Palo Alto looks to extend its first 'bike boulevard' | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto looks to extend its first 'bike boulevard'

New project proposes host of bike improvements for southern portion Bryant Street

More than three decades after Bryant Street became the nation's first "bicycle boulevard," Palo Alto officials are preparing to extend the popular bike route to the southernmost reaches of the city.

Under a new proposal that the Planning and Transportation Commission reviewed and unanimously endorsed Wednesday night, a host of new traffic-calming measures would be installed between the bike boulevard's current terminus at East Meadow Drive and the Mountain View border.

The southern segment of Bryant (as well as other area streets that will be part of the new boulevard) will be equipped with bulb-outs, traffic circles, shared-lane markings and raised sidewalks. Stop signs will be removed at numerous intersections to facilitate a smoother ride for bicyclists. And new signs will be installed along the route to guide south-bound cyclists toward Redwood Circle, Carlson Court and other neighborhood streets before the boulevard terminates at San Antonio Road.

The result will be the biggest transformation of Palo Alto's signature bike boulevard since 1982, when Bryant Street received that designation.

Today, a bicycle boulevard is defined in the Comprehensive Plan as a "low volume through-street where bicycles have priority over automobiles, conflicts between bicycles and automobiles are minimized, and bicycle travel time is reduced by the removal of stop signs and other impediments to bicycle travel."

Joshuah Mello, the city's chief transportation official, said the objective is to improve the connection between north and south Palo Alto and create a new route for bicyclists en route to Cubberley Community Center, the San Antonio Caltrain station, and the new Google development called "The Rails," which is located in Mountain View across San Antonio.

"This is a pretty significant connection south from the existing Bryant Street bike program," Mello said.

The commission voted 6-0, with Eric Rosenblum absent, to support the proposed concept for the 1.3-mile route that includes Bryant Street and small portions of Redwood Circle, Carlson Court, Ely Place, Duncan Place, the crossing over Adobe Creek, Creekside Drive, Nelson Drive, Shasta Drive and MacKay Drive.

Improvements include a flashing beacon light at the East Meadow Drive intersection that would be activated by bicyclists; curb extensions and an intersection reduction at Redwood Circle; a new traffic circle at Redwood and Carlson Court; and an extended green light at the intersection of Carlson and Charleston Road.

Curb extension would be added to Duncan Place and Creekside Drive to create an easier pathway toward the Adobe Creek Bridge, which connects the two streets. Adobe Creek bridge would be made more visible to bicyclists through curb extensions at both streets.

The commission was generally supportive of the plan, though some members offered some concerns about particular elements of the plan.

Commissioner Asher Waldfogel said that, overall, he loves the concept, though he also wondered if the planners are trying to do too much in a part of the city not known for being particularly busy.

"This seems like a lot of engineering to separate cars and bicycles at this utilization rate," Waldfogel said.

Commissioner Przemek Gardias questioned the need to remove the stop signs, noting the movement elsewhere to allow the "Idaho stop," where bicyclists treat stop signs as yield signs. The rule, which is currently legal only in Idaho, has recently spurred debate among San Francisco's transportation efforts, with biking aficionados calling for the city to make the switch.

Gardias noted that by removing stop signs, the city isn't just providing a smooth ride for bicyclists but also allowing cars to go faster.

"Is it really worth the effort to remove the stop signs and then have the potential risk of cars not stopping where they should be stopping?" Gardias asked.

Mello assured him that the other road amenities – including traffic circles and "impeller" devices (rectangular obstructions that function much like traffic circles) – will be installed to ensure cars slow down, even without stop signs. For example, at the intersection of Carlson Court and Ely Place, the all-way stop would be removed and replaced with an impeller device and yield signs, along with wayfinding signs and sharrows markings.

"At every point we're recommending removing stop signs, we're recommending traffic calming – traffic circle, impeller devices or curb extensions," Mello said. "We don't want to increase the motor vehicle speeds but we also don't want bicyclists stopping every couple of blocks."

The city's ultimate goal, Mello said, is to "get away from the stop-and-go movement to a more moderated flow of 15 to 20 mph."

"That's how we will design the corridor moving forward," Mello said.

The Bryant Street boulevard is one of about 20 bike projects included in the city's 2012 bike master plan. The City Council has budgeted $20 million for bike improvements in its 2014 infrastructure plan. It also has $11.6 million in a reserve for bicycle and pedestrian improvements, according to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment.

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29 people like this
Posted by Annie
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2015 at 8:43 am

I'm all for this. I think that corridor is used more that people realize and will get more use with these proposed measures.

42 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2015 at 8:49 am

A lot of time and effort is being spent on safe north/south bikeways, but we desperately need some safe east/west bikeways. Both our high schools are west of the Caltrain tracks and the feeders to the main crossings that students use are not the safe bike routes.

Charleston and Meadow are not the best routes for biking. Getting to the Cal Ave tunnel is not a safe route. Churchill is not too bad, but it is a short street off Embarcadero although it does have good access to Bryant.

I have no idea of the student v non-student commuters, but putting some better east/west bikeways is overdue.

51 people like this
Posted by about time
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2015 at 9:03 am

It is really about time that the city is improving bike routes in the southern part of the city. Biking from Palo Alto to Mountain View and Los Altos has long been convoluted and dangerous. I hope this can be finished quickly without NIMBY interference.

25 people like this
Posted by maditalian_1492
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2015 at 10:01 am

about time: Just because you improve a route does not mean the conduct of many of the bicyclists will improve.

There was never a choice about turning Bryant St. into a bike boulevard. Sure there was a trial period, but it was a fait accompli, a done deal.

NIMBY interference? Try living on Bryant Street. Try waiting behind kids are riding across the ENTIRE street and don't let you pass. Oh then there are the bicyclists who cannot stop at the stop signs at Bryant & North California. The new stop light at Bryant and Oregon Expressway is now a three-way stop which is supposed to make things safer for bicyclists. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen them flying through the red light on one side of Bryant because they know the other side of Bryant has the green. Anybody getting any tickets for that?

31 people like this
Posted by about time
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2015 at 10:14 am

It's not just school kids. I see car drivers hogging the roads and running stop signs and stop lights just as often. Car drivers also speed and drive distracted. I am much more afraid of reckless car drivers than school kids on bicycles.

11 people like this
Posted by Xudong Yan
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2015 at 10:52 am

And please tell the city to improve the safety of Bryant | Oregon Express Way intersection. The south side of the intersection do not have a cross walk for people to pass, and the visibility left | right is very poor. The north side is equally ridiculous because of Oregon way. On both sides, bikers waiting are stopped literally couple of feet from cars passing by on Oregon. All it take is a car sliding out of control to wipe out a whole bunch of kids.

12 people like this
Posted by murphstahoe
a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2015 at 11:08 am

maditalian -

I would not be surprised in the least if people on Emerson or Ramona would like to trade you. You are complaining about having to wait for school kids cycling past your house? That's the American Dream (Tm). [Portion removed.]

8 people like this
Posted by Stu Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 19, 2015 at 11:38 am


Or, Cowper! I'd gladly have my street turned into a bike boulevard.

5 people like this
Posted by Cherbo
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 19, 2015 at 1:23 pm

"Just because you improve a route does not mean the conduct of many of the bicyclists will improve."

But if you remove the stop signs you won't have people running stop signs anymore, which is what most of the complaints seem to be about.

3 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 19, 2015 at 1:51 pm

This is a good project, I'm glad to see stop sign removal and traffic circles as a strategy to increase flow and still have safety....and...something nags, as I echo Resident:

Why are east west connections not the priority? Why is north south being built, given all the kids who have to travel east west?

EAST WEST safety and connection could be solved with a series of bike and pedestrian bridges OVER ALMA.

I hope the new transportation director, Joshua Mello, is considering this. Perhaps the Weekly could look into what the next plans are? I'd love to have some hope.

13 people like this
Posted by Good, but...
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 19, 2015 at 2:03 pm

I am baffled by the resistance here. We need to get away from the idea that stop signs are the universal solution to residential traffic management. We have FAR too many everywhere. The people are voting with their brake pedals (the lack of full stops statistically)

The Bryant bike boulevard is a brilliant example that should be expanded as many routes as possible:

1) It provide a fantastic, efficient path across town that encourages bicycle use. People go blocks out of their way to ride on it

2) It is relatively inexpensive as it uses existing right of way and infrastructure.

3) It is minimally disruptive to other forms of transportation. The only real hindrance is that a car cannot traverse many blocks on Bryant. Access is limited to zones.

4) IT WORKS. Bikes are flowing down Bryant every day. Cars co-exist on the street because people 'change gears' on the 'bike boulevard' I've never seen speeders like I see on other streets. a) because of the visual clues and traffic calming b) attitude and c) through traffic diversions

13 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 19, 2015 at 2:27 pm

An East-West bicycle route at Matadero Creek (through Midtown) has been proposed but apparently stalled due to NIMBY resistance. This route would go all the way from the Baylands to the California Avenue Caltrain station. Hopefully this project can proceed at some point. Midtown badly needs a child-friendly East-West bicycle route.

9 people like this
Posted by Wise Woman
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2015 at 2:28 pm

The dog and I walk on the Adobe Creek bridge in southern Palo Alto, between Walnut Grove and Greenmeadow residential areas. This bridge has been a part of the bike route for a long time, gradually drawing more and more bikers who bike to work.

The pathway is a narrow asphalt-paved pedestrian bridge with an approach on either side, with barely enough room for passing traffic, and complicated by a mix of pedestrians, grade school bikers and adult bikers. In fact, the width on the bridge proper is wide enough for only a bike OR a pedestrian. Not both safely. Some bikers do announce their presence behind me with an "excuse me" but many do not. The dog and I then scurry to the side dirt areas.

This was never meant to be a high traffic bridge route for bikers. But, at some point, the city fathers removed the bar structure that required bikers to walk or slowly guide their bikes through. That was a poor decision. Many also pay little heed to the signs that are posted to warn them of cars, pedestrians as well as speed.

The combo of pedestrians interested in exercise and enjoyment, along with parents, grandparents, and nannies pushing strollers, grade school bikers and commuter bikers does not make sense for a major bike route.

The dog and I were practically creamed when a "tour de France" biker leaned into a blind corner at Ely and Duncan, at high speed and on the wrong side of the street. No, sir, you do not do that in a neighborhood. Or anyplace else.

Yes, biking transportation is a critical part of our city. But, let's choose the route wisely. And, figure out how to make sure that pedestrians are protected. A bike probably can do more damage to a pedestrian than vice versa.

5 people like this
Posted by Spread the word
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2015 at 2:36 pm

How about we spread the word; all these commuter bicyclists use Middlefield, Alma and El Camino. Don't they know anything or they just using google maps/biking as the crow flies. Better to arrive safe than sorry. Use Bryant knuckleheads.

7 people like this
Posted by Matt Austern
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Nov 19, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Sounds useful! Especially the improved intersection at East Meadow; a "bike boulevard" that crosses a street with fast-moving automotive traffic, where the cars don't even have to stop, has always been a bit of an embarrassment. Improvements on the route between East Meadow and San Antonio, especially making the route clearer and easier to find, will also come in handy. Currently the bike route that gets to Bryant from the south involves an awful lot of winding around on neighborhood streets, and it's awfully easy to get confused and lose the route until you've done it a number of times.

I'm a little confused, though, about the mention of 'the new Google development called "The Rails".' That's on the other side of San Antonio, and I didn't see anything in this story about making it safer for bicyclists to ride on or cross San Antonio. Is anything of that sort on the table?

2 people like this
Posted by Meadow Parker
a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 19, 2015 at 3:13 pm

"[M]aditalian_1492," how many bicyclists have killed people in Palo Alto? How many bicyclists have been killed by motor vehicles in Palo Alto?

Strangely enough, sometimes we bicyclists make decisions based on our own safety. I will often enter an intersection during the lag time before my green light appears because the intersection is safest for me when no one is in it. Your aggrieved tone should perhaps be saved for motor vehicles who regularly menace, injure, or kill us bicycle commuters.

And, hey, Silly Me thought it might be so nice to live on a quiet, non-polluted street that I'd be celebrating even higher than normal property values. But clearly you find these qualities oppressive.

In a similar vein, "Spread the word" does not impress with either the name-calling or the highly absent punctuation in the post. Although I use the Bryant Bike Boulevard, do I have this person's permission to use El Camino when I am actually RIDING TO businesses on El Camino, or should I stop patronizing any business that isn't actually on Bryant?

Vera M. Shadle
Bibbits Drive

11 people like this
Posted by DTN
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Related topic: Boise has a great law that Palo Alto should adopt:

(a) Bicycles have the right to treat Stop signs as Yield signs.
(b) Bicycles have the right to treat Stop Lights as Stop Signs.

Bike riders still have to behave and be conscientious. But they are allowed to carefully transit without having to behave 100% like a car. If there is nobody else around, there should be nothing wrong with a bike treating a Stop sign as if it were a Yield sign.

11 people like this
Posted by Matt Austern
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Nov 19, 2015 at 3:41 pm

The Idaho Stop might well be a good idea, but I don't think Palo Alto has the ability to do that. It's a matter of the California Vehicle Code.

Even if Palo Alto could legally do this on its own, it would probably be a bad idea. It would be far too confusing for stop signs to mean different things in Palo Alto than in Mountain View and Los Altos.

Posted by BlackTshirtsmatter
a resident of Adobe-Meadow

on Nov 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Due to violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are only visible to registered users who are logged in. Use the links at the top of the page to Register or Login.

5 people like this
Posted by Bikes everywhere Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Oh my :-)Bryant Street is okay but I really like the bike path next to the train tracks :-) Really surprised no one mentioned how bad the streets in Palo Alto are constructed :-) bumpy/Crazy construction not bike friendly. MENLO streets are so much easier to Pedal actually Atherton's okay too.Really wish Palo Alto would get it together…

May all bikers be safe Especially around the Palo Alto electric car Drivers on their cell phones…

1 person likes this
Posted by Bikes everywhere Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 19, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Oh my :-)Bryant Street is okay but I really like the bike path next to the train tracks :-) Really surprised no one mentioned how bad the streets in Palo Alto are constructed :-) bumpy/Crazy construction not bike friendly. MENLO streets are so much easier to Pedal actually Atherton's okay too.Really wish Palo Alto would get it together…

May all bikers be safe Especially around the Palo Alto electric car Drivers on their cell phones…

6 people like this
Posted by Ronna Devincenzi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2015 at 6:23 pm

If this idea advances, I hope the name of it will be extended too:
The Ellen Fletcher Bicycle Boulevard.

It would be appropriate, because the last time I saw the elderly Ellen riding her bike, she was on Charleston, past San Antonio, heading to the area around Costco. She was a trooper. An admirable lady.

It would be a fitting tribute to her memory, as her name is on the Bryant Street Bike Boulevard, to also use it for whatever extension is built for bicyclists throughout Palo Alto.

6 people like this
Posted by Sal
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 19, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Please please please, NO traffic circles! Cliche as it may be, drivers in the states simply do NOT understand traffic circles, do NOT yield to traffic in the circles in spite of signage directing them to do so, narrows the road for both auto and bike traffic, and most drivers consider them an obstacle to speed around. Traffic planners with bloated egos LOVE traffic circles. Stop signs are effective and safer. I bike commute every day on Bryant, I don't mind the stop signs, but the traffic circle on Bryant a few blocks south of Univ Ave is an intersection best avoided as cars crossing Bryant frequently just blow through. US Drivers simply do not understand how traffic circles work. Please don't wreck a good thing.

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm

One more thing, please don't do this without entering into a dialog with Mountain View. San Antonio is not the Berlin Wall and anyone cycling on this proposed route will want to go further. It is about time these two cities stopped thinking and acting like islands. If this is done, then it needs to be followed through into Mountain View. Get them on board before anything else is done.

Remember Homer Tunnel, think it through before making it useful or it won't be.

5 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 20, 2015 at 12:14 am

RE: the Photo Interesting that one bicyclist is riding in the car lane and the other is riding on the edge of the bike lane. Hey bikers, how about riding in the bike lane. It will be safer for everybody.

Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2015 at 5:02 pm

@ parent
The Matedero Creek idea for East West path has far more problems than those raised by homeowners. Often overlooked, it requires crossing many streets mid-block, which is dangerous in all cases and down right crazy on Middlefield. Plus has to be closed during the rainy season. Given how often people run stop signs on Louis and Ross, for example, how likely are they to stop mid-block even with flashing lights.

@ DTN The Boise rules are state law in Idaho. A great idea!

3 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 20, 2015 at 6:27 pm

Please, please, MORE traffic circles! They save large amounts of fuel and improve traffic flow tremendously. They are a mark of progressive civilization. Let us learn to use them. If Americans can learn to shoot a gun (apparently they think they can), they can learn to yield to traffic in the circle. Might require some extra enforcement work (which, I admit, seems to be in short supply. And yes, the Boise law sounds remarkably rational - let's do it.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2015 at 6:50 pm

I'm all in favor of roundabouts/traffic circles particularly instead of 4 way stops. I don't think I like the idea of Idaho stops, but if necessary I don't see why we can't have specialized traffic signs (a yield sign for bikes with a stop sign for other vehicles) and traffic signals for bikes only. I agree, in school commute times there are steady streams of bikes along Bryant and for those who need to back out of driveways, etc. it must be very difficult waiting for a break in the bike traffic to get out. Similarly, intersections like Loma Verde at Middlefield it can take more than one green light to turn in school commute times.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2015 at 8:54 pm

While improving the Bryant Bike Boulevard, perhaps PA and Mountain View could improve bike access to the San Antonio Caltrain station. Even the short stretch of Alma under the San Antonio overpass is dangerous.

4 people like this
Posted by JustDontDoItWithoutThinking
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2015 at 6:27 am

While is sounds like a good idea overall, it requires both drivers and bikers abide the rules of the road... We need much more enforcement now, much higher fines, and specific concentration on repeating offenders. As it stands now, many cyclists take advantage of laxity of enforcement, causing dangerous situations that are mitigated by traffic lights and stop signs. Until that changes, I rather have everyone stop more often and whine about IT than about HIM/HER being involved in an accident.

5 people like this
Posted by Residents Only
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2015 at 10:24 am

First, I do NOT live on Bryant.

But, in the interest of bike safety, PLEASE make it a "residents only" street, to reduce the number of cars.

Many bike riders, both kids and adults, ride 4-5 abreast down the middle of Bryant. At the same time, though, many car drivers by pass the traffic on Alma by speeding down Bryant. Many residents in Old Palo Alto, Professorville, and south of Oregon use Bryant as a way of avoiding stop signs( other PA residential streets have stops every other block).

What we now have is a lethal combination of bike riders taking up the whole road, and drivers speeding down it. There have been some BAD accidents on Bryant in the past, as a result--even on the weekends.

This is a situation that the city should not allow to continue! The only drivers who should be allowed to drive on Bryant should be the ones who live on Bryant!

2 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2015 at 11:35 am

Disagree with "Residents Only". We are already doing enough for bikes and its great but don't get carried away.

In general, purposely shoehorning cars onto main roads creates congestion. A plethora of "shortcuts" is vital for balancing out the traffic.

Frustrated drivers forced onto congested roads are more likely to do something impulsive, such as turning right at a red light without checking for a cyclist.

So the root cause of danger is road rage caused by congestion.

The #1 priority should be reducing congestion for cars, not creating more of it. "Traffic calming" has a suffocating effect on traffic that is ever-increasing so we can't be in denial of that, we have to prioritize efficiency and smooth traffic flow. The single-occupant cars are not going away and there will only be more of them.

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