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)."