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Street Smarts: How do we slow down traffic on neighborhood streets?

Original post made on Sep 19, 2018

Street Smarts, written this week by Jen Wolosin, discusses the importance of slowing down traffic on neighborhood streets and the challenges associated with doing so.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 19, 2018, 9:01 AM

Comments (15)

Posted by MP resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 19, 2018 at 10:58 am

Why is this blog featured in news as opposed to being a blog on the side of the News column?

Posted by Peter Knows It ALL
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2018 at 1:43 pm

In my view, If you want to slow traffic down, just let Facebook build in that area.

They done a great job slowing traffic down along Bayshore FWY, Willow Road and surrounding areas in Menlo Park.

That's also without the 30-35 coaches parked along side Bayshore FWY, holding traffic up.

Without Facebook vehicles in Menlo Park area would be moving a lot more faster, Thank you for Facebook and the traffic you bring.

Thank you Facebook ;p

Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 19, 2018 at 2:18 pm

Speeding cars are terrorists to parents with children who walk to school. Speeding drivers have tunnel vision and don't look for pedestrians in crosswalks. We agree that the city needs to do more to slow traffic down to safe speeds, especially on designated walk-to-school routes.

Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 19, 2018 at 3:51 pm

The speed tables in Linfield Oaks do a good job.

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2018 at 3:58 pm

Unfortunately many of those folks rush driving their kids to and from school are the worst offenders of speeding, blocking lanes, obscuring visibility etc.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2018 at 7:53 pm

Ms. Wolosin's editorial misses another critical issue with traffic calming and other efforts to slow down traffic on any given street: slowing down (or otherwise restricting) traffic on one street will almost always push some traffic onto other nearby streets. It's naive to think that the traffic will just "go away." Unfortunately, it really is often a zero sum game and neighbors on other streets understandably don't want a change elsewhere to impact THEIR street. And quite frankly, someone who paid market rate for a home on a quiet street shouldn't be forced to suffer a degraded quality of life (and safety) so that someone who bought a house on a busy street can improve theirs. It's also not realistic to put traffic calming devices on EVERY street. Improving our main through roads (like El Camino) to handle more traffic and more efficiently is a better approach than trying to choke off all the side streets. And of course, we need better enforcement of speed limits everywhere.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 19, 2018 at 8:26 pm

As a former first responder, despite the statistics, 20 mph on a neighborhood street is still too fast when kids are around. If a driver seriously injures a neighbor kid or worse, there will be no argument that "I was driving the speed limit". Unfortunately, I have responded to these calls.

Kids are kids -- they chase balls into the street without looking regardless of how many times mom or dad have said to look both ways. The amount of time you save by driving just a little bit faster is negligible. And, despite the law, people still text and talk on their phone while driving.

I have also seen parents "yell" at speeders and then do the same thing moments later.

SLOW DOWN -- it's just not worth it and you're really not saving any time.

Posted by Glad for the attention
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 20, 2018 at 9:59 am

Speeding drivers are the biggest threat to public safety on our roads, yet we're constantly bickering about pedestrian's clothing color, or a biker without a light. Let's all take ownership of this issue as I bet we have all been the offender at one time or maybe regularly.
Lets ALL slow down! Maybe even (god forbid) WAIT for someone like some kids riding down the street. Yep, they may be in a bunch, wait anyway.

Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 20, 2018 at 11:05 am

With regard to the Linfield Oaks speed tables... this was the result of about two years of conversation and study with city staff and council. The result is localized Linfield, Laurel and Willow. The tables are easy to see, and have a height such that that if one of going the speed limited or less, you don't notice it (as opposed to speed bumps).

The city also had a great traffic engineer at the time.

Posted by Rachel
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 20, 2018 at 11:56 am

Re: the "zero sum" game of pushing traffic from one street to another, I would encourage having a look at some of the research and case studies done on traffic calming.

The model of through-streets is not practical in Menlo Park. There is no way that we could possibly adjust El Camino so that it can handle every single car going through our city. Widening the road, for example, would simply encourage more traffic. It would also make that road extremely dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists, and yet it is a road so many of us have to ride or cross to get where we need to go.

The fact is, traffic dispersal is happening and will continue to happen, and so the question is what we will do with that traffic. It’s not about making it “go away,” but rather managing it. Ms. Wolosin cites road diets and other traffic calming measures that have, in fact, been implemented in cities around the world to slow down cars and make pedestrians and cyclists safer.

I also do not believe that “zero sum” is the way to approach this issue. In fact, our entire city has been affected by population growth, and I find it naive to believe we can somehow wall off a select few streets at the expense of all the others, essentially “kicking the can” to other residents to deal with.

We must all accept change, regardless of where and when we buy or rent. What is today a quiet street may be something entirely different in the future, and not just because of what the next street over does. Most importantly, if we take on the burden as a city, we can disperse this burden so that no street bears the brunt of traffic. Roads form a network, and we can choose to either create more bottlenecks, or adjust the network so that it functions more smoothly.

Again, I would encourage everyone to look to the evidence that’s out there. For example, check out Vision Zero Network Web Link I can also recommend Happy City by Charles Montgomery, where traffic management and street design are discussed at length, using examples from the US and around the world.

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 21, 2018 at 1:09 am

Speed is just one of the safety problems on our streets. Two other major safety problems are entitlement and lack of common road sense, and it seem these two go hand in hand in many cases.

Two actual cases in point on Arbor this week. First, folks picking up their kids at St Raymond and blocking traffic lanes on Arbor so that no one can get through safely. Common sense you don't block a street, entitlement I'm picking up my kid from a private school so I can do what I want. No you can't.

Second, Arbor alongside Lyle Park. It's a narrow road along side the soccer field especially when folks are parked (legally) on both sides of the road. Common sense you don't stop in the road blocking traffic to let your kid out and you don't let you child exit from the street side of your massive SUV with oncoming traffic while your yakking to your friend who's standing at your passenger window. Entitlement, I can stop anywhere I want in my car. No you can't.

I suspect when drivers are confronted with these selfish actions by other drivers they might get frustrated and speed off when they finally extract their car from the blockages. It's never a legitimate excuse to speed, but there's also never a legitimate excuse to ignore common road sense.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 21, 2018 at 9:38 am


They are here to stay. How about putting real money into our community. Pay for a solution to Willow Rd., and remove that center island and create another lane that can be used as a carpool lane, staffed by money given by Facebook. I have only seen Facebook give only a small amount of funding, just to create an interest.

Selective Police Presence:
Target areas of high traffic problems. Write tickets, enforce current traffic laws!

Community Involvement:
Residents go to council meetings and get involved to force your police department to patrol your community. It may also help to reduce crime too.

Posted by Adam
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 21, 2018 at 1:01 pm

It's a rather unscientific assumption that "speed" is the issue.

At present, seeing the number of speed humps and closed blocks (e.g. Palo Alto around Stanford Uni) there's no apparent in "traffic quietening" only the same problem of traffic gridlock and antiquated infrastructure.

As numerous others have commented for decades now, the "NIMBY" effect pushes traffic from one surface street to the next block, to the next.

Personally, having lived and driven overseas, in comparison, I'd call for driver education and public education -- smarter drivers, smarter pedestrians -- more than smarter cars or even less efficient streets.

I think these "enforcement enforcement days" are great for revenue, poor for quality of life and public safety.
Web Link

I see little gain in ticketing the chance driver unlucky to be caught in a trap or imposing massive fines that cripple the finances of low-income families while doing little more than annoy the affluent motorist -- neither is too likely receive a ticket as the life-changing therapy to overcome their selfish proclivities.

Other than the corporations profited from selling the work, is there proof of efficacy in the form of peer-reviewed scientifically conducted studies?

Posted by kbehroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 21, 2018 at 2:27 pm

kbehroozi is a registered user.

Gridlock, while undeniably frustrating, is not the problem we are seeking to address here.

A given: our traffic is bad and getting worse. This means drivers are agitated (by unpredictable delays), distracted (by trying to live life in their cars, since getting places takes so much time), and taking risks/cutting corners (to get where they need to go).

All of the distraction, frustration, and risk-taking are having a negative impact on the most vulnerable users of our streets: children, pedestrians, cyclists.

There is abundant empirical evidence linking increased driving speed to traffic deaths. And yet we are naturally incentivized to drive as fast as we can. So the question is: what can our community do to rein in our natural impulses to drive fast?

Enforcement is not the answer: too costly.

Better education would be great, but the devil is in the details. (What's effective training? How do we universalize it? Who pays for it? Who delivers it? Who would mandate it? etc.) As anyone who has actually tried to educate kids about safe cycling (or walking, or driving) can attest: for so many, it seems to go in one ear and out the other.

Simple design elements, on the other hand, can make a difference. So can lowered speed limits, especially when combined with passive enforcement measures such as speed cameras (as used all over Sweden, in NYC, etc.), radar detectors, etc.

Web Link is one compelling take on the difference between safety in Europe and the US.

Posted by David Roise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 22, 2018 at 2:12 pm

David Roise is a registered user.

I totally agree with Jen Wolosin's original premise that decreasing vehicle speeds on our neighborhood streets is one of the most important things we can do to improve the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists and thus to encourage more people to walk and bike in Menlo Park. I also used to agree that arbitrarily reducing speed limits was less effective in reducing actual vehicle speeds than re-engineering streets to make car drivers less comfortable driving dangerously fast.

A recent study in Boston, however, showed that lowering posted speed limits from 30 mph to 25 mph had a significant impact on actual vehicle speeds (see Web Link This may have been because although vehicles were still routinely traveling over the speed limit, their actual speeds were somewhat lower. For example, they observed a significant reduction in vehicles traveling over 35 mph after decreasing the posted speed limit to 25 mph.

I think we may have a similar situation in Menlo Park, where the streets with posted speed limits of 30 mph (e.g., Santa Cruz Avenue, Middle Avenue, University Drive) have significant numbers of cars traveling at 40 mph or more, and El Camino Real, with a posted speed limit of 35 mph certainly has significant numbers of cars traveling at 50 mph or more.

Maybe it's time we considered lowering speed limits on ALL Menlo Park streets to 25 mph. This would be significantly less radical than a proposal by an organization in the United Kingdom that would require 20 mph speed limits on all city streets (Web Link but it could certainly reduce vehicle speeds to a point where a pedestrian or bicyclist struck by the vehicle would have a fighting chance of survival.

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