Wrong-way drivers creating hazards, neighbors say | News | Palo Alto Online |


Wrong-way drivers creating hazards, neighbors say

Drivers are using oncoming lane on Park Boulevard to get around barriers

Drivers on Park Boulevard in Palo Alto are using an oncoming traffic lane to cut around a road barrier, endangering other drivers and bicyclists on the designated bicycle route, according to Evergreen Park neighborhood residents.

The barricade, which has been in place between College and Oxford avenues for more than 30 years, consists of two "Do not enter" signs and a small concrete island with a tree. It was designed to prevent speeders and commuters from cutting through the quiet residential neighborhood northwest of California Avenue and southeast of the Caltrain tracks. The barricade is followed by five concrete medians in the middle of the road, separating the opposing lanes.

But some drivers are maneuvering around the barrier, driving head-on in the oncoming lane, then crossing over one of the concrete islands to get back onto the northbound lane, nearby residents said. Multiple black tire marks on top of the medians are evidence of where wrong-way drivers have crossed over the very impediments meant to prevent that action.

Neighbors said they have seen city of Palo Alto vehicles going the wrong way down the street.

One sign about 450 feet away, near Cambridge Avenue, warns drivers that Park is not a through street going north. Many drivers don't seem to notice the sign. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, several cars drove past the no-outlet sign and down to the barricade, then, seeing the road was closed, they made a U-turn.

But head-on driving into the wrong lane happens every single day, several residents said.

"It's been happening for years," said Eileen Wall, who has lived on Park since the 1990s.

"The really disconcerting thing is they know they are doing something wrong, so they do it fast. I'm surprised that no one had gotten hurt by now."

Wall said that quite often she sees city trucks go the wrong way, incidents confirmed by other nearby residents. She and other neighbors said such driving is especially dangerous because the street borders Peers Park and the bicycle route is bustling with riders, many of whom are children.

"When my kids were little, I was super furious," resident Amy Friedman said. "It's never stopped."

It's also dangerous for residents who are driving south and for those who are trying to get out of their driveways. Friedman said she encountered a head-on driver just this week.

She lives on the north side of Park, near the islands, so to head south she must exit her driveway, go north and U-turn at the farthest concrete island. As Friedman made the turn, she faced a wrong-way driver.

"I don't expect to see a car in my direction," she said.

The other driver raised a hand as if to say "Sorry" or "OK," she said.

Residents living near the barricade said they aren't sure how the city should remedy the problem. Some proposed the city install better signage; others said it would almost be better to open the street again. But they acknowledged that an opened road would lead to people speeding. They already do with the barrier in place.

Wall recalled when a speeder plowed into her home 15 years ago.

"He hit the barricade and skidded off and went through our wall between the house and our garage in the middle of the night," she said.

Some residents suggested adding wrong-way spike strips, but others said that could be a hazard to bicyclists. Friedman said additional signs or a line across the southbound lane might help. Wall said she hopes the city will reconfigure the islands.

Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello indicated a fix is not being considered.

"From a design and signing/striping perspective, we've done all we can do out there. Increased enforcement is really the only additional tool that we could use at this point, and would have to be considered among competing enforcement priorities," he said in an email.

Palo Alto police Capt. Zach Perron said in an email: "We received a complaint about this issue from a resident on Oct. 30. The same day, we added the complaint to areas in town where our patrol officers will focus on traffic enforcement. We have many such areas throughout the city, and we do our very best to balance competing requests for our traffic enforcement resources.

"While we do not currently staff a full-time traffic team, we still continue to receive all traffic complaints. Our patrol officers do their best between emergency calls and other calls for service to prioritize traffic enforcement, particularly in areas around our schools during the morning and afternoon school commute hours.

"We continue to operate our Traffic Complaint Hotline at 650-329-2388. This is a recorded line where residents can leave details about areas of town where they are seeing frequent violations of traffic laws. To be most helpful to us, residents should include as much information as possible to help us target the area for the appropriate violation at the appropriate time and location (for example, the type of violation, the time of day it is occurring, the days of the week when it is occurring, and a specific location)."


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21 people like this
Posted by Ross Road
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2017 at 9:00 am

I am waiting for the first collision on Ross Road with all the new street furniture.

All drivers, bikes and pedestrians seem confused and annoyed by these.

39 people like this
Posted by Awesome
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 10, 2017 at 9:18 am

I feel blessed to be in a city where this is a news story.

It's truly awesome we're not reading about murders, rapists, robbers and other really awful things.

I would be willing to bet many of the wrong way drivers in fact live in the neighborhood.

Have a great day everyone and go out and thank a veteran.

18 people like this
Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2017 at 12:02 pm

NeilsonBuchanan is a registered user.

Quality always fails without monitoring and adherence to quality standards.

This safety issue is not confined to Evergreen Park. Now is good time for other risks to be highlighted in reader comments.

18 people like this
Posted by Regular Biker
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 10, 2017 at 12:24 pm

I live on Ventura Ave and the barriers on Park (and in College Terrace) are absurd. No other city I've lived in has let Nimbys run so badly amok closing off roads.

17 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Professorville
on Nov 10, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Open the street. Attempts to block traffic on publicly maintained streets are rarely as effective as the residents who don't want others to drive on "their" street would like. Several streets nearby are also closed to through traffic so getting to & from California Ave. from Stanford or College Aves. without using El Camino isn't easy.
Such circuitous traffic control measures are not helpful overall & some of the Peers Park residents also violate the barriers.

2 people like this
Posted by moi
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2017 at 12:36 pm

Apparently these wrong-ways drivers have access to free front-end alignments? Please share your source.

20 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 10, 2017 at 12:54 pm

Those islands were put in to calm the traffic. They should be respected. Get on your bike and you’ll be legal.

We deserve a calm and safe city. Racing through residential streets to avoid traffic and lights is dangerous. I hope the city will instruct its employees to follow the law, too, and please ask them not to sit in cars and trucks with their motors idling.

Last, how about installing cameras that will capture their illegal maneuvers and then hit them hard with fines?

29 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 10, 2017 at 12:56 pm

The city does not have enough police officers to adequately enforce speed limits around town. This is especially hazardous near parks and schools. I encourage the city to hire more traffic officers. Until that happens, I applaud them for using other means to lower traffic speeds to safe levels. There was a fatal collision in front of Peers Park a couple of years ago. I am sure there would be more fatalities if these traffic calming barriers were not in place.

24 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 10, 2017 at 1:27 pm

It's probably not scofflaws, just desperate drivers who finally found an escape route from the Byzantine maze the city set up on Evergreen Park streets decades ago.

18 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Take down the barriers and install the large (slow down) bumps which are on Channing, Louis, etc., etc., throughout Palo Alto. Park dead end is really annoying.

15 people like this
Posted by John Guislin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 10, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Enforcement of traffic regulations (speed, direction & turn restrictions, parking, etc.) has been in serious decline for years. The City recently raised the speed limit on two streets so they could use radar enforcement, but we lack a dedicated Police enforcement team that can cover city-wide problems. We must do better than pay lip service to the abundant traffic issues we face.

The timing of this article is fortuitous; today the Council sent out a request for citizen input into next year’s priorities. Each of us should invest the time to think through the issues that need not just attention but action by the City Council.

Last year the priorities were:
- Transportation
- Infrastructure
- Healthy city, healthy community
- Budget and finance
- Housing

I heard lots of discussion of these issues but saw minimal action and few improvements. So let’s make it easy for Council to focus next year – tell them your number 1 priority is traffic and list specific issues you want addressed. My list might be something like this:

#1 issue – TRAFFIC
- Make safety the #1 priority when looking at any roadway changes
- Make impact on residential quality of life the #2 priority
- Challenge development-generated EIRs that show no impact on traffic congestion
- Collect more data on congestion, speed, accidents, parking demand, etc.
- Set quality standards to evaluate the data collected and evaluate corrective actions
- Fund staffing sufficient to sustain enforcement in all of Palo Alto

Here is the link to provide your input: Web Link

26 people like this
Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2017 at 2:12 pm

There are 5 members of the City Council who do not give a hoot about what Palo Alto residents say. The vote is usually 5 to 4 or 6 to 3; the same 3 care about us residents.

6 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 10, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Lots of concern about unintentional consequences stemming from the Ross Road Blvd. project!
We’re all in davor of more safe walking, biking, and walking but it seems many of living in the neighborhoods missed the planning stage. How did this happen?
As a community is everyone clear about the City’s notification and communication processes. I’ve heard things like, “Everyone was surveyed,” Not me or many others in my neighborhood adjacent to Ross Rd.Or we sent a postcard. Postcard?
Wondering about the “street furniture” are we creating more environmental and unhealthy concrete structures blighting our neighborhoods? Or will these be planted and irrigated?
Will the kids, and the rest of us human beings, going to Palo Verde and across Ross Rd be able to cross safely with stop signs to esse passage?
Are we going to push cyclists and cars together into tight spaces? Or are we going to give people the bike paths away from cars they deserve? We have a lot of street here to work with. Or are the kids going to ride on the sidewalks because they feel safer there and in doing so bump into pedestrians? This is already happening.
Some things feel really, really amiss. Hoping we can come together and sort things out without pitting one human being against another.

5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2017 at 2:42 pm

"Take down the barriers and install the large (slow down) bumps which are on Channing, Louis, etc., etc., throughout Palo Alto. Park dead end is really annoying."

Because -you- think driving is more important than walking and bicycling. Well, -I- disagree.

One of the reasons that I've been living in Palo Alto all these years is the relative island of traffic sanity that it was for a long time. (We are losing it now.). Other reasons are (well, were) the schools, including the relatively disability-friendly school environment (also on the decline recently) and the general level of education and respect for education.

13 people like this
Posted by Hilary
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 10, 2017 at 3:23 pm

These road blocks are pure NIMBY.
The traffic maze in this area and college terrace created by them pushes problems on other streets and neighborhoods. Look at the mess that is Churchill next to Paly — totally unsafe for our kids.

Whole areas of town need traffic analysis and technical solutions to be updated.

21 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Hilary, I disagree. I don't think that -I- am -entitled- to speed through someone else's neighborhood. It is that simple.

And if a neighborhood is a "maze" that I can't figure out-- perhaps I don't belong driving through it.

But, let's be serious here. The real problem on my street, and many others, is lots of speeding, aggressive, through traffic.

Slow down. Share the road (with bicycles and pedestrians).

11 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 10, 2017 at 3:57 pm

No amount of "traffic engineering" is a substitute for not having a single dedicated traffic enforcement police officer. Council allocated a $20 or $30 million budget for improving bike routes. But not the funds for a single budget line for a traffic enforcement officer.

Somewhere in the city's language (municipal code?) is a statement that Palo Alto's streets are to be maintained for the residents and paid for by the residents. Public, yes. But that does not mean that drivers should be able to abuse the traffic regulations with impunity.

Traffic engineering should be a last resort only after demonstrating that at certain points in the city the dedicated traffic enforcement officers have been unable to prevent dangerous driving.

17 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 10, 2017 at 4:06 pm

38 year resident is a registered user.

Regular Biker, Chip (especially Chip) and Curmudgeon have this exactly right. It's nearly impossible to get through this neighborhood without a road map or GPS. Another case of squeaky wheels (neighborhood activists) getting greased by the city council and traffic managers. There is absolutely no reason for this impediment to be placed where it is. Road bumps would be sufficient, just as they are near other parks. Many of these residents are under the false assumption that the street is "theirs," as well as Peers Park.

I was walking my dog across the field a few months ago and got grilled by a neighbor who asked me where my dog lived and why I was using this park to walk her. Geesh !!!

7 people like this
Posted by Edgewood Plaza
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 10, 2017 at 4:42 pm

We have a similar problem at Edgewood Plaza where drivers speed on St. Francise to make the light at Embarcadero, leading to collisions with cars leaving the shopping center. The city is talking about installing improvements to slow the traffic, which makes sense.

As our citywide traffic situation continues to get worsen, we're going to need more and more ways to keep streets safe. I'm glad people are speaking up about the problems on Park.

10 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 10, 2017 at 5:53 pm

I've been surprised a couple times turning left from Oxford onto Park by a car on my right on the wrong side of the road cutting around the barricade. I've seen City of PA vehicles doing the same thing. Apparently, the laws don't apply to them.

It's clear that many drivers do not the sign near Cambridge. There are several things which the city could do to reduce the number of wrong-way drivers. They could paint "Not A Thru Street" in the northbound lane of Park Blvd near Cambridge, where they have the street sign. They could put up a "Do Not Enter" sign at the barricade and paint an arrow aiming toward the barricade in the southbound lane. None of these would be expensive.

5 people like this
Posted by Fairness
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2017 at 9:01 pm

This traffic department never met a problem they wouldn't throw thermoplastic green paint at. I wonder why they won't let you have eome... at least ask them for traffic cameras. You can have our neighborhoods if they won't let you.

18 people like this
Posted by Go ride a bike
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2017 at 9:14 pm


Sorry Rose, I have a bad knee and can no longer ride a bike, also it is raining today. Some how I need to get to work so I can help pay for the absurd street furniture.

Earth to Rose....Earth to Rose. Do you hear me?

4 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 10, 2017 at 10:09 pm

@Go ride a bike

I bike 20 miles to work and back daily despite having a torn PCL and meniscus. Knees are supposed to used, not rested.

8 people like this
Posted by Go ride a bike
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2017 at 11:51 pm

@ bike rider

It is great that you can still ride a bike. ACL MCL, Meniscus shot... Also bad hip.. Obama Care does not work for myself, along with others, consider yourself lucky.

Do you hear me Major Tom?

7 people like this
Posted by Anke
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 11, 2017 at 9:01 am

"I feel blessed to be in a city where this is a news story."

@Awesome, will you feel the same way when a child gets hit by a car circumventing the dead end?

6 people like this
Posted by Amy
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 11, 2017 at 9:20 am

Open the street please!!! With increased traffic, its awkward to close street here and there. That needs to reviewed and updated according to current situation. Such a hassle to go around and around to get there.

8 people like this
Posted by bikermom
a resident of Mayfield
on Nov 11, 2017 at 12:45 pm

Open it up the street and put in speed humps (which don't extend into the bike lanes because they always taper them and make people with cargo bikes almost tip) and add a round about. It seems to be working at the Stanford/Park Blvd intersection. It is a maze. We live close to Peers park and often biker or walk but sometimes we want to swing by on our way driving out and have to weave through the neighborhood. Then is would make it so much easier for me to drive my kids to Escondido School on the days that we drive. Having to go out to El Camino and getting blocked by a line of 11 (I counted one morning) dump trucks heading to Stanford is awful. I wish I could avoid El Camino on our way to school. Now I have to weave through Cal Ave/Evergreen and it's stressful with all of the crazy bike commuters who don't yield. I try to avoid driving down Cal Ave. as much as possible but I live right off of it.

3 people like this
Posted by mj
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 11, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Much of Palo Alto's traffic engineering dates to a time when, under no circumstances, would they install speed bumps.

Unfortunately we all end up inconvenienced when drivers start speeding down residential streets, ignoring the 25 mph speed limit and, as on my street daily, completely ignoring the stop sign.

8 people like this
Posted by PA Grandma
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 12, 2017 at 9:27 am

I have driven on Middlefield in the inside lane of traffic when someone accelerated out from behind me across the center lines, into the oncoming south going traffic because the cars in the north going lanes were not going fast enough for them.

We need speed bumps, AND a functional traffic department.

5 people like this
Posted by StarSpring
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 12, 2017 at 9:55 am

@Ross Road

Someone already ran over the Ross/Corina "Road Furniture" Friday night. Repeatedly, from the look of it. From road diets to anti-idling ordinances the Palo Alto City Council seems to be deliberately fostering a community of scofflaws. . .

2 people like this
Posted by Joe Meyers
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 13, 2017 at 10:05 am

Install one-way tire cutters like they have at car rental lots. Post a sign, "Do not go this way. Severe tire damage." Put one at Everett and Middlefield and one at Hawthorne and Middlefield while you're at it. Design-in covers that protect cyclists but move away when pushed from the wrong way. Have an open space up the middle for cyclists.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 13, 2017 at 11:52 am

I see it every day. Drivers turning right on W Meadow Dr from Park Blvd and u-turning at the island to get to the stoplight. Don't they know by now that they need to turn right on Maclane, left on Second, left on W Meadow?

2 people like this
Posted by Kathy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2017 at 8:17 pm

Open the street and put enough speed bumps in to slow the traffic. I remember the time before the change. I understand the speeding problem, but have never liked this solution, which privatizes the neighborhood. I live on Alma St. and remember when buses could stop curbside. We have seriously lost out as drivers ant trucks hit 50 miles per hour. Why should someone on Park have the right to such extreme protection from traffic, when my residential rights are discarded so completely. We have to back out into that traffic with kids in the back seat!

4 people like this
Posted by mind-boggling
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2017 at 5:40 am

I drove down Ross Rd the other day. I could not believe what I saw. The narrowing of the lanes with the concrete islands makes it impossible for two vehicles to pass and no room for a bicyclist. Also just before an intersection a vehicle turning into Ross would not see another vehicle coming.This is
so dangerous it is just mind-boggling that a City
could do this. While the transportation staff here
has been ruining the City for years now,making
it more dangerous and uglier every day,it seemed impossible but they are breaking new ground here.

5 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2017 at 9:21 am

The only thing the traffic barriers do is divide our community. Maybe that was the intention of the City Manager and his senior management "team" all along. Giving the Transportation Dept. permission to use our city streets as an experiment in traffic control is inexcusable. Obviously the hiring tecniques of the current city manager to run city departments that affect important everyday operations of our city has been detrimental to traffic flow and first responders emergency response times to every neighborhood in Palo Alto. Unfortunately the Transportation Dept. is only but one of the many city departments that have significantly deteriorated due to lack of management. What a pity!

2 people like this
Posted by Driver
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 15, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Speaking about hazards, please can anyone tell me the purpose and practice of the white posts being put in on the bike lanes along Middlefield. I don't mean outside Jordan, but further north. Is it to prevent cars going into the bike lane when they turn right (which in fact is the proper thing to do) or are they to serve another purpose. Thanks.

Like this comment
Posted by They blew it for all
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 15, 2017 at 2:38 pm

They are there to protect cyclists from cars turning into them or pinching them against the curb by driving into the lane when a cyclist is there when making a right turn, which you are not supposed to do. Since so many drivers do it, ignoring safety, they needed to put up these "Idiot sticks"...because of idiots behind the wheel.

2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2017 at 3:07 am

As one who used to use that cut-through was it was legal, I never
liked how they did that, both because it removed a significant
shortcut to the park and California St., and Printer's Inc at the
time, but also because it was done so poorly that any enforcement
would be unfair and arbitrary. Can you find out how many tickets
have ever been given for violating that?

AND, that is not just an ordinary violation, that is probably dumb
kids driving their SUVs over the curb for the fun of it. if I had
to guess.

Either find a way to monitor that lane so that every lawbreaker
is caught and fined equally ... i.e. video camera, or those one-way
driveover spikes, or cut the entire lane out and be done with it.

If that neighborhood wants peace and less traffic, then they should
be willing to pay the price of having to drive all around like the rest of us.

2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2017 at 4:03 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

" ...it removed a significant shortcut to the park and California St., and Printer's Inc at the time..."

It also mindlessly cut off access to Peninsula Scientific, a valued asset for the scientifically-curious of all ages in a then science-oriented town, ultimately driving it out of business.

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