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Menlo Park bike route plan hits speed bump

Original post made on Apr 5, 2017

Plans to move forward with a one-year pilot program of a bike route on Oak Grove Avenue in downtown Menlo Park will likely be delayed from a predicted installation date of summer to the early fall after council members asked staff to do further community outreach.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 8:18 AM

Comments (42)

Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 5, 2017 at 10:00 am

Menlo Park says car parking is more important than the safety of our children.

Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 5, 2017 at 12:05 pm

I don't think it's an either/or situation; sometimes adequate car parking results in the safety of children. That's why this situation is so difficult.

Posted by Jen Wolosin
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 5, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Thanks to The Almanac, for reporting on this important issue. The City Council will be further discussing Oak Grove at the April 18th City Council meeting (starts at 7pm). For anyone who is concerned about kids crossing El Camino on bikes to get to/from Hillview and/or M-A, please come to the meeting and/or write an email to City Council ( and ask them to move forward with the Oak Grove Bike Pilot.

There is so much more at stake to our community than just one bike lane. Every day, kids in Menlo Park (those brave enough) are left to compete on the roads with speeding SUVs and Minivans driven by distracted drivers, parked cars and other unpredictable obstacles. Those who don't assume these risks (and who can blame them?) either drive or are driven to school, causing more traffic and congestion on our over-burdened streets (nationally, 10-14% of morning commute traffic is school-related, likely more on streets like Oak Grove).

There is much talk in our town about safety for kids and improving traffic congestion. Reports are written and plans are made. But days turn into weeks and months and years and nothing happens. Streets continue to be unsafe, kids continue to be driven and the roads get more crowded. As reported in the article (thanks to Bill Kirsch, Bicycle Commissioner), Joint Ventures Silicon Valley released a report that states that Menlo Park has seen an increase in bicycle collisions over the years (the only jurisdiction among its neighbors with this trend). This is unacceptable. Every day that action is not taken is dangerous.

Delaying the Oak Grove Bike Pilot would not only affect this project. A domino affect would take place. Nikki Nagaya, Asst. Public Works Director, referenced at the March 28th City Council Meeting that the Council's new ask (additional community engagement) would impact not only this project schedule but other project schedules as well. Menlo Park City Staff will now have to table other critical Transportation projects to tend to this latest City Council directive. Will this slow down the Laurel Safe Routes Study (which is already being slowed down for Willows Cut Through Traffic)? Will this slow down the institutionalized Safe Roues program that citizens fought hard to pass in January? What about the many intersection improvements that are hazards to children every day and aren't even on a current work plan? Will those ever be addressed at this rate?

It is time for Menlo Park to take a stand on Safe Routes. There will never be a perfect solution that will balance everyone's needs in harmony. The problem with trying to please everyone, chipping away at the integrity of bike lanes, and making compromises is that at some point the project will tip and the core of the initiative (a safe[r] East/West route on Oak Grove) will be lost. It's unfair to kids and parents to ask them to ride on a "Safe Route" when every few blocks they are forced to swerve into traffic and "share" the road to avoid parked cars. A false Safe Route will keep parents driving one by one and continue to foster traffic congestion on our already clogged roads. As a community we either value Safe Routes or we don't. If we do, and the City Council does, it will need to make some decisions that may be unpopular for some (at least until the benefits are given an opportunity to become apparent - thus the pilot).

In principle, I support community engagement and working together to come up with the best solutions possible. However, with regards to Oak Grove, the due diligence was done. The item was studied and voted on in December 2016 (Item G2 from 12/6/16. Report here: Web Link Minutes here: Web Link It's time to move forward with the pilot and see how it goes.

I would also like to take this opportunity to once again invite everyone in the community to join Parents for Safe Routes and/or engage in our Community Partnership. If Parents for Safe Routes and the Community Partnership was around 2 years ago, this whole confusion/mess could have been avoided. We need to work proactively, not re-actively on issues related to Safe Routes. Imagine what solutions could have been possible if all key stakeholders had sat around a room and worked this out together. We are all interconnected and the needs of one school/constituency must be taken into consideration with-in a larger context.

If we keep doing what we're doing, we're going to keep getting what we're getting. And what we have now is a dangerous situation for those traveling East/West.

Please join me in asking the City Council to move forward with the pilot. We must show the City Council that there is a larger group of citizens that are concerned about what is happening.

To learn more about Parents for Safe Routes, and to join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on these types of issues, please visit

Jen Wolosin
Parents for Safe Routes

Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2017 at 1:28 pm

I applaud the City Council for deciding it needed to better understand the potential negative impacts (harm) this project might have on motorists, residents who live on the effected streets, schools, and businesses and conduct more effective public outreach before approving a final field trial plan. The Council also needs to better understand the value of this project to bicyclists and define measurable trial metrics for safety, convenience and comfort. It is not obvious that Oak Grove bike lanes will provide a more safe and more convenient east-west bike connection than the existing bike lanes on Valparaiso, Glenwood and Laurel. It is quite possible the proposed bike improvements will be less safe and more stressful because of the large number of locations where vehicles will cross paths with bikes at busy intersections and parking plaza entries/exits. I do not agree with the statement that time restricted parking is unsafe for Hillview and M-A students. Elementary schools children (young children) do NOT need to cross El Camino to reach their schools and generally should not be crossing El Camino without an accompanying adult. Why hasn't the consultant who is assisting the city presented a safety analysis for this project? The Council should not rely on the judgements (opinions) of non-experts, especially since safety is the primary argument that has been made for this bike project.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 5, 2017 at 2:38 pm

The Oak Grove bike route is a pilot study, which by design is intended to gather information that can lead to revisions and improvements. Community input was gathered as part of the original proposal, including input from the Nativity School (which was originally supportive of this pilot) as well as other constituents along the route. Menlo Park needs to remember that constituents are not just those who live/work/worship along a potential route, but others in the community who use the streets as a thoroughfare. And SAFETY should always be prioritized over convenience.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The width of the existing public right of ways in Menlo Park cannot support sidewalks, bicycle lanes, parking and traffic lanes - something has to go.

In my opinion on Oak Grove parking is the least important of these four uses.

Posted by Concerned Community Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 5, 2017 at 3:41 pm

It is time for us to take some action as a community. This is just a pilot and an approved one at that. We have to get started before we are having to answer for an accident we will all never forget. I agree that parking is the least important. It's time to move forward in the pilot.

Posted by Allied Arts Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 5, 2017 at 3:45 pm

Let's not forget that this pilot project includes buffered bike lanes on University between Middle and Live Oak connecting with Oak Grove via Crane St. University is particularly dicey for bikes because they need to swerve in an out of traffic to get around intermittent parked cars. For drivers, it is difficult to predict what the cyclist will do when approaching a parked car making it dangerous for everybody. This is a key route between the San Mateo Ave bike bridge to Stanford and Menlo Park downtown.

My son uses the Oak Grove route to get to MA High School. He can get there in less than 7 minutes so it is a great way to go. We need to make it safer so that more kids will use it. Council should do as promised and move this project forward.

Posted by Robert
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 5, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Let me get this straight the city is proposing a pilot program to coincide with the construction of station #13?? Its safe to assume that the Oak Grove traffic will be entirely different when the project is completed 185 apartments 300 office employees and if im not mistaken Garwood way is one of the exit points for the property? All seniors and North Oak Grove residents should realize that the city doesn't care about you as a Oak Grove property owner I have never been contacted and don't attend farmers market? Let me clarify no one is against kids safety but there was very little thought put into this proposal and as usual the city has chosen to ignore the very real impacts on senior residents, businesses and property owners. As I have learned from the past 30 years in Menlo Park your just collateral damage for the greater good.

Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Sadly, effective action for bicycle safety is often only take after a serious accident has occurred. Only then are safety experts brought in a solutions imposed.

When bikes and cars collide the cyclist always loses. The inconvenience associated with having to leave for school a little earlier or walk a little further is nothing compared to the life and limb of our children, and the terrible guilt that a driver involved in such an accident would have to bear.

Rather than complain about the proposed solution we should become creative about how to make it work even better.

steve taffee

Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2017 at 4:42 pm

A well-designed field trial will evaluate ALL the claimed significant benefits and likely negative impacts (harm) associated with this project. This means specific metrics are established and results measured, compared, and evaluated. The field trial metrics proposed to the City Council in March did NOT do this. The only safety metric "reported collisions " which is NOT an adequate proxy for bike safety. Why? Because most bike accidents do not involve a collision - bikes usually crash when riders try to avoid collisions - and most injury accidents are seldom reported to the police. A better gauge is the number of busy intersections and driveways along a bike route and the visibility of bike and motor vehicles. Also, Alta (bike network design consultant) could analyze the safety of the most troublesome locations where bike and vehicles cross path. The submitted trial metrics also did not measure relative convenience. Only by monitoring bike traffic on Valparaiso, Menlo and Oak Grove El Camino can the city determine how the volume and pattern of "crossing" bike trips changes due to the trial. Riders on the west side usually travel on Middle, Santa Cruz and Valparaiso when approaching El Camino. Valparaiso already has bike lanes. Santa Cruz does not have a bike connection to Oak Grove. And few bicyclists on Middle would take a long detour and pass thru downtown to reach the east side of El Camino. Finally, the City Council rightly believes staff has not conducted the type of outreach needed to really understand how all effected street users will be impacted by the new bike lanes and has for formal surveys, interviews and public workshops before a final trial plan is approved. Makes sense to me!

Posted by Bike Lane YES
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 5, 2017 at 4:48 pm

I implore the City Council to expedite their impact review regarding Nativity school and church and to move forward with the project, modified if necessary, so that the new bike lanes are in place and ready for the Fall school year.

Posted by Urb3xx
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 5, 2017 at 5:14 pm

You people are a joke. The world is crumbling around us and you are bickering about a bike lane. Let's talk about reality, nobody will be satisfied... by Ike's the will bitch and motorist will complain. First world problems.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 5, 2017 at 7:01 pm

Come on People----Why in the world do we need another road designated as a safe bike route when Ravenswood---the next road south of Oak Grove---is already a bike route????!!!!! Ravenswood doesn't allow parking all the way to El Camino and has the bike lanes already painted. Just continue that route across El Camino onto Menlo Avenue and take those parking spots out to University. It would be much less disruptive to everyone and provides the same advantages!

Posted by Katie Behroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 5, 2017 at 7:20 pm

Common Sense, it sure sounds like a great idea. Why didn't anyone think of it? Actually, they did. But as I learned when I joined the bike commission, there are no perfect solutions for getting bikes through town, only unending tradeoffs.

For the route you suggest, there are significant challenges, both structural and political.

Ravenswood has a higher volume of traffic between Laurel and El Camino Real and we'd have to sacrifice at least one west-bound lane in order to fit in a bike lane. Menlo Ave (also a lot more traffic–hello, Trader Joe's!) isn't as wide as Oak Grove and the parking there is in much higher demand. I'd love to live in a world in which we could eliminate some driving space on Ravenswood for bike lanes, convince the downtown community to relinquish all the Menlo Ave parking, and create the most central/direct route possible. Having seen the brouhaha over Oak Grove, I now realize how much of an uphill battle that would be. It would get Nativity off our back, perhaps, but imagine what the Chamber of Commerce would have to say? Probably even more than they do now.


Posted by Katie Behroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 5, 2017 at 7:49 pm

People, this is as close to a no-brainer as anything ever is in the murky world of policy. Which is to say, not completely. But let’s not let the perfect or the ideal be the enemy of the good-enough-for-now. We can always improve, edit, and iterate on a pilot, which is what this is supposed to be. Nothing is set in stone. The staff aren’t even planning on using the most permanent kind of paint. Nothing can’t be moved or changed based on observation and user input. But doing nothing, which is where we’ve been for more than a decade, is inexcusable. And for the life of me, I can’t understand why in Silicon Valley, home of the Minimum Viable Product, of Rapid Iteration, of Design Thinking, we can’t get a damn field trial going on a two-mile stretch of road.

Like it or not, per state and local policy, we are supposed to be building Complete Streets in Menlo Park. This doesn't mean every single road will be optimized for all users–-but it does mean that we need to stop prioritizing the needs of one class of road user over all others *across the network.* There are freeways and collector streets on which cars tend to be prioritized. But for shorter stretches within our flat, condensed city, continuing to cater to drivers at the expense of other modes of transportation doesn’t always make sense and actually contributes to congestion and safety issues. Many people will always drive, either by choice or necessity (Full disclosure: I am one of these discretionary drivers.) The city owes us safe streets. But it doesn’t owe us ubiquitous convenience, any more than it owes us free gas.

Despite the much discussed parking shortages, no one right now could look at downtown Menlo Park and honestly say that we were prioritizing the needs of anyone other than drivers. Our streets are parking lots, in both the literal and (sometimes) the metaphorical sense. But biking doesn’t feel very safe. Our kids who ride through town to get to school aren’t well protected. So, that's got to change. We've been saying for years as a community that we want it to change, and we’re smart people so we know the environmental, health, and quality-of-life costs we incur. So why is this change so hard?

We aren't even being that bold. We aren't talking about taking over Santa Cruz Avenue and turning it into a bike/ped zone (although honestly that would be an amazing direction to go, especially if we could somehow add an underground parking garage with parks and housing above). We aren't even talking about removing all the parking on Menlo Avenue, which is much more central than Oak Grove but also densely used by downtown dwellers and shoppers alike. One of three routes through town needs to have bike facilities. If it ain't Menlo or Santa Cruz, what's left?

Sure, people who are used to having more space for their cars will feel inconvenienced. And regardless of how much outreach staff does or doesn’t do, I guarantee that they will make their disappointment known. Some of the things that are inconvenient can be fixed reasonable compromise solutions that can be implemented mid-trial. But regardless, convenience for road users wasn’t really the goal of this project–safety was (this is another reason why more central Ravenswood-Menlo Ave. wasn’t chosen for the trial: right now, traffic volumes and speeds are much higher there.)

We have been talking about building safe routes through town for more than a decade (check out the 2005 Bicycle Plan!) Somehow we never get out of the study phase, the public input phase, the "hire some more consultants"-"feasibility study"-"put it in a plan" (that will never be executed) phase.

How much more data could we possibly need to establish that we should launch a bike route pilot on the least trafficked of three main routes through town? How much more time and money should we spend with nothing to show for it?

After hearing from the Nativity community last Tuesday, on a day when council was technically only supposed to be approving specific trial metrics, a council member opined that this much-discussed project is still "not ready for prime time." When would prime time be? When grade separation happens, or doesn't happen, or we finally build a tunnel for our train and can turn all that land into glorious multi-modal nirvana? When we have twice the housing density and three times the traffic? When all the construction projects are all finished so we know everything about what the impacts of those will be, and in the meantime everyone's kids have grown up and our seniors have died or moved to Bend, and the rest of us have abandoned our vehicles for jetpacks?

What about when someone's kid/parent/employee/neighbor gets killed in an unfortunate accident? Then, maybe, we could find the political will to put some paint on the ground, reduce some speeds and some parking, and create a safe, central, continuous route for bikes to ride through town. But it shouldn’t come to that, should it?

To expand on Jen Wolosin's eloquent points about process, I think the city council has backed themselves into a corner here. After a slow, deliberate months-long period of input-design-input-design, they finally made a decision–-only to let a comparatively small group of stakeholders hijack the discussion at an inappropriate point. This is not a good precedent to set. Citizens should be able to trust council to make tough decisions–yes, with reasonable input, but also with a sense of the bigger picture, the larger issues at stake, and a healthy dose of perspective. Sometimes being a leader means looking a stakeholder in the eye and telling them, not without sympathy, that you hear them but can’t continue to relitigate a decision. Or that your role requires you to put their unique challenges and concerns into the broader context of the community needs, and unfortunately it’s not necessarily going to result in an outcome that’s ideal for them personally. These are not easy discussions to have but they should get easier with practice.

Now that this particular discussion is apparently wide open again, Robert’s Rules be damned, how is the council supposed to weigh input? Are they going to give every citizen the same air time and attention that they have given to the Nativity community? Including the ones who have already contributed, because fairness + recency effect + availability bias? Out of curiosity, I went back through the council email archives and found dozens of emails in which people had written in asking for safe routes through town, urging the city not to delay in putting *something* on the ground. Should we email all those folks again, as a courtesy? Must all those people show up en masse and remind us that they, too, care about having safe routes?

And this is just the pre-trial input. To be truly thorough, we’ll definitely need to keep talking to people to make sure we understand how they are “effected”–ideally several times over the course of the one-year pilot. Online surveys aren’t enough–too passive. Some people might not be paying attention, or might be digitally impaired but have an opinion. Postcards aren’t sufficiently interactive, and anyway, who reads their mail these days? Find people where they are! But tabling at the Farmer’s Market isn’t good enough–those bell-bottomed kombucha-sippers are probably too biased. (How can they bike in bell bottoms? Never mind.) We need some balance. Better hit up Little League games too. Better yet, go door-to-door. We need to get OUT there and meet with our stakeholders, all of them. Who will conduct all those meetings? Staff? Great. Hire some more, or expect every other project on their plates to be delayed 5x. And maybe hire a videographer too, because sometimes staff and stakeholders have differing accounts of the conversations they had and agreements they came to, so it’s better to have proof. Should we hire consultants, then? Expect to pay. Or how about council members and commissioners? (the ones without jobs?) /sarcasm

Where does it end? and when it finally does end, how will council manage to make a call on the route when they know full well that everyone won't be happy? Not all cyclists will be happy. Not all drivers will be happy. Not all pedestrians will be happy. Some will be happy but we probably won’t hear from them. (In your experience, how often do government officials hear from happy people, from contented people? Does this mean that they don't exist, or that their needs are less important?)

More importantly, does this lack of public consensus mean the trial is inevitably doomed? Not unless we make universal happiness our gauge of success.

Seriously, if we want to understand who will be affected by this project, we can't limit it to the people who will be upset about the loss of guaranteed parking on public roads or annoyed about more stop signs on Santa Cruz (as if anyone should be using Santa Cruz in downtown as a throughway)–we have to include all the local PTOs and school leaders. We have to include all residents who bike commute, as well as those who commute *through* Menlo. We have to include people who currently drive through town and are impeded by cyclists forced to "take the lane" because there's nowhere else for them to go. We have to talk to the pedestrians who have had to share their sidewalks with packs of middle school kids on bikes. We have to talk to the pediatricians and child psychologists who are seeing an increase in childhood obesity, screen addiction, and ADHD about what it means for kids to be able to bike or walk to school safely (as opposed to being driven). We have to talk to citizens who live near schools and must contend with massive amounts of traffic each weekday morning, etc. about how they feel about prioritizing the needs of drivers at the expense of kids on bikes. Etc.

And if our fiscal prudence constrains us from recommending that city staff spend months in this costly community outreach endeavor and/or hire consultants to do it (and it should), we might have to apply common sense and just focus on the most important metric: are our streets a bit safer than they were before?

The process stinks. The process is broken. In an ideal world, our council would be able to commission a master transportation plan, laying out a big vision for our city–e.g. Complete Streets, or Vision Zero (look it up) but leaving the details to the expert traffic engineers who live and breathe this stuff. After a defined period for community input and a lot of solid research and design by our city engineers and consultants, a plan would be produced and approved. And then council would authorize the city to make it happen, without bringing every single stop sign/bike lane/tree removal/crosswalk/parking change in for tedious review in a public forum, subject to the whims and inexpert opinions of everyone who happens to show up. Allocate money, apply for grants, get moving. New project ideas? Consult the plan, figure out what those would displace, make a call, keep moving.

The current scenario, in which plans are made in good faith but then amended ad nauseum until they are impracticable, or dragged out until they no longer make any sense, must drive our engineers absolute batsh*t. Sure makes the commissioners crazy. And it makes our city a slightly less awesome place to live.


Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 5, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"a council member opined that this much-discussed project is still "not ready for prime time." When would prime time be?"

For Menlo Park prime time is always sometime in the future because no one wants to make a decision now.

Posted by Erin
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 5, 2017 at 9:02 pm

I am grateful to the City Council for taking a closer look at this issue; this is a stretch of road with many people who depend on it.

As a quick aside: We have an east/west road with no parking and dedicated bike lanes on Ravenswood-- one short block away from Oak Grove. I think there needs to be greater education to students that this is the safest route as there is no parking along this road. My son uses it 2-6x a day to get to school and his activities/ practices. (I admit that he has used Oak Grove because of a number of his friends like to travel that way as they come up from Toyon to Oak Grove, but I've asked him to choose the Ravenswood route with dedicated bike lanes).

Oak Grove is a street with a high school on one end, a church, a K-8 school, and countless apartment units and businesses. At any given time of day, there are cars parked there out of necessity. At night, it is residents / guests of the apartments. During the day, there are students, people attending stopping to get coffee at 7-11, going to weddings, funerals, masses, or going to dinner in Menlo Square, or parking on Oak Grove while they wait for someone to come in from the train (like myself).

Parking has already been mostly eliminated on Laurel, completely eliminated on Middlefield, and restricted on Marcussen, Cherry and Pine. Atherton does not allow parking on most of their streets (Oak Grove east of Middle, side streets like Toyon... I am sure Peter C. will correct me if I'm wrong). Simply put: where will these people go?

As an example of the impact, the owner of one of the large apartment buildings on the corner of Laurel and Oak Grove has told the city that his residents need to have some ability to park (or have their guests park) in front of their own homes. That is reasonable. Furthermore, he is telling the city he has residents who are older and cannot walk great distances to and from their home after searching for parking. The church has echoed the same sentiments and included that many families come with babies/ small children and all the equipment small children need. Those are incredibly real concerns that seems to have been moved aside in this conversation.

The MAHS students will have nowhere to park and they (along with everyone else looking for a spot) will be circling the neighborhood streets of Cherry, Pine, Arlington, Menlo Oaks, and Colby (parking has already been eliminated this past year on Coleman and the cars are now stacking up on these other streets) to find a space because those are the only spots available within a still-very long walk. That will put circling cars (with newer drivers in a rush to get to school) on a collision course with students trying to get to school at Laurel, Peninsula and Nativity. It will also put those cars on a collision course with people out exercising and walking in their own neighborhood streets. I know this because I have seen the increase in circling traffic on our street ever since the parking was eliminated on Coleman. So has my son while leaving our house on his bike.

The city should consider several things (and I thank the council for being thoughtful about unintended consequences and impacts.) First, how can the bicycle commission work with local schools to recommend the Ravenswood route for bicyclists? Secondly, can the city can work with MAHS to come up with a parking plan? Eliminating the need to park on one of the last streets that is available would make everyone safer regardless of how they travel. In addition, there is an almost always empty parking lot at the corner of Ravenswood / Middlefield that is for lease; could the city work with the landlord to provide some relief parking there for MAHS students until the property is sold? Lastly, I hope that the city can add representatives from the Oak Grove resident community (those who live in those apartment complexes and duplexes), businesses, schools and church to a task force to discuss the situation more deeply. The people who live and work on that street-- whose every day lives are directly and deeply impacted -- should have a greater role in the decision making than they have had to date.

I understand that the city is trying to reach a percentage of streets dedicated to bike lanes, and doing so helps the city access grant money, etc. Personally, I love that my family-- and my son in particular-- is able to bike around our city. It promotes health, independence and helps our environment. I recognize, however, that sometimes there are other variables that come into play, and while it would be lovely to have a dedicated bike path through Oak Grove, there are simply too many other competing needs that also are important.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Laurel School
on Apr 5, 2017 at 9:57 pm

I personally don't feel safe biking on Ravenswood between Laural & El Camino so I would be strongly against recommending that high school children use it heavily. I don't think parking is a major problem in our community..traffic, biking, and pedestrian safety are much bigger issues.

For example, I think most people agree that Coleman is much better without the handful of cars that used to park on the road making it into a game of weaving pedestrians, buses, and cars (it would have been comical had it not been so dangerous). And the idea that the way to get less traffic is by adding more parking is just not true. The way to get less traffic is to encourage non-vehicular transportation..which is exactly what safe bike lanes do. Isn't that the way to get those drivers off of Menlo Oaks roads not by trying to get parking lots?

In any case, remember what we are talking about is a study. Rather than resort to explaining how senior citizens will have to walk miles. Let's do the study and get real data. My guess is that the benefit is much greater than the cost. Let's not let a few people veto a change that will help the community

Posted by Troll
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Why are people from Menlo Oaks are even in this conversation. They aren't part of the Menlo Park. If you want a voice in these decisions, incorporate into the city instead of trying to freeload on all of us. And get sidewalks!

Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2017 at 10:26 pm

Yes, the Menlo Park bike planning process has a number of problems and one of the primary ones is that a bike consultant was hired to create a feasible design of bike facilities that was proposed by and advocated for by a handful of bike commissioners who have no expertise in bike network design rather than assign the consultant the job of performing a professional quality needs and impact analysis for east-west bike connectivity and propose the best possible bike project. Now, some City Council members realize that the actual value and negative impacts of this project have NOT been properly considered and the proposed field trial metrics are inadequate. It's better to conduct a well-planned field trial in the fall than proceed with one now that will not deliver the information the Council needs to make the best decisions. Yes, this is disappointing for the bike commission but it is the right decision. The bike commission claims this project will provide a new bike crossing that is more CONVENIENT and SAFE than the existing continuous bike lanes on Valparaiso-Glenwood-:Laurel and that the negative impact will be tolerable. The trial should either affirm or refute these claims. This sounds fiscally responsible to me. The city should not spend almost $250000 on a trial before it has a first-class trial plan. Let's do it right, or not at all.

Posted by NIMBY
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 5, 2017 at 10:27 pm

My name says it all.

Posted by Dana Henrdrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2017 at 8:09 am

"Common Sense, it sure sounds like a great idea (adding bike lanes to Ravenswood and Menlo). Why didn't anyone think of it? Actually, they did. Ravenswood has a higher volume of traffic between Laurel and El Camino Real and we'd have to sacrifice at least one west-bound lane in order to fit in a bike lane. Menlo Ave (also a lot more traffic–hello, Trader Joe's!) isn't as wide as Oak Grove and the parking there is in much higher demand." - per bike commissioner.

These MISLEADING statements are just another example of how alternatives to the Oak Grove bike project have been steadily rejected by bike commissioners. First, the volume of traffic on a street is not in itself an unsolvable problem. Every day hundreds of bicyclists ride safely and comfortably in Sand Hill Road bike lanes near thousands of vehicles travelling at 45 mph or more. Rather, the number and type of places where bikes and motorists cross paths (interact) are much more important considerations as these locations are where most bike accidents occur. Next, there is no need to sacrifice any vehicle lanes on Ravenswood between El Camino and Laurel as a separate bike path could be build between EL Camino and Laurel on City property, and this would REMOVE bikes from this section of Ravenswood. And on Menlo two-way buffered bike lanes could be added to the south side with NO loss of short-time parking. Motorists now use these FREE parking spaces for as long as they want. Why is this desirable? Flexible posts could be installed in the bike buffer so there is a visual reminder of where vehicles and bikes belong. And these bike lanes would only cross a couple of low traffic side streets. I asked the bike commission for the opportunity to discuss this innovative bike solution with its members more than 18 months ago but the offer was rejected with the comment that it was already too far along in advancing the Oak Grove bike project. (Note: the then chairman of the bike commission DID agree that a Ravenswood-Menlo bike solution was needed but said it should be considered only after the Oak Grove project.) That is, it was not open to seriously considering an alternative that potentially would be more convenient for most bicyclists and likely more safe than the "Oak Grove" project. All I asked was they carefully consider it and propose that the Council hire a bike consultant to fairly evaluate BOTH options. Response: No interest.

Posted by Katie Behroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 6, 2017 at 8:32 am

Hey Dana, I don't think you have been ignored. I spent a lot of time reviewing your proposal and giving you feedback. I know various council members have discussed this with you as well, and it would certainly have been within their power to direct staff to evaluate it. The bike commissioners are volunteers and we are not empowered to sway the city in quite the way you imagine. We make our recommendations and hope for the best. I do appreciate how vigorously you have advocated for a better east-west route over the years and wish others could similarly see how important it is. Thank you.

Posted by Options
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2017 at 8:46 am

I hope the city would as Dana suggests consider multiple alternatives. Perhaps an Oak Grove bike route would help; perhaps a Ravenswood bike route on city property (if possible) would be better. Hopefully the city will also consider *additional* routes such as ones incorporating the possible bike underpass at the Stanford El Camino property. That might be a more efficient crossing point for Willows and Linfield Oaks residents heading west, and for Allied Arts residents going to the library or Burgess pool.

I would like to see the study move forward to get some data but not if that means everything else is effectively "off the table."

Posted by Lydia Lee
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2017 at 11:01 am

It's very understandable that community members would like to see more studies and outreach to develop an east-west bike route. However, it's important to note that a lot of money, time. and community engagement has already been devoted to this effort already. Various options for an east-west were considered in the Menlo Park 2005 Bicycle Plan. Twelve years have gone by with nothing to show for it. (In contrast, the Santa Cruz sidewalk project only took 8 years!) A cornerstone of the current pilot for Oak Grove is a safe crossing over El Camino Real, something that can be done here without a radical reconfiguration of the road (unlike Ravenswood). The pilot plan was designed by a consultant, has gone through the proper channels, and has already had a slew of compromises based on community input. It's not set in stone: It's a one-year pilot, designed to allow modifications based on actual usage and community feedback. So while it sounds very reasonable to get more community feedback or more studies before proceeding, be aware that the end result may be that the pilot can't even get off the ground. Let's give it a chance. Please help our kids have a safe route as soon as possible.

Posted by Katie Behroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Apr 6, 2017 at 11:09 am

Options, the Downtown Specific Plan contains recommendations for multiple east-west bike routes through Menlo Park (see below) and I personally plan to advocate for as many of these as possible. At this point, given the lack of downtown parking garage/Caltrain tunnel, the Oak Grove pilot is the cheapest/simplest to implement, requiring the least construction. I hope we have many more options for cyclists down the road.

(from the Plan...)
Recommendations for new east-west facilities include:
–Bicycle route on Encinal Avenue between El Camino
Real and the railroad tracks;
–Bicycle lanes on Oak Grove Avenue between
University Drive and Laurel Street. This improvement
requires removal of parking on one side of the street.
The Specific Plan recommends the north side;
–Bicycle route on Santa Cruz Avenue between
University Drive north and south;
–Future Class II/Minimum Class III on Menlo Avenue
between University Drive and El Camino Real with
additional striping modifications near the El Camino
Real and Menlo Avenue intersection;
–Future Class II/Minimum Class III on westbound
Ravenswood Avenue between the railroad tracks and
El Camino Real;
–Bicycle route on Middle Avenue west of University
–Future Class II/Minimum Class III on Middle Avenue
between University Drive and El Camino Real with
additional striping modifications at the El Camino Real
and Middle Avenue intersection; and
–Bicycle/pedestrian grade-separated crossing of the
railroad tracks at the train station and near Middle
Avenue, with the ultimate configuration depending on
the future configuration of Caltrain and/or high speed

Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 6, 2017 at 11:17 am

The City of Menlo Park has several commissions that provide valuable input to the City Council. I would like to see a commission that focuses on the needs of our senior residents. There are many seniors in Menlo Park who are aging in place and when it comes to issues such as eliminating parking their input should be heard as well. For younger folks, a little inconvenience such as walking a block or two isn't a big issue, but for many older people that can mean the difference between being able to pick up medication and groceries or having to rely on others. I have found that many seniors who could qualify for a disabled placard do not do so because they feel there are people more in need and they want those spaces to be available for those folks. I hope that at some point, the City Council will consider a commission dedicated to issues that impact our senior population.

Posted by Mom in Menlo
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 6, 2017 at 12:32 pm

This weekend, my husband and I took our three young kids on a bike ride -- in Palo Alto, not Menlo Park -- because Palo Alto has safer bike infrastructure, including lanes and signage. As part of this trip, we stopped at the Palo Alto Whole Foods for lunch and the Palo Alto Ace Hardware to pick up some items. Had a safe route to downtown Menlo Park been available, we might have picked up lunch at a restaurant on Santa Cruz and shopped at the Menlo Park Ace Hardware. Menlo Park has an opportunity to create safe bike infrastructure and draw more community members to its downtown. Why not give this pilot a try?

Posted by Options
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Thank you for the info Katie. Appreciate the time that you and the other folks on the commission have given to this effort for everyone's benefit. Glad to see the interest in additional routes.

Dana's concerns about the trial metrics sound reasonable to me. Do you disagree with those?

Posted by Savy
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2017 at 1:22 pm

I adviced my neighbors children who wanted to ride their bikes from SouthWest Menlo Park to Laurel/Burgess etc. to use the Roble Street traffic light to get behind the Strip Mall and ride through the parking lot to the rail crossing at Ravenswood.

Sending them through downtown takes longer and compounds the risk.

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 6, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Hopefully the delay in installation will include University Dr. between Live Oak and Middle Ave. The number of bicyclists using that stretch is few and far between. Rather than red curb that area, a sign can be posted indicating "No Parking" between the hours of 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. University Dr. in that area is residential and red curbing the area would have an impact on visiting guests.

Posted by Bill Kirsch
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 6, 2017 at 1:47 pm

In January, 2013 our City Council adopted the principals of the California
Complete Streets Act of 2008, requiring Menlo Park to fully consider the
needs of non-motorized travelers (pedestrians, bicyclists etc) in its
roadway planning and execution.  We have made very little progress.

The Oak Grove/University Ave Bicycle Pilot is an important first step
towards fulfilling Complete Street goals. Let's move this pilot forward
without delay. The project was approved by City Council in December
after much debate, consideration of alternatives, outreach and
professional planning 

The March 28 agenda item was to approve metrics,
but the discussion and actions taken by the Council went beyond the
agenda, with a vague request for additional outreach, prompted by
parking complaints from a small contingent of Nativity School parents.
It leaves the impression that any project, no matter how far along, no
matter how thoroughly vetted, can be easily derailed.

We have a habit in Menlo Park of studying and outreaching every project
to a standstill.  Meanwhile, our neighbor Palo Alto continues to move
aggressively forward in building out a network of safe routes to schools
and bicycle boulevards connecting the entire City. They, as should Menlo
Park, understand the urgent need to give citizens safe options other
than the automobile for local travel. Every bicyclist on our roadways
represents one less car.  As the experts tell us, just removing one car
in ten can greatly alleviate traffic congestion.

The thousand or so children that bicycle to school in Menlo
Park do so in dangerous conditions every day.  This is unacceptable. They
should and can be made safe. This project is the beginning of that
effort. We have a long way to go, so we need to start now.

Posted by Savy
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Elizabeth's comment regarding number of cyclists using the stretch of University between Middle and Live Oak/Downtown couldn't be farther from the truth.

In fact, it is a major thoroughfare from the bike bridge to downtown. And it is particularly dangerous BECAUSE of parked cars and the general higher than the posted speed limit especially off peak hours.

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 6, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Well, Savy, I live on University Dr. I surely don't see much activity let alone during the day and nothing at night.

Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2017 at 4:14 pm

Katie (bike commissioner) : No one on the Bike Commission has ever had an open-minded discussion with me about the Menlo-Ravenswood recommendation I made in 2015 so your comment is misleading. I submitted a detailed proposal and analysis and repeatedly requested an opportunity to discuss it with the entire commission. But instead, Chairman Bill Kirsch told me in January of 2016 that the timing was not good since the bike commission was already committed to Oak Grove. That left me to pursue my proposal on my own because I believed it warranted serious consideration by the City Council assisted by a bike network design professional. After my January 2017 guest opinion in the Almanac you did send me indignant emails and met with me soon after. However, it was clear you were only interested in discrediting my proposal and me. As you might recall, I tried to calmly respond to your aggressive objections and eventually walked out after you began to insult me. Not the kind of treatment I ever expect from someone who represents our city and bike commission. The bike commission should feel responsible for helping the City Council make the best possible decisions for all residents and encouraging the Council to seriously evaluate alternatives. Instead, it has promoted its own pet project and NEVER provided a fact-based persuasive analysis that supports its claim that Oak Grove bike lanes would be far more safe and convenient than EITHER the existing combination of bike lanes on Valparaiso, Glenwood, Laurel and Ravenswood OR the Menlo-Ravenswood bike lanes and bike path I recommended. Finally, the proposed field trial metrics would not actually provide the information needed to prove this claim. Nor did the metrics adequately measure negative impacts beyond the obvious lost parking. I respect the Council's decision to demand better metrics and on-going public outreach than was proposed by staff and the bike commission. Instead bike commissioners are now trying to mobilize opposition to the Council decision. Smart? I don't think so.

Posted by Bad timing
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Construction of the massive Greenheart project is about to begin. That will bring big trucks, heavy equipment that likely will use Oak Grove. If the smsller prjoect on Glenwood a block north is any indication, there could also be trailers snd vehicles parked on Oak Grove.
This is not the time to add children on bikes in a construction area.
I favor using Ravenswood short tetm snd long term as that would have few impacts on residents who now rely on the Oak Grove parking.
Menlo is tricky for bikes, esp near el camino but that is safer than the congested mess on Middle close to el camino.
The whole circulation system and parking requirements need to be assessed and planned. Decisions on piece parts - including grade separation, bike lanes, undercrossing - shoukd be made in context of a comprehensive plan. That doesn't exist.

Posted by Bike Commuter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2017 at 11:44 pm

As a bike commuter, Im pretty happy with my route from North to South and over the bike bridge. As a father of a child who rides to school across El Camino, I worry we are prioritizing the convienence of kids and families in cars driving to school in Menlo Park over the safety of kids in Menlo Park riding to school on bikes. It is time to make sure kids can ride to school safely. Do you really want everyone to drive everywhere everyday on streets that are already slowed with traffic? Making it safe for kids to ride safely to school isn't just the right thing to do, it's also more efficient.

Posted by Don't forget the bus
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Apr 7, 2017 at 7:05 am

In terms of keeping vehicles off the road and for those who can't bike, there also are buses. (Mr. Kirsch's bike/car equation leaves this out.). If there is a kid who doesn't want to bike to school in the rain maybe s/he might give the bus a try that day :-)

Posted by Thank You!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 7, 2017 at 8:38 am

To "Don't forget the bus":

Thank you! I was thinking the same thing, and then wondering how the quarter of a million dollars set aside just for the trial of the Oak Grove bike path could enhance bus/shuttle service. That's a lot of money!

Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 14, 2017 at 2:49 pm

dana hendrickson is a registered user.

Letter to City Council - April 14, 2017

Menlo Park City Council

Bike Project Field Trial Must Test Bike Safety Claims

A few weeks ago, a collision between my road bike and a white pick-up truck on Woodside Road reminded me that even well marked bike lanes afford little safety and no protection. Seeing a narrow gap in the flow of vehicle traffic, the driver shot across the two-lane highway from a service station driveway on his way to the Pioneer Inn and did not spot me riding in a well-marked bike lane until it was too late. He braked hard but ended up straddling my lane less than 10 feet in front of my front wheel and our collision was unavoidable. If the truck had arrived a few seconds later, I might have ended up underneath. My bike was badly damaged, but fortunately, I was not seriously injured. Since this incident occurred as the Menlo Park prepares a plan for a one-year, field trial of the Oak Grove – Crane – University (“Oak Grove”) bike project, my accident caused me to reexamine the primary rationale for this city investment and the trial metrics that city staff has proposed to gauge potential benefits and negative impacts. So far, the City Council has accepted the bike commission’s claim that this bike project will greatly improve bike safety - especially for students who must cross El Camino to reach their schools. But how does anyone really know? This important claim remains unexamined, and the current field trial plan does not adequately address bike and motorist safety issues. Instead, the Council, bike commission and many residents have incorrectly accepted as an “article of faith” the belief that new bike lanes always create a much safer bike riding environment. While the Council in a March review instructed city staff to better understand the impact of lost street parking, it should also require that more attention be paid to understanding the safety attributes of the project design and NOT approve a final field trial plan before safety receives greater attention both before and during the field trial.

Experienced bicyclists and bike network design professionals will readily acknowledge that other factors play a much more important role in safety than bike lanes Why? Because most bike accidents occur at places where cars and bikes cross paths - at intersections, busy commercial driveways and parking lots - rather than on the sections of streets between them. Bike lanes appeal to bicyclists not because they make a bike route safer but primarily because the separation of bikes and vehicles increases their comfort and creates the perception of greater safety. Bike lanes also have the same positive effect on motorists, as they prefer not to share lanes with bikes.

Here are a few recommendations that would help the Council acquire an excellent understanding of the bike safety benefits that this bike project might provide and ensure that the best safety measures are employed.

1. Require the consultant who designed the bike lanes and bike routes for this project also perform a safety analysis on its design. It needs to identify potential trouble spots, assess risks for different types of bike riders and recommend potential ways to reduce risk exposure. Bike network designers use five different categories for bicyclists when evaluating the suitability of bike routes and bike lanes for different types of riders on particular streets. This analysis should be performed before the trial starts.

2. The current field trial metrics submitted by city staff only requires the collection of reported collision data, an inadequate proxy for bike safety because most bike accidents do not involve collisions and bike accidents are rarely reported. For example, no one reported my Woodside collision because I did not experience a medical emergency. The safety metrics should be expanded beyond reported collisions and all potential trouble spots carefully monitored, perhaps with cameras.

There are a number of locations that warrant close attention.

1. The eastbound bike lane on Oak Grove will pass parked vehicles, and while there will be an eighteen inch wide buffer, motorists will still need to cross bike lanes whenever they enter or exit a street parking space.

2. Bicyclists will still share vehicle lanes on the two narrow and busy sections of Crane between Menlo Avenue and Oak Grove, and Crane is usually lined with parked cars. Many bicyclists do not understand that the street markings (“sharrows”) are installed primarily to encourage them to ride in the middle of the lane ride where they can avoid opening doors. Unfortunately, many motorists and bicyclists do not understand this fact and bicyclists generally do not like to “take the lane” and impede faster vehicles.

3. Three public parking plazas and six busy entrances and exits exist on Crane between Santa Cruz and Oak Grove. Vehicles will frequently cross paths with bicyclists and visibility is poor. How will bike-vehicle conflicts be minimized?

4. The dramatic redesign of the Crane-Santa Cruz-Crane intersections will create a challenging environment for both motorists and bicyclists, especially given the number of distractions at this location and the likely impatience of motorist who will need to stop at two new additional stop signs on Santa Cruz. Also, the California legislature is now considering A.B. 1103, which in its current form would authorize “a person operating a bicycle approaching a stop sign, after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way, to cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping, unless safety considerations require otherwise.” While this might make a great deal of sense in “quiet” neighborhood settings with little vehicle traffic it likely does not at this location, especially for elementary and middle school students. If this legislation passes what additional safety measures will be needed?

5. The creation of the Garwood Way extension at Station 1300 means there will be four busy intersections in a short section of Oak Grove (at El Camino, Merrill, Garwood Way and Alma) where bikes and vehicles will constantly cross paths. Are new bike and/or vehicle traffic controls needed? Where?

6. Station 1300 will generate an estimated 700 more daily vehicle trips on this section of Oak Grove, increasing the total to 10000 in 2019. How will the trial plan account for this change when this commercial development will not be completed until after the trial is over?

7. The bike route crossing at Crane might encourage more students to ride on Santa Cruz between University and El Camino. This is not safe behavior bicyclists will likely weave in and out of busy traffic, there is active parking, and the lanes were recently narrowed by the installation of outdoor street dining areas.

Some final thoughts: the actual crossings of El Camino at Oak Grove and Valparaiso will be similar, e.g., four-way traffic control lights, bike lanes separated from right turn lanes, pedestrian crosswalks and pedestrian light controls. The city spent more than $450,000 on pedestrian and bike safety improvements on Valparaiso and Glenwood in 2016. Were these not sufficient for bicyclists who cross El Camino north of downtown? The continuous bike lanes on these streets connect to those on Laurel and Ravenswood east of Laurel, and there is no lane sharing; no complex intersections; no parking plazas. There is no lane sharing; no complex intersections and no parking plazas. Why is the proposed project viewed as safer than existing bike facilities? I recommend the Council ensure it fully understands this important bike safety issue and has a trustworthy trial plan before approving any final field trial plan.

I look forward to hearing how our City Council intends to address this important matter.

Dana Hendrickson
Publisher & Editor
Re-Imagine Menlo Park

Posted by Reid Powers
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on May 6, 2017 at 11:43 pm

Making biking safer for everyone in our community should take precedence over the few that might be impacted. We need to encourage everyone in our community to hop on a bike and feel safe while doing it. Many parents are hesitate to allow their children to bike because of limited bikes lanes. If we can reasonably accommodate those who might be impact we should, but we should not allow the few to dictate the needs of many. We need more bike lanes in our community!

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