Town Square

Letter: Cyclist says no tunnel needed

Original post made on Jul 17, 2008

Speaking about the City Council deliberations on the downtown visioning project, Reginald Rice says in his July 9 letter that consultants say a bicycle tunnel is "definitely needed under the tracks."

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 16, 2008, 12:00 AM


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Posted by Worried Mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 17, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Wellll, Henry, it's not always about you. Bully for you that you have no trouble crossing ECR on your bicycle. You ought to try it with a 7 yr. old on an alley cat bike attachment and a 9 yr. old riding his own bike. There are many of us in Menlo park who are parents who are trying to cross ECR to get to Burgess and the library.

Join us, please in pressuring the city council to crete safe routes from the civic center to west Menlo Park. A designated under crossing of the train tracks near Burgess would make all the difference in the world.

We would welcome your voice in our campaign.

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Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jul 17, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Worried Mother, the bicycle tunnel would not make it one bit safer to cross El Camino. With children, you would still want to walk your bikes across the street, dodging U-turning cars and other motorists as you go.

The only advantage of the bike tunnel is that it would enable you to cross the train tracks somewhere between Ravenswood and Alma. But crossing the train tracks isn't very challenging at all (unless you are really oblivious to all the lights and noise that accompany an ongoing train).

My real concern is that it is very likely that the high speed rail initiative will be approved by the naive residents of our state in California, thereby rendering any discussion of a bike tunnel moot.

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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jul 19, 2008 at 8:53 am

"Pedestrian" repeats the lie that cyclists crossing El Camino at a properly designed intersection associated with a bicycle/pedestrian tunnel would be "dodging U-turning cars and other motorists". For example at Cambridge and El Camino, the U-turns now have their own signal cycle; at Middle there is a similar condition. Both locations would certainly retain these standard functions of signalized intersections when a tunnel is built.
Responsible bicycle riders and motorists understand the vehicle code and don't operate their vehicles by "dodging" other users of the road when negotiating intersections.
Opponents of a bicycle/pedestrian tunnel should have some pride and stick to truthful arguments against safety for children and adults, if they can find any.
"Pedestrian" might attend the community meetings and learn more about the project.

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Posted by Who's Paying?
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jul 19, 2008 at 9:29 am

Who's paying for this proposed Bike Tunnel?

In a perfect society, where there was ample cash funds to build all that was needed, we would have the bike tunnel discussed above.

We don't live in that society. There is no money for the bike tunnel. And there is no money for the high speed rail project either.

While I would like the bike tunnel here, and I *might* like the high speed rail somewhere far away, I sincerely hope that NEITHER of these projects are approved! I feel no motivation to pay for them.

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Posted by no way
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 19, 2008 at 1:46 pm

Ex councilman Schmidt has been pushing for a bike tunnel aligned with Willow for as long as I can remember. He and his pro biking buddies seem to think the rest of the community should join in this effort and it may well be in his mind to eventually open up the whole passageway to allow autos. Just remember it was his initiative, that opened up our bridge to Stanford and which now, as predicted, has west Menlo flooded with cut through traffic. When the major hospital expansion and shopping center expansion get built, poor Menlo Park will be completely awash in the extra traffic.

I certainly would not let my youngsters cross El Camino; the traffic is too fast and too dense for their safety. A solution must include an underpass or overpass including El Camino and the tracks. Opening up Willow road is a dead issue. Let Palo Alto take the traffic, since they are the beneficiaries of all the monies from the shopping center, and quite willing to shunt their traffic our way.

Oh, and by the way, anybody notice how Stanford has on the sly, placed a couple hundred of the hospital administrative workers into offices at SRI, thus removing from Santa Clara county their traffic count.

The community has rejected Schmidt's views and although some think he will again be a candidate for council, he probably doesn't want to be embarrassed by the pitifully small number of votes he could command.

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Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2008 at 2:51 pm

Steve, let's get it straight here: the bike tunnel does not affect the ability of anyone to cross El Camino. Okay? If someone wants to fix the traffic lights so that there is a dedicated walk time that only gives the green to pedestrians and cyclists, I'm all for that, but that can be done independent of a bike tunnel.

By the way, I didn't see you at last Tuesday's El Camino visioning meeting. If you truly care about safety on that street, why weren't you speaking up? I did.

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Posted by mother 2
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 19, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Drivers do stupid things that endanger pedestrians and bicyclists. That includes whipping around u-turns, moving forward into crosswalks to navigate a turn, and looking only one direction to get as quickly as possible onto El Camino. Look at the intersections with u-turn signals like Middle. There is no pedestrian crosswalk on the south side of the intersection. I can't imagine letting my kids try to cross El Camino there.

What we really need is a very safe route for bicyclists and we need to connect the Burgess Park and Library area to downtown. A bike tunnel and safe crossing of El Camino are essential, but these are not the only parts to the picture. There must be bike lanes that will be safe for children, and logical paths to get between these primary parts of our city. How would that be possible on Middle between Safeway and the gas station? How would that be possible on Cambridge between the shopping center and the businesses that include the Oasis?

Then, even if there were a bike tunnel and crosswalk on BOTH sides of the Middle or Cambridge intersections with El Camino, how would bicyclists get to downtown from there? The only through streets are El Camino and University. El Camino is ridiculously unsafe for children and University takes people way out of the way to and from get downtown.
What's the answer to this? And let's please not call each other liars.

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Posted by shadow nose
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jul 19, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Of course Schmidt's "bag of silver" from Stanford was the promise of a bike tunnel easement across their ECR car dealer land, in exchange for Steve opening the floodgates to Sand Hill corridor development. Palo Alto got all the protections, west menlo got all the overflow.
Just wait till Stanford gets its approval for the mega hospital/mall expansion. Remember Kinney and Jellins voted for the Sand Hill widening project, Borak and Collachi against. Then Kinney moved away from the creek across from the mall, must have known something was inevitable.
You all seen the "Rosewood" monstrosity blighting the 280 corridor. Reminds one of Lompoc north for the smoke and mirrors crowd up on SH.

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Posted by another pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 20, 2008 at 8:05 pm

A bike/pedestrian undercrossing of the train tracks has been a recommendation of: the Menlo Park Bicyle Commission, the Green Ribbon Citizens Committee, and the many participants in the El Camino/Downtown Visioning process.

There is a lot of public interest in safe and convenient bicycle and pededstrian east/west access to and from Burgess Park and west Menlo. It's hardly an issue only for Steve Schmidt. There are many residents who would benefit.

So as was said above, it isn't just about 1 or 2 people who think others don't need this safe and convenient access. It's about all the rest of us.

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Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Jul 20, 2008 at 10:37 pm

Oh, I think a lot of people would like to see a tunnel to Burgess. But don't fool yourself that it will make crossing El Camino safe, or that it will faciltate safe routes given the hazards of biking along El Camino and Middle.

And don't fool yourself that any project of this sort will be cheap. As Who's Paying? noted, the pricetag on this one is beyond our means. And even if we had the cash, wouldn't we be better off spending it on something that might truly reduce traffic, such as supporting school buses? Or maybe a shuttle that circles through downtown, over to Middle, and back to Burgess?

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Posted by money wise
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jul 22, 2008 at 2:02 pm

I tend to agree with pedestrian. We should first spend money on making bike routes safe because a new bike tunnel won't solve the existing major problem that these just don't exist.

Did either the bike commission or green ribbon group ever look at the cost of a tunnel, or in light of a budget that can't afford to do everything that would be nice to do? I doubt it. We have to set priorities, and I would hope that we will make travel safer for pedestrians and bikers before we take on the cost of a tunnel.
It is also absurd for us to contemplate specifics about a tunnel before the fate of high speed rail is known.

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Posted by Kristin Kuntz-Duriseti
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm

I fully support the pedestrian/bike RR crossing for the very simple reason that it will make it more convenient for people to use alternative modes of transportation. I cross El Camino several times a week with my son in either the bike trailer or jogger. I wish I could count the number of times I left Burgess Park and contemplated which way would get me home safer and quicker, knowing neither choice was a good one and wishing the bike tunnel already existed to get me to the other side of the tracks. The inconvenience hasn't deterred me, but I'm sure it does many others. Yes, financial resources are limited, and we should make fiscally sound decisions. This is a question of priorities; I support the vision for a pedestrian and bike friendly community that will make Menlo Park livable and sustainable.

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Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on Jul 24, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Kristin is coorect that there is plenty of money to build this tunnel; those who say otherwise simply wish to spend it on other things first. Pedestrians and bicyclists are always feeding on the crumbs left over after "more important" things have been funded. That attitude is what has gotten us to the sad state we see today. People ask for "safer bike lanes" and "safer crosswalks", but the only thing that will make them safe is better drivers. When all the policies and funding priorities favor car drivers, is it any wonder that those drivers don't act with courtesy and respect for the bicyclists and pedestrians they encounter? They have been told that those people don't matter, so they respond like that.

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Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jul 25, 2008 at 12:04 am

Where is the "plenty of money?" I am sure the city would like to know!

Can we wait three months and see whether or not the high speed rail initiative passes before we make a decision here?

I would love to have a bike-friendly, pedestrian-friendly community. But as mother 2 suggests, let's direct our efforts toward implementing a comprehensive bike/pedestrian plan that will serve most of the residents, not a relatively small minority. Let's not throw our very limited funds into a hole in the ground.

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Posted by Tom
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2008 at 8:25 am

Not being a cyclist I don't have an opinion pro or con regarding the tunnel, but I would like to comment on Richard's notion that drivers (like me) don't show courtesy/respect to bikers because we've been told they don't matter. I do not like to share a busy roadway with people on bikes, but here is why--this just happened yesterday evening, but it also happens all the time. I was just crossing the tracks on Alma where the bike bridge crosses into PA. A biker was driving on the wrong side of the road going south. He suddenly crossed both lanes of traffic causing an oncoming car to brake and me to brake. I passed him and when I reached the red light at Litton, I stopped--he did not. They never do! You might say that this guy was
just a jerk, but he sure gets around and owns several bikes because I see him alot. Tonight is Critical Mass in SF--another reason drivers like me don't like bikes on the road.

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Posted by Fiscally fit
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 25, 2008 at 12:55 pm

Tom, I agree. There seem to be a lot of cyclists, not the majority but a significant minority, who behave like automobile drivers when it suits them (ie taking up a lane of road space), like pedestrians at other times (riding the wrong direction, ignoring stop signs and even stoplights), and occasionally just seem a little out of touch with reality (darting across traffic and expecting everyone to see them and to brake in time). Remember the unfortunate accident in which a cyclist was killed in Sand Hill Road a few years ago? There were a lot of people claiming that cars drove too fast on that street, etc, but in reality the problem was that the poor woman had cut into traffic without looking. There's simply no way to make the streets safe enough for people who flout the rules and don't use common sense.

The question again is how do we get the most bang for our buck. It's not at all clear to most of us that Menlo Park is spending its funds wisely. This tunnel may not be quite as egregious an example of stupid spending as the Park Theater, but it's in that same category.