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City pushes the pedal on new bike projects in south Palo Alto

Plan includes lanes for cyclists at East Meadow Drive and Fabian Way

Click on the icons and line above for more information about Palo Alto's plans for bike improvements.

After a brief interlude, Palo Alto is preparing to resume its effort to expand the citywide bikeway network, with a particular eye toward the city's south end.

The City Council voted on Monday night to kickstart three new bike projects when it endorsed a community engagement process for improvements on segments of East Meadow Drive, Fabian Way and the Waverley path. The improvements include reconfiguring Fabian Way to create a bike path in each direction, possibly by removing a car lane between East Meadow Drive and East Charleston Road, and installing a protected bike lane on East Meadow Drive by potentially removing some parking spots.

The city also plans to widen and smoothen the Waverley bike path, which is located on Palo Alto Unified School District property between East Meadow and East Charleston.

The three projects are the city's first major effort to boost its bike facilities since its contentious revamp of Ross Road in 2017, a project that included a new traffic circle on East Meadow Drive as a central component. While some lauded this project for giving bicyclists more space, others criticized the city for inadequate outreach and slammed the design for pitting cars against bikes at the new roundabout.

Staff hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls of the Ross Road misadventure with its new suite of projects, which were boosted by a $919,000 Santa Clara County grant through the Vehicle Emission Reductions Based at Schools program. The city expecting to kick in another $781,000 toward the project.

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By focusing on the East Meadow Drive and Fabian Way area, the council is shifting its plans for a dynamic neighborhood long known for hazardous biking conditions. The projects also seek to link the neighborhood to the city's bike bridge at Adobe Creek, currently under construction, and the recently enhanced Charleston-Arastradero corridor.

"The project will capitalize on our investment in the bridge and on our investment on the nearby Charleston corridor," Sylvia Star-Lack, the city's transportation planning manager, said Monday.

It is also expected to benefit the students who bike to various schools in this area — including Gunn High, JLS Middle, Fairmeadow Elementary, Hoover Elementary, The Girls' Middle School and Kehillah Jewish High — as well as visitors to the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center on Fabian Way.

Star-Lack noted that East Meadow is a popular bicycle route and that upgrades to this roadway and others in the project needed to accommodate the spike in traffic at the start and close of school days. Currently, bike lanes are immediately adjacent to car lanes, with no buffer between them. On Fabian Way, some people refuse to bike at all.

"Given large crossing distances, the big volumes of traffic and the current lane configuration … riding on or crossing Fabian Way as part of a walking or biking school commute for children was a challenge," Star-Lack said. "Parents have told us that they wouldn't bike to school from here because of poor bicycle facilities."

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The council strongly supported the grant-funded effort, with Vice Mayor Pat Burt pointing to Fabian Way's proximity to San Antonio Road and citing the difficulty of commuting by bike in the area. Council member Greg Tanaka, a frequent bicyclist, concurred that the area poses a challenge for people trying to get around without a car.

"I think the idea of a protected bike lane makes a lot of sense," Tanaka said. "I think the process of trying to get community engagement and buy-in is really important."

With the council's support, transportation staff is now preparing for months of community meetings, online surveys, public notices and virtual tours to solicit feedback about the details of the new bike-improvement plan. The initial round of outreach will stretch through the spring, with the city planning to release initial designs by September. The city would then commission engineering plans in spring 2022 and conduct further outreach before moving into the construction phase in early 2023.

"What we want to do is present different options to the public, and talk with them and find out what they react well to," said Philip Kamhi, the city's chief transportation official.

Concurrently, the city plans to commission an update to its Bicycle and Pedestrian master plan, a broad document that the council approved in 2012 and that paved the way for recent bike improvements on Bryant Street, Louis and Greer roads and Amarillo and Moreno avenues.

Some council members suggested that staff continue to explore other parts of the city for bike improvements, including El Camino Real and Park Boulevard. The reason staff is recommending moving ahead with the south Palo Alto projects is because, unlike other proposals, it has the grant funding in place to actually proceed with construction.

Tanaka underscored the importance of improving El Camino and strengthening the city's connections to Menlo Park and Mountain View, a project that the city hopes to pursue in the near future, Kamhi said. Adding multimodal improvements to the city's existing plans for El Camino would likely make the project potentially eligible for future grants from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, he said.

Kamhi noted that other neighboring cities are now exploring El Camino improvements and that Palo Alto will likely do the same.

"Biking along El Camino Real is a pretty scary thing to do," Tanaka said. "Even for someone who bikes a lot, it's pretty scary."

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City pushes the pedal on new bike projects in south Palo Alto

Plan includes lanes for cyclists at East Meadow Drive and Fabian Way

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jan 26, 2021, 1:42 pm

After a brief interlude, Palo Alto is preparing to resume its effort to expand the citywide bikeway network, with a particular eye toward the city's south end.

The City Council voted on Monday night to kickstart three new bike projects when it endorsed a community engagement process for improvements on segments of East Meadow Drive, Fabian Way and the Waverley path. The improvements include reconfiguring Fabian Way to create a bike path in each direction, possibly by removing a car lane between East Meadow Drive and East Charleston Road, and installing a protected bike lane on East Meadow Drive by potentially removing some parking spots.

The city also plans to widen and smoothen the Waverley bike path, which is located on Palo Alto Unified School District property between East Meadow and East Charleston.

The three projects are the city's first major effort to boost its bike facilities since its contentious revamp of Ross Road in 2017, a project that included a new traffic circle on East Meadow Drive as a central component. While some lauded this project for giving bicyclists more space, others criticized the city for inadequate outreach and slammed the design for pitting cars against bikes at the new roundabout.

Staff hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls of the Ross Road misadventure with its new suite of projects, which were boosted by a $919,000 Santa Clara County grant through the Vehicle Emission Reductions Based at Schools program. The city expecting to kick in another $781,000 toward the project.

By focusing on the East Meadow Drive and Fabian Way area, the council is shifting its plans for a dynamic neighborhood long known for hazardous biking conditions. The projects also seek to link the neighborhood to the city's bike bridge at Adobe Creek, currently under construction, and the recently enhanced Charleston-Arastradero corridor.

"The project will capitalize on our investment in the bridge and on our investment on the nearby Charleston corridor," Sylvia Star-Lack, the city's transportation planning manager, said Monday.

It is also expected to benefit the students who bike to various schools in this area — including Gunn High, JLS Middle, Fairmeadow Elementary, Hoover Elementary, The Girls' Middle School and Kehillah Jewish High — as well as visitors to the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center on Fabian Way.

Star-Lack noted that East Meadow is a popular bicycle route and that upgrades to this roadway and others in the project needed to accommodate the spike in traffic at the start and close of school days. Currently, bike lanes are immediately adjacent to car lanes, with no buffer between them. On Fabian Way, some people refuse to bike at all.

"Given large crossing distances, the big volumes of traffic and the current lane configuration … riding on or crossing Fabian Way as part of a walking or biking school commute for children was a challenge," Star-Lack said. "Parents have told us that they wouldn't bike to school from here because of poor bicycle facilities."

The council strongly supported the grant-funded effort, with Vice Mayor Pat Burt pointing to Fabian Way's proximity to San Antonio Road and citing the difficulty of commuting by bike in the area. Council member Greg Tanaka, a frequent bicyclist, concurred that the area poses a challenge for people trying to get around without a car.

"I think the idea of a protected bike lane makes a lot of sense," Tanaka said. "I think the process of trying to get community engagement and buy-in is really important."

With the council's support, transportation staff is now preparing for months of community meetings, online surveys, public notices and virtual tours to solicit feedback about the details of the new bike-improvement plan. The initial round of outreach will stretch through the spring, with the city planning to release initial designs by September. The city would then commission engineering plans in spring 2022 and conduct further outreach before moving into the construction phase in early 2023.

"What we want to do is present different options to the public, and talk with them and find out what they react well to," said Philip Kamhi, the city's chief transportation official.

Concurrently, the city plans to commission an update to its Bicycle and Pedestrian master plan, a broad document that the council approved in 2012 and that paved the way for recent bike improvements on Bryant Street, Louis and Greer roads and Amarillo and Moreno avenues.

Some council members suggested that staff continue to explore other parts of the city for bike improvements, including El Camino Real and Park Boulevard. The reason staff is recommending moving ahead with the south Palo Alto projects is because, unlike other proposals, it has the grant funding in place to actually proceed with construction.

Tanaka underscored the importance of improving El Camino and strengthening the city's connections to Menlo Park and Mountain View, a project that the city hopes to pursue in the near future, Kamhi said. Adding multimodal improvements to the city's existing plans for El Camino would likely make the project potentially eligible for future grants from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, he said.

Kamhi noted that other neighboring cities are now exploring El Camino improvements and that Palo Alto will likely do the same.

"Biking along El Camino Real is a pretty scary thing to do," Tanaka said. "Even for someone who bikes a lot, it's pretty scary."

Comments

coughvid
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Jan 26, 2021 at 5:09 pm
coughvid, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Jan 26, 2021 at 5:09 pm

Ross road is bad, because as a biker (and a driver) you continuously have to weave left and right and at the roundabouts and each intersection, you get forced into the car lane. This is true at the Stanford traffic circles too. I fail to understand why this is a good idea as the cars speed up to make it to the circle ahead of the bike just as the bike is being forced left into the path of the car.

Can a traffic engineer explain the wisdom of this?

Arastradero road is better for bikes, but a zig-zag for cars. I've seen two long sliding, wheel shearing off accidents as people hit obstructions. But, just drive there yourself and look at every single obstruction that can be hit has MULTIPLE rubber and worse strike marks.

IMO: For a real future: Make most roads one way for cars and use the other lane for 2 way bike and small electric transport vehicles.


George Jaquette
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Jan 26, 2021 at 11:32 pm
George Jaquette, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Jan 26, 2021 at 11:32 pm

The Federal Highway Association (FHWA) agreed that the modification to the intersection at Ross Road and East Meadow did NOT conform to roundabout design rules (and also at Ross and Moreno). These shrunken intersections with large concrete circles are neighborhood traffic circles, and the design is inappropriate for the level of traffic that goes through the intersection when school is in session (kids on bikes). It would be great to have real bike lanes on Fabian, but don't forget how hard it is to bike on West Bayshore (to get to the new bridge, which will be a great improvement over the tunnel). The "improvements" made a few years ago were badly done -- the intersections that should have been raised (like at Stanford) were simply painted or changed to a different surface, and they do not slow traffic down. I sincerely hope that real bike riders are involved in this design, and that people with real experience implementing bike routes are allowed to review the design before construction starts. We should not make the same mistakes twice.


Neal
Registered user
Community Center
on Jan 27, 2021 at 9:25 am
Neal, Community Center
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2021 at 9:25 am

@coughvid....You are right on! The traffic circles at Stanford are suicide circles. The bike lanes end when entering the circle and cars speed up to make an abrupt right turns in front of the bicyclists. We don't need traffic circles on bike routes.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 27, 2021 at 10:28 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2021 at 10:28 am

I thought we had a budget crunch?? Not excited about this after the messes they've made of Ross, Middlefield, the Stanford circles, etc..

Enough really with the suicide circles and bollards and obstacles in the middle of the roads.


Jonathan Brown
Registered user
Ventura
on Jan 27, 2021 at 10:54 am
Jonathan Brown, Ventura
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2021 at 10:54 am

Easements along creeks, old railroad lines and utility routes represent a ready-made network of paths that could easily be converted into bike-pedestrian-only access that would avoid vehicle-bike and vehicle-pedestrian conflicts altogether. City Council: please include an assessment of this possibility in the update to the Palo Alto Bicycle and Pedestrian master plan. Concerns about privacy and other impacts can be mitigated, but let's see the baseline possibilities, please, so that we can have an intelligent conversation on truly safe routes for bicyclists.


It's Just Ugly
Registered user
Palo Verde School
on Jan 27, 2021 at 12:33 pm
It's Just Ugly, Palo Verde School
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2021 at 12:33 pm

I get the path to the new pedestrain bridge over 101, but its worth your life getting from Charleston across San Antonio Parkway.

I gave up biking to work across this intersection after three near life ending incidents.

You would think this should be a priorty for S Palo Alto bike lanes.

Maybe a traffic circle would help ;)


Context matters.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 27, 2021 at 5:17 pm
Context matters., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jan 27, 2021 at 5:17 pm

Waverley off-road bike path, which is part of this proposed project, badly needs maintenance and widening. It carries hundreds of bikes every day. East Meadow is a primary route for kids going to Fairmeadow, Hoover, JLS, Gunn. Fabian and a portion of East Meadow are used by some Palo Verde students. Some Gunn and private school kids also use Fabian. Many others of all ages will enjoy better connections to the new bike bridge and jobs in that area and connectivity from the new bike bridge into town from other communities. It's great that the city got this grant and they are thinking about how to make these routes safer.

Less criticizing (before the outreach meetings have even happened) and more contribution of helpful comments would be great.

Council approved (7-0) an outreach process, not a project. Citizens have an opportunity to help create a project that works for road users and the neighborhood, so participate!

Creek bed easements were investigated with the last BPTP--not as easy as the person above suggests, but they were considered. Old railroad beds? Does PA have one that is not being used?

To Coughvid-- You don't need to weave. Ross is designed for bikes to take a lane. Place your bike where the chevrons on the painted sharrows direct you, and you won't have to swerve. This will maximize your visibility to drivers who may pass in areas where there are no double yellow lines and there is no oncoming traffic (not hard on a street that carries so little traffic). We can all learn about learn about sharrows and standard road marking here Web Link .


Cal Ave resident
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jan 28, 2021 at 11:22 am
Cal Ave resident, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jan 28, 2021 at 11:22 am

I moved to Palo Alto 20 years ago because it was relatively bike friendly. The city has done hardly anything significant since and it has become steadily worse biking here. I don’t get it. I thought this place was progressive. Instead we get a $50M parking garage and anemic bike plans. It’s flat here. It hardly rains. People love biking. Where are the separated bike lanes?? Where is the bike parking?? Where are the connections to other cities and open space??


CarrieFoster
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 29, 2021 at 12:45 pm
CarrieFoster, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jan 29, 2021 at 12:45 pm

It's great, I like and support such bike projects


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 30, 2021 at 5:23 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jan 30, 2021 at 5:23 pm

Who thinks this type of stuff up? Why are we spending money on a project with questionable value when we have higher priority projects? Is someone getting a kick-back from the road company? Sorry - that is my impression of what happened to Ross Road.

I like the roundabouts in the inner sections because they slow down traffic but all of the other road extensions sticking into the road are an accident about to happen.


Steve Dabrowski
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 31, 2021 at 3:43 pm
Steve Dabrowski, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jan 31, 2021 at 3:43 pm

I would rather see improvements to the road surface on various routes rather than the investment in road furniture and paint on the surface. There are plenty of cross town routes fine for cycling and access however some will shake your teeth out if you use them. For example Park Ave combined with the bike path behind the high school and a couple of streets south of the school will get you from downtown to San Antonio at the Dean area, but through the Ventura area near old Fry's the surface is patch upon patch and a real dread to ride over all the time.

Many of the little used streets offer excellent routes (Ross used too until the safety and organized risk averse community got hold of it) and money keeping them well surfaced and understood would be far better spent than all the bollards and green paint in our little kingdom of Palo Alto.


StarSpring
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 1, 2021 at 9:56 am
StarSpring, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 1, 2021 at 9:56 am

Will someone please name -ONE- US city where this maniacal focus on building adult bicycle infrastructure actually reduced automobile usage? We are underparking development on the theory that if it becomes too painful to use a car, people will, of course, go and buy a bicycle.

I'm tired of the "Field of Dreams" approach to managing the City.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 1, 2021 at 10:18 am
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 1, 2021 at 10:18 am

@StarSpring, excellent point. How can it -- or anything -- reduce traffic when the high-density folks keep pushing to INCREASE the population?

"Is someone getting a kick-back from the road company?"

Interesting question. When one of PA's former transportation "leaders" who had his own transportation equipment company left PPA to "consult" to Los Altos, one poor couple had a year--long legal fight to remove a 24/7 bright blinking light put in front of their house.

I want to know who's got the bollard franchise to put them at every intersection on Middlefield "to improve visibility"" on corners with no shrubbery when all they do is impede through traffic. I live in fear of being rear-ended whenever I have to cross traffic to turn into my driveway.


Amie
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 2, 2021 at 3:31 pm
Amie, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 2, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Hooray! Thank you Council for investing in our low-carbon future and better public spaces for all. This is a great project to help us better negotiate the area no matter what your mode of travel. More bikes means fewer cars so everyone wins!

With a whole lot more folks on bikes (we have lived this awesome phenomenon during covid) and wanting to feel safe riding to more places, this project is a real win. We need to stop judging the quality of our city based on how fast you can drive from one side of town to the other anyway.

As an aside, I LOVE riding on Ross Road and find the roundabouts super-easy to use on a bike and safer than an intersection for sure. I bet those improvements save our family about 400 cars trips last year. We now run errands, to see friends, and to the YMCA entirely on bikes.


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