City may remove bike-lane parking on Laurel Street | October 2, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - October 2, 2013

City may remove bike-lane parking on Laurel Street

by Sandy Brundage

Some parents pick up their children from school using bikes; others use cars. This has launched a quest by the city of Menlo Park to figure out how to safely allow both — a quest for the moment centered on Nativity School on Laurel Street, but one that could lead to the elimination of parking in bike lanes along other city streets.

A parent last year whose child attended Encinal Elementary School, located not far from Laurel Street, complained to the city that parents from Nativity School parked in the bike lanes.

"This forces bikers to have to ride in the road (w)here cars are. It's extremely dangerous," the parent wrote in an email to the transportation department in August 2012. "Please change the parking restriction to include 'No Parking between 2-3:30 pm' in front of the school. Thanks."

Jesse Quirion, the city's transportation manager, confirmed that staff is looking at removing parking in bike lanes along Laurel Street, but said no decision has been made yet. The City Council would have to approve any changes, he said, after the bicycle and transportation commissions review the modifications.

According to Nativity School Principal Carol Trelut, the school has a drop-off/pick-up zone off Oak Grove Avenue that can't accommodate the flow of parents for the school's current 275 students, in part because students from Menlo-Atherton High School illegally park in the private school's lots.

"M-A is notorious at taking pretty much a lot of the spaces that are available," Ms. Trelut said, noting that her staff has lodged complaints with both the Atherton and Menlo Park police departments. If enrollment grows at M-A, Nativity School will have to hire private security to patrol the parking, she said.

So losing the eight parking spaces in the bike lane "would have a huge impact," she said.

Forcing cars off Laurel Street could create a safety hazard instead of solving one, Ms. Trelut said, in situations when Middlefield Road becomes closed to traffic — as it was on Friday, Sept. 27.

"It is the only thoroughfare off of Middlefield Road that you can get a clear shot through, so they have to keep it moving and they have to (be able to) pull out for emergency's sake," the principal said.

Ms. Trelut added that the parking spaces on Laurel Street are used by the parents of kindergarteners, who have to walk their children into the school.

Traffic studies Nativity School conducted found at most six to 10 bicyclists traveling along Laurel Street during pick-up and drop-off times, according to Ms. Trelut. "I just don't understand why" anyone thinks eliminating the bike lane parking is necessary, she said. "Just leave the parking the way it is."

Numerous parents with children attending Nativity School told the Almanac they wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. They're also wondering why the city wants to start with a location near a private rather than public school.

"We need a common-sense solution that makes the safety of Nativity School's children a priority," one mother, Erin Glanville, said.

A community meeting will be held Oct. 3 at 6 p.m. at Nativity School to talk about the potential removal of parking in bike lanes.


Like this comment
Posted by Elaine
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Oct 2, 2013 at 10:55 am

There was a pedestrian fatality just a block away from the site last Friday. Laurel Street is really congested during the morning and afternoon commutes, so I can see why Elementary Schools are worried, especially with young children. Why don't city officials look at widening Laurel St. to allow both bicycles and parking? It doesn't have to be one or the other...

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 11:02 am

The safety of the children attending Nativity School should be the first priority here! Eliminating more parking on Laurel Street will create a safety hazard. I urge the city to reconsider this proposal.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 11:36 am

Just get off of your bikes & walk them along the sidewalk. People have safely done that for decades. It was one of the first safety lessons we received for cycling. We did it frequently in school areas when growing up. Perhaps there can be volunteer traffic controllers to help with this.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 2, 2013 at 11:53 am

Car parking in a bike lane is incredibly dangerous, especially during school commute hours. Banning car parking in bike lanes is a no brainer. Why is this taking so long???

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 11:59 am

I smell something off here. This smacks of the NIMBYism that Palo Alto has been experiencing with the negativity toward Castilleja school. Since Menlo has been becoming the new Palo Alto, in terms of disingenuous snobbishness, this shouldn't be a surprise. Nativity has been around for decades, and suddenly this is a problem. Right. I've had little problem driving & walking on Laurel in this area during school pick up. Where is the outrage over the the public school kids parking in the private school's lot - & they're parking in the Nativity Church lot.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Nativity parents may not realize that street parking is seriously limited near Encinal and Laurel schools. The Felton Gables neighborhood managed to get the city to prohibit parents from parking on their streets while dropping off or picking up kids. Atherton has always prohibited parking by Laurel School on Edge. So no one is picking on them. Parking restrictions are nothing new.

With Laurel and Encinal parking restrictions, the issue was not primarily safety, more a function of neighbor complaints.

With Nativity, there is a safety issue. Dozens of kids use Laurel to get to Encinal from other neighborhoods. The Nativity parents are competing for parking space on Laurel, and often ignore the bicyclists completely. I would not let my own kids bike for that reason, but driving back and forth to Encinal I've seen many near-collisions.

I don't understand why the school is complaining about M-A students parking in its lot. It's a hike from Nativity to M-A, so I doubt the cars are from students, but why not just require parking permits as so many schools do, including M-A? Give permits to families, just as the public elementary schools do. If someone parks all day without a permit, then have the car towed. Any offenders will figure it out real fast. Don't compromise the safety of our kids because you can't take the simple steps required to free up your lot!

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Uh huh. So how come cyclists aren't getting off of their bikes & walking them on the sidewalks if they're concerned for their safety? That's a very easy fix.

Like this comment
Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Hmmm, I'll answer your question: there aren't sidewalks on the northbound side of Laurel north of Nativity. There's a bike lane. Here's what happens when cars park in a bike lane for drop-off situations:

1) They are there temporarily and are constantly pulling in and out.
2) They are often in a rush, and open their doors without regard for cyclists who may be riding by, which in turn leads to
3) Cyclists needing to make a terrible choice between riding in the middle of the road to avoid getting "doored" -- and thereby angering cars that can't easily/safely pass them--or else riding in the "door zone" and risking a serious accident.

This isn't about NIMBYism. A ton of parents drive to Oak Knoll to drop off their kids and they, too, have to follow very strict rules about where they can and can't park. It's not a perfect system, but it protects kids biking and walking to school--which we should be encouraging for all kinds of reasons.

Like this comment
Posted by JMM
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Yes, Laurel is a safe route to Encinal, but the kids aren't traveling on the eastern side of Laurel during the times they want to restrict parking. That side of the road is already parking restricted in the morning when the kids are commuting to school. In the afternoon the kids should be going home in the opposite direction. I think this action is most likely the result of an adult biker who was riding to Encinal to pick up his/her kid who got irked that he/she had to slow down at that location in order to merge.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm


you're right, this isn't about NIMBYism. It's about people too stupid or self absorbed to look in their side view mirror before throwing their door open. It's simple. Look in your side view mirror, if a bicycle is approaching, wait until the bike passes. The way to deal with this, at least partially, is education. Remind people they need to look before they open their door. Novel concept, I know. It might work, but we're fighting the self importance of those that live in this town. After all, no one is more important, nor is anyone's transit more important, than the driver's need to open his or her door whenever the hell they please. Never mind. Outlawing parking in the bike lane or eliminating parking there altogether is probably the sure fire way to go.

Like this comment
Posted by Poster
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 9:11 pm

There is another thread on this topic: Web Link