Should Street Parking Be Removed On Middle For Bicyclists? (Part 1) | Creating A More Vibrant Menlo Park | Dana Hendrickson | Almanac Online |

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Should Street Parking Be Removed On Middle For Bicyclists? (Part 1)

Uploaded: Apr 26, 2019
This is the first of two posts that deal with this topic. This one presents some facts, assumptions and trade-offs associated with a potential city project. I am still formulating my recommendations and welcome your feedback.

“Members of Menlo Park's Complete Streets Commission voted 6-0 on April 10 to recommend that the City Council permit the removal of more than 100 street parking spaces on both sides of Middle Avenue, between Olive Street and San Mateo Drive.” – The Almanac, April 15, 2019

I am a long-time biking enthusiast who has ridden in more than a dozen states and European countries. So naturally, I am reluctant to question any apparently sound proposal to improve the convenience, comfort and safety of bike riding in Menlo Park, especially as in this case, where the primary focus is on young students who are qualified to ride to schools without supervision. While I am comfortable riding on most streets that lack bike lanes, I realize that most bicyclists and motorists feel more comfortable (less stressed) and sometimes actually are somewhat safer when using them. Separating motorists and bicyclists also reduces the inevitable conflicts and hard feelings when either ignores both motor vehicle laws and common sense. That said, when new bike lanes are installed other street users must give up some privileges. So, the interests of all parties must be carefully weighed when new bike lanes are proposed.

I have strong mixed feelings about adding bike lanes on this section of Middle. This is not simply a matter of how street usage is allocated between motorists and bicyclists. This is a residential neighborhood with thirty homeowners and families accustomed to enjoying the benefits of convenient street parking. Eliminating street parking will likely be viewed as a major loss.

My concerns are summarized below.

Impacts On Residents & Their "Visitors"

1. Middle residents would share most of the burdens of parking bans but those living on San Mateo, Santa Rita, Cotton and Hobart would also be impacted, as motorists would shift parking from Middle to these locations.

2. Many Menlo Park households have three or more resident drivers and vehicles plus occasional houseguests. Requiring them to always park in a garage, driveway or on side streets seems unreasonable.

3. Anyone who “visits” these homeowners would also be directly impacted. These include single guests, gatherings and service providers, e.g., landscapers, contractors, housekeepers. Not only will they find parking inconvenient, if parking is permitted on only one side "jaywalking" across Middle will be dangerous, especially after dark.

4. The Complete Street Commission ("Commission") recommends street parking be completely banned 24 hours a day, seven days a week – well beyond the times that most students bike to and from school. The negative effects on residents and guests would be most evident on weekends and in evenings when visits are common.

5. The Commission has proposed a vision for Middle Avenue that builds bike lanes from Olive to El Camino. So residents on the entire length of Middle would eventually face street parking bans.

Impacts on Bicyclists

1. This section of Middle has existing “parking and biking” space that is 11-feet wide on both sides. Most vehicles are 6 - 7 feet wide, so there is plenty of space to ride (and walk) past parked cars.

2. Opening car doors are always a safety concern when bicyclists pass parked cars. Imagine what it is like on Menlo Avenue where a continuous string of cars are parked every weekday between Evelyn and Doyle and shoppers regularly exit street parking spots. This is not the situation on Middle.

3. The observation that on average only about five cars are parked on each side of the street during the day is good news for bicyclists. That means there are only five potential places where they are exposed to the possibility of doors opening in their paths over a distance of 0.4 miles.

4. It is alleged that bicyclists swerve into fast-moving traffic to avoid opening doors. I do not know how often this happens. I have driven on Middle on average four times a day over the past thirty years and have never witnessed this behavior. Why? Probably because it’s usually easy for a bicyclist to spot a driver in parked vehicle, bicyclists know they must proceed cautiously when passing one, and none should ever enter a Middle vehicle lane without first checking to see if it is safe to do so. That’s the law AND common sense. Just like crossing a street.

1. Install bike lanes and ban all street parking at all times - the current commission recommendation.

2. Install bike lanes and ban all street parking during the school year at times when most students are riding to and from Hillview and Oak Knoll. (7:30 AM to 8:30 AM and from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM?).*

3. Install bike lanes and allow street parking on one side. The vehicle lanes are shifted an additional three feet away from the street parking curb.
a. One side has an 8-foot wide area for parking and 6-feet of width along the curb dedicated to a buffered bike lane.
b. The other side has an 8-feet wide buffered bike lane.

4. Install bike route signs and and ban all street parking during the school year at times when most students are riding to and from Hillview and Oak Knoll. (7:30 AM to 8:30 AM and from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM?).

5. Do nothing.

Your Perspectives

There is lots of short and medium-term parking on my street. A house across the street is being remodeled, and construction workers have parked four to six vehicles from about 7:30 AM to 4 PM every weekday for the past seven weeks. A neighbor across the street has five vehicles, and visiting teenage drivers also frequently park on the street. I cannot help wonder how my neighbors would feel if we lost the right to park on our street during normal waking hours.

1. Question #1: How would you feel if this happened on your street?

2. Question #2: So what do you think should be done on Middle? And why?

3. Question #3: Do you have an additional alternative? Why do you prefer it?

* Note: "You may park in a bicycle lane if your vehicle does not block a bicyclist and/or there is not a “No Parking” sign posted.” (CA Department of Motor Vehicles)
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Steve Schmidt, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Apr 26, 2019 at 6:06 pm

Steve Schmidt is a registered user.

Hi Dana,
Good posting.
I would suggest a modification of your Alternative #3 that reserves 14' for curbside parking with an outboard bike lane that gives cyclists room within the bike lane to avoid door swings. I'm not sure that MP residents are ready for the concept of bike lanes between curb and parked cars. This concept also limits the options of cyclists for turning movements or avoiding surprises.
One-side parking will increase the number of pedestrians crossing Middle, which should slow car traffic and justify a 25mph speed zone.

Posted by Middle Cyclist, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 26, 2019 at 9:04 pm

"A typical compact car is 6-7 feet wide, so there is plenty of space to ride (and walk) past parked cars."
This smells a little diminutive. I mostly see SUVs and Trucks parked on that stretch.

"Probably because it's usually easy for a bicyclist to spot a driver in parked vehicle"
Your assumption is patently wrong.

Otherwise I am against removing parking, but am for more enforcement of the law:

Vehicles parked too far from the curb need to be ticketed.

Most important:
Drivers going 40+mph (almost everybody does) should be severely fined (what if your children lived there?).

In summary: There needs to be a STOP sign on Middle at San Mateo. That or 25mph+bumps.

Speed kills. People speed when not physically restrained from doing so.

Unfortunate fact.

Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 27, 2019 at 8:51 am

Steve, your recommendation makes sense! The bike lane would be better placed away from the curb. I had tried to move bicyclists away from "opening" driver doors.

Middle Cyclist: you are correct! Driver heads are obscured by headrests.


Posted by Terry Clark, a resident of another community,
on Apr 28, 2019 at 7:15 am

We live in Palo Alto on the section on Newell Road with a bike lane and no parking all day on one side of the street. The bike lane is on the side of the street the junior high students use going to school. Parking is allowed on the side the students use going home. Based on our experience living on the street for 35 years, how does it work? Great. Why?

The street is most congested with bikes between 8:00 and 8:20 am as everyone strives to get to school on time. This is also the time a number of commuters begin to go to work. No problem with opening car doors and kids riding two or three abreast focused on friends and getting to class.

In the afternoon, the return bike flow is spread out over a longer period of time. The cars parked tend to be parked for the day so there a relatively few doors opening. I do not recall a bike car door collusion in the last 35 years.

There is sufficient parking for all visitors and even trucks for gardeners and construction workers.

The bottom line is that it has worked like a charm for a long, long time.

Posted by Adina, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 28, 2019 at 9:56 am

Good point that there are 30 households that live on Middle Ave who'd need to park in driveways.

Also, many families have kids who bike to Hillview Middle School, Nealon Park, Lyle Park, and activities at Burgess Pool, Arrillaga, and the library, when the bike/pedestrian tunnel under the Caltrain tracks is built?

If there are many more families with kids wanting to go to these places, should the city prioritize the larger number of people who want to use the street safely?

The City is trying to get this tunnel built before Caltrain electrification is done in 2022, so the tunnel is likely to happen soon.

- Adina

Posted by dana hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Apr 28, 2019 at 10:30 am

Adina: You are implying an unnecessary trade-off: the safety of lots of kids versus the interests of 30 homeowners. I have shown alternatives that satisfy both. It's easy to say that other homeowners should make an unneeded sacrifice.

Posted by nick, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens,
on Apr 29, 2019 at 11:18 am


No "collusion", eh? But was there any obstruction? Let's appoint a special prosecutor!

[note: I'm not taking sides here, just making a political joke. Please don't take this too seriously!]

Posted by Al, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on May 10, 2019 at 1:06 pm

If there is no parking on Middle Avenue what will happen to PGE trucks, plumbers, electricians, movers, delivery, gardeners? I bicycled to Oak Knoll School in the early 60s and there were no bicycle lanes. No kids had an accident with a car. There is already no parking during the night. Extend that to the early morning commute hour. I would be more concerned with crossing Santa Cruz Avenue at places such as Olive.

Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on May 29, 2019 at 3:42 pm

Dana Hendrickson is a registered user.

An Additional Note: If parking is restricted to one side of Middle, visitors who park and then cross the street to reach residences on the other side will likely cross the between intersections. This creates a safety hazard for both those who are crossing and passing motorists, especially once the sun sets and it is dark. This should not be overlooked.

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