News

Planned bike lane on Cal. Ave. hits dead end

City Council splits over proposal to add dedicated bikeway in the middle of commercial street

Diners eat at tables on the street along California Avenue in Palo Alto on June 25, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

California Avenue has seen more than its share of change in recent years, as Palo Alto leaders spearheaded a streetscape renovation, constructed a six-level parking garage, saw an exodus of longtime establishments like Antonio's Nut House and The Counter and moved to close the street to cars.

One proposed change, however, proved a bit too ambitious on Monday for area merchants and the City Council alike: the creation of a two-way bike path down the middle of the centrally located promenade. The idea, which was proposed by city staff and championed by Mayor Pat Burt, was part of a broader plan to transform the haphazard assemblage of tents and dining tables that today fill the street just east of El Camino Real into something more stable and permanent.

The planned bike lane was part of a broader proposal to create new design guidelines for California Avenue, which is slated to remain car-free for the foreseeable future. But after an extensive debate, the bike path faltered by a 3-3 vote, with Burt and council members Greer Stone and Greg Tanaka supporting it and Vice Mayor Lydia Kou and council members Alison Cormack and Tom DuBois opposing it. Council member Eric Filseth was absent.

The idea also proved to be a hard sell with area merchants and restaurants, even those who generally support keeping California Avenue car-free. Several said Monday they are concerned that bicyclists would undermine the pedestrian-friendly vibe of Palo Alto's second downtown. Zareen Khan, owner of Zareen's, a Pakistani-Indian restaurant on California Avenue, said she would like to see both cars and bicyclists excluded from the commercial trip.

"Many residents, including myself, would love to have a promenade — free of cars and bikes whizzing by — to stroll and shop local," Khan said.

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Lisa Robins, owner of Vin Vino Wine on California Avenue, also suggested that the city's latest plans for transforming the street are too ambitious and potentially detrimental to the commercial district. She said she supported the city's decision to close California Avenue to cars in the early days of the pandemic, a step that she said was critical to supporting local restaurants. But with the city now embarking on a multiyear study to develop a permanent plan for California Avenue, establishing a new bike lane would be premature, she argued.

"Now, just when it seems like we ought to be making a thoughtful transition to permanent parklets and a return to the relatively gentle traffic patterns and open access that we used to have, you've decided to extend what was an emergency closure to infinity, run a bike superhighway down the middle of Cal. Avenue and risk the continued decline of the retail environment of the whole district," Robins said.

But while council members split over the bike path, they reached a consensus on other key issues pertaining to California Avenue. After a debate that stretched for nearly four hours, council members reaffirmed their strong preference to keep both California Avenue and a portion of Ramona Street closed to traffic at least until December 2023. They also moved to ban tents on California Avenue and directed staff to work with restaurants to transition to more permanent structures. And they agreed that dining areas in both districts should have "edge treatments" such as planters or barriers that separate them from the street. All of these guidelines advanced by a 5-1 vote, with only Tanaka voting against the proposal.

The council also directed staff by a 4-2 vote, with Cormack and Tanaka dissenting, to develop a plan to support retailers on California Avenue, potentially by creating a marketing program for the area.

Council members hit a stalemate, however, over the bike lane, which Burt argued would benefit retailers and visitors alike. Creating a designated area for bicyclists in the middle of the street would drive pedestrians closer to storefronts, he said.

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"It becomes clear that bikes go down the center and pedestrians go on the sidewalk," Burt said. "This helps the retailers."

In making a case for a dedicated bike lane, staff from the city's Office of Transportation pointed to California Avenue's important role in the city's bicycling network, with the tunnel at the east end of the commercial area serving as one of the Palo Alto's few rail crossings for people on bikes or on foot.

A cyclists and pedestrians make their way through the California Avenue underpass on June 14, 2018. Photo by Veronica Weber.

"Because of the uneven distribution of bicycle and pedestrian crossings along the rail corridor, particularly to the south … and because California Ave. crosses El Camino Real and reaches Hanover, a gateway to employment sites at the Stanford Research Park, delineating bicycle access through the California Avenue street closure is important for local pedestrian and bicycle circulation, regional employment, and transit access," the report states. "Moreover, the installation of a dedicated bike lane encourages continued bicycling to the closed streets and cycling to adjacent business districts and also connects our residential community via interconnected bike routes while providing for cyclist and pedestrian safety."

But Cormack questioned whether implementing a two-way bike lane would undermine the city's long-term ability to create a more pedestrian-friendly California Avenue with green spaces and plazas in the middle of the street. She suggested that it would make more sense for bicyclists to use Cambridge or Sherman avenues.

DuBois agreed and suggested that approving a new bike path even on a temporary basis would represent a significant deviation from the council's initial vision for California Avenue as primarily a dining area.

"I think biking to Cal. Ave. is fine, but this plan is really a bike path through Cal. Ave.," DuBois said. "When you reach a pedestrian destination, I think walking your bike or parking is fine."

While the bike path idea fizzled, council members showed no appetite for bringing cars back to California Avenue, as some merchants had urged. Mike Stone, owner of the Mollie Stone's supermarket, said the business district is dealing with a "perfect storm" of challenges, including inflation, supply chain issues and rising gas prices and interest rates. Aside from restaurants, he argued, many businesses want to see California Avenue reopen to cars.

"You're shutting off the main artery," Stone said. "Please, for the life of the street, open it. It's hurting more businesses than it's helping."

City surveys, meanwhile, suggest that the street closure remains broadly popular. In a recent survey of more than 600 respondents, including business owners and visitors, 80% said they would like to see the city continue to allow street dining within a roadway that is blocked to vehicular traffic and 75% voiced support for dining on parklets adjacent to a road that is closed to cars. Only 43%, however, favored dining at parklets next to a road that is open to vehicular traffic.

Council member Greer Stone alluded to these numbers and said the council's next objective should be to give both California Avenue and Ramona Street some "consistency" after a period of rapid change and to enhance the dining experience in both areas.

"It's clear the community really loves these closed streets," Stone said.

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Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Planned bike lane on Cal. Ave. hits dead end

City Council splits over proposal to add dedicated bikeway in the middle of commercial street

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, May 17, 2022, 12:35 am

California Avenue has seen more than its share of change in recent years, as Palo Alto leaders spearheaded a streetscape renovation, constructed a six-level parking garage, saw an exodus of longtime establishments like Antonio's Nut House and The Counter and moved to close the street to cars.

One proposed change, however, proved a bit too ambitious on Monday for area merchants and the City Council alike: the creation of a two-way bike path down the middle of the centrally located promenade. The idea, which was proposed by city staff and championed by Mayor Pat Burt, was part of a broader plan to transform the haphazard assemblage of tents and dining tables that today fill the street just east of El Camino Real into something more stable and permanent.

The planned bike lane was part of a broader proposal to create new design guidelines for California Avenue, which is slated to remain car-free for the foreseeable future. But after an extensive debate, the bike path faltered by a 3-3 vote, with Burt and council members Greer Stone and Greg Tanaka supporting it and Vice Mayor Lydia Kou and council members Alison Cormack and Tom DuBois opposing it. Council member Eric Filseth was absent.

The idea also proved to be a hard sell with area merchants and restaurants, even those who generally support keeping California Avenue car-free. Several said Monday they are concerned that bicyclists would undermine the pedestrian-friendly vibe of Palo Alto's second downtown. Zareen Khan, owner of Zareen's, a Pakistani-Indian restaurant on California Avenue, said she would like to see both cars and bicyclists excluded from the commercial trip.

"Many residents, including myself, would love to have a promenade — free of cars and bikes whizzing by — to stroll and shop local," Khan said.

Lisa Robins, owner of Vin Vino Wine on California Avenue, also suggested that the city's latest plans for transforming the street are too ambitious and potentially detrimental to the commercial district. She said she supported the city's decision to close California Avenue to cars in the early days of the pandemic, a step that she said was critical to supporting local restaurants. But with the city now embarking on a multiyear study to develop a permanent plan for California Avenue, establishing a new bike lane would be premature, she argued.

"Now, just when it seems like we ought to be making a thoughtful transition to permanent parklets and a return to the relatively gentle traffic patterns and open access that we used to have, you've decided to extend what was an emergency closure to infinity, run a bike superhighway down the middle of Cal. Avenue and risk the continued decline of the retail environment of the whole district," Robins said.

But while council members split over the bike path, they reached a consensus on other key issues pertaining to California Avenue. After a debate that stretched for nearly four hours, council members reaffirmed their strong preference to keep both California Avenue and a portion of Ramona Street closed to traffic at least until December 2023. They also moved to ban tents on California Avenue and directed staff to work with restaurants to transition to more permanent structures. And they agreed that dining areas in both districts should have "edge treatments" such as planters or barriers that separate them from the street. All of these guidelines advanced by a 5-1 vote, with only Tanaka voting against the proposal.

The council also directed staff by a 4-2 vote, with Cormack and Tanaka dissenting, to develop a plan to support retailers on California Avenue, potentially by creating a marketing program for the area.

Council members hit a stalemate, however, over the bike lane, which Burt argued would benefit retailers and visitors alike. Creating a designated area for bicyclists in the middle of the street would drive pedestrians closer to storefronts, he said.

"It becomes clear that bikes go down the center and pedestrians go on the sidewalk," Burt said. "This helps the retailers."

In making a case for a dedicated bike lane, staff from the city's Office of Transportation pointed to California Avenue's important role in the city's bicycling network, with the tunnel at the east end of the commercial area serving as one of the Palo Alto's few rail crossings for people on bikes or on foot.

"Because of the uneven distribution of bicycle and pedestrian crossings along the rail corridor, particularly to the south … and because California Ave. crosses El Camino Real and reaches Hanover, a gateway to employment sites at the Stanford Research Park, delineating bicycle access through the California Avenue street closure is important for local pedestrian and bicycle circulation, regional employment, and transit access," the report states. "Moreover, the installation of a dedicated bike lane encourages continued bicycling to the closed streets and cycling to adjacent business districts and also connects our residential community via interconnected bike routes while providing for cyclist and pedestrian safety."

But Cormack questioned whether implementing a two-way bike lane would undermine the city's long-term ability to create a more pedestrian-friendly California Avenue with green spaces and plazas in the middle of the street. She suggested that it would make more sense for bicyclists to use Cambridge or Sherman avenues.

DuBois agreed and suggested that approving a new bike path even on a temporary basis would represent a significant deviation from the council's initial vision for California Avenue as primarily a dining area.

"I think biking to Cal. Ave. is fine, but this plan is really a bike path through Cal. Ave.," DuBois said. "When you reach a pedestrian destination, I think walking your bike or parking is fine."

While the bike path idea fizzled, council members showed no appetite for bringing cars back to California Avenue, as some merchants had urged. Mike Stone, owner of the Mollie Stone's supermarket, said the business district is dealing with a "perfect storm" of challenges, including inflation, supply chain issues and rising gas prices and interest rates. Aside from restaurants, he argued, many businesses want to see California Avenue reopen to cars.

"You're shutting off the main artery," Stone said. "Please, for the life of the street, open it. It's hurting more businesses than it's helping."

City surveys, meanwhile, suggest that the street closure remains broadly popular. In a recent survey of more than 600 respondents, including business owners and visitors, 80% said they would like to see the city continue to allow street dining within a roadway that is blocked to vehicular traffic and 75% voiced support for dining on parklets adjacent to a road that is closed to cars. Only 43%, however, favored dining at parklets next to a road that is open to vehicular traffic.

Council member Greer Stone alluded to these numbers and said the council's next objective should be to give both California Avenue and Ramona Street some "consistency" after a period of rapid change and to enhance the dining experience in both areas.

"It's clear the community really loves these closed streets," Stone said.

Comments

Keri
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on May 17, 2022 at 1:39 am
Keri, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 1:39 am

This vote shows that we really need to elect city leaders who understand the benefits of biking for all citizens, whether they bike, walk, or drive. Fewer cars on our streets are a good thing for everyone in Palo Alto. Requiring that bikes travel down the center of a non-motorized road in a demarcated emergency lane as a designated bike path protects everyone, pedestrians and bikes alike. A designated bike path signals to everyone that this is where bikes belong, where bikes must travel, and where pedestrians should look carefully before safely crossing. Suggesting bikes use Cambridge or Sherman, both of which allow street parking, require multiple stops, and do not have bike lanes, is misguided. Do we want everyone who visits Cal Ave to drive a car? Do we want our youth to bike on their own, or do we want their parents driving them everywhere? A city the size of Palo Alto, with our weather, is ideal for biking. Let's get this right while we still can.


SR
Registered user
Community Center
on May 17, 2022 at 6:44 am
SR, Community Center
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 6:44 am

Council got this mostly right.

Let's stop talking about bikes and cars as if they were autonomous. It's "People walking", "People biking" and "People driving".

Two businesses with products that are not very amenable to "People biking": Mollie Stones and Vin Vino want the street configured so "People driving" have good access. Restaurants like Zareens, that rely on office workers who were probably "People driving" when they came to work and will be "People driving" when they go home, feel differently.

For those of us who live in town, do we feel safe as "People walking" or "People biking" through the tunnel after dinner in the dark?


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2022 at 7:25 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 7:25 am

What bike riders forget is that they can often get off their bike an push it down the street! Sometimes it is safer for everyone if they push their bike in a tunnel, through an intersection, or an area that is busy with pedestrians.

The beauty of bikes is that they offer the rider a choice of how to navigate a certain area. They can ride and be classed as a vehicle following the rules of the road, or they can push the bike and be a pedestrian.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2022 at 10:13 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 10:13 am

On California Avenue, there are very generously wide existing sidewalks. There presently is no street space designed for bikes, though many people use Cal Ave as the most direct route to bike commute between the train station and jobs at Stanford Research Park. These people will continue to bike through there and use the local businesses with or without thoughtfully designed facilities. Good grief. Businesses, these people on bikes ARE your customers. Please make sure the designs work for all.

Cal Ave. businesses, create a prominent wayfinding kiosk to help people who visit Cal Ave find your shops and parking. It's not 1950 any more.

Mollie Stone's, I am your customer. I usually bike there because I live about three miles away. Bicyclists will continue to bike through there, as they do now. Design for it. For your customers who drive, provide better navigation information to the new routes. Make a route/parking map, and share it with them via your web site and your advertising inserts. For your customers who bike, you have provided very nice bike parking. Thank you.

Cormack, Filseth and DuBois terms end this year. None of them is running. That's three of seven seats to fill. Let's look for candidates who understand multi-modal transportation. We need to lift up transportation projects and programs that were workhorses and got cut or reduced. We need functional local public transit, projects and programs that make biking and walking safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities--or we will be increasingly snarled up in auto congestion. Our health (and our planet's health) will suffer from the sedentary inactivity of planting our inactive bums in a car all of the time. Walking and biking are HEALTHY activities that keep our hearts, lungs, muscles and bones strong and vital, especially for seniors like me. Our current City Manager, an old-school transportation guy, is the wrong person to lead on this.

Vote for change.


Observer
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on May 17, 2022 at 11:19 am
Observer, Greater Miranda
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 11:19 am

Developing a dedicated bike path on one or both sides of a street parallel to California Ave. could be a much better and much safer option for cyclists and pedestrians as well. If the bicyclists want to shop/eat on Cal. Ave., they can dismount and walk their cycles on that street. If they just want a route to/through the business district from the train to other destinations, that would only require a one-block diversion.


dlundell
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2022 at 11:43 am
dlundell, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 11:43 am

In the proposal that was (thankfully) voted down, the *only* thing allowed on California Ave would be bikes. No pedestrians. The majority of people we’ve talked to are in favor of keeping the street a pedestrian promenade. Is it really a huge hardship for bikers to park their bikes and walk to their destination restaurant or store?

Also, a 2-way bike thoroughfare with multiple pedestrian crosswalks would be asking for collisions. Very few bikers stop at stop signs (which is against the law). They’re hardly going to pay attention to multiple crosswalks.

If California Ave is to be closed to cars, it should be open to pedestrians.


MyFeelz
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on May 17, 2022 at 11:54 am
MyFeelz, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 11:54 am

And once again, no consideration for those who are differently-abled. I didn't get the survey and I am apparently the only person in Palo Alto who cannot traverse Cal Ave due to the inaccessibility I face on a daily basis. And before you start banging your drums about I should get a bike (lol) the fact that I cannot isn't the only thing that makes Cal Ave inaccessible to many disabled folks. It used to be a public street, paid for by everyone's taxes. Now, the city wants to circumvent the intention of that public street that used to be accessible to EVERYONE, and turn it into an exclusive enclave only accessible to those who are supremely able. The retail establishments along the way will eventually close, but by then Cal Ave will be known as "Food Court On The Street" or something similarly catchy. The City is misguided in their appropriation of a public street and I think soon they will learn the consequences of their actions.


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 17, 2022 at 11:57 am
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 11:57 am

By having a two way bike lane, you are defeating the whole purpose of a pedestrian friendly walking street!! People come down to walking streets for all sorts of reasons, not only to eat or shop! How about gathering spots with shady trees and benches in the middle of the street? Or is there a master plan to open the street to cars again in the future??


funky
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2022 at 12:10 pm
funky, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 12:10 pm

It really doesn't matter if there is a bike path or not. Bike riders will ride their bike wherever they want. I've seen bike riders riding bikes on the sidewalks and down the middle of the close portion the CA Ave. There are clearly signs telling bike riders to walk their bikes through this area. The biggest problem is the underpass under Alma. There are two signs on each entrance telling bike riders to dismount when there are pedestrians present. If you take a look at the picture above, you will see pedestrians walking and a bike rider towards them... a clear violation. There are also painted bike lanes for bikes that they city has provided on the east side of the tunnel, but the bike rider insist of using the sidewalk, instead of the bike lane. A clear violation of state law. I have complained to numerous people in city hall (including the police) about the situation over the last 7+ years. They have taken no action. I'm really happy to see so many people riding their bikes. but it is irritating to see the lack of concern of the safety of pedestrians. (BTW... This appears to be only a problem in Palo Alto, as I see bike riders in Mountain View and Menlo Park being more polite.)


Green Gables
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 17, 2022 at 1:10 pm
Green Gables, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 1:10 pm

The bikers can walk their bikes where CA Ave is closed or, like cars, pedal on the other streets. Put a cop on the street and ticket those people if they don't behave. Good grief, no wonder very little gets down in Palo Alto.


SRB
Registered user
Mountain View
on May 17, 2022 at 1:54 pm
SRB, Mountain View
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 1:54 pm

Nobody in their right mind would propose bike lanes through Stanford Mall's pedestrian areas....it would ruin everyone's "promenade" experience. Same should go for Cal Avenue or Castro in Mountain View.

Cities should have more promenades/outdoors plazas and more bike lanes....just not both at the same place.


M
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2022 at 2:10 pm
M, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 2:10 pm

What seems to be missed is that California Avenue is a bike lane end to end, before and after the shopping district. Its not just a "destination" for those of us who commute daily on our bikes. More importantly, gutting a link in this long-standing bike route at its most dangerous point -- the crossing at El Camino -- is reckless. Telling people to just take unprotected streets and find their way across El Camino instead shows how little some Council members think of bike commuters.

Having been knocked down three times on supposed protected streets with bike lanes in Palo Alto, I would have hoped the Council would have voted to require some bike corridor past the shopping district, rather then just disparage bike riders and them the to find their own path.


Ferdinand
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 17, 2022 at 2:16 pm
Ferdinand , Barron Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 2:16 pm

I appreciate our city council debating the pros/cons of a Cal Ave bike lane and am glad there is some disagreement on it. As someone who cycles almost everywhere for errands, exercise, work, and pleasure I love being able to cycle right up to the door of my destination. However, if our goal is to design a pedestrian-safe boulevard, we need to consider a variety of designs that handle the complexities when peds and bikes intersect. Regardless of law, my personal “vehicle operation philosophy” dictates that the burden falls on whomever can do the greatest harm, so cyclists bear the greatest burden when intersecting with peds and animals, and cars bear the greater burden when mixing with bikes, peds, and animals.

Here are 2 scenarios I could envision and enjoy—haven’t thought through all the problems:
- developing the alleys behind Cal Ave: smooth the pavements, add beautiful greenery/planters, some murals, little pockets for parking, easy back door access to stores, and thoughtful entries up to Cal Ave with a small bike parking area similar to the ones outside Izzy’s and Country Sun (perhaps one near Kali Kitchen side and one near Zareens?); these could introduce new little cultures for shoppers. Possibly add a yield sign for bikes entering these alleys if helpful.
- bike lane on Cal Ave: alternate eating areas (some on R side of street some on L) to allow greater space between the tables and the bike lane; make the past slightly winding to prevent a cycling speed zone; include fences/physical barriers so unsuspecting peds don’t get flattened!
Also agree with "Green Gables," have a transition period with some police reminders to change habits.


staying home
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 17, 2022 at 2:27 pm
staying home, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 2:27 pm

Not sure why we can't build on the current traffic pattern for bicycling andput the emphasis on Stanford Ave. Cal Ave on the north east side of El Camino is a shopping/eating destination with lots of cross walks and pedestrian traffic. Cal Ave on outh west side of El Camino is mostly residential and dead ends before connecting to any other location. It's not a thoroughfare. Whereas Stanford Ave connects to Juniper Serra, passes Nixon elementary, and has Peers Park and the dish at either end. It is also a good route into Stanford campus via Bowdoin and Escandido

agreeing with the comments above, putting a traffic lane for bikes down the middle of a pedestrian area is asking for trouble.


Evergreen Park Observer
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2022 at 3:51 pm
Evergreen Park Observer, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 3:51 pm

Thank goodness this was defeated. There is barely any room to walk down the street as it is. The Council has allowed restaurants to take over not just the parking space areas, but almost all of the street. The farmers' market on Sunday is now an obstacle course, and I noticed fewer merchants there all the time. You cannot walk down the sidewalks -- that's where you have to dodge waiters trying to serve the customers on the street. I agree that if you are walking down the street, you cannot see the merchants on either side. But, no one seems concerned about those people anyway. If they did, they would open the street back to cars as has been done in Menlo Park and Los Altos. Goodbye, Mollie Stone (inronically, the neighbors will just have to drive to the grocery store with it gone), Cobblery, Leaf and Petal, the optical place, etc. I will miss them as they add a lot of character and vitality to the street. I don't know when the Council will realize that a lot of the most vocal supporters of a closed California Ave are not Palo Alto residents. You can automatically send an email to the Council just by scanning a QR code on restaurant windows or menus.


Evergreen Park Observer
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2022 at 3:55 pm
Evergreen Park Observer, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 3:55 pm

Dear Staying Home (who apparently lives in peaceful Crescent Park),
If you would like to send floods of bicyclists down Stanford (along with the heavy traffic from Stanford University), I suggest that we divert hordes of bicyclists down your street and see what the experience is like. Stanford Ave is a residential street, too, with people who live there. Some bicyclists -- just like many car drivers -- do not stop for pedestrians, stop signs, or other mere mortals that are not as noble as they think they are. My daughter was hit by a bicyclist, and my husband and I have had to jump back from neighborhood crosswalks to avoid a speeding bicyclist who had no intention of stopping. Stop signs? Forget it -- those are too much trouble for the uber-fit and healthy bicyclists.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2022 at 4:01 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 4:01 pm

There is a certain arrogance when drivers expect to be able to drive right up to where they are going and expect to be able to park outside. There is a similar type of arrogance when bike riders also expect to be able to ride their bikes right up to where they are going and expect to park their bike outside.

Unless a particular business is a drive thru, there is an arrogance of expectation that anyone should not have to walk the last few yards to their destination. Yes of course handicap parking should be the nearest to the door, but even those parking spots should not trump pedestrian access.

It bothers me when pedestrians are considered last in the car v bike discussions. Pedestrians are all of us when we are not in our cars or on our bikes. Additionally, they may be people with walking frames, parents with toddlers, pregnant women, deaf or blind, or a host of others.

Mixing bikes with pedestrians is as wrong as mixing bikes with cars, or cars with pedestrians. Many of those who ride bikes ride at speeds faster than the average toddler who is trying to escape or a senior citizen with hearing problems. I think bikes should be encouraged to slow down and even dismount on pedestrian areas. Shouting they are passing is not the same as being courteous to other users who may not hear their shout.

I am very pleased there will not be anything to encourage them on the middle of Cal Ave. I am not a bike hater any more than I am a car hater. But I do think there are places where bikes are not welcome.


Joe
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2022 at 4:34 pm
Joe, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 4:34 pm

I'd like to know more about the proposed diversion the council reportedly wants to add through Cambridge or Sherman. Cal Ave is one of the main bike routes in the area, connecting the Caltrain station, Caltrain/Alma underpass, and the Park bike boulevard to College Terrace, the Stanford Research Park, and numerous places in between, through one of the only (relatively) safe crossings of El Camino. It's continued to serve that purpose even while closed to cars. So the council is talking about substantially rerouting existing bike traffic in a way it hasn't done previously. What's the plan?

Cambridge has painted parking slots and a turn lane but no bike lane; will the El Camino crossing be redesigned with a dedicated bike waiting area, a button to trigger the signal, sensors? Sherman doesn't even have a crossing at El Camino; is the city planning to add a new light there, or an underpass, or what? Or are they going to keep the main bike traffic crossing El Camino at the Cal Ave intersection (which needs a redesign regardless of all this) but then divert it immediately to the side streets through the alleys behind Citibank and TechCU? Do these changes to the El Camino intersections require coordination with some higher-up agency like Caltrans since it's a State Route? What's the plan?


Annette
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 17, 2022 at 7:40 pm
Annette, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 17, 2022 at 7:40 pm

I LOVE the photo that accompanies this story. The tunnels is, ostensibly, a WALK YOUR BIKE zone. The cyclists are ON their bikes. This resonated b/c the last time I walked through that tunnel I nearly got smacked from behind by two spandex-clad guys on slick bikes. I didn't get hit because I stepped aside.

Since Palo Alto pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers have not yet figured out how to share the road I think CC made a good decision last night.


Cedric de La Beaujardiere
Registered user
Barron Park
on May 18, 2022 at 2:51 am
Cedric de La Beaujardiere, Barron Park
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 2:51 am

For the record, the cyclist in the photo actually IS walking his bike. While his butt is still on the seat neither foot is on a pedal: one is planted on the ground, the other foot is just lifting off.

It seems to me that as Kerri first suggested, an emergency lane down the center of Cal Ave would be prudent, as it is currently impossible to send an ambulance or fire truck though the area which is closed to cars. This emergency lane would be a natural safe location for bikes, and their speed can be regulated and enforced with a posted speed limit, like 10 mph.

Currently while there are signs at either end to "Please Walk Your Bike", this is not a legally binding restriction, and many cyclists ignore it. I ignore it, but I ride carefully and at a slower speed, being watchful for pedestrians of all ages and abilities who may appear suddenly from behind one of the dining tents. The current meander of tents and barriers is less safe than a straight clear path because there are places you can't see if there's a pedestrian or bike around the corner.

As several people noted, Sherman does not even cross ECR. Cambridge does and has a traffic signal, but then it is obstructed at the next block up. California Ave serves multiple destinations and connections both east and west, in addition to the shops and restaurants within the area closed to cars.

Expecting bicyclists to walk their bikes through there or detour 2 blocks (to Cambridge and back) is not realistic. You may wish they would but they just aren't going to do it. I suspect that changing the law to require cyclists to walk their bikes in the road would be legally difficult as long as the road is still technically a road and not a permanent plaza, but that setting a reasonable speed limit would be more feasible.

I am a lifetime Palo Alto resident and cyclist, who frequently supports the locally-owned businesses of California Ave.

Given people do bike on Cal Ave, care should be taken to make it safe for all modes.


funky
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2022 at 9:38 am
funky, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 9:38 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere... the signs tell the bicycle riders to DISMOUNT their bikes. The city even put a picture showing the rider off their bike and the bike being walked on the signs. The bike rider in the picture above has not dismounted. The city passed this law back in March of 2018. As for your comment... "Currently while there are signs at either end to "Please Walk Your Bike", this is not a legally binding restriction, and many cyclists ignore it. " This kind of attitude is what frustrates so many of people. I ride a bike and I follow the signs and laws. I wish other bike riders would follow signs and laws. We are all sharing the road, and the laws and signs take into account everyone's safety. We all have a responsibility of following the signs and laws.


staying home
Registered user
Crescent Park
on May 18, 2022 at 9:57 am
staying home, Crescent Park
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 9:57 am

@Evergreen Park Observer: As you shared, Stanford Ave is already a heavily used bike route. Creating lanes there would improve safety. And just to give you another thing to be upset about, bicycles can treat stop signs as a yield if there are no vehicles/pedestrians nearby. That doesn't excuse a bicyclist nearly hitting you though.


dlundell
Registered user
Evergreen Park
on May 18, 2022 at 11:06 am
dlundell, Evergreen Park
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 11:06 am

funky wrote:

"And just to give you another thing to be upset about, bicycles can treat stop signs as a yield if there are no vehicles/pedestrians nearby."

No they cannot. The bill to make this legal was vetoed by Gavin Newsom.

Web Link

And Cesric wrote:

"his emergency lane would be a natural safe location for bikes, and their speed can be regulated and enforced with a posted speed limit, like 10 mph."

And:

"Currently while there are signs at either end to "Please Walk Your Bike", this is not a legally binding restriction"

Approximately zero cyclists currently walk their bikes on California Ave. And very few would obey a speed limit sign.


Rose
Registered user
Mayfield
on May 18, 2022 at 9:58 pm
Rose, Mayfield
Registered user
on May 18, 2022 at 9:58 pm

I'm not sure anyone mentioned climate change. We are trying to encourage residents to ride their bikes to reduce traffic and emissions. Cal Ave has been one of the few east/west through streets for bikes and pedestrians. There aren't any safe alternatives for bikes traveling east or west through the El Camino and Cal Ave intersection. How would a biker safely get to Cambridge or Sherman? It just doesn't work unless there is a major overhaul. It's lovely to have outdoor dining but you've ruined an east/west bike and pedestrian throughway and that's not good for Caltrain either.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 21, 2022 at 12:46 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 12:46 pm

If part of Cal Ave is to become pedestrian only, then time to remove the parking on Cambridge to provide a dedicated striped bike route in both directions and slow the timing of the traffic lights at both Cal Ave and Cambridge to allow more time for for people crossing El Camino at Cambridge. Whether by car, bike, or foot.

The Cambridge El Camino interesection has long been dangerous with cars that get through a green light on Cal Ave gunning to make the Cambridge light even after it has turned red, as well as cars making a right from Cambridge onto El Camino not noticing people on bikes.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2022 at 4:01 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on May 21, 2022 at 4:01 pm

As an aside, how about now is the time to reopen the tunnel under El Camino nearby.


eileen
Registered user
College Terrace
on May 23, 2022 at 8:56 am
eileen , College Terrace
Registered user
on May 23, 2022 at 8:56 am

The middle of California Avenue can be shared by both walking pedestrians and bikes like any other walking street. I have been all over the world and this is how it is done.

A walking street is open in the center for pedestrians, benches, strollers, and bikes, and wide enough for service vehicles.

Restaurants have their tables right outside their entrance. There is no need for a sidewalk because the sidewalk is in the middle of the street!


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