Plans to move forward with a one-year pilot program of a bike route on Oak Grove Avenue in downtown Menlo Park will likely be delayed from a predicted installation date of summer to the early fall after council members asked staff to do further community outreach.
The Menlo Park City Council approved in December a $236,000, one-year pilot program to install a downtown bike route that would start at Menlo-Atherton High School, run along Oak Grove Avenue past El Camino Real to Crane Street, and then continue left with a mild jog across Santa Cruz Avenue, go right up Live Oak Avenue, and continue left again on University Drive to Middle Avenue. The Crane Street bike lane would extend in the other direction to connect with Valparaiso Avenue.
The Menlo Park City Council had been slated to approve without discussion a set of metrics that would be used to assess the efficacy of the trial, but a number of parents at Nativity School and parishioners at Church of the Nativity expressed objections to the plan's proposal to eliminate parking along some stretches of Oak Grove Avenue. The church and school routinely host events that draw hundreds of people, many of whom are young, elderly or disabled, they said.
Christine Goudey, a parishioner at Church of the Nativity whose children attend Nativity School, said in a letter to the council: "My understanding after attending a meeting with the City engineers held at Nativity School is that there is no solution or proposal regarding where Nativity parents and parishioners and M-A students are supposed to park during the Trial Period."
Parents who must drop off their children at the school, she said, "will now have to search longer, walk farther with young children and be even more delayed getting to work."
Tod Spieker, who is a parishioner at the church and owner of apartments located at the corner of Oak Grove Avenue and Laurel Street, expressed similar concerns in a letter to the council and added that elderly or infirm guests at the apartments will have to walk farther to access them.
Councilwoman Catherine Carlton critiqued the proposed metrics for the pilot study, and requested further community outreach beyond an online survey and on-the-street surveys that might be administered during community events such as farmer markets.
In response to a suggestion to limit the hours during which the bike lane or proposed parking restriction is in effect, Assistant Public Works Director Nikki Nagaya said that such changes could make the road less predictable, and therefore less safe, for young cyclists.
Jennifer Wolosin, leader of the Menlo Park "Parents for Safe Routes" group, said in an email to the council after the meeting, "There is an extremely large and concerned constituency group of Menlo Park residents who want a safe East/West passage, for school and for basic bicycle transportation. ... What message does it send when hard fought projects can be derailed at the 11th hour?"
Bicycle Commissioner Bill Kirsch presented data to the council from a report recently released by Joint Venture Silicon Valley and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. According to the report, he said, Menlo Park is falling behind its neighbors when it comes to bike safety and infrastructure.
The report claims that between 2011 and 2015, Menlo Park is the only jurisdiction among its neighbors (including Palo Alto, Redwood City, San Jose, Mountain View, Stanford, and the counties of San Mateo and Santa Clara) to experience an increase in the number of annual bike collisions and a decrease in the percent of people who bike to work.
In 2015, there were 30 bicycle collisions per 1,000 bike commuters reported in Menlo Park, compared to 20 in 2011. In 2015, 6.6 percent of people in Menlo Park biked to work, compared to 7.8 percent in 2011, the report says.
Across Menlo Park, only about 10 percent of all roads have some form of designated bike lane or shared-use markings on the road, compared to 13.5 percent in Palo Alto, 17 percent in Redwood City and 62 percent in Stanford.
Ms. Nagaya said that the extra work required would likely delay the completion of the pilot construction from July to September or October.