Viewpoint - March 9, 2011

Letter: After fatal accidents, residents want safer El Camino

This letter was sent to all Atherton and Menlo Park city council members.

As nearby residents, we have noted with alarm all the recent accidents on El Camino Real. In the space of just three months, there have been three major accidents, including two fatalities, all practically on our doorstep on the stretch of El Camino between Spruce Avenue in Menlo Park and Fair Oaks Avenue/Atherton Avenue in Atherton.

On Sept. 30 last year, a bicyclist was killed trying to cross El Camino in a crosswalk at Isabella Avenue; on Oct. 15 last year, a pedestrian was killed trying to cross El Camino near the Watkins Avenue intersection; and most recently, on Nov. 30, a driver lost control on El Camino and crashed in front of the medical building just south of Watkins.

We can personally affirm that traffic goes by very fast on this stretch of El Camino. There are no stop lights or stop signs between Encinal Avenue in Menlo Park and Fair Oaks Avenue in Atherton. Drivers regularly exceed the posted 35 mile per hour speed limit as they travel in either direction between Redwood City and Menlo Park. Cars take advantage of the open stretch to speed up, which makes the two crosswalks extremely dangerous, because cars are unlikely to see any pedestrians in time.

We would like to see the following traffic controls put into place in order to make our area safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers alike:

• An electronic speed limit reminder (such as that one posted along Watkins Avenue) should be installed to remind drivers that the posted speed limit is 35 miles per hour. Regular monitoring and ticketing by police would also serve as a visible deterrent to speeding.

• The pedestrian crosswalks should be augmented with flashing lights on the ground and orange flag stands (as they have been on Ravenswood Avenue and the corner of University Drive and Menlo Avenue in Menlo Park). Now the crosswalks give the misleading impression that it is safe to cross there.

• Other proven traffic-calming and slowing measures could be installed that would make drivers more aware that this is a residential area.

We understand that depending on where these traffic improvements fall, they may lie in the jurisdiction of either Atherton or Menlo Park. However, it is a section of road that both our communities use heavily and to that extent, it is a mutual concern.

If we are serious about making our community a friendlier place for bikers and pedestrians, we should not put them in dangerous situations. Nor should we expect too much from our drivers; they should have due warning so they can do right by their fellow citizens. We would like to see some steps taken to improve the situation before there is another tragedy.

Lydia Lee, Spruce Avenue, Menlo Park and more than 20 others


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