Plan for the El Camino to enhance safety and improve mobility, but terminated the project in early 2018 due to lack of funding, according to the staff report.

Council members can't take action on the item during the study session, but will provide feedback on their preferred roadway configuration.

At the same meeting, council members will review proposed changes to the town's heritage tree ordinance in light of a recent increase of dying heritage trees because of home construction and drought, according to a staff report.

The council may discuss amending financial penalties associated with damage and removal of heritage trees. Council members noted at a March meeting that these penalties may need to be higher to deter people from cutting down trees.

At the March meeting, Mayor Bill Widmer and Vice Mayor Rick DeGolia formed an ad-hoc subcommittee to work with staff to fine-tune the ordinance. The committee has asked staff to refine the proposed law for clearer implementation and enforcement, according to the staff report.

Town Planning Commission and Tree Committee members began studying possible changes to the ordinance in 2016.

The full meeting agenda can be viewed here.

The meeting takes place at 5 p.m. in Holbrook-Palmer Park's Pavilion, 150 Watkins Ave. in Atherton.


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16 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 6, 2019 at 9:20 am

We agree that the Atherton section of El Camino is far more dangerous than El Camino in Redwood City and Menlo Park. More car lanes encourage higher speeds and more red light running and crossing the street at any of the crosswalks in Atherton is terrifying. The merging point where the extra lane in Atherton disappears is a big bottleneck, so the extra lane doesn't save time for anyone. Getting rid of it to widen the sidewalks and add bike lanes is a win-win for everyone.

16 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 6, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

All this will do is push ECR traffic onto neighborhood streets - just ask the folks in the Willows!!!

14 people like this
Posted by Twentse
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Nov 6, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Twentse is a registered user.

Unless sidewalks for pedestrians are added too, this does not sound like a good idea. I frequently ride my bike on the existing bike lanes and they seem adequate except riding towards Menlo Park between Menlo College Rd. and Valparaiso Ave. (Bike lane would help there tremendously!!!) 2 lanes for cars will back up traffic even more. Wished Menlo Park would make it 3 lanes throughout.

9 people like this
Posted by Atherton resident
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 6, 2019 at 3:21 pm

The first comment to the story said that due to a merging point bottleneck “the extra lane doesn’t save time for anyone .” I wholeheartedly disagree.!

El Camino in Menlo Park is a nightmare, especially around commute time.

As an Atherton resident I’m so appreciative that I can leave my house on the border of Menlo Park at almost any time , drive North on El Camino and within close to 5 minutes arrive 2 to 3 miles down the road to go the vet, or Target for groceries/other supplies, etc. vs. spending 15 minutes to go 1 mile south on El Camino in Menlo Park at commute time.

I can’t take my dog to the vet or get sufficient home supplies on a bike. Unfortunately the installation of a wider/any sidewalk and bike lane won’t take sufficient cars off the road to counter fewer car lanes. We’ll just end up like Menlo Park with awful pollution-inducing stop and go traffic.

10 people like this
Posted by Carl
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 6, 2019 at 6:25 pm

Perhaps if we could strike a deal with Menlo to do away with the totally unsynchronized for profit traffic lights and hire a competent engineer to time the traffic lights to facilitate the flow of traffic on the main thoroughfare el Camino real we could avoid the problems road diets cause
For a parallel example if your cardiologist suggests a main artery restriction to make things flow better I suggest you run away as fast as possible

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