Town Square

Post a New Topic

A roadway Odyssey -- Palo Alto-style

Original post made on Aug 18, 2017

While some of my friends binge on their second safaris, cruise European canals or time-share in Hawaii, I consider a trip to downtown Palo Alto an equally grand adventure. For someone living in south Palo Alto, a crosstown sojourn requires strategic planning. Snail-like speed limits, packed parking and a rotating landscape of shops and restaurants present pioneer-like obstacles: The time it takes mirrors the forty-niners' trek West; the lengthening queues of cars lined up at lights make their own modern wagon train.

Read the full guest opinion here Web Link posted Friday, August 18, 2017, 12:00 AM

Comments (14)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2017 at 9:13 am

Thank you for this amusing tale on a Friday morning.

I will only add that the author was quite fortunate to not choose a trash day for her epic journey, as she would no do doubt have had to negotiate bikes in the vehicle lanes as they could not contend with overturned trash cans of all sizes and colors blocking the bike lanes, and of course getting stuck behind the trash can grabbing garbage truck doing its thing while waiting for a break in oncoming traffic to overtake the massive slow moving obstacle!

Posted by The answer is hard
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2017 at 9:40 am

Lots of blame on infrastructure, but in reality the only fix is less cars on the road...and there is the conundrum for people who need to drive.
A bike will fill most gaps nicely for in town trips I've come to learn. Beyond that, you need to get wily. There's a new old saying: Silicon Valley isn't so bad, but you need a good guide.

Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2017 at 10:23 am

As a pedestrian, I have a completely different experience traversing Palo Alto compared to the car-centric writer of this article. Reckless car driving in this city is much worse now than 10 or 20 years ago. I used to see teams of police cars hiding out in church parking lots on Middlefield and Embarcadero and Alma at least a few times a week watching for speeding cars to pull over. Now I see this once a month at best and car speeds are increasing.

Traffic lights on Oregon and Middlefield and Embarcadero have been re-timed to make these streets harder for pedestrians to cross. Some crosswalks have been removed and barricaded. Others now have pedestrian buttons that can take 5 minutes or more to give you a green light. Walking from Midtown to the California Ave Caltrain station now takes me twice as long because of all these car-centric changes.

People wonder why there is so much car traffic around schools? The answer is simple: all the reckless driving and pedestrian-unfriendly street crossings really discourage kids from walking to school anymore. I'm sure the same applies to kids trying to bicycle across busy streets. Traffic signals in this city give pedestrians and bicyclists a much lower priority than car traffic.

Posted by pedestrian
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2017 at 10:33 am

One more thing - car drivers, please come to a complete stop at stop signs and stop lights and look right before you turn right. Most car drivers only look left before turning right, which is a terrible mistake. Many many times, I am half way across the street in a crosswalk when I see an oncoming car run the stop sign or stoplight and then turn right across my path. I try to walk more slowly across crosswalks so I can watch for these reckless drivers and try to dodge them, but if I walk too slowly, the light will turn red before I finish crossing and then I have to worry about cars hitting me from other directions.

Posted by Ride a bike!
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2017 at 11:15 am

Thanks for the amusing article today!

I just want to suggest biking to downtown! There are great bike lanes throughout Palo Alto (and those new green bike paths are great), you can get to downtown as quickly as driving, and there's never a problem finding a place to lock up a bike.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 18, 2017 at 11:44 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Excellent!! I'd entitle this the "Ode to Josh Mello."

Posted by Mark Silverman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 18, 2017 at 12:54 pm

After being coerced into a number of 'vacations' around the world by a somewhat demanding and materialistic spouse, your reportage was refreshing (although a bit mundane at times).

Would you consider conducting a weekend seminar for aging, baby boomer wives who have nothing better to do than finding new and different ways of spending their husband's hard-earned money?

Some folks have told me that I should have gotten divorced years ago but after 30+ years of this crap, I can no longer afford to as a 50/50 split would probably relegate me to an apartment or trailer park.

I would love to see and/or hear of her trudging around the mid-peninsula checking things out (sans the Hermes bag and credit cards).

Until then I can only dream.

Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 18, 2017 at 1:56 pm

Annette is a registered user.

What a wonderful, refreshing, read. Your students must have loved being in your classroom! THANK YOU!

Posted by retired
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 18, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Great idea! Wouldn't mind seeing my wife on a bike pedaling about PA (providing the traffic conditions were safe).

She could stand to lose a few pounds.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 18, 2017 at 7:52 pm

-- Snail-like speed limits, packed parking and a rotating landscape of shops and restaurants present pioneer-like obstacles: The time it takes mirrors the forty-niners' trek West

heh, heh ....

Palo Alto is 4 miles end to end if you drive on Middlefield from Menlo Park to Mountain View.
At 25 mph that is less than 7 minutes ... so, maybe it takes 10 minutes with stoplights and traffic.
Driving in our nice air-conditioned cars, with internet and radio and help just a phone call away.

In the pioneer days if you needed to go to San Jose to pick something up, or God-forbid
San Francisco that might be an all day trip. My, how we take the good things about our time
for granted.

Posted by The Old Wrangler
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 20, 2017 at 1:23 pm

So, so funny
So, so true

I hope, Evelyn, that you are collecting your excellent Guest Opinions for the Weekly and will publish a book.

Posted by Contrarian
a resident of University South
on Aug 20, 2017 at 6:41 pm

So, I guess the alternative would be large unmarked roads with no traffic signals or stop signs anywhere? Sounds like you just want to drive anywhere you want, full speed, at any time of day. Perhaps we could pave the entire city (except for your house and any destinations that you like to visit, of course)?

We could also prohibit anyone except you from driving at the same time you decide to. This would likely require a special city ordinance,

Posted by PK
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2017 at 6:10 pm

This is the reason I moved out of the area, and spent 52 years in Palo Alto, and watching all the changes and not all good. I loved PA, but could not stand to watch all the changes. It became a city I did not want to stay in any more.

Way to much traffic, no parking, way over growth, city streets cannot handle all the traffic. The City was not built
to handle all this, it was a small college town, and now you want to make to something else.

Get back to the basics of life.

Posted by I like to bike.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 24, 2017 at 7:18 pm

I like to bike. is a registered user.

I love bicycling and walking on Palo Alto's lovely, shady streets. It's good for my ancient, arthritic bones. :-)

Less whining, please. These are first world problems. Get out there and enjoy yourself. We are blessed to live in this beautiful place.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

New Palo Alto sushi spot highlights late-night hours and affordable prices
By The Peninsula Foodist | 1 comment | 8,830 views

Farm Bill and the Organic Movement (part 5) Plus: Global Plant Forward Summit, April 18 – 20
By Laura Stec | 23 comments | 4,797 views

Sharing That Just Works
By Sherry Listgarten | 5 comments | 1,766 views