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Guest opinion: Small gains for cyclists; big losses for everyone else

Original post made on Jan 17, 2017

Make a mental note: Dec. 6, 2016, will prove to be a more important date than most Menlo Park residents now realize. That day, three City Council members approved a one-year field trial of the soon-to-be-controversial Oak Grove-Crane-University Bike Project without understanding its true benefits and negative impacts, and with little input and feedback from residents.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, January 17, 2017, 10:35 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 17, 2017 at 11:03 am

It appears the city has already eliminated several dozen parking spaces by installing the outdoor dining areas. If this project is going to eliminate 183 more, where is everyone who still drives a car supposed to park? Parking in the municipal lots is already difficult. This would seem to ensure that it will become next to impossible.

Posted by patrick
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:15 pm

patrick is a registered user.

I respectfully disagree regarding downtown Santa Cruz biking:

>>>The new Crane Street bike route will also encourage bicyclists to ride on downtown Santa Cruz – a dangerous idea given the narrow lanes, parked cars, and new on-street dining areas.<<<
The dining areas (and the parklet on Curtis St) have made it safer: Fewer spots for cars to pull out from.
Also, bicyclists can and _should_ ride in the middle of the lane in downtown, giving them ample space from the parked cars, at the same time completely preventing cars from taking them over in a dangerous manoeuvre.

I also believe that making life harder for motorists is a must if we ever want to change our behavior...

Posted by parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 17, 2017 at 12:30 pm

There are always going to be NIMBYs. We are glad that the city went ahead with this important safety project anyway. Palo Alto has done a great job building safe bicycle routes to their downtown area and now they have to keep installing new bike racks around downtown because they keep filling up. More bicycles mean more customers for local businesses and less cars, greatly reducing the need for super-expensive parking garages.

Posted by a better idea
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm

Thanks to Dana for pointing out the obvious - implementing a change just when major construction activity will occur in the same place. Even if this were an ideal solution, the timing is absurdly dangerous.

A better idea than putting the entire east-west bike route on Oak Grove would be to have one eastbound bike lane there (after Greenheart project is built), and one west-bound lane on Ravenswood. Ideally Ravenswood/Menlo would be one-way west-bound to make the intersection at University more safe and to get rid of the increasing gridlock getting into the Draeger's parking lot from 2 directions of University.

Posted by Dana Hensdrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 17, 2017 at 1:38 pm

Patrick: thanks for your comment. Things to consider:

1. Many bicyclists are not comfortable riding in the middle of a lane with one or more cars " stuck" closely behind them. The bicyclists is also aware that motorists wants to travel at a higher speed, and many will feel they are being rude by impeding them.

2. Motorists will already be delayed by the two new stop signs on Santa Cruz - whether there are bikes waiting to cross, or not - and slower moving bikes will make the delays worse.

3.There are too many distracted motorists and bicyclists on the streets so encouraging them to share a busy commercial street with pedestrians and each other will be unsafe.

4. It's already difficult to back out of diagonal parking spaces due to passing vehicles; imagine what it will be like when you add less visible bikes. Also, a bicyclist cannot see the drivers so sudden move by an exiting vehicle will surprise them.

5. The small number of parking spaces removed for the dining areas does not significantly improve safety as many more will remain.

I generally take a lane only for a very short distance whenever I am on a busy street and then only when I know I can easily reach a spot where I can move out of the way, when necessary. What do you do?

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 17, 2017 at 1:59 pm

The safety improvements help hundreds of middle schoolers who bike to and from Hillview every day. A few parking spaces seems like a small price to pay for safer rides to school.

Cycling education at the middle school level would help too (how and when to take the lane, stopping at red lights, etc) - keep in mind these are middle schoolers; they can often be clueless (adolescence makes the brains leak out), but they're also pretty easy to educate to do the right thing!

Posted by bummedoutres
a resident of Hillview Middle School
on Jan 17, 2017 at 2:07 pm

With all do respect, realize that biking is not an option for everyone. In Menlo Park, there are older people, people with disabilities, people who live a long distance from downtown, people grocery shopping, people who have a life schedule that precludes them from walking or biking downtown. And people who just don't want to walk or bike downtown.

The handful of people who have pushed for this share the city and downtown with the rest of us. it's common knowledge that mixing bike traffic with cars is extremely dangerous. Why would you put everyone's children in harms way? There already exist excellent rules of the road. The city badly needs an east to west bike route that actually make it safe for people living near 101, citizens, and beyond to get all the way to Hillview and back. You want to improve the traffic? Make it safer and more feasible for all of us, not just a handful.

A person with credentials should be involved in any design of bike routes. This design is clearly not done using a professional. And it hasn't been reviewed professionally either.

Someone, anyone Please explain why no professionals are involved. Explain why the more robust, and gravely needed east west route is being ignored/bypassed.

Sadly,This sends the message that biking safely doesn't matter. Developing a plan that solves the real, and more pervasive west/east issue doesn't matter. All that matters is the will of a small group of 'well meaning' , self-appointed residents who prefer this life style (because most of the live close to downtown) and prefer that everyone else adopt it or stay away from downtown.

The endless pursuit and approval of special deals for a small number of people, to impact and be paid for by the larger number of people is disheartening yet all too familiar in our city. And we hire and elect officials who reinforce this way of doing business.

Posted by Itwillneverbepearlmall
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 17, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Leave it to someone who lives downtown to refer to everyone else as a NIMBY. Keep trotting that old chestnut out when people disagree with you.

Does anyone know who is paying for the extended restaurant seating on the public sidewalks? Do the merchants pay? Do the property owners pay? Do the residents pay? How are we doing this?

Has anyone else noticed that our new "trial" "park" next to Starbucks has become a hangout for local street people and their belongings?

Posted by marginalized
a resident of another community
on Jan 17, 2017 at 2:36 pm

Thank you for the above comment explaining how bicycling is not an option for many of us. I need a cane to walk and am sick and tired of being ignored in misguided efforts to encourage politically correct bicycling. Many of us cannot ride a bike and depend on our cars to travel. It seems that no one advocates for the disabled who already feel marginalized. We are often endangered by distracted or just plain rude cyclists on streets in Menlo Park. Please consider our needs and the needs of the elderly in your plans.

Posted by Jon Swift
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 17, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Has it occurred to anyone that, if anything, the demand for biking will drop and the demand for parking
increase *per capita* as the population ages? Many baby boomers are already unable to bike,
and we're hopefully going to get even more people living longer.

In short: yes, there's a vocal group interested in cycling. There's a much larger group interested in
driving, despite Patrick's desire to make it more unpleasant. Shame on him.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 17, 2017 at 3:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please remember that emergency services cannot be delivered by bicycles.

If more and more of the primary response routes for emergency vehicles are compromised by bicycle lanes then emergency response times will suffer.

Posted by Excessive lobbying
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 17, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Removing 183 parking spots for this trial seems excessive, and the concerns regarding construction happening during the trial should be considered immediately.

Again, one group of lobbyists are defining an agenda that has it's merits, but MUST be counterbalanced by the needs of those that drive.

Posted by Clunge
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 18, 2017 at 10:55 am

I had no problems riding my bike through Menlo Park- never felt threatened by cars- you know why? CAUSE I RESPECTED THEIR SIZE- same reason I'll never get eaten by a gorilla - I stay away and give them their space. Bicyclists seem to think that they are afforded the same rights as a car, but they cant keep up - they think they deserve quick routes cause they cant be late - well, you're slower, stay off the streets out of the way of cars -- same for those fools in SF that block traffic. Get out of the way, you're not safe taking on a car on your little Huffy.

Posted by Just sayin
a resident of another community
on Jan 18, 2017 at 1:25 pm

The demand for parking will increase as the population ages?

Is that a good thing?

Web Link

Posted by MP Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 18, 2017 at 2:05 pm

I would actually expect the demand for services like Uber and Lyft to rise as the population ages, and realizes that perhaps they are no longer safe to drive. Otherwise we'll end up with way too much "If you don't like my driving, get off the sidewalk".

Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 18, 2017 at 4:20 pm

MP Resident: some additional thoughts about Hillview Middle School bicyclists:

1. This project does not improve bike access for Hillview students because there are no bike facilities between the Oak Grove and Santa Cruz bike lanes. Students must either ride on Crane to Valparaiso OR on downtown Santa Cruz between Crane and University.

2. An Oak Grove bike corridor would effectively duplicate the existing Valparaiso-Glenwood bike corridor which was upgraded in 2016 for the explicit purpose of improving the safety of students riding across El Camino. Menlo Park received a $400,000+ grant for this work which was designed by professionals.

Patrick: Another consideration about biking on downtown Santa Cruz:

I believe bicyclists of all ages and skills, regardless of where they are riding, do not respect stop signs, i.e., less than 20% actually stop, even after dark. Downtown Santa Cruz between University and El Camino would now have 5 stop signs (University, Crane (2), Chestnut and Doyle) and simply crossing Santa Cruz at Crane would require 3 stops ((Crane, Santa Cruz (2)). Typical bicyclist behavior would endanger both motorists and bicyclists and increase motorist -bicyclist conflicts. I prefer bike solutions that improve safety and reduce antagonisms.

Posted by Katie Behroozi
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Jan 18, 2017 at 7:27 pm

20%, Dana? where do you get your data on cyclist behavior vis-a-vis stop signs? How many miles do you yourself ride a week? Have you interviewed or observed all area cyclists? I ask because you seem to be keen on data collection and also claim to have great authority on cyclist behavior and proclivities–greater, it would appear, than the city engineers, Alta Planning, and the Bicycle and Transportation commissions, since you are questioning the plan they have iterated over 14 months, taking into account stakeholder input and traffic data.

Meanwhile, there are serious problems with your "superior" alternative (which doesn't appear to have benefitted from the feedback of traffic engineers and bike facility experts).
-Your proposed plan invites cyclists to share the sidewalk with pedestrians in multiple locations, including downtown and near the train tracks at the Ravenswood/Alma intersection.
-One plan that I read–maybe an earlier iteration?-suggests painting bike tracks through downtown parking lots, encouraging cyclists to run the gauntlet between rows of parked cars. Out of the frying pan, into the fire!
-Your proposal funnels both east and westbound cyclists across the train tracks and across Alma by the library. This alone should give any sane person pause: this is exactly where the city temporarily closed access to Alma because traffic was getting backed up on the tracks while waiting for crosswalks to clear.
-And speaking of parking, I counted 35 parking spaces (100% occupied) on the side of Menlo Avenue where you're proposing to build a two-way bike route. I'm not sure that will go over any better with the downtown merchants than the loss of 20+ parking spots on Oak Grove did.

The city doesn't need to waste additional time and money to assess your proposal. It's creative and well-intentioned but not very practical.

Two more quick points: the Oak Grove plan was designed to meet the City Council's stated goal of Complete Streets, which means balancing the safety and needs of all roadway and sidewalk users. In my book, adding a stop on Santa Cruz Avenue and getting kids off sidewalks will actually be good for pedestrians. And most drivers aren't trying to race through downtown Santa Cruz; I think you are overstating the purported inconvenience of one additional stop.

Here's the problem: we have gridlock and we have cyclists riding across town. Drivers struggle to pass cyclists, who swerve in and out of the parallel parking zone and hope to avoid getting "doored." We have kids ages 11-18 who need to cross town safely every day. They could do it on buses. They could do it in cars. But a lot of them do it on bikes. They currently ride on sidewalks, through parking lots, and even down the dreaded Santa Cruz Avenue. There is no perfect solution for getting them where they need to go.

I know that it's hard for drivers to lose parking. It's also hard for drivers to wait behind a cyclist riding 12-15 mph down the length of downtown Santa Cruz, Oak Grove, or Menlo. And it's going to be tragic when a driver fails to look up from their cell phone in time to avoid hitting somebody's kid or grandparent, or misgauges the time needed to pass and causes an accident. Something's got to give.

If it were up to me, we'd have a lot more bike facilities throughout the city, and maybe someday we will. In the meantime, we are going to try an east-west route that leads straight to the new and awesome bike parking on the corner of Oak Grove and Middlefield, a route, that sees considerable less motor traffic and has less complex Middlefield and El Camino intersections. It won't be perfect, but we will collect data, we will assess how successful it is, we will modify as needed, and we will learn. The council is on board. The city engineers are on board (professionals, all of them!) The Bicycle and Transportation Commissions are on board.

I wish you would take a break from pitching your pet project; stop sowing doubt about these smart and dedicated employees, elected officials, and volunteers; and take a more collaborative approach to your campaign for better, safer streets.

Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 18, 2017 at 11:13 pm

Katie Behrozi:

You are so "worked up" and convinced you are right that you have totally missed my primary messages.

1. I believe a Menlo-Ravenswood-University bike corridor is superior - provides more value with less harm - compared to the Oak Grove-Crane-University bike project and deserves a professional evaluation by bike network professionals. Please note that this project is recommended in both cited city planning documents so it is NOT some crazy idea. And I have performed enough analysis to support this opinion.

2. The merits of the Oak Grove-Crane-University bike project has NOT been professionally evaluated by anyone including Alta Planning + Design. Read their report and it is perfectly clear that Alta has simply done what it was hired to do, take an idea proposed by the Bike Commission and create a feasible design. It did not perform a comprehensive needs analysis nor consider alternatives.

P.S. I drive enough in Menlo Park everyday to recognize that even 20% of bicyclists is a conservative estimate ignore stop signs. The only exception: young elementary school students who still respect what there parents instruct them to do. And I think very few residents would disagree with my assessment, i.e., no "data collection" is needed.

Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 19, 2017 at 4:12 am

Dear Dana and others:

I've hesitated to put my oar in on this one, in part because it seems so oddly acrimonious, though I'm sure everyone is making a good faith effort at useful suggestions and analysis.

Dana, as a local very experienced cyclist (and a motorist) here for many decades, I do find your idea of Menlo-Ravenswood-University as a bike corridor a little surprising. In my experience, Menlo between around Trader Joe's / Curtis Ave. and ECR is an alarming combination of congestion, variable and sometimes rapid car speed, and vanishing shoulder space. Cars heading NE over ECR to Ravenswood are speeding up. Those coming the other way are slowing down and bunching up as they pass Applewood Pizza. It's bad enough by car, but on bicycle I try to avoid that entire passage absent very compelling reason. Over ECR, NW-bound Ravenswood suffers that messy lane merge next to the library, after which you have shoulder but traffic is often fast (well over the posted 30), with heavy traffic. Both Glenwood and Oak Grove, in my experience, are much better in all these areas (though of course, less useful for Civic Center / Burgess, etc.).

University Avenue on the Draeger's block (Menlo Ave. to Santa Cruz Ave.) strikes me as a mixed bag. Albeit very congested, at least it's slow enough that even middle-schooler bicyclists can keep up with traffic flow, and the likes of us have no problems. But again I'm a bit startled at something, and perhaps Dana could comment further. Dana's Re-Imagine Menlo page advocates protected bike lanes instead of sharrows. Is there actually room for that? My recollection's that University has barely room for the existing one vehicle lane each way and the middle turn lane.

About use of Crane Ave., I have my own unusual perspective: As a one-time resident of Menlo School's Menlo Hall and Paterson Hall dormitories (long gone) in the '70s, I regarded Crane Ave. as absolutely my main go-to route for getting to downtown, Kepler's, the Palo Alto Co-op Market (current Trader Joe's), Alec's (current Safeway Plaza), the hardware store, Round Table (current Applewood), the Guild, Oasis, and other nearby haunts. University didn't have a patch on it for freedom from congestion and low speeds, and it was/is otherwise functionally equivalent. I still feel the same, for what it's worth.

In my personal experience, there's really no need at all for stop signs at the Crane/Santa Cruz intersection just for bicyclists' benefit: The cross traffic is always moving slowly; there's no problem at all crossing safely. (Perhaps, however, the Bicycle Commission members felt them necessary to protect younger children on bicycles.)

I notice that Safeway Plaza (which I still think of as Alec's Department Store) keeps coming up in these discussions, but it seems most folks are forgetting about the slightly narrow but still useful footpath / bicycle path from Middle Avenue through Nealon Park and beyond ending at Roble (between Blake and University). With a slight jog via Blake Street, one ends up at the SE end of Crane where it dead-ends at Live Oak. Crane then connects NW all the way to Valparaiso and where my old dorms were. It's an obscure and unmarked route, but that could certainly be fixed.

To all the people who consider Santa Cruz Ave. a dangerous and undesirable route for bicycling: I beg to politely differ. The car-parking churn and stop/slow traffic of course requires attention, but the saving grace is the slow overall flow ergo no problem at all keeping up and no risk of high-velocity anything. As a cyclist (well, a cyclist over age 10 or so), all you need do is stay slightly left of the middle of your lane, doing vehicular-style cycling, acting exactly like a driver, courteously letting other cars turn and merge and pass, and staying far from the cars moving in and out of parking. Keeping up with 12-15 MPH is, so to speak, no sweat.

Last, I hesitate greatly to second-guess the Bicycle Commission volunteers or the City Council members, who unlike me have put in vast amounts of time and care on these matters, but is it really necessary to lose those parking spaces at all? My recollection is that the streets in question (Crane and Oak Grove) already have ample space for cars and bicycles alongside them, especially Oak Grove. And, speaking as a cyclist for, er, five decades now, I'd really rather that motorists not hate me on sight on grounds that of blaming their parking frustration on me. Newton's Third Law isn't on my side in such encounters, as all cyclists know.

(Say 'hi' if you see me cycling through downtown. I'm the guy with the flamboyant Revolights lighting system.)

Rick Moen
[email protected]

Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 19, 2017 at 7:37 am

There is only one logical solution to the problem. Restrict bicycle riding to the hours of 2am to 5am, the hours when street parking is prohibited in MP.

Posted by Dana Hendrckson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 19, 2017 at 8:21 am

Rick: I welcome your thoughtful comments and will try to address the concerns you have raised. Like you I am a motorist and bicyclist who has lived in Menlo Park for a long time - over 40 years. I hope you have had the opportunity the Menlo-Ravenswood-University bike corridor project I have recommended to the city and will no repeat most of the information that is included.

1. Menlo and Ravenswood are both used by many bicyclists now though I expect many more are discouraged by the riding conditions on (a) Menlo Avenue, (b) at the El Camino intersection and (a) on lower Ravenswood between El Camino and Laurel. The lack of bike lanes in all places is a big problem.

2. I have proposed that a two-way protected bike lane be installed the full length of Menlo from University on the south side. After measuring the street widths I believe that there is sufficient room for this facility after narrowing the vehicle lanes.

3. Extending the bike lanes across El Camino to the City owned property next to the sidewalk would completely eliminate the need to ride on Ravenswood between El Camino and Alma. And creating a bike path on city property between Alma and Laurel would also completely eliminate the need to ride on this section of Ravenswood. There are already bike lanes between Laurel and Middlefield.

4. The City is planning to install a pedestrian crosswalk on the south side of the El Camino intersection so bicyclists would have the option to either walk their bikes across El Camino or ride in a parallel bikeway. Today they have no option other than to compete with vehicles for crossing space.

5. I am recommending protected bike lanes only Menlo - and perhaps they would be useful on University but only between Middle and Menlo. The protected bike lanes on University would use the same space as buffered bike lanes; visible flexible stanchions would be installed in the buffer.

6. The short section of University between Santa Cruz and Menlo is uncomfortable for inexperienced bicyclists because of the lane configurations and Draeger parking plaza traffic and there is no room for bike lanes. I have stood at the corner of University and Santa Cruz and watched as bicyclists either rode thru Fremont Park and then crossed University and passed thru the parking lot or simply rode on the sidewalk on the west side of University to the Menlo intersection. Fortunately, this sidewalk is lightly used by pedestrians so "conficts" are likely rare.

7. RE: downtown Santa Cruz, I do not believe there is enough width and opportunities for bicyclists to move aside to allow faster motorists to pass them. Many bicyclists do not ride as fast as vehicles on Santa Cruz. And motorists will have FIVE stop signs between University and El Camino. I am a big fan of not creating situations that foster more hostilities between motorists and bicyclists.

8. At this point the bike commission, city staff, and bike consultant not even attempted to present to residents a well-reasoned and well-supported justification for the Oak Grove-Crane-University bike project, and I think we deserve one IF we are going to significantly impact non-bicyclists.

9. Bicyclists have waited more than a decade for any of the recommendations in the 2004 city bike development plan to be implemented. I only hope the next investment is the best one possible!

Rick, thanks again for contributing to a constructive discussion. If I have missed something or misunderstood anything you said, please point it out.

Posted by resident cyclist
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 20, 2017 at 7:33 pm

Actually, I feel the safest riding downtown Santa Cruz.
University, Menlo, Oak Grove are dangerous because of narrow roads and unsafe driving speeds (high speed differential betw. cyclists/cars).

I think the best solution would be to slow down traffic on these streets by either lowering the speed limit to 15mph or by installing a couple of stop signs to slow drivers down.

It has been proven over and over again that separated bike corridors/routes in high density/downtown areas don't work. Too little space and not enough visibility.

I think the focus regarding improved "cycling space" should be on the El Camino crossings, where better separation and visibility would actually make a difference. Alas, this won't happen, as this would be something that actually would require a little bit more than just painting some stripes and lanes.

And BTW:
Cyclists making a lawful "California Stop" is actually the quickest and safest way to co-exist in low speed zones.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 20, 2017 at 8:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It has been proven over and over again that separated bike corridors/routes in high density/downtown areas don't work. Too little space and not enough visibility."

Please provide citations to support your assertions - which defy logic.

Posted by Cmon
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 21, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Folks, Rick is right -- Menlo and Ravenswood is a terrible corridor, for the reasons cited. the passage from Middle to Valpo is really not too logical but there are no great options. More importantly, that pathway is likely not a heavily used one and I am not sure of the value of disrupting the parking and auto flow. A test is fine, though, and my suggestion is a real live monitored test to see what the flows are and to then survey users. Test before we spend too much money on a launch.

Middle remains the best single road in the area,until you get to the Safeway block. I believe middle and Santa Cruz should be the main areas of focus for safe bike travel, in part because at some juncture I'd still hope we get a tunnel on Middle. If we don't get these streets right, then the cross town effort is a bit wasted since more folks will NOT be riding in that direction from west Menlo.

And, as always, we need a garage or two downtown. This issue is heavily overthought. It needs to happen and then some of the solution that impact parking will feel differently

Posted by resident cyclist
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 22, 2017 at 2:16 am

Sorry to be blunt. but:
What logic? The one of those who never ride bikes under the conditions mentioned?
The ones who advocate the unrealistic goal to separate bikes from cars at all cost?
This has been tried in Europe many times and although the overall number of incidents did decrease, the severity of injuries increased (cars AND bikes going fast). Most of these reports are not published or translated into English, as they are Gov/Admin internal use only....sorry)

But what is illogical about the obvious difference being hit by a car going 5mph versus 25mph (been there, driver at fault both times)?
And what is illogical about the importance of visibility, sight lines and space (all of which are non existent in downtown MP)?

Frustrating to argue with those who scoff at real world experience and knowledge. Done here.

Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 23, 2017 at 12:13 am

Good people --

FWIW, I concur with 'Cmon' about Middle Ave. being a standout street for bicyclists. From the veteran-cyclist perspective, it has the following advantages over semi-nearby parallel streets: 1. Very wide with generous shoulder width. 2. Low speed limit (25 mph, cf. 30 on Santra Cruz Ave. outside downtown, and 35 on Valparaiso). 3. A decent medium-distance connector, especially if you include some connecting streets at the SW end (Olive, Oakdell) to reach Santa Cruz Ave. right near Sharon Road and Alameda de las Pulgas. (I agree that the Safeway block is where Middle Ave. becomes a bit dicey. Not much help for that, I think. The proposed CalTrain underpass opposite Middle Ave. would make that route more useful, but the Safeway block will remain a place to be very vigilant, for both bicyclists and motorists.)

Of course, Middle is no substitute for a route though the middle of town, but it's a very nice side-route and means of getting cross-town.

Oak Grove has the first two of those attractions, but is limited in the third area, albeit you can connect from it via either University or the oft-ignored cut-through to Johnson, and thus to the slow and wide part of Santa Cruz Avenue. I take that route extremely often. (My house is just uphill from the Dutch Goose.)

I see a cyclist upthread saying Oak Grove is narrow. Possibly I'm misremembering; I'll have to check. Even if narrow, it has such slow and uncontested traffic that I class it as a very useful route.

I continue to politely differ with those claiming downtown stretch of Santa Cruz Ave. is unsafe for (post-childhood) bicyclists -- not even counting the fact that it's an essential destination. (I have ducats to spend at Amici's, Ace Hardware, and Penzey's, I don't remember there being anything to fasten my U-lock to behind Penzey's back-door, and I'd rather be able to see my bike through a large plate-glass window. I yield to no man in my love for Penzey's paprika, but I'll not be losing my road bike over it, thanks.)

I do beg to differ with Dana about most bicyclists going as fast as vehicles on Santa Cruz. On a typical afternoon, it seems to me that my mother-in-law walking on the sidewalk, even when she had a bad hip, just about went faster than cars on Santa Cruz. I'll bet if I clocked the absolute maximum speed through downtown, it'd be 15 mph. The scenario of needing to move aside to "let faster cars pass" is thus, in my experience, theoretical, but the obvious way to do that is pull into the parking zone and stop, which would work fine.

I'm still pondering what Dana is suggesting about a two-way protected bicycle lane, the full length of Menlo Ave. I think I'll go there and have a look. ( I'm glad he concurs that there's insufficient width on University's key connector block (Fremont Part, Draeger's). I was worried I was imagining that. I find it perfectly fine for cycling, but very much vehicular-style cycling, merged with car traffic and acting like a car.) As I was saying, the worst bit is (going towards ECR) once you get NW of Chef Kwan's (ex-Su Hong to Go). Right there, the parking lane becomes a right-turn lane while the main lane remains for vehicles going left or straight, with tight queuing in both and occasional jockeying. As mentioned, there's dangerous speed variation in addition to lane-shifting. As a cyclist, I'm on high alert and really not happy to be there.

Carving out a protected bicycle lane to the ECR corner will mean erasing the right-turn queuing, making going through the intersection left, straight, or right much slower, more red-light cycles by far. (The illegal cutthrough at the laundromat would become even more popular.)

Dana's right that the city could route a path offroad alongside Ravenswood through the worst bit, NW of ECR, and that would indeed help quite a bit on that side -- albeit all the traffic conflicts one has crossing ECR would remain, IMO, even if there's a pedestrian crosswalk and parallel bikeway, e.g., cars starting and ending turns. Although to a degree any ECR intersection has those problems, the Menlo Ave. / Ravenswood / ECR one has always seemed the worst of those in Menlo Park, because of the volume of traffic, the curving road on the NW side, and drivers being distracted by lane-choice considerations.

Personally, I will also go out of my way to avoid bicycling through an intersection with a red-light camera, not because I fear having a close personal relationship with Redflex Traffic Systems, Inc., but rather because I know that motorists sometimes gun the gas pedal and may be watching the camera stanchion and not the cross-traffic.

I strongly concur with Dana in looking dimly on changes that increase motorist hostility towards bicyclists, and thus second his comment about the additional stop signs proposed for Santa Cruz Ave. Fortunately, I can't see that bicycle cross-traffic at Crane Ave. actually needs it -- in my view. For the same reason, I politely question the need to remove parking spaces. Isn't the existing space on Crane and Oak Grove amply wide for bicycles and cars together (not side-by-side but rather with the bicyclists in traffic 'vehicular-cycling'-style)? It always has seemed that way when I used it.

Last, fair disclosure: Although a sympathetic observer and neighbour, I'm not a constituent of the estimable City Council members, because University Heights remains unincorporated SMC.

Rick Moen
[email protected]

Posted by Rick Moen
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Jan 23, 2017 at 12:16 am

That was supposed to be 'uncongested traffic', not 'uncontested traffic'. (Cheeky spelling checker at work.)

Rick Moen
[email protected]

Posted by dana hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jan 23, 2017 at 8:48 am

Rick, once again you point out important concerns. Let me address one of them, the El Camino crossing, which has a couple of dimensions. First, Menlo appears to be wide enough to install the proposed bike lanes and maintain the right turn lane. (all vehicle lanes would need to be narrowed to an acceptable width.) Second, if turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians, it seems reasonable to require them to also yield to bicyclists. Third, signage and warning lights could be installed on Menlo at the intersection to alert motorists to the presence of bicyclists. (note: any bicyclist uncomfortable riding across El Camino would have the option of becoming a pedestrian for less than 15 seconds and simply walk a bike in the crosswalk. This is likely more appealing than a long detour to avoid this crossing altogether.) Finally, instead, of my trying to completely design this crossing, I have LONG recommended that the City have a professional network designer take on this task including the entire proposed Menlo-University-Ravenswood bike corridor. Every urban environment presents design challenges and professionals know best how to creatively address them.

Again Rick, thanks for your thoughtful, constructive and civil contributions to this discussion.

Posted by Bike route
a resident of another community
on Jul 3, 2017 at 1:53 pm

When does this go into effect?

Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 5, 2017 at 11:23 am

"if turning vehicles must yield to pedestrians, it seems reasonable to require them to also yield to bicyclists."

Dana, bikes are moving vehicles are are bound by the same rules are cars. They are NOT pedestrians. Bikes going straight must be on the left hand side of a right turning vehicle.

No it is not reasonable to expect right turning vehicles to yield to a bike traveling straight through an intersection. Just like on Valpo, the bike lane is to the left of the right turn lane.

Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 5, 2017 at 12:46 pm


My point is a simple one.

Menlo Park is installing a crosswalk on the south side of the Menlo-Ravenswood intersection so vehicles making a right-hand turn onto EL Camino from Menlo will need to be yield to pedestrians. If that is the case, they can be required to yield to bikes. Bicyclists can also be encouraged to walk their bikes in the pedestrian crosswalk and enjoy the same rights and "protections" as pedestrians. Yield-to-Bike signs and a very visible 2-way bike lane across El Camino seem like good ideas. And vehicles could be required to merge into the bike lane BEHIND bicyclists as often is the case.

Again, a professional bike network designer should recommend the best solution; I can only offer suggestions.

Posted by MPer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jul 5, 2017 at 1:37 pm

thanks for explaining your point again...

"a professional bike network designer should recommend the best solution"

The vehicle code is already quite clear on this, bikes going straight thru an intersection must do so to the left of other vehicles using a right turn lane. I imagine a professional would agree, as intersections with bike lanes are already configured this way at Valpo and ECR, Willow and Middlefield and all over America.

of course, if a bicyclist dismounts and walks his/her bike then they are considered a pedestrian and are allowed to use the crosswalk and all moving vehicles (bikes included) must yield to them when in the crosswalk.

so what you feel is reasonable would most likely cause confusion and accidents. and why is it necessary to you plan?

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