Both the Comprehensive Bike Development Plan (2004) and Specific Plan (2012) clearly document the major shortcomings of the existing Menlo Park bike network: poor east-west connectivity and limited access to downtown. Yet 10 years later our city has not committed funds to eliminate these fundamental problems.
We continue to have two separate bike networks, one on each side of El Camino Real, and the very limited connections between them severely restrict cyclists of all ages, experience, and skills.
Most bike riders are younger than 16 years old, and few parents want them crossing El Camino to reach schools, downtown, and the library, gym, pool, and playing fields at Burgess Park. So, children are regularly driven to local destinations. Why? There are no bike lanes on the convenient approaches to El Camino Real — for example, Menlo and Oak Grove avenues — nor a safe crossing. Yes, there are technical and political challenges to making these roads safe, but all are manageable.
On Aug. 25, the City Council will hold a study session to review the interim results of the current El Camino Real Corridor Study that is considering the possible addition of either bike lanes or physically separate bike paths on this multi-lane state highway The study has determined that either is feasible, and now the council must decide whether or not to spend additional funds to estimate potential bike usage, prepare an environmental report, and develop plans and a budget for the implementation of one of the bike facility alternatives.
At the end of this second phase, the council would decide whether to fund the actual implementation, likely sharing the costs with Caltrans. I oppose this spending and recommend the city shift already budgeted and unspent funds for the corridor study to a solution that provides safe, convenient and less-stressful bike connectivity between the east and west sides of Menlo Park. I encourage residents to understand why this community investment is far superior to the ones now being considered, and have outlined a potential solution in a proposal sent to our City Council and Bicycle Commission and published on Re-Imagine Menlo Park.
Building on ideas in the Specific Plan, this solution would connect Middle Avenue, University Drive, and Santa Cruz, Menlo and Ravenswood avenues in ways that would benefit many more cyclists than bike facilities on El Camino. It could be implemented much sooner; would depend less on Caltrans' support, budgets and schedules; and would likely attract greater community support and less resistance.
I have also published information to help residents better understand the important factors that influence contemporary bike network design and the likely appeal of El Camino Real bike facilities. I believe El Camino would be used by only a small percentage of cyclists, "the strong and fearless," and would not be suitable for elementary and middle school age children.
Now is the time for residents to insist our City Council soon make the critically needed investments in the Menlo Park bike network rather than one of highly questionable value that would not produce results for at least another three years. Please take the time to become informed, participate in the public discussions starting on Aug. 25, and more importantly, express your preferences and concerns in writing.
Unless residents act now, our waiting will continue indefinitely. We all deserve better.
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