Let's Improve Biking In Downtown Menlo Park - Now | Creating A More Vibrant Menlo Park | Dana Hendrickson | Almanac Online |

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Creating A More Vibrant Menlo Park

By Dana Hendrickson

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About this blog: My wife and I moved to central Menlo Park in 1985 where we have raised two sons. A retired high-tech executive, I now actively participate in local and national community service programs. I am the founder and director of Rebuil...  (More)

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Let's Improve Biking In Downtown Menlo Park - Now

Uploaded: Aug 8, 2019
Bike lanes are the gold standard for building bike networks. They dedicate a space to biking and separate bicyclists from motorists using buffers, and often, physical dividers. While bike lanes do not protect bicyclists from vehicles, they remind motorists and bicyclists where they should travel and provide some measure of comfort for both. Most of the primary approaches to downtown Menlo Park – Ravenswood, Oak Grove, University and Santa Cruz - have bike lanes on at least long sections. However, with the exception of a section of Oak Grove, none of these bike lanes extend into the central business district. So there, bicyclists must share single lanes with busy traffic and lots of on-street parking, and unfortunately these conditions can produce frustration, resentment and occasional uncivil behavior. While our city cannot eliminate these occurrences, it can help reduce them. Hopefully our city will someday increase the amount of off-street parking so some on-street spaces can be replaced with bike lanes; but these changes are likely years away. In the interim, I recommend our city make a number of smaller but consequential improvements that would significantly benefit both motorists and bicyclists. These include various types of visual aids like “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs – some with flashing warning lights - and colored street markings (“sharrows”). If these aids are well placed, street sharing downtown would be safer and much more welcoming for bicyclists.

Existing Bike Facilities






New Bike Visual Aid Recommendations

• Replace the faded white sharrows on Menlo and University with ones that use a much more visible green background.

• Add “colored” sharrows to downtown Santa Cruz and the section of Oak Grove between Crane and University.

• Install “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs wherever there is a transition from bike lanes to shared streets, e.g. Oak Grove at Crane, Santa Cruz at University, University at Live Oak.

• Install “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs at each intersection on downtown Santa Cruz and Menlo.

• Install “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs with flashing warning lights at each end of the short section of University between Menlo and Santa Cruz. Install a “Watch for Bicyclists” sign at the exit of the parking plaza next to Draeger’s.

All the main downtown streets are already popular with bicyclists. I encourage the Complete Street Commission to consider these bike network improvements. The visual aids would encourage bicyclists to "take center of the lane" when necessary, as it is safer than riding along a string of parked car, and move to the right when crossing intersections. The changes would also make street sharing less stressful and remind motorists lane sharing is both acceptable and lawful.
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Comments

 +   2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Aug 8, 2019 at 6:05 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Dana is proposing laudable objectives but the experience of European countries shows that the ONLY way to encourage biking is by providing dedicated and protected bike lanes. In Copenhagen over 50% of the commuters use bicycles and those bicycles move in totally separated and protected bike lanes.

Web Link

This could easily be done in Menlo Park IF we were willing to give up on-street parking on those streets that would best serve as bike lanes.

Shared lanes are the worst possible and the most dangerous solution.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by dana hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 8, 2019 at 9:22 pm

Peter: Bicyclists and motorists already share our downtown streets. For example, each day after school more than 25 Hillview students ride on Santa Cruz between University and El Camino. It is unrealistic to expect our city to give up 50 or more on-street parking spaces before they can be replaced. But we can remind motorists AND bicyclists that they MUST share streets as they have equal rights to use them. Many motorists do not understand what sharrows mean so signs would help.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by please clarify, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Aug 8, 2019 at 10:21 pm

We've had dedicated residents on the Bike and Complete Streets commissions working on this for many years. If you are broadcasting the goals and objectives of the Complete Streets commission here, bless you! If this article instead represents your own views, and you've never served on either of these commissions, you should make that clear.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Petds , a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 9, 2019 at 10:16 am

I'd also like to know what the city had planned vs. what one person thinks the city should do.

I'd also for once like to see pedestrians mentioned. Way more walkers than bikers


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by dana hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 9, 2019 at 10:35 am

Pedts: it takes a significant effort to learn what the city "plans" for bicyclists and pedestrians. But if you are willing to do some research you can piece together the "city's" planning activities.

I recommend (1) the draft Transportation Master Plan and (2) minutes from Complete Streets Commission meetings. I read them whenever there are updates, and they are available on the city website.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood,
on Aug 9, 2019 at 10:59 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The only places in the world where bicycle use has increased substantially are those countries that have invested in separated bike lanes.

Here is everything you want to know about separated bike lanes:

Web Link

a separated bike lane is the "gold standard".

At best paint protected bike lanes would get a bronze medal and sharrows would get a tombstone.

A compromise on bike safety for the convenience of a few parking spaces is a deadly compromise and one which will not encourage more people to use bicycles.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 9, 2019 at 11:46 am

Dana Hendrickson is a registered user.

Peter: While I agree that bike lanes would encourage more people to ride bikes and believe that our city could selectively add them IF and WHEN it can replace lost on-street parking it is very unlikely to happen before then. Parking in the plaza behind the post office is much more difficult since bike lanes were added nearby on Oak Grove.
.
However, the lack of bike lanes should not preclude improving the "experience" of motorists and bicyclists who already share our downtown streets.
.
My preference: (1) improve current conditions now, (2) Increase off-street parking in the next 2 years and then (3) install bike lanes.

My general views of bike facilities on busy single lane streets:

1. Separate cycle paths - the safest and most stress-free
2. Physically separated bike lanes - excellent safety and very low stress
3. Protected bike lanes - low stress but not nearly as safe as physically separated bike lanes
4. Bufferred bike lanes - low stress but little additional safety
5. Sharrows (green background) & "Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs - some additional safety and comfort as bicyclist ride in center of lane instead of near parked cars; also encourage motorists to accept lane sharing
6. Sharrows (green background)- not as beneficial as #5
7. Sharrows (white) - very little benefit when difficult to see, e.g., faded, bright sunlight

Peter, you can learn how US bike network designers, cities and governments view the different bike facilities at https://nacto.org The design guides are developed by National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and are updated often. And they have been accepted by both the City of Menlo Park and the State of California.

Thanks for your comments


 +  Like this comment
Posted by petds, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 9, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Current bicycle projects

- Citywide Bicycle Visibility Improvement Project
- Menlo Park " Atherton Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement Project (Valparaiso Avenue)
- Menalto and O'Connor Sidewalk Project (Laurel Upper School, O'Connor Site)
- Haven Avenue Streetscape
- Oak Grove University Crane Bike Project

Not really that hard to figure out what the "city" (why is city in quotes?) is up too. First project is exactly what this post says needs to be done! I am sure if you joined or at least attended the CSC meeting you would be able to get additional details etc.

They are also working on Walk and Roll routes for the cities schools -- Shout out to the CSC for thinking of Pedestrians too. Their safety is just as important as that of a cyclist.

One thing they are not doing is encouraging more school aged cyclists on Santa Cruz. Why? Bad parking situation. maybe build a ramp and eliminate parking. Bad layout, many stop signs cross street etc. They have bike routes on Valpo, Menlo and Oak Grove.

You also failed to mention the enormous need for bike education for adults. My guess is less than 10% of cyclists know the vehicle code as it pertains to bikes. Stop at all stop signs, you don't always have the right of way, signal, no phones, no headphones in both ears, no riding on the sidewalk, no riding the wrong direction, etc...

Peter, while I appreciate your example of Copenhagen as a bike friendly city. There is no comparing a dense city of 1MM founded well before the automobile to Menlo Park - a car centric suburb built mostly in the 1950s


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 9, 2019 at 6:15 pm

petds:

1. Current projects are not the same as proposals and plans. For example, your list does not include the approved project to create a bike/pedestrian connection (bike lanes + tunnel) between Middle and Alma nor the recent CSC proposal to install bike lanes on the west end of Middle and ban street parking.

2. The current Menlo Park Bike Development Plan was approved in 2005; there is a draft Transportation Master Plan in the works but int is neither final nor approved.

3. As a resident I am interested in learning about city short-term and long term plans and contributing to them.

4. The CSC says it welcomes resident feedback and ideas for new bike projects and I take advantage of that opportunity. I also hope my posts encourage others do the same. Our city and commissions should welcome - input and feedback- from all its resident.

5. Students and others already bike regularly on downtown Santa Cruz because they want to.. So why not make improvements that benefit both motorists and bicyclists.???


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by - Citywide Bicycle Visibility Improvement Project , a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 9, 2019 at 8:48 pm

Dana

See the first bullet

- Citywide Bicycle Visibility Improvement Project
Sounds like they are doing it


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by dana Hendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 9, 2019 at 10:20 pm

Citywide Bicycle Visibility Improvement Project: Since there is only a title on the City website how is it possible to know what this current project actually is? What does visibility improvement even mean? If you find a planning document, please tshare it.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Traffic Flow, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights,
on Aug 10, 2019 at 9:42 am

One idea would be to make Santa Cruz and either Oak Grove or Menlo one way streets in opposite directions. Then dedicated bike lanes could be installed through downtown.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by danahendrickson, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 10, 2019 at 4:51 pm

Traffic Flow: Your idea triggers a number of thoughts.

1. Adding bikes lanes to any downtown street will require significant trade-offs. How much on street parking is the city willing to sacrifice without replacing it? What impacts on vehicle traffic flow - especially at commute times - is it willing to accept (tolerate)? Your idea would certainly have a big effect.

2. Ideally, it would be great to leave traffic flow alone, remove some on street parking and replace it with off-street parking,

3. Replacing on street parking with a plaza parking structure is a very long shot due to cost. (And there would be significant disruption during construction.)

4. There are a number of opportunities to replace onstreet parking without building a parking structure but they require vision and study.

Thanks for contributing a constructive comment.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 11, 2019 at 8:52 am

Dana Hendrickson is a registered user.

A comment has been removed because it was a personal attack rather than a constructive contribution to the discussion of this post.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by CS meetings, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park,
on Aug 11, 2019 at 12:31 pm

I've been attending the CS meetings and there is wealth if info shared including doing exactly what the poster has suggested and more! Good work CS team especially on the bike and roll plan!

I suggest anyone seeking additional info on bike plans attend these sessions


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Dana Hendrickson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Aug 11, 2019 at 2:18 pm

Dana Hendrickson is a registered user.

CS Meetings: I am a big supporter of biking in our community and our volunteer commissioners, appreciate their work, and read its reports, meeting minutes and presentations. Do I agree with everything they propose? No. but I support many of their ideas as one can see from my prior posts.

My biking blog posts are intended to...
(1) highlight the importance of biking in Menlo Park, an activity I expect the CSC supports
(2) inform residents about our city's bike network plans and encourage them to participate in the planning process
(3) advocate for particular improvements, an activity commissioners have said they welcome
(4) perform research and analyses that helps residents better understand potential and proposed bike projects
(5) provide an opportunity for all residents - including commissioners - to discuss ideas in an online public forum.

It's unfortunate some residents think I oppose the CSC as I appreciate volunteers who actively contribute to the well-being of their communities and share the commissioner's mission to improve biking in our city. I have met with some commissioners "one-on-one" to discuss opportunities and am available to discuss anything about biking in our community.

In this post, I am simply making a recommendation to the CSC. Why would that be viewed negatively?

Finally, if there is a document that shows the CSC already plans to do EXACTLY what I recommend, I am pleased to learn about it and will gladly include a link to it in my post. Someone on the CSC can email it to me.



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