Palo Alto residents worry about dangerous speeding along Bol Park Path

Metal 'chicanes' to be removed within days

Metal fences that cross the Bol Park Path to slow down bicyclists will soon be taken down, to the consternation of some residents and the approval of others, including many cyclists.

The removal of the barriers is the first revision the city plans to make to the popular bike and pedestrian route leading from Matadero Avenue to Miranda Avenue near Foothill Expressway. The metal fences, called "chicanes," at Matadero will be replaced with a low concrete island and markings on the pavement.

Some Barron Park residents fear that now cyclists will speed and, potentially, motor bikers will use the path, endangering persons in wheelchairs, small children and seniors who cannot get out of the way quickly. Others think the chicanes pose a safety hazard and support their removal.

City planning and transportation officials claim the chicanes pose a hazard to some bicyclists, persons with wheelchairs, tandem bikes and bikes with child trailers.

Barron Park historian Douglas Graham said the chicanes were installed after the bike path opened in May 1980.

"Very shortly after the opening, a number of irresponsible motorcyclists discovered the new path, which was long and straight enough that they could reach freeway speeds. Soon they were making runs at night, particularly about 2 or 3 a.m. Some of our houses are only 50 feet from the path. The police were called repeatedly and sometimes chased the motorcyclists, so we had squad cars roaring along the path at night. As far as I know, they never caught them," he said. "I do know that the walkers, joggers and non-motorized bikers were repeatedly terrorized."

The chicanes effectively ended the motorcycle problem for 30 years, he said.

But resident Richard Placone said that some motorcyclists still get through as it is. The chicanes at the path's north side are spaced farther apart. They are not scheduled to be removed at this time, Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello said, as they are not part of the same project.

Placone and a group of residents met with city staff on July 5 to ask that that chicanes be kept until there can be more public input, but staff decided to go ahead with the removal.

In an email, Mello said: "Guidance from the U.S. Department of Justice recommends that the entirety of a public right-of-way should be made accessible when any improvements or modifications are made to that right-of-way."

"Removing the chicanes will provide improvements in terms of safety and accessibility," Hillary Gitelman, director of Planning and Community Environment for the City of Palo Alto, said in an email.

"We are also committed to closely monitoring the situation and implementing other improvements as needed," she said.

Chris Corrao, city senior transportation planner, said during a June meeting with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee that Mello wants to put in a thermal detector for a few months. The detector can tell the difference between motorcycles and bicycles, and staff would be able to track whether motorcycles become a problem on the path.

After the chicanes are removed, the city plans to install the concrete islands, signs, crosswalks and street stencils in early August, Gitelman said.

Placone said that leaves an open window for uninhibited speeding.

"No safety features installed until some unspecified date in August. This means bikers will be free to zip across Matadero as they have been asking to be able to do. Safety takes a back seat in this case to a biker's convenience," he said.

Concern about the chicanes and discussion regarding their removal isn't new. Most recently, former Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez sought to remove the devices in 2011, Barron Park resident Doug Moran said. Because public outreach in this case was limited to some segments of the bicycle community, it created a volatile situation with groups that were not consulted prior to the decision to remove the chicanes, he noted.

Related content:

Palo Alto residents gather to plan future of Bol Park


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14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 15, 2016 at 8:28 am

We do need (or should be extremely aware of a need) for something like this particularly for our teens. Sadly, Palo Alto has very little entertainment that is geared for this demographic. Everything has to be scaled back in the interest of public safety but we seem to forget that thrill seekers will seek thrills and if we don't provide a place for them, they will continue to make their own.

I am not an avid thrill seeker, but I do have family that are and I see that they are just as important a segment of society as those who want a safe quiet place.

Everything that we enjoyed as children is now watered down for our children. We got scrapes, occasionally broke a bone, and it wasn't the end of the world. Trying to make the world a bland place in the interest of safety is preventing adventurous personalities from being challenged.

27 people like this
Posted by speeding
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2016 at 9:17 am

If the problem really is motorcycles, why doesn't the title of the article say that?

"Speeding" sounds like packs of runners or something. Right now, this path seems to get relatively little traffic, except during the morning when kids are biking to school (mostly pretty slowly). The path is too short to attract bicycle racers or whoever else the [portion removed] are worried about.

7 people like this
Posted by Bill Kelly
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 9:52 am

Removing these barriers seems idiotic to me. This is a multi use path used by cyclists and walkers, the place that has the barriers is at a road intersection. Cyclists on the path are often traveling 35 to 45 MPH and motorists who are looking at their phone as they approach this intersection. Allowing cyclists to shoot across Matadero street at high speed seems like a recipe for disaster.

22 people like this
Posted by Thorstein Veblen
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 10:59 am

I walk and bike this path frequently and support the removal of the chicanes. I often appreciate the civic engagement of my BP neighbors but many are beyond reason on this.

Bikes speed elsewhere on the path. And the issue of motorcycles is from 40 years ago and is now moot.

No motorcycle could take this path now without having 10 cell-phone photos of its license plate with the police in minutes.

32 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:07 am

These bicycle traps are a lawsuit waiting to happen. I've seen kids on the way to school crash into them and fall of their bikes. Especially in the morning when groups of kids are riding to school, someone in the middle or back of the group may have a hard time seeing the traps (and also the bollards that are placed on some trails). If a group of kids gets of their bikes to walk through the trap, then a lot of them are standing in the middle of the street waiting for the group to get through, causing a huge safety hazard if a speeding car comes by.

If the problem really is motorcycles, surely there is a simpler barrier that will let bicycles pass through safely but not motorcycles, which are much bigger.

29 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:32 am

So I have been zig-zagging through these (and the one at the end of Paradise) for 20 years, because there were motorcycles 30 years ago??? Good riddance!

9 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 15, 2016 at 11:37 am

Will they also remove the ones at the Cal Ave undercrossing and the Oregon overpass across 101?

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 2:11 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The arguments for not removing these particular chicines has been extensively presented, first on a Barron Park neighborhood online discussion group (BPA-issues) and then in two overlapping blogs by me (links below), including comments (including being cited at the end of this news article). Despite this, the advocates for the removal of the chicanes persist in egregious misrepresentations, ignore crucial other aspects [portion removed.]

"Abusing the ADA & Compromising safety of others for the convenience of bicyclists" (Web Link)
"Amnesia at City Hall" (Web Link)

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE The first comment

I believe that that commenter has conflate the issue of a bicycle pump track included in the concept plan for changes to Bol Park with the bike/pedestrian path that runs through Bol Park and Gunn HS.

The issue of safety here is not "...scrapes, occasionally broke a bone,...", it is a bicyclist getting hit by a car doing 10-20 mph or a small child or senior getting hit by a bicycle traveling at 15-20 mph.

Like this comment
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 3:19 pm

-- The metal fences, called "chicanes," at Matadero will be replaced with a low concrete island and markings on the pavement.

Should have just left it alone.

The barricades work and are more visisble. Someone will crash into and fall and then sue the city if they bump into a curb claiming it is not set up right so some kind of reasonable person did not know what to do when they run into a curb ... it happened before and cost almost two million.

5 people like this
Posted by Virgin heath
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm

[Post removed.]

11 people like this
Posted by greatnews
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm

thank you to the City for taking action to remove this hazard. Can you fill us in on the timeline for path widening and additional improvements? Please outreach to trail users for any future community meetings.

Like this comment
Posted by No More Chicanery
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 15, 2016 at 6:39 pm

"So I have been zig-zagging through these (and the one at the end of Paradise) for 20 years, because there were motorcycles 30 years ago??? Good riddance!"

Yeah. Nobody rides motorcycles today.

4 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Obstacles at the ends of the path will not stop speeding in the middle of the path any more than toll booths on an exit ramp will stop speeding on the freeway. The problem lies elsewhere and so should the solution.

11 people like this
Posted by ChrisC
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2016 at 6:04 pm

One other reason why the barricades are a problem -- they stop anyone riding a larger bicycle from using the path. In particular, bikes towing kids in trailers can have trouble with them, tandem bicycles can't navigate them, and cargo bikes don't fit through them.

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2016 at 9:38 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: ChrisC
There has long been provision for larger bicycles to bypass the southern chicane and the northern chicane supports a larger turning radius, although it usually means a bicycle with a long trailer needs to be walked through that chicane. On the southern chicane, cyclists with the *longest* trailers do need to uncouple.

Despite asking, I have heard no *practical* reason for these bikes with longer trailers not using the bypass. The reasons I have heard are dogma -- having such bikes take even a trivial detour signals they are unwelcome.

Like this comment
Posted by Rider
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2016 at 10:28 am

I know where we're taking the next hooligan ride!
Vroom Vroom

2 people like this
Posted by high school student
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 19, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Removing the chicanes from the Adobe Creek crossing at Creekside drive has been a huge improvement for everyone, despite the same earlier concerns.
For those of you who feel chicanes are a benefit, please ride your bike to Gunn a few times when the students are commuting, and experience what hundreds of students go through every day. The choice becomes obvious.

Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

The purported "high school student from Greenmadow" unlikely has any experience with the chicanes in question: it would be a 1.5mile detour from his route. Additionally, there aren't hundreds of students going through these particular chicanes -- they are located on the western boundary of the Gunn HS attendance area (Web Link : scroll down for HS).
It is the route for a few tens of Middle School and High School students from western Cal-Ventura neighborhood and the western 2 blocks of Barron Park ("tens" based upon personal observations).

Yet another commenter who can't be bothered with basic facts or apples-to-oranges comparisons.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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