The Menlo Park City Council, at its Sept. 13 meeting, signaled it wants to remove street parking from both sides of Middle Avenue.
Amid increased worry about the safety of bicyclists, Menlo Park city staff proposed making changes to Middle Avenue to prevent accidents, including those caused by people in parked cars suddenly opening their doors. Staff asked the council for direction on adding several safety measures for bikers and pedestrians to Middle Avenue, and to adopt a resolution that would remove parking from one side of Middle Avenue, install a four-way stop sign at the intersection of Middle Avenue and San Mateo Drive and temporarily close Blake Street to vehicle traffic at Middle Avenue.
The council elected not to pass the resolution and instead directed city staff to return with a new resolution that creates a pilot program removing parking from both sides of the entire length of Middle Avenue, with the exception of some parallel parking in front of Nealon Park.
Maia Wolff, a resident of Middle Avenue, voiced concerns that residents weren't being listened to.
"Only three people who actually live on (Middle Avenue) were aware enough to get involved in the discussion, and everybody who lives on the street who commented is very clearly against elimination of parking," Wolff said. "(This) tells you that there's some sort of mismatch of desires here. It would affect us greatly ... Essentially making us bear the brunt of the rest of this project is probably worth considering."
Council member Drew Combs shared the concerns about hearing from residents, suggesting that staff could go door-to-door on Middle Avenue to ask their opinions.
Council member Jen Wolosin said she went out and took pictures of children on bikes down Middle Avenue and the way that car doors and oncoming traffic posed a threat to kids riding to school, especially those who ride side-by-side.
In the end, the council opted for a pilot program, giving the city the opportunity to gauge the effect on residents and on bicyclists before making any permanent changes.
"There should be opportunities for observation and measurement of what's going on on the side streets, the people living on Middle (Avenue), if it's really and going from an inconvenience to a hardship," Wolosin said.
City staff was directed to return with a new resolution that would authorize a pilot program removing parking from both sides of Middle Avenue, except for parallel parking in the area in front of Nealon Park. The new resolution would also close Blake Street at Middle Avenue, add a four-way stop sign at Middle Avenue and San Mateo Drive, and put adding a sidewalk on the south of Middle Avenue into the city's five-year Capital Improvement Program.
The new bike lanes on Middle Avenue are expected to be wider, with buffer zones separating them from traffic. Details about the bike lanes and pilot program won't be available until city staff returns with a resolution. A date for that has not yet been set.