Guest opinion: Real safe routes require action | February 28, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Viewpoint - February 28, 2018

Guest opinion: Real safe routes require action

by Jen Wolosin

With the daunting amount of cut-through traffic pouring through our streets, it's easy to feel helpless about road safety in Menlo Park. Kids are unable to walk and bike to school safely. Our city's current approach to the transportation crisis has been to participate in regional discussions (Dumbarton Corridor, high-speed rail, etc.) and to implement piecemeal fixes (e.g., the recently implemented turn restrictions in the Willows). However, to truly make meaningful progress, we need to address our traffic and safety issues proactively, immediately, and robustly.

Within the past month, a series of projects aimed at improving road conditions in Menlo Park have come through the City Council. A Safe Routes to School Program and the Transportation Master Plan made it on the City Council's 2018 work plan's top-six list. In addition, the city is looking to create a Transportation Management Association that would provide incentives to downtown employees to use alternative modes of transportation.

While I am grateful that the City Council is pursuing these items, they are all plans, not action. They do nothing in themselves to actually change the infrastructure in Menlo Park, the layout of the roads or the safety at intersections.

While my focus has been getting kids to school safely, I've grown increasingly concerned about residents of all ages (from 8 to 80 and beyond). And while we have a long way to go to solve our regional, multi-jurisdictional transportation challenges, making Menlo Park more walkable and bike-able will improve the quality of life and safety for all in our neighborhoods.

Here are 10 of many intersections in our city that pose an immediate safety risk to pedestrians and cyclists:

•Newbridge at Willow

•Coleman at Willow/Santa Monica

•Woodland at Middlefield

•Middlefield at Santa Monica/Linfield

•Ravenswood at Alma

•Laurel at Encinal

•Middle at University

•Olive Street at Santa Cruz

•Valparaiso at Politzer/Elder

•Santa Cruz at Oakdell

There is almost no action being taken at City Hall on these areas of concern. Most of the intersections mentioned are likely many more years away from improvements. The city even delayed action on taking advantage of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District's recent offer to fund half of a safe crossing at Middlefield and Santa Monica/Linfield. Until we improve these intersections, we are not only subjecting those currently on bike and foot to unnecessary risk, but we are also continuing to clog our neighborhood streets with single-occupancy vehicles just trying to get across town.

The good news is that Menlo Park has the ability to take quick action when certain opportunities present themselves. Look how quickly the city is responding to the live music venue at the Guild and Mr. Arrillaga's library donation. We must apply the same sense of urgency to Safe Routes projects.

I urge the Menlo Park City Council to fast-track Safe Routes infrastructure improvements. Our leaders can start by taking action on widely known hot spots and projects already in the pipeline. With limited resources, our city must prioritize safety above other competing initiatives.

Jen Wolosin is founder and chair of Parents for Safe Routes, a Menlo Park-based advocacy group committed to getting kids to school safely.


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