Portola Valley: Neighbors irate and fearful over cut-through traffic

Motorists tend to find paths of least resistance, those combinations of streets and intersections that make for the most efficient travel between point A and point B.

Take Corte Madera Road in Portola Valley, as some people apparently do even though they don't live in that neighborhood. The road is narrow but offers a quiet street to transport students to and from Corte Madera and Ormondale schools. The route bypasses the major intersection at Alpine and Portola roads, the primary route between these schools.

Parents who live along Corte Madera Road don't like this cutting through, and the Town Council heard from them at its March 12 meeting. They implored the council to take steps to slow or stop this traffic. The road has no sidewalks and students walk the road twice a day. The parents recounted their efforts to caution motorists, some of whom react heedlessly despite many encounters, including conversations with sheriff's deputies, parents said.

Staff presented an alternative view of the situation. Traffic data collected by the Bicycle, Pedestrian & Traffic Safety Committee shows "low volume and low speeds" on Corte Madera Road. The report, a year in the making, did recommend increasing traffic enforcement, trimming vegetation in the right-of-way, re-striping the roadway, discouraging roadside parking, and temporary signs. A roadside trail would be complicated by property lines and funding.

"Staff strongly supports the BPTS Committee's recommendations and suggestions," Town Manager Nick Pegueros said in a report to the council.

Faced with seemingly credible arguments from both sides, the council said it would need more data. A consensus seemed to form on commissioning a professional traffic study -- an option to be included in an upcoming staff report. Three council members -- Jeff Aalfs, Craig Hughes and John Richards -- also expressed support for an interim step: signs on Alpine and Portola roads where they intersect with Corte Madera Road prohibiting right turns onto Corte Madera. The restrictions would be in effect twice a day for brief periods at the start and end of the school day.

Mr. Aalfs asked Public Works Director Howard Young whether the town could restrict traffic on Corte Madera Road.

Public streets should be accessible to all, Mr. Young replied. "At this point, what does closing the street solve?" he asked. Would it compound the problem? Would it set a precedent for other neighborhoods? What about enforcement? "It's going to be very hard to enforce," he said. "Certainly those streets serve the entire community, not just the neighborhood."

Mr. Pegueros elaborated in an email. "We can't have a deputy stationed at every sign," he said. "If the four (or) five drivers that are problematic haven't responded to outreach by the Sheriff's Office and pleas from parents as reported by the Corte Madera residents, I suspect that they will risk getting caught for violating no-turn signs if it meant they could get to wherever they're going just a little faster."

A discussion on traffic calming may be called for, he added.

Resident views

Residents were looking for any remedial action, including signs restricting right turns on Corte Madera Road.

Andy Byrne took issue with putting quantitative data ahead of qualitative. "I'd hate for us to be thinking, 'Let's wait for the quantitative data' and a kid gets hurt."

The committee's conclusions are "not helpful," Andy Hutchinson said. "Over the last couple of years, speeding and bad driving have just gotten so bad, I'm driving my kids or walking (with) them," she said. "It's not just that speeds are too fast. It's that speeds are too fast for that area."

Resident Cathy Carlson told the council that if her daughter gives herself fewer than 20 minutes to walk to school, she isn't allowed to walk. Parents who drive should also give themselves adequate time, she said. "It is way too dangerous between 7 and 8 a.m.," she said. "Literally, these parents are not responsible and we need to do something."

Neighbors watch in particular for a black vehicle, she said. Asked later to elaborate, Ms. Hutchinson called out three vehicles: two Mercedes Benzes, one black and one light blue, and a dark blue van.

If and when the council takes action, members Jeff Aalfs and John Richards would likely recuse themselves because they live in the neighborhood. Councilwoman Maryann Moise Derwin was not present for the March 12 meeting.


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Posted by pvrez
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 20, 2014 at 10:43 am

worst drivers on the road are parents taking their kids to school running late and teenagers, ranked in that order. alpine road is littered with signs most drivers completely ignore - one more isn't going to change a thing. the article makes it sound like they know who these bad actors are - the sheriff should just deal with them directly.

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Posted by PV resident
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 20, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Seems the root of the problem is too many cars taking kids to/from school.
I assume there have been studies for expanded bus / carpool capacity ?

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Posted by pvrez
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 20, 2014 at 1:00 pm

to me it seems speed is the root, number of cars is an amplifier.

and while we're on the subject, can every one slow down on cervantes. speed limit is 25 and plenty of folks do 35-40.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Seems to me the kids should not be lazy and walk or bike to school. Fattys!

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Posted by parent
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 20, 2014 at 5:48 pm

If the problem is only in the 20 minutes before school every day, posting a couple of cops during that time should not be very difficult. Protecting innocent children should be the police department's top priority, especially when the time and location of the threat is well known. Quit giving out warnings. Drivers won't change their ways until points pile up on their licenses.

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Posted by Les
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Mar 21, 2014 at 4:20 am

Same problem on Selby lane in Atherton. No sidewalks, nor a bike lane and overgrowth forces parents with strollers into traffic lanes.

Like this comment
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Mar 21, 2014 at 8:35 am


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Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 21, 2014 at 9:20 am

If it's really a 30 minute time period where people are doing things that are actually against the law / signage, station a few motorcycle cops there and just start picking them off. Enforce the stop signs, enforce the speed limit, and people will learn to behave (or you will make enough traffic ticket revenue that you can cut taxes.

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Posted by Nimby Whiners
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Get over it folks. There is traffic congestion in the morning and the afternoon in EVERY TOWN IN THE U.S. Try turning onto Valparaiso or Santa Cruz Avenue at 8 a.m. or 3 p.m. Changing public thoroughfares to "school only" is completely ridiculous...I have just as much right to use them whenever I desire, just as you and your kids do!

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2014 at 2:00 pm

I was struck by the NIMYness of this, too. However, there are looming safety issues. I hate the whole "cut through" lingo. It's utter bs. Speed bumps? Traffic cops? Traffic cops until speed bumps installed? Parents taking turn volunteering w/kids as crossing guards but who actually walk/cycle w/the kids?

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Posted by ddffsdfds
a resident of Woodside: other
on Mar 21, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Seriously? The area was studied for a year and found "low volume of cars and low speed". This is a non-issue. A few bad apples driving a bit too fast? Welcome to life.

Roads are for transportation, a public good.

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Posted by Tunbridge Wells
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 22, 2014 at 10:08 am

Tunbridge Wells is a registered user.

"Roads are for transportation, a public good. "

No, roads are for people, including people in cars, people on bikes, and people on foot. If people in cars are endangering pedestrians, that's a problem. Everyone is a pedestrian when they get out of their car. A little more enforcement is far preferable to waiting until someone is injured or killed.

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Posted by sue
a resident of Ormondale School
on Mar 22, 2014 at 7:47 pm

What ever happens to kids taking the busses????

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Posted by Mitigation
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 23, 2014 at 7:25 am

Has any mitigation a been studied?

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Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Most school districts stopped their bus programs in the early 1990s to save money, dumping the traffic and transportation problem on the cities and the general public. That is the answer to a question about taking buses. As for the question about taking "busses", I am sure that still happens. The word "buss" with the double "s" means kiss, while that with the single "s" is a motor vehicle.

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Posted by X-rez
a resident of another community
on Mar 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm

It can be good to be bussed at any age.

May even lead to public transportation.

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