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Morning left turn only on Churchill at Alma

Original post made by Paly Parent on Sep 1, 2013

This was in today's Paly Link and I am posting it here as a reminder to everyone. Thank you.

Driver & Bike Safety, Churchill / Alma intersection
Monday - Friday, 7:45-8:30am
Reminder to Paly students and parents: Cars traveling towards Paly on Churchill Ave must turn left onto Alma during weekdays from 7:45am to 8:30am. Palo Alto police will be patrolling and have begun issuing tickets to drivers who turn right onto Alma or go straight through the intersection (as many do). This is one of the busiest intersections for Paly bike commuters. Drive with care during these key commute hours so as not to endanger bicyclists. For more on safe routes to school, contact Paly's PTSA Traffic Safety Reps

Comments (6)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I'm glad police will patrol because the signs are not easily seen because there are other signs, etc. We have 1000 students riding their bikes to school and indeed, this intersection is busy with bikes before and after school.

Drivers should also be aware that if there is a bike lane, it is illegal to drive all the way to the corner and then turn right. When making a right turn in Palo Alto, the driver is supposed to pull into the bike lane when the painted line breaks (about 30 feet before the corner) and then turn right at the corner.


Posted by just trying to be safe - , a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 1, 2013 at 12:37 pm

Parent - Can you please advise what how out of Palo Alto drivers can know of signs that are not easily seen? Surprising, not very visible signs are added to a very challenging drive around local kids who consistently ignore basic laws such as stopping at stop signs. Those basic laws apply to bicycles as well, as far as I know. It will be nice if these laws would be enforced by police, the same way as complying with signs that are hard to see are enforced.


Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:25 am

I am told by those that cross here by bike on a daily basis, that a great many cars do not observe the instruction and drive straight on.

For those who ride a bike and cross here, there are a large number of students crossing by bike and on foot and the roadway is not wide enough to accommodate the volume of bike and foot traffic each time the light turns green. A line of cars may not get through each green light, but a gaggle of school children on foot and on bikes will crowd into whatever space is available to get through every time the light turns green.

Please, if you drive, think of the schoolkids and turn left or drive earlier or later, or find another route.

Thank you.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:17 am

I really hate those signs. Anyone but a long-term resident cannot be expected to read those complicated signs and obey that peculiar rule, which I've never seen anything like anywhere else.

In other words, the unsuspecting driver going across that intersection if they are not first in line has to read, parse and change their natural behavior in less than a second and NOT just go straight. That is the most poorly designed intersection I've ever seen ... at least for a simple 4 way intersection. I've always thought that was really stupid.

What purpose does it solve?

Why doesn't the city fix this putting in turn arrows and lights that can automatically direct people instead of a sign that even many years later when I first saw I really had no idea what it said. This is a traffic abomination.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:47 am

I didn't see any patrol car this morning at this intersection and there were cars driving straight over the tracks on Churchill (I was in the Alma turn lane). I drove straight on Churchill about 4 times last year before I finally noticed the sign. It's not easy to see because of the railroad gates. I saw it when I was stopped at the light. If cars are not the first car stopped at the light, it's too difficult to see the sign.

The city ought to place a lighted, flashing sign stating "LEFT TURN ONLY" which can be programmed to light up during the specified time.

@just trying to be safe: Don't blame this one on the student bikers. There is not much room at the tracks for the high quantity of bike riders in the morning. And why isn't your child biking to school, following the basic bicycle laws? Mine bike 4/5 days per week. Yours should bike too.


Posted by just trying to be safe -, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 3, 2013 at 10:12 pm

I saw numerous times all over PA bicyclists ignoring stop signs, even cross guards.
Parent - you asked me: And why isn't your child biking to school, following the basic bicycle laws? Mine bike 4/5 days per week. Yours should bike too.
Were we properly introduced?


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