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on Nov 14, 2013
The problem with collecting bicycle commuter data for new routes is that bicycle commuting rates are terrible in this city along routes with poor bicycle safety. In particular, all east-west bike routes in Palo Alto are terrible right now. Either you have to squeeze through some narrow dark tunnel that is congested with pedestrians or you have to squeeze along a narrow road between speeding traffic and rows of parked cars.
I guarantee you that east-west bicycle commuting will increase tremendously if the city builds a safe direct east-west bicycle route across the city (from the Baylands to the Foothills). I bet that bicycle commuting in Mountain View increased 1000X when they built the Stevens Creek Trail, giving bicyclists a safe direct route across Hwy 101, across the Caltrain tracks, and across El Camino Real. That trail was so successful that Mountain View built the Permanente Creek Trail a couple of miles away. Meanwhile, what has Palo Alto really done since the Bryant Bicycle Boulevard was finished in the 1980s?
If you build it, they will come.
That gentleman Mr. Rodriguez [portion removed] goes on and on about his plans, but when questioned you find that data was lacking or ignored. Moreover, I always get the sense that he makes no effort to listen - he justs waits for you to stop talking so he can just start making his points again. It comes across as arrogant and bossy - the worst kind of bureaucrat. I'm not confident he will propose a plan that really makes sense, and I'm glad these commissioners were also skeptical.
It is really a catch 22 situation. How can they count all the bikes that use multiple routes to get to the Bol Park bike path into the Research Park? I know Park Boulevard is used very heavily by bikes every day. I see many riders cut toward El Camino near Matadero Ave from Park Blvd.
I use Strava to track my commute every day. Maybe the City could check for some of that data, but I doubt most commuter cyclists use it to track their commutes.
A dedicated boulevard with proper signage for safer cycling is what is needed. In fact, Park Boulevard/Wilkie Way still needs to be fully established as a proper bike boulevard. There are 2-way stops in the wrong direction along Wilkie Way at James and Carolina Streets. These 2 intersections are very unsafe for cyclists due to the poor visibility (especially at James Street for bikes riding toward West Meadow). They also still need signs that say "bicycles permitted" where "do not enter" signs exist such as at the barrier near Chestnut.
Ellen Fletcher must be rolling in her grave tonight. I'm very disappointed with this Commission.
This thing is apparently driven by the availability of a grant, not by a specific need.
It's like buying something because you received a discount coupon in the mail, knowing neither whether you need the thing or not, nor if it's worth its price with or without the coupon.
"Bicycles are good" therefore "spend other people's money on bicycles whenever you can" is not an approach likely to improve our city.
That reminds me, it's getting to the time of year when organizations panic to spend all they have by December 31 or they won't get as big a handout in 2014. Perhaps not applicable in this specific case, but amazing how many business and government bureaucracies operate that way.
If they build it, I will use it. Right now it is just too complicated and dangerous to bike from Midtown across the train tracks and across El Camino to the Gunn High School area.
I concur with the good points made by "parent" and "Bikes2work".
I live on Park and bike to work and often have the delightful challenge of waiting for an opening to merge onto Park due to the heavy bike traffic!
I still see cyclists on El Camino and Alma, so we need MORE SIGNAGE to point to the best bike routes.
To commissioners, you can't always get "perfect" data before making a decision. Where do you think those hundreds of bikes parked at Gunn come from?
The Commission's approach is correct to not just accept what the staff is saying without a rationale, a basis and clear understanding of the impacts of what is being proposed. What we are talking about is using common sense, using data where available and applicable, and just bringing oversight and control to what we are doing to our streets, and in our land use policies.
Well, we are already seeing some good come out of the Maybell fiasco, the City can finally admit the truth about not having bike data. Interesting comments, considering Maybell is just as bad or worse.
The city badly needs safer and more direct east-west bicycle routes. The city has known this for decades (ever since the north-west Bryant Bicycle Boulevard was built in the 1980s). It is arrogant for the commission to reject this plan because they don't have enough data. They have had the data for decades, but just swept it under the rug. The fact is that most city residents live east of the Caltrain tracks, but all of the city's high schools and half or more of the city's jobs are west of the tracks (HP, Stanford PARC, etc). Just one or two cross-town east-west bike paths can make this commute much safer by bicycle, thus reducing traffic and pollution for everyone.
Do you measure demand for a bridge by how many people are swimming across? No, you look at where you can create a network that suits the transportation needs of people beyond what method they're choosing today.
In the case of bikes, there are many people who are not riding now, even for 1-2 mile cross-town trips, simply because they don't have a route that feels comfortable and safe. So they're choosing to drive instead. That's a big FAIL for the city.
Bike usage data is important and can help guide planning, but it's not the only data needed for creating a bicycle network. Our bike network needs to consider the needs of people who aren't riding now, but would if they had a bike boulevard type route.
There is no data that can inform this decision.
It is a policy question around how to foster more use of bicycles.
More use of bicycles for commuting to work, school or other use is a good objective.
Leadership calls for vision of how things can be, not what they are.
Eisenhower and the interstate highway come to mind.
The comment that there is short-term grant funding driving the bike boulevard decision is seriously misleading. Creating a bike boulevard network has been city policy for decades, and it is a key priority in the city's recently passed bike and pedestrian plan. If there is some grant funding available, this is staff's effort to help the city fund an initiative that is a long-established priority.
Paul Losch wrote: "There is no data that can inform this decision."
Wow, there's a monument to muddy-headed thinking. Sad that in an intelligent place like this that someone is willing to sign his name to such a statement.
If there is really no data, we are in the realm of theology - perhaps Mr. Rodriguez considers himself the high priest of bicycling? As many have said, "in God we trust - all others, bring data."
If they need data why don't they set up some counters at the two constrictions along Park Blvd. At one location the data won't include cars because they can't get through. It is fair to require some accounting to determine if you have been successful at increasing bike use. In the end I believe the data will help our cause to support bicycle infrastructure.
Agree with "Tool". Rodriguez does not even acknowledge any objective correspondence you send to him. He does work for us.
Anyone else get the long and presumably expensive telephone survey about how much we the taxpayer will pay for all these undefined "plans" if they were on the ballot?
They also asked how much RESIDENTS would pay to construct parking garages.
More waste from our fine city when all they're doing is testing price points. If they call, please tell them NO.
More puffing Hopium! Wasted money on the alter of pipe dreams.
How many Palo Alto officials ride a bike to work??
Wishing won't make it happen.
Erase the Arastradero debacle before it breeds and spreads!
Put a measure E on the ballot, Reinstate 4 lanes!
There is a better route for this bike path very nearby. There is an existing "green belt" running behind (to the SE of) Cooley LLP and Communications & Power Industries (CPI), and behind (to the NW of) houses on the NW side of Chimalus. It currently has locked gates on both ends.
The existing green belt runs from points A to B on this map: Web Link
We could have a "Chimalus Green Belt Bike Path" connecting the well-used Bol Park Bike Path to El Camino, keeping bikes separate from car traffic on Matadero Ave.
Yes, this is a Catch-22. There are no riders to count because there are no (east-west) routes to ride. I happen to agree that if bikeways were built that usage would significantly increase. But I understand the concern that money will be spent and people/residents inconvenienced, so we want to get it right.
Is there a way to gather data from companies (ask employees who ride and who would ride) and from schools? There are a limited number of CalTrain crossings - could bicycles be counted there over some period that would be statistically significant? Let's see what data can be obtained or derived before we either give up or push blindly ahead.
A very large percentage of kids bike to school. The school district, which works completely independently of the City, is counting on more bike riding in its own planning and construction decisions. There arent alternative routes no one has considered. We have to make the limited routes we have safer. Kids are already on the bikes.
You make good points about the need for smarter and more strategic policymaking, but you are wrong about data. The City of Menlo Park has a tool for measuring bike traffic at every intersection, I'm told. Our car traffic has increased significantly in the last two years, and not just on Arastradero (not that I'm defending it, just that increased development with no thought to the impacts on infrastructure are catching up to us). Instead f arguing over opinions, especially where our CC is concerned, we do need information.
> Paul Losch wrote: "There is no data that can inform this decision."
If this is the way most city board/commission members think--it explains a lot about the decision process of the bubble that is palo alto.
My experience on Charleston / Arastadero at rush hour is that people are frustrated by the single lane each way. Especially now that is dark at rush hour. This week people were going down the bike lane on the right - even though I saw bikers also going down that lane. The bikers only had a single light so were at risk of not being seen. The autos created the second lane. This frustration happens when multiple trains are traveling and there is a long wait. People were also turning around in the middle of the street and rushing into the neighborhoods. Major streets should be double lane each way. If you are promoting biker safety then there should be a separate road specific for bikes that is not on a major thoroughfare.
As a planning concept If you are trying to increase housing and business development then you need to provide double lane roads and parking. You can't tell people who are driving in from surrounding cities that they have to have a bike. Even electric cars need a lane to drive in. Bikes are good for local inner city travel but that is not driving the economy for this city. You are trying to build up more business in high rises but cutting off the way people get there. They will simply go somewhere else.
The problem COULD HAVE BEEN SOLVED by having bicyclist licenses and registration. Then you would have a good start on the numbers you need. If bicycles had plates, like other vehicles WHO ARE FORCED TO HAVE THEM, using the present technology used on other vehicles, you could get the rest of your numbers using plate reading technology.
The fees paid ( license, registration and insurance ) would actually pay for this project. A win-win for everybody! TANSTAAFL!
@chimalus green belt How would the people riding the Chimalus path cross El Camino? The traffic signal on El Camino is at Matadero.
P.S. the link you gave was caught by my anti-virus software as suspect.
As a side note to the above Mountain View / Google and Palo Alto / TESLA use buses equipped for Wi-Fi so it is more advantageous than people driving in from the city. Make no mistake - the employees want to live in the city SF - it is the Disneyland for young adults. The people are working on those buses - attending meetings, getting work done with other people not on the bus. They have effectively carved out how to get around the transportation problem. Yes - they ride bikes on their campus but that is a fairly protected campus. You have no giant businesses in PA except Stanford - and they are running their own show.
You are talking about Park Street. I believe you want o build a new police station in that area - a single lane street near a police station is a NON-STARTER. Don't even consider it.
I'm a 70-yr old who commutes by bike to my office (about 5 mi each way, from midtown to Menlo Park and back) most days, and I can guarantee that if you build it, I will come. On a bike, you want 2 things...smoothness (hard to find in this city) and no cars. A little-used residential street is more attractive than a "bike boulevard" that offers nothing except a name and slightly-reduced traffic. If you want to increase cycling, build dedicated bike paths that are not on automobile routes. It's as simple as that. See the comment above about the Stevens Creek Trail. This screwing around designating city streets has very little value.
> it is just too complicated and dangerous to bike from Midtown
> across the train tracks and across El Camino
> to the Gunn High School area
There are very few vehicle/cycle accidents in this town. Just saying that something is dangerous does not make it so.
Running stop signs and red lights is also dangerous, but that doesn't stop the majority of cyclists in this town from running thru intersections with these control devices present.
The Planning Department should be working with the Transportation Department. There should be a published grid of the total city that earmarks where projects are being solicited and what the transit points are to get there and how many people will be concentrated at those projects. It should be a "landscape" view versus a piecemeal view.
I have started watching the Monday nigh CC meetings and am noting that the "staff" is working the issues then providing a total concept to the CC to question and defend. I think the CC is at a disadvantage here - they may be taking the heat for people behind the scenes. A lot of people spoke concerning the business parking in downtown - the staff person said he never saw those people before despite they were actively working with the city on new business ventures. Start paying attention to the sequence of events before an issue gets to the CC meeting and who is working the issues.
We are the stakeholders in this city venture - the taxpayers. We need to exercise stakeholder influence for good, safe outcomes.
If you make Matadero a bike boulevard you better ban automobiles. There is barely enough room for two cars to pass each other on Matadero.
People live on residential streets - they have cars and need to use the cars. They have gardeners, support people, etc. You cannot tell them they can't have cars - that comes with the house. You need to have bike trails that are not associated with residential streets. The city needs to publish the most current bike right of ways today and what is projected. PA Weekly - help out here. We need what is available today and what the transportation department is thinking up.
Get one person (Mr. Rodrigues perhaps) to count all bikes crossing Alma at Charleston one Tuesday morning, 7 - 8.30, send him to Meadow on Wednesday at the same time and Churchill on Thursday, same time. 4 1/2 hours in one week and there will be lots of data.
Agree with previous posts. I've witnessed very few interactions with 'Chief Tranportation Official' Jaime Rodriquez but in these limited exchanges he has left an unmistakable and indelible impression as dismissive and unaccountable. Not the characteristics desired of someone holding such a key role but may help explain reasons for the growing traffic problems plaguing the city.
A major misconception is that Palo Alto is *trying* to have bicyclists use the route. The reality is that they already are, and it is because of the road network and where the traffic lights are.
For example, this connector is used by commuters going from Los Altos to locations east of El Camino (Cal Ave, U Ave,...), and vice versa. And it is used by people going from Palo Alto south of Meadow to the Research Park and Stanford University. And ... And it is heavily used by Gunn HS and Terman students -- I live on Matadero and see groups of them.
I have been working on improving Bike & Ped safety on this route since 1998, fighting the strong bureaucratic impulses of Staff.
Matadero is a busier street than first impressions, but the volume is low enough that cars, bikes and pedestrians can easily coexist. The biggest problem is lots of speeding, especially in a blind S-curve. The second biggest problem is that the current limited measure to control speed--a center line that visually narrows the street--has a huge negative side-effect of discouraging drivers from moving to the middle of the street when passing bikes and pedestrians, even when there is no other vehicle in sight (half a mile stretch).
I think that what was proposed was a positive, but thought that more should have been done for pedestrians.
There was a big problem in Staff's presentation of the project and I think that the Commission was justified in not approving it. Ideally, I would have liked the Commission to have approved Phase 1 (a no-brainer) so that construction could have been done on a current contract, and had Staff come back for the other phases.
Lots of opinions and even a "guarantee" that bicyclists will spring up from somewhere and use new bicycle boulevards. How can anyone be so sure when there are no data.
My experience with Mr. Rodriguez is the same as others - he doesn't listen to people but waits until they are through and repeats his mantra. How did our City hire him without some careful vetting?
I bike the Matadero Avenue-Margarita Avenue- Park Avenue route to get to Caltrain or to Frys. Waiting on Margarita sensor loop for the light to cross back home and Having a right turn SUV crowd you can be nerve wracking.
But there is no excuse for not counting existing Bike (grid type) usage on surrounding streets to get an idea of what might be funneled onto the proposed path. There are not a whole lot of /good/ paths from Barron Park to the other side of ECR. Make some attempt at counts before making any plans
"My experience with Mr. Rodriguez is the same as others - he doesn't listen to people but waits until they are through and repeats his mantra. How did our City hire him without some careful vetting?"
City Council hired somene in their own image.
You folks are missing the point. Athletic young adult male bicyclists may already be using this route, but a bicycle boulevard is for everyday bicyclists, not just the strong and fearless. Studies have shown that bicycle commuting rates (especially by women and families and seniors) increase tremendously as the routes become safer.
How many people bicycled between downtown Mountain View and the north Shoreline area (where Google is now) before they built the Stevens Creek Trail? I'm sure Mountain View has these numbers and I'm sure the increase is tremendous (like 100X or even 1000X). Google may be in north Shoreline now, but they are occupying the same buildings that housed major employers like Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics before the trail was built.
> How did our City hire him without some careful vetting?"
The Council doesn't do the hiring for anyone other than the Council Appointed Officers (City Manager, City Clerk, City Attorney and City Auditor).
While they probably can unofficially give a thumbs-up/thumbs-down to the hiring of these people, it's very unlikely that any one, other than possibly the Mayor, ever had any contact with the applicants for this job.
However, given the difficulties with the previous guy, and now this one, it's clear that whoever is pulling the strings doesn't want Palo Alto to have a good traffic engineering department that wants to work on, and fix, the traffic problems in this town.
"City Council hired somene in their own image." The City Council did not hire Rodriguez. The only employees the City Council hires are the City Manager, City Attorney, City Clerk, and City Auditor. The City Manager is ultimately responsible for hiring all employees in all the other departments that report to the City Manager, including hiring Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez.
He was hired by Curtis Williams. His previous experience was with
the City of Milpitas.
This isn't about Jaime Rodriquez, or at least it shouldn't be about him. It should be about a project that was in the pedestrian and bike plan that was approved by both the Transportation Commission and the City Council. The bike boulevard network was a prominent piece of that plan, so why are they objecting now?
It is easy to get partial data on bike usage, but it is hard and expensive to get good, complete data.
I have only met Mr. Rodriquez, but I think he is doing a great job for the city. The city badly needs better east-west bicycle routes and this project is an obvious first step. I can't believe the NIMBYs are trying to kill it. Who can possibly be opposed to street safety???
Make roads safer for bicycling and more will ride their bikes. The Arastradero/Charleston one lane reduction right after El Camino is an incredible dangerous place for kids to ride their bikes to Gunn and Terman so parents drive and that creates horrible traffic. Make it safer and more will ride their bikes.
I agree with Donald. This is one of the projects recommend in the almost BRAND NEW 2012 Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan. All this commission is supposed to do is verify that the project meets the objectives of that Master Plan. They aren't supposed to second guess the project necessity based on data that can't be obtained. If they wanted to add something to the recommended action, they could have added that "prior to implementing the plan, staff should do a bicycle count on the route to establish a baseline usage for future comparison". It doesn't matter what that count is now. It shouldn't be holding up the project approval. The project is consistent with the Master Plan.
@Bikes2work - while I understand your perspective, that approach can lead to group-think and cascading errors. If the committe members think the planning is shoddy, they should call "bs" on it and insist it be made better (or that others overrule them).
I sat on an oversight committee once, with a similar "verify projects are within scope" mandate - but in fact, we were the only folks actually reviewing project details carefully enough to detect serious flaws. We found a couple of those and prevented a bone-headed project (as all involved later acknowledged). Some on our committee initially took your view - why were we doing this, it wasn't formally part of the scope. But if you're going to volunteer to vet the city's work, it is just good practice to throw the brakes a bit if the proposals don't seem right.
Agree.Questioning previous assumptions, requiring back-up and sound
analysis is a good idea before we do anything else in this City.
PA is too smart for its own good. Nothing ever gets accomplished, too much over thinking.
Living in Portland OR was cool because progressive and experimental urban planning happened everyday! If it worked it stayed, if it didn't it went away.
You Palo Altans are a silly breed, holding onto some weird unknown utopia that you don't even know how to create.
The staff was going with a massive reconstructed Newell Bridge, a single
concept, until many residents objected and now a range of alternatives for the bridge are being studied using data as part of the analysis. Any
lessons to be learned here going forward?
Here's a TED talk posted 10/13.
About 9 min. into this video you'll see the process NY made towards a successful, integrated design for bike riders.
Quite fun and important viewing:
Iterate towards a positive vision, peeps.
Excellent video. Please note that NY has a massive subway system. They are moving massive number of people underground. It also has a massive bus system. That was barely touched on in this video. LA has a great subway system, a metro-link system above ground for moving people from suburb to suburb, as well as a bus system. Portland Oregon has a very good rail system. Palo Alto is very limited in its transportation options - Caltrain or auto/buses for commuters. Bicycles do not contribute to the suburb to suburb commute for the majority of people. That is a discussion taking place in the SJ Mercury - Mr. Roadshow column.
Continuing BART down the peninsula on the western edge to Cupertino and San Jose to close the loop would help alleviate the traffic - and bikers can bring their bikes to put them in proximity of their destinations.
Yes the whole point of this topic is to add more bike lanes but the city is also trying to build high rises so need good parkways to move people in cars. Yes - electric cars need lanes to drive in.
As a resident of Matadero Ave., I was very disappointed that the commission failed to move this proposal forward. I drive, bike, and walk down that street all the time, and it seriously needs improvements to make it more safe. This project would address many of these safety issues. It's a good plan and we, the people who bike, drive, and walk in that area need it.
Furthermore, it appears that someone said that Matadero is not the place for this, and I think that's just ridiculous. Matadero is the BEST street for it. Barron Ave. and Los Robles are not as appropriate as an East-West corridor. There are already many bikers on Matadero Ave., and these changes would really help improve their safety.
Come on, City Hall, lead!!! This project is going to be a good thing! Get it done (or at least started)!
Many of the commenters here are making a too simplistic view of what happened at the PTC. As I said above, I am a resident of Matadero and bike, drive and walk its entire length. I have been fighting for 15 years for safety improvements for bike and ped.
The plan sent back was a disappointing one. It ignored most of the safety issues, focusing only on two: speeding (the biggest) and a minority of the safety problems at the blind S-curve (Tippawingo/Josina).
If you watched the Staff presentation, you could be excused for believing that there were minor safety problems, low volumes of bike traffic, no pedestrian safety problems other than at the S-curve,... "Branding", such as having specially colored signs for street names seemed to be as important as safety. You could have believed that the focus of the proposal was to promote bike usage of Matadero (also Staff commented on the existing traffic volumes, the rest of the presentation could easily give the opposite impression).
Should the PTC have forwarded a badly incomplete proposal, with the likelihood that the unaddressed problems would be consigned to the back of the queue and likely wait another 15 years? Or do you believe that given the history of Staff footdragging on this that it is best to take whatever you can get at the time? I don't have a good answer for this.
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