A new roundabout designed to slow traffic along the Ross Road bike boulevard will be installed over the Palo Alto Unified School District winter break, city officials said in a statement issued Wednesday.
The work will start this week at the intersection of Ross Road and East Meadow Drive. The construction is part of a traffic-calming and safety program for the city's 7.1-mile Neighborhood Traffic Safety & Bicycle Boulevard Project.
Studies have shown that roundabouts are safer than stop signs or traffic signals at intersections with a 75 percent reduction in injury crashes, city officials said. The roundabouts, along with other planned traffic traffic-calming measures, is thought to also discourage cut-through traffic in the neighborhood.
Most of the roundabout construction would be completed by the end of winter recess in the new year, weather permitting. Additional finishing work such as landscaping, signage and striping will be installed in the months ahead, according to the city's statement.
Many student bicycling to and from school were forced to make unsafe left turns at East Meadow Drive, often while high-speed vehicles approached, city officials said. In roundabouts, drivers and cyclists must both yield to any vehicle, including bicycles, that is already in the roundabout. Bicyclists will be able to more easily and safely navigate the turn, city officials said in the statement.
Bike boulevards are safer and more pleasant for cyclists and pedestrians, Christy Moision, of Fairmeadow Safe Routes to School, said in the statement.
"I am looking forward to the roundabout at Meadow and Ross, which is an intersection my children cross every day on their way to and from school. I know the Safe Routes team has long been aware of the difficulties at that intersection, particularly during school-commute times. The roundabout will decrease points of conflicts between cars and bikes, and help lots of elementary, middle, and high school students stay safe on their way to school," she said.
The city started construction on Phase 1 of the bicycle boulevard project in September along Ross Road. The project is designed to calm motor vehicle traffic; ease bike travel and enhance pedestrian safety by using speed humps; curb extensions; raise intersections and improve roadway markings, city officials said.
But the city's efforts hit a snag earlier this month after a number of residents said they were surprised by the changes on Ross Road, including concrete curb extensions, speed bumps and other concrete structures that make the lanes narrower. Some said they were not adequately notified about the project and construction.
City staff is now expanding its community outreach on the project with more one-on-one conversations with neighborhood residents; plans include a future town hall meeting in early 2018 and mobile bicycle coffee carts along the route to have opportunities for dialogue regarding the project, officials said.
The Palo Alto City Council adopted the 2012 Bike and Pedestrian Transportation Plan, which identified creating bike boulevards as part of a citywide strategy to increase bike usage as a alternative to driving a car. Palo Alto has the third highest rate of commuter bike ridership in the United States, with 8.5 percent of the population riding a bike to work, according to the city. Additional bike boulevards would provide better connections for bike commuters, increase bike usage and reduce traffic congestion, city officials said. More than 216,000 bikers a year ride on the Bryant Street bike boulevard, the city noted.
More information on the project can be found at cityofpaloalto.org/bikepedsafety. The page includes a street-by-street construction map, FAQ and links to videos on bike boulevards and traffic-calming devices.
For additional information, questions or concerns, residents can contact Community Relations Manager Sarah Ratliff at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 669-225-1617.