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Menlo Park may remove bike lane parking on Laurel Street

Original post made on Oct 2, 2013

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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 2, 2013, 9:32 AM

Comments (33)

Posted by Janet L
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 10:32 am

First, a bike lane that allows parking is not a bike lane. It's a parking lane that bikes can use when cars aren't parked there.

Laurel is the only North/South through street in Menlo Park between El Camino and 101 that has slow enough traffic for families on bikes. But it's somehow more important for cars to be able to park on both sides of the street than for people who use bicycles to get around?

If Menlo-Atherton people are keeping Nativity School people from using their own parking, get rid of them. Don't risk the safety of kids who attend other schools or people who choose to ride a bike instead of drive for their errands.

That's the "common sense solution" that doesn't prioritize the safety of Nativity School kids above the safety of kids attending other schools, nor people who just want to get to work or to the store without weaving in and out of parked cars.

Posted by U.B.
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

This is complete hogwash:

"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 drive and bike with my kids down Laurel every day going to Encinal and MCC. Me and my two sons account for 5 trips down Laurel in the morning (3 people on the way to Encinal, then 2 of us on the way to MCC). I see many, many other people riding down Laurel, too. My kids are always waving and saying hi to their other friends on the way in. There is a constant stream of cyclists. "At most six to ten" is way off base.

Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 2, 2013 at 11:01 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???

Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 12:33 pm

UB - it doesn't matter even if there are only 6. Those six are having their lives endangered so cars can park in a bike lane.

This is like saying "I only see one handicapped person a week try to go to McDonalds, so I don't see why McDonalds should have to be ADA compliant."

It's a bike lane. Not a parking lane.

Posted by Menlo Park Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2013 at 12:52 pm

It's also a no brainer that something needs to be done about the traffic on Encinal Ave 20 minutes before school starts and ends at Encinal School. Parents end up staging their vehicles on both sides of the street in order to wait in line to pick up their children from school causing a traffic jam from Middlefield to El Camino and laurel. This also makes it unsafe for parents and children trying to use their bicycles during this time.

It is unfortunate that the new Encinal school area plan made it so difficult for parents and neighbors to use Encinal Ave in the morning and throughout the day.

I'm not a traffic planner, but their has to be a better way.

Posted by Take a Breath
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 2, 2013 at 12:58 pm

As in any debate centered on an issue where parents feel their children may be affected, emotions run high and hyperbole seems to become the rule rather than the exception. I think it's important that parents on both sides of this issue take a moment and reflect that their kneejerk reaction may not be the best solution for all concerned.

Increasing the parking limitations on Laurel St. is not a panacea for removing all risk for all children---it has to be considered both in how it impacts those children commuting to Nativity School as well as to Encinal School. "Parent"--this is why the city is taking a thoughtful look at the choices and impact they will have.

This question isn't about making people's lives easier when they're looking for parking at the cost of children's safety, it's about what solution provides the safest environment for all the children that are going to be impacted.

Posted by Gov't out of control
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I think the meeting is actually at 7p.m. Also, my understanding is that currently, there is no parking allowed between 7a.m. and 9a.m. This action is to make no parking all day long is my understanding.

If the police are being called about these MA students parking in the private lots, why aren't these cars being towed away at the owner's expense? A little enforcement can go a long way.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

John, it's a shared bike lane and parking zone, a common sight in Menlo Park. Outlawing parking in all such shared spaces because of your supposed life endangerment would be utterly nonsensical. First, because this is normal practice for bicyclists to share such spaces, and it's done safely years on end. Second, if all such parking zones were shutdown we'd all be driving around forever looking for a place to park.

Posted by Rob
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I would also like to see more enforcement of the M-A parking violations to solve this. It's hard to believe that Nativity needs these 8 parking spots so much that removing them would have a huge impact, and citing the Middlefield closure from last week as a reason to keep these parking spots is pretty spurious. Is that really happening so often that we need to plan for it by sacrificing bicyclists?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 1:51 pm

U.B. -- I think a clarification is needed.

The proposed parking amendment is to extend the no parking on the Nativity School side of Laurel to the afternoon as well as the morning. The far side of Laurel has a much wider bike line / parking area that can accommodate both cars and bikes and is not being considered by the city for parking restrictions.

The traffic study that is cited looked at bicyclists traveling in the afternoon on the Nativity side of Laurel (largely just parents as school children will be coming the other direction). These are the number of bicyclists that are reported in the article since these are the ones that are relevant.

Note that this side of Laurel is parking restricted in the morning to allow sole access to bicyclists in the morning (e.g. school children on way to school).

Hope this helps in understanding the situation.

Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 2, 2013 at 2:20 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

All Nativity has o do is post the parking lot as private property, cars will be towed at owners expense, and the vehicle code that applies, and the phone number to call for towed vehicles. Does not require the police to be involved, only the property owners agent to authorize a tow truck to remove the vehicle.

Posted by Gov't out of control
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Clarification: Found a copy of the City of Menlo Park notice. The meeting is from 6-8p.m. A notice not published by the city had indicated 7p.m.

From the official MP meeting notice, it states:

"Currently, parking is prohibited on the eastern side of Laurel Street along the Nativity School frontage between 7:00 - 9:00a.m. The potential prohibition under consideration would extend the no parking restriction to all day. The existing bus stop would be maintained."

More data would be helpful such as how many residents raised concerns about this specific parking issue at this location, not problems elsewhere like on Encinal. Also, what has been the history of reported violations and enforcement response to those reports during the 7a.m. - 9a.m. period? Or do things work smoothly during this time frame.

Personally, I think all day is too much, but another hour in the afternoon may be workable.

In the long term, traffic is just going to increase. The area near the train station is zoned for high density housing which is near Laurel. Then there is the buildings going up not too far away on El Camino. Oak Grove is a high traffic road already, even outside of the rush hours up to about 8p.m. at night. Laurel as a parallel road to El Camino Real may have to lose its designation as a Safe Route, and the bicycle lanes be removed. At least bicycling may have to no longer be encouraged for youngsters on this road.

Posted by Janet L
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 2:41 pm

@Parent "it's a shared bike lane and parking zone, a common sight in Menlo Park...this is normal practice for bicyclists to share such spaces, and it's done safely years on end."

When cars are parked in the bike lane, bike riders, including children, are forced to choose between bad or worse options:
(1)ride in bike lane, stop at every parked car, wait for a break in traffic, pass parked car, repeat; (sorry, bike riders)
(2) ride in bike lane, weave in and out of parked cars riding close to the car door when passing cars and sharing the narrow car lane with any passing cars; (sorry, bike riders & drivers)
(3) ride on right side of regular traffic lane and hope no one in the parked car opens their door when you pass and that drivers in regular lane don't squeeze you from the left; (sorry, bike riders & drivers)
(4) ride in the regular traffic lane in the center of the lane and slow down car traffic; (sorry, drivers)
(5) ride on the sidewalk (sorry, walkers)

How is this good for anyone except the people who park their cars in the bike lane?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 2:43 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!

Posted by Judy C.
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 2:49 pm

The same horrific parking/bike lane problem exists on Ringwood in front of Laurel school and M-A.

Posted by Tom K.
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm

@Janet L.

I've gone with option (2) and (3) myself the thousands of days that I've biked alongside cars in a shared bike lane / parking zone and I'm somehow still here to tell the tale.

It's clear you won't be happy until the city plans a dedicated bike lane from your front door to every location you ever bike to.

Good luck with that.

Posted by Encinal Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Yes, the bike lane along Nativity is NO PARKING during school hours in the afternoon, but in the afternoon 3pm, there are also parents who bike to pick up their children, or coming from Laurel side of campus to pick up their children on the bike lane. We are forced to ride in the traffic with cars because bike lanes are occupied by cars parked on the bike lane. There are Hillwview students who bike on Laurel to get home that use this part of the bike lane too. I don't know who is doing the counting, but those times I biked there around 2:30-45pm, I have not seen anyone standing there counting.

If the city restricts parking on bike lane for Encinal parents picking up their children, why should parking be allowed on bike lane for a private school? City street is not private property of Nativity. Their children's safety is priority? Then all others don't count?

Walk or bike, like most of the Encinal parents who do for their children. Give us back our bike lanes.

Posted by Janet L
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm

@Tom K So you weave in and out of parked cars and ride in the door zone and recommend that others do that too? Those behaviors are exactly what the VTA tells bike riders NOT to do. Web Link

I don't expect dedicated bike lanes right outside my front door and everywhere I go. I would say the problem is that others expect car parking right outside their front door and everywhere they go. It's not unreasonable to restrict car parking to one side of a critical street so that people riding bikes can ride safely.

Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Second, if all such parking zones were shutdown we'd all be driving around forever looking for a place to park.

Not if you are riding a bike, n'est pas?

Posted by Tom K.
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 4:06 pm

@Janet L.

OK -- since you need it spelled out for you.

When the bike lane is free of cars you use it. When there are cars parked in the bike lane area, you bike a safe distance to the left of the cars. Avoid sudden weaving so that traffic behind you can tell what you're doing. It's not rocket science.

The way I read the story, parents picking up KG students prefer to park on that side of the street so they don't have to shepherd them across a busy intersection. You seem to be trivializing that aspect of the story because it doesn't fit your desires to shape the world the way you want it.

Posted by Janet L
a resident of another community
on Oct 2, 2013 at 4:33 pm

@Tom K Take a look at the photos with this story. The first shows a young child out in the middle of the regular travel lane and his father in the door zone. Is that safe?

The second shows a woman riding in the door zone with an SUV right behind her, looking like he's about to squeeze past her. Is that safe?

People, including those children, should be forced to *ride* down a street in car traffic because some parents don't want to *cross* the street with a kindergartener?

Posted by Tom K.
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 4:53 pm

@Janet L
In the first photo, the dad strikes me as a bit false. Why ride at the front with your kid farther out in traffic and behind you. Was it staged? Did the reporter agree to meet them there and ask them to ride down the street? Seems that way to me. What about it Sandy?

When I ride with my kids, we're in single file and I ride at the back.

The second seems perfectly fine. An adult a safe distance from parked doors, with a car clearly aware of her and giving her room. Happens all the time all over the rest of Menlo Park.

And I can appreciate parent concerns to reduce unnecessary busy intersection crossings with KGers. Too bad you can't.

Posted by Daisy
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I occasionally ride to Encinal with my child and the stretch in front of Nativity School is by far the most dangerous part of the ride, even worse than crossing Ravenswood. It's the main reason my 5th-grader still isn't allowed to ride by herself. With the cars pulling in and out, and blocking the bike lane, bicycles are forced into the street.

I agree that the bike commute numbers cited are ridiculously low. There's a bike pool in my neighborhood that includes 3-4 children and one adult nearly every day. We don't ride often, but when we do, I see plenty of other riders, too.

Posted by Sandy Brundage
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

We never stage photos that aren't portraits. Our photographer went to the site and shot what she saw.


Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

In the photo, the man in the front is riding very dangerously, much too close to the parked cars. If a car door opens quickly, it can throw him into oncoming traffic with tragic results (yes this does happen). The glare makes the photo unclear, but there does appear to be a driver in the Honda that the man is passing and who knows if she is thinking about opening the door without looking behind to see if traffic is approaching.

The child behind the man (unknown if it is his child or just another road user) is riding much more safely, but really the safest position is another foot or two to the left, at least 4 feet out from the car door. Note that the child is below the Honda's mirror level and may be invisible if the driver looks in the mirror before opening the door.

This photo does show just how dangerous parking in bike lanes is. The child is riding closer to the center stripe than to the curb and is still not very safe. Wouldn't you rather have your children riding in the bike lane? What is the point of having a bike lane if children cannot use it when biking too and from school?

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 2, 2013 at 9:16 pm

No brainer. No parking in bike lanes from 45 min prior to 45 min after school dismissal. Not just on Laurel but on all streets where there are numerous student bikers and student pedestrians. So include both sides of Middle, Santa Cruz, Valpariso, Middlefield, and Encinal. Additionally no parking or stopping for pickup during that time period on Olive between Santa Cruz and Stanford Ave and same for Elder between Santa Cruz and Hesketh.

While were at it since there's no parking on MP streets between 2am and 5am why aren't the street sweeping machines doing their thing when no one is parked on the streets. We'd have a heck of a lot cleaner bike lanes and streets n general.

Posted by JMM
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 3, 2013 at 6:56 am

This is an short section of Laurel in the grand scheme of things. It is completely closed off to parking when Encinal children are commuting to school in the am. They are going the opposite direction in the afternoon and shouldn't be affected by street parking then. I trust parents biking solo to the school are sophisticated enough to remember their traffic safety rules and share the road with the vehicles around them. Slow down, look left, merge when safe. Cars should do the same and share the road. It is a school zone and directly after a light, so the speed limit is lower. Balancing the needs between the children from BOTH schools (it is much safer if you don't have to cross Laurel/Oak Grove multiple times/day with young kids) the existing restrictions should be sufficient.

I don't get the tit for tat attitude of some posters, that their school gets no parking, other schools should not have parking as well? Plus, please remember that many of these kids don't live so close, but come from East Palo Alto or Redwood City where the options are not as wonderful as Menlo Park's for neighborhood schools, so biking is not an option.

Posted by CB Johnson
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

It seems surreal that there could be an argument in favor of "bike lane parking".

If cars are going to be parked there, then it's not a bike lane, is it?
That's why it's called a "bike lane" and not a "car parking" lane.
Bike lanes exist in order to carve out a meager semi-safe zone in which to commute by bicycle in our car-dominated street planning.

There's ample demand for the bike lanes already... if you actually make them safe by, duh, removing parked cars from them, demand will increase!

Ask people who drive why they don't bike... the answer, it's not safe (ie, there are cars parked in the bike line).

Posted by Michael Kilmartin
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

A bicycle Corral in an area where parents will be picking up their children is a good idea. I saw a few in the city of Sacramento, the companies name on the racks were Park A Bike. Their website is

Posted by Erin
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm

Two comments to add:

The parking on Laurel is not just used by Nativity families in the afternoon. It is also used by the apartment complexes across the street. This area, and block in particular, has high density housing with Laurel Grove apartments, duplexes and condos. The single family home across the street from Nativity has been sold and is going to be torn down and 4 units put in its place.

Yes, these units all have off street parking. But the tenants who live there need overflow parking. Menlo Park is constantly in need of affordable high density housing. Here it is, and we are making it more difficult for the residents who live there. Pine Street residents are very upset about this proposal because it shifts the cars down there (this is already a highly restrictive parking area). It seems highly elitist to say that the very people who live in an area can't park across the street from their building. They (or their guests) need to park a 10 minute walk away.

This is NOT in keeping with the Safe Routes principles:

From the Safe Routes To School website: Web Link

"Parking restrictions are needed to regulate parent parking, but care must be taken not to push motorists into adjacent neighborhoods or deny parents appropriate and adequate space for parking and drop-off activities."

Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 3, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Worst reason yet to put our kids in harm's way: the apartment complexes are underparked.

Sorry. Apartment owners need to provide tenants with enough parking spaces, no matter what the density, and not shift the burden onto our kids. I realize that some of these older complexes were grandfathered in and would never meet today's zoning requirements, but that doesn't meant the tenants should park in a bike lane.

Laurel Grove is close enough to Caltrain and El Camino to be considered a transit oriented development. So according to developers, ALL those tenants should be biking, taking the train, or riding the bus. If you can't afford a house, don't buy a car. Problem solved.

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Oct 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Let's keep the priorities straight. Nobody should have to compromise their safety for the convenience of others.

Posted by Common Sense
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Anytime a cyclist chooses to take to the streets they are choosing to engage in a "by definition" dangerous activity. You can't simply ignore reality and cite laws and traffic codes to mitigate the danger of riding a bicycle along side two ton vehicles that can easily kill you.

Removing or not removing a couple of parking spaces makes no difference in the big picture of safety. Drivers of automobiles simply are not trained to drive along cyclists and the laws have not been modified to take into account the number of cyclists, the modern equipment (i.e. faster bikes), or requiring cyclists to have proper safety gear (a styrofoam cooler on your head will not save you in a bike vs auto collision). For example, the speed limit for cars is not a safe speed limit for cyclists. What about cyclists being required to have insurance and registration? What about cyclists stopping at stop signs? Many cyclists wear the minimal amount of clothing (and safety gear) so they can ride faster! Many "time" their courses and do what ever it takes (safety not included) to beat that time.

Now, lets talk about the safety of pelotons! In what universe is it safe to ride a pack of bikes at warp speed, with little safety gear and even smaller room for error, amongst pedestrians, motorists and other cyclists? Time to reform the laws in name of safety. Send the "racing cyclists" to the track, embrace the (common sense)law abiding bike rider and create incentives for people to trade in their cars for bikes! Create bike only roads and paths. Only then will removing parking spots for bike lanes make sense.

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