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Safe Routes to Facebook

Original post made by Adina, Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park, on Jan 10, 2012

Facebook has just completed its move to its new Menlo Park headquarters near the base of the Dumbarton bridge.

Facebook has impressive goals for more than half of employees to get to work without driving alone. Over the next six years, Facebook expects to expand to 9,400 employees at the Menlo Park Campus, including new buildings across the street. But Facebook plans to provide parking spaces for less than half of its employees.

Unfortunately, the new campus in Menlo Park is less accessible by biking, walking and transit than its former locations in Palo Alto. In order to help Facebook achieve its goals, and to reduce the impact of car traffic in Menlo Park and the surrounding region, the new campus needs to be more accessible for people who aren’t driving.

Bike routes to Facebook

There are 4 key routes that could be made safer to increase the share of bike commuting to Facebook: Willow Road, University Avenue, Bay Road and the Bay Trail.

Willow Road is the swiftest route from downtown Menlo Park. Willow has bike lanes, but these lanes are not continuous. There are gaps at intersections, bus stations, substandard sections, and tire-catching grates.

However, only a small percentage of Facebook employees live in Menlo Park. According to data published in the Environmental Impact Report, over 40% of Facebook's employees live in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale and other South Bay communities.

Therefore, University Avenue in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto is another key bike commute route. University has faded striping and gaps that could be filled to make the route safer.

The riskiest part of Willow and University is the 101 crossing. Fortunately, in recent years Caltrans has become much more open to supporting biking and walking to get across highways. If the city makes a proposal that meets its guidelines, then bike lanes can be added on the overpass.

The Bay Trail

The greatest potential for bike commuting for South Bay residents is the Bay Trail. Away from automobiles and traffic lights, the Bay Trail provides a pleasant and speedy commute experience.

There is a one-mile gap in the Bay Trail in Menlo Park and East Palo. Cylists need get off the trail an ride on heavily-trafficked local streets in East Palo Alto. If the gap were filled, more people would bike to work. Completing the gap would connect 100 continuous miles of trail to Silicon Valley and the East Bay.

The Bay Trail is supported by a wide range of business groups and environmental groups including Sierra Club, Save the Bay, Committee for Green Foothills, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and Google.

Pedestrian safety issues

The traffic impact mitigations specified in the EIR include seven new turn lanes, five of which widen the street, and all of which reduce car/pedestrian visibility. This degrades the quality and safety of existing pedestrian crossings at impacted intersections. For example, the EIR proposes adding an additional right turn lane on Willow Road to Eastbound Bayfront Expressway. This would increase the number of right turn lanes from 2 to 3, which makes an already challenging intersection even more difficult to cross.

Additionally, the EIR doesn’t address gaps in the pedestrain transportation network around the Facebook campus. For example, there is no continuous pedestrian pathway from the crosswalk at Bayfront Expressway and Hacker Way to the Facebook Campus. While there is a sidewalk segment along Hacker way, it is narrow and ends before the edge of the campus buildings. The EIR should also consider pedestrian improvements such as high visibility crosswalk treatments, expanded pedestrian refuges, and reduction of corner curb radii.

Environmental impact mitigation

The Environmental Impact Report for the Facebook Campus project is currently being reviewed by the community and city. As part of the environmental process, Facebook is responsible to mitigate the impacts of traffic caused by its development.

Other cities including Palo Alto consider bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements as preferred choices to mitigate car traffic. Menlo Park has benefited from this approach when Palo Alto required Stanford Medical Center to invest in the Middle Road bike/pedestrian undercrossing that will help commuters to get to Stanford without driving.

Including the Bay Trail and bike lane improvements as traffic mitigations will help Facebook achieve their goals of reducing car commuting, and will help the city avoid traffic. Everyone will benefit from safe routes to Facebook.

Comments (6)

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Posted by Patti Fry
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 10, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Excellent observations and suggestions, Adina!
With Facebook contributing little directly to the city's General Fund, the project approval and related negotiations are an excellent way to secure such enhancements.
Greatly improved bike paths could result from both EIR required mitigation measures and the Davelopment Agreement negotiations. IMO the top priority public benefit for Menlo Park would be new or greatly enhanced bike and pedestrian paths over 101, including the interchanges at Willow (unless a separate new bike/pedestrian bridge). The other connections are desirable, but provide less benefit to the broader Menlo Park community.

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Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 11, 2012 at 11:35 am

Thanks, Patti.

Willow improvements are important, but they are not enough alone to mitigate traffic to the Facebook Campus, since 40% of Facebook employees live in Palo Alto, Mountain View, and points south (as the data in the EIR shows). These employees also need continuous bike lanes University Avenue in East Palo Alto and completing the missing link in the Bay Trail for more people be able to bike to work.

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Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I don't know why discussion of the new Ringwood Avenue bike/pedestrian bridge is not coming up here. If you calculate a bicycle route on Google Maps between Menlo Park Caltrain (downtown) and Facebook, it follows Ravenswood Ave/Middlefield/Ringwood Ave/Bike Bridge/Ivy Dr./Willow Rd. (A rather old pedestrian bridge is being replaced with a more bicycle friendly bridge.) This keeps bicyclists off of busy roads for the most part. The only issue I see might be late night security concerns for bicyclists going through Belle Haven, as it is a little "rough" there; something to enhance that security would be good. That would be good for residents also.

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Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 12, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Hi, Alan,

Yes, the new Ringwood Bridge is fantastic. However, 40% of Facebook's employees live in Palo Alto, Mountain View, and points south. For these employees, Ringwood is pretty far out of the way, and the Bay Trail and University Avenue are more important routes for them.

- Adina

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Posted by Sam
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 13, 2012 at 10:52 am

There is an existing underpass underneath Bayfront Expressway at Willow Rd. If you are traveling east on Willow Rd, it is just past the railroad tracks on the left hand side. This connects the present East and future West campuses. Why not open this up now for bikers and pedestrians? It would increase safety at this busy intersection.

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Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Sam, Facebook is planning to do this. And based on a lot of popular demand for bike and pedestrian facilities they're planning to do it earlier than originally expected, in 2012 if I remember right. Thanks, Facebook!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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