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Oak Knoll School plan gives 'minimal attention" to pedestrian and bike access

Original post made by School Poster on Sep 8, 2007

Menlo Park parent John Fox says that the new plan for the Oak Knoll School campus at 1895 Oak Knoll Lane has given "minimal attention" to pedestrian and bicycle access to the school in comparison to attention to automobile parking and automobile roadway features.
In a message to the school board, he says the proposed design eliminates the area now used for bike parking, and has no area planning for the proposed bike parking.
Below is the text of his message.

Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2007
From: John D. Fox <jdfox@stanford.edu>
To: board@mpcsd.org
Subject: Oak Knoll School Plans, Meeting September 11
Dear Board Members:
I write with regard to the proposed plans for Oak Knoll School and your vote on September 11.
I am writing from the perspective of a parent, with one younger daughter currently attending Oak Knoll, and an older daughter who attended Oak Knoll and Hillview. I am very supportive of efforts to improve and upgrade the various district campuses.
However, I must write with my strong and continuing concerns about the Oak Knoll plans, particularly regarding pedestrian and bicycle access to the school, and the negative impacts of the "extended drop off line."
I attended several public meetings while these plans were being developed, and I think that pedestrian and bicycle access to the school, and the planning to make safe access for children, has received minimal attention in comparison to attention to automobile parking and automobile roadway features.
It seems the purpose of the extended drop-off line is simply to move parked and idling automobiles from Oak Knoll Lane to an interior driveway. It will not eliminate conflicts from a pedestrian cross-walk which must cross the line of traffic, or in any way reduce the congestion during the drop-off or pick-up.
It seems the designers have not made a site visit to see the morning traffic or to understand the existing conditions. The 2002 Safe Routes existing conditions study estimated 15% of the students arrived via bicycle, and with the safe routes features implemented in 2003 it looks like the percentage walking or biking is now higher. As an example, the bike racks at Oak Knoll these first weeks of the new year have had between 135 and 175 bicycles, not counting the parent's bikes.
Yet the design presented eliminates the area now used for bike parking, and has no area planning for the proposed bike parking (while it does identify and count auto spaces). In this new design can you park the number of bicycles that arrived this morning? (what about conditions in a few years?) Shouldn't we include the existing conditions, and plan for even more bicycle parking, as was done for the automobile parking?
Of greater concern is the design which funnels all the pedestrian and bike access to the school through one gate, and again if the designer of this plan would come see the existing conditions at the school, the numbers of students arriving on tandems or trailers, the numbers of pedestrians, the volume of activity in the existing conditions, etc. the negative impact of this proposal would be evident.
Shouldn't we build features which will encourage parents and students to walk and ride to school, rather than build narrow gates which will make access difficult and increase congestion at peak times with parents leaving, students arriving?
I am concerned that the traffic and transportation planning is being done de facto in these designs, and if these plans proceed, it will be very difficult to modify them to be more useful for pedestrians and cyclists.
Last Spring at the Oak Knoll presentation, the staff member who did the layout said he did not consider bicycle or pedestrian access as part of the design. In the public meetings these issues have been brushed aside as something to be fine-tuned in a transportation study.
However, by focusing on the roadway and automobile access in the design, you have limited the pedestrian and bicycle options for the sites.
I ask the school board to recognize that implementing these design features without understanding the impact on pedestrians and bicyclists is a disservice to the children as well as the larger community.
I urge the board to remove the "extended drop off" from the design plans as they are now structured. Instead, I ask the board to instruct transportation planners to look for means to improve the existing auto drop-off, and to look for ways to increase the pedestrian and bike access features at the school.
It is in everyone's interest, be they students, parents, teachers or neighbors, to have fewer cars converging at 8:10 AM and 2:55 PM at the school parking lot.

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