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Does the City think destroying traffic circulation encourages biking?

Original post made by citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 16, 2019

How codified is the impetus at City Hall to make driving harder, slower, more dangerous and difficult as the perceived route to improving biking rates?

I'd like to know, is it the sort of thing you only get from depositions, or are there links to specific statements or even City programs you know about? Is there an official statement in which the City demonstrates the belief that making things better for bikes necessarily means destroying traffic circulation for cars and increasing congestion? Or worse, that they will get people out of cars and onto bikes if only they make driving miserable enough? Please share.

I'm not seeing greater bike participation as a result of these changes, and regardless, many people cannot bike, including whole classes of disabled and elderly people, people with mobility challenges, etc., yet the changes dramatically increase congestion and diminish their lives while making driving more dangerous.

I'm asking as someone who has wished for safer biking conditions around town for decades.

We can all see that the City thinks making driving impossible is the main route to improving biking rates, and I've even heard this verbally and read the sentiment on TS, but I would appreciate actual statements, programs, and other formal evidence from the City. Between that and the City encouraging overdevelopment that shuts out the disabled, as in, the disabled can't even visit the stovepipe stack-and-pack housing, it's high time someone sued...

Comments (30)

8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 8:54 am

If this is about traffic circles again, you just need to get used to them. Traffic circles are a trend all over, including in some politically conservative limited-bicycle places I have visited recently. Traffic lights are expensive; traffic circles don't require much maintenance, and, offer better throughput and -delay- to equivalent stop signs and traffic lights. Just get used to them.


10 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

We think traffic circles are great as long as everyone uses a safe speed to drive around them (like 10 to 15mph). Speeders will always make roads unsafe, whether or not there are traffic circles.


3 people like this
Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 10:20 am

"If this is about traffic circles again"

No.


13 people like this
Posted by citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 10:22 am

How about answering the question asked. Does the City (or you) think that making driving more difficult encourages biking, and that the difficulties imposed on those who cannot bike, such as the disabled, are a trade off?


10 people like this
Posted by ask the City Council
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 16, 2019 at 11:16 am

Thank you for taking the time to write this. If you have not already, please take this to the City Council - write them and attend meetings and speak in the Open Communications period which is required at every meeting. Contact a Council member and take them for coffee. Alison Cormack's next 'office hours' are Sept 26th 10am at Ada's Cafe.

As with all the complaints about Ross Road, traffic circles and other "improvements", venting online does not reach the decision makers. They may read it in their personal time, but have no responsibility to acknowledge or act on it. Rants on Next Door or PA Online are just that.

It is frustrating to see the hundreds of hours spent crafting comments and responses on line and yet there have been little to no changes to these plans. There might be if more people used that time to write City Council or speak in a meeting. I don't know.

What I do know is that more and more bicyclists are being hit by confused drivers. The costs - human and in medical bills and auto and bike repairs are mounting. My son has been biking to school for seven years and was hit last week in....wait for it...the Ross-Meadow roundabout. He is not the first (more like the sixth) and will not be the last.

Our leaders need to hear directly from us.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 11:29 am

Posted by citizen, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> How about answering the question asked.

I was once on a jury where the prosecutor talked like this.

>> Does the City

I can't speak for the city, and, I don't expect a response from the city on a discussion like this.

>> (or you) think that making driving more difficult

What are you referring to? I don't think the city is making -my- driving more difficult. What did the city do to make -your- driving difficult?

Some folks keep bringing up the traffic circles. I'm used to them. Some folks keep bringing up the lane arrangements along Arastradero. I like the new arrangement and find that it makes my driving easier. There is a lot of construction related to the new school buildings across from Gunn -- that is construction, which always makes life more difficult. Construction all along El Camino is making driving more difficult. The new crosswalk lights under construction are related to a Caltrans safety lawsuit.

The only other thing that the city specifically has done that I'm not on board with is all the new speed bumps, e.g., on Ross. I don't like all the speed bumps. Personally, I wish we could afford traffic enforcement. I do know that the speed bumps are there to try to force drivers to slow down, not "make driving difficult". Apparently, despite the fact that everyone claims to know how super-rich the city is, we can't afford Traffic Enforcement. But, you might think -that- was making driving difficult for all I know.


10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 11:36 am

Posted by ask the City Council, a resident of Midtown

>> please take this to the City Council - write them and attend meetings

>> traffic circles

Get used to the traffic circles. I've even seen them in Trump regions where the majority is over 65.

According to traffic engineers, they offer more throughput and lower delay than 4-way stops and traffic lights.

Get used to them and be safe.


12 people like this
Posted by A cyclist
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 16, 2019 at 2:53 pm



I feel for the OP. You can tell the designers of road improvement are people that do not bike. The solution is usually a compromise for cars, bicyclist and pedestrians. This is usually disastrous for cyclists. The new trend is to put everything inside our bike lanes. Cars park there. The once-a-week garbage pick up places three bins in our lanes repeatedly. . Delivery trucks (UPS, FEDEX, USPS, and all others). And as we order more and more online, delivery vehicles are increasing. Now we also get bulb-outs. Not sure the purpose of bulb-outs. I think they are for the pedestrians. And lately planter boxes to calm the traffic goes right in our lane. Let alone sharrows. Intersections have always been tricky because all bike safety drops off at intersections picking up on the other side but gone right when we need it. Now trending, the traffic circle, great for cars I agree, not so great for the cyclists. We get accident debris sweep into our lane and during the fall piles of leaves. We have always had gutter drains and door zones in our lane. All of this pushes us into the path of moving cars. Go great!

So when the City finishes their renovations for traffic calming, it usually means one more rode to avoid as a cyclist. So if the idea is to get people out of their cars and on to a bike, they're doing it wrong.



3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 4:03 pm

The real problems I see it is traffic volume. We have more bikes, more cars, more trucks and more pedestrians. One thing we do not have more of is buses.

The fact that more and more people are being squashed into Silicon Valley is making a huge traffic mess all over the region. We have more people trying to get to work and to recreational/social activities and we do not have enough space on our roads. We are building more offices and more housing, but we are not able to accommodate them in our transportation plans.

Google et al are trying to do the transportation thing by using corporate buses to get employees to and from work. However, there is nothing being done to improve bus routes for the rest of the work force. We have too many transit agencies and not enough solutions. VTA reduces bus routes rather than try to coordinate with other agencies to take employees across the Bay or over to the coast.

Improve public transportation for those who have regular commutes and can take them at least 3 or 4 times a week. Use carpool lanes to speed up bus routes and along highways/expressways. Get shuttles to airports and from highway ramps to downtown and business areas. Stop looking at bus routes as something for those who are too poor to own a car and snake round neighborhoods and make them efficient alternatives to driving and parking.

Make some innovative changes to transportation and it will make our neighborhoods safer with less traffic.


27 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 16, 2019 at 4:59 pm

"Does the City think destroying traffic circulation encourages biking?"

The City does not "think". The City does what the real-estate industry tells them to do, and the real-estate industry has a desperate need to shift the blame for traffic from themselves onto the victims of their 25 year long mad orgy of development.

Cycling advocates are just useful idiots who shot themselves in the foot 25 years ago when they drank the real-estate industry Kool-Aid and foolishly started believing that a denser Palo Alto would be a more bike friendly Palo Alto.


11 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 16, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Funny....just today I had a driver try to enter a Midtown area traffic circle I was driving in (clearly doesn’t understand the rules).
I saw a young bearded guy blow throw stop sign on bike at high speed - never a glance at my car (I had right of way - ceded owing to his lightning speed).
Also, I don’t “get” road changes that take away nice, long clear-sight bike lanes and place little kids earnestly cycling/weaving in the middle of the street, mixed with auto traffic.


10 people like this
Posted by and more
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 17, 2019 at 12:21 am

And what are those useless, unused, white bollards along Middlefield Road for? (In North Palo Alto). They make right turns difficult and awkward.
Maybe they just wanted to spend money, there seems to be no other explanation.


4 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2019 at 2:02 pm

A lot of the problem with Palo Alto traffic are a low but growing number
of drivers that either do not know what they are doing or disregard most
of the rules of the road.

I don't mind the "bollards" because they discourage people from making
stupid moves like trying to speed around the right of someone. They also
protect cars that are parked nearby. I don't find they get in my way at all,
but it did take a while to get used to them.

As to the traffic circles, they are harder to navigate than a stop sign, but
they also do not require you to come to a stop, but then again they require
that we do more steering. The one thing this article made me think about
is those poor drivers who could lose control of their cars transiting a
traffic circle and go into someone's yard. All in all I do think they work.

BUT, as to what the city is thinking, I don't believer there is rational
thought or planning, and certainly not strategic planning going on in the
city any more - it is like the rest of the corporate world now, whatever
or whoever pays more money. Money is a poor substitute for science,
for thought, for justice or for community.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 17, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis

>> Funny....just today I had a driver try to enter a Midtown area traffic circle I was driving in (clearly doesn’t understand the rules). ;; I saw a young bearded guy blow throw stop sign on bike at high speed - never a glance at my car (I had right of way - ceded owing to his lightning speed).

A question for the ages-- is it more dangerous for someone to run a stop sign, a red light, or blow through a traffic circle without looking? I'm not sure if I believe any of the above didn't understand the rules, but, if we had some traffic enforcement, I'm sure the officers would be happy to explain the rules while handing out tickets.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park

>> A lot of the problem with Palo Alto traffic are a low but growing number of drivers that either do not know what they are doing or disregard most of the rules of the road.

A growing number of people seem to be under no obligation to stop, or even slow down, when turning right-on-red or at a stop sign. Even when right-turn-on-red is expressly prohibited 7:30-8:30AM. This is not good when at a crosswalk right before school starts.

>> As to the traffic circles, they are harder to navigate than a stop sign, but they also do not require you to come to a stop, but then again they require that we do more steering. The one thing this article made me think about is those poor drivers who could lose control of their cars transiting a traffic circle and go into someone's yard.

Aren't drivers navigating turns constantly as they travel on city streets? I must be missing something.



9 people like this
Posted by Driver
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 17, 2019 at 5:29 pm

What on Earth???? I just encountered the ridiculous bulb out by Great Clips on Charleston near Middlefield. I have to come out there so that I can get in the far left lane to turn left on Middlefield. I have to watch for traffic, for bikes, for Pedestrians and now this enormous obstacle that is completely counter intuitive. I want to spend my time looking for vehicles, for people, for bikes, not for stupid kerbs stuck in the middle of the exit.

I wonder how long it will be before some car gets stuck on this obstacle?

We have to have more than eyes on the other road users, we have to be prepared for obstacles in our path. What type of insane idiot is behind this design?


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 17, 2019 at 9:45 pm

Anon
> Aren't drivers navigating turns constantly as they travel on city streets? I must be missing something.

Regular turns are one direction and then straight. Very easy to make.

But, I think you are missing that the traffic circle turns are the same level or easy, you have to turn right,
and then you have to turn back, and in that turning back I could picture someone on a cellphone or
losing their grip and miscalculating.

I guess we'll see.


11 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2019 at 10:09 am

The bulb-out by Great Clips on Charleston near Middlefield had to be a design mistake. It should be removed.

Just drive over the traffic circles. It is safer than having to steer lock-to-lock to get around them, especially for older people.

The Charleston re-design had increased road-rage. Don't start with drivers should be calmer! The two-lanes-to-one-lane-to-two-lane design causes conflict every two blocks between people who have to decide how to merge every time. Make it one lane or two but make up your minds.

Agreed the City Council doesn't read these comments, but I would like to see an answer to the OPs question. We don't all have time to go to council meetings and I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be listed to or have our questions answered there either.3aYhb


7 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2019 at 10:54 am

Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> Just drive over the traffic circles. It is safer than having to steer lock-to-lock to get around them, especially for older people.

I'm a senior and I have no trouble navigating traffic circles. If you do, maybe you should get your eyesight checked.

>> The Charleston re-design had increased road-rage. Don't start with drivers should be calmer!

I feel very calm. Perhaps because I'm content to obey the 25 MPH speed limit. Are you a frustrated weaver? Get it out of your system up on I-280. For some reason, people on 280 are always weaving in and out of the right two lanes and passing on the right. In some states people gets tickets for doing that but not here it seems.

>> The two-lanes-to-one-lane-to-two-lane design causes conflict every two blocks between people who have to decide how to merge every time. Make it one lane or two but make up your minds.

I just let the other car pull ahead of me on a merge. But, perhaps you really are missing something? Extra lanes at intersections, with cars queued up, allow the full capacity of a single lane roadway to be utilized. The Arastradero intersections at ECR and Foothill Expressway are both major bottlenecks at rush hour. The extra lanes behind the intersection allow a full traffic light cycle to queue up behind them, so that the full capacity of Arastradero can be used. Extra lanes in the middle adds nothing except an opportunity for weavers to keep jumping back and forth between the lanes. With the current arrangement, weavers can only jump ahead of other cars once per merge.


2 people like this
Posted by ScottB
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2019 at 11:49 am

It's well documented that just widening roads does not solve congestion. Widening roads for cars alone only makes it less costly to drive (time=money), so more people drive more.
Changing how people get around for short trips, 10 miles or less, will depend on trading space used for cars for space used to walk, bike or take transit, or building news space for the other ways people move about a city (the more efficient ways).
The belief that roads are only for cars is mostly because for the last 100 years transportation tax dollars have been spent on only one way to move about cities in the US.


6 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2019 at 12:07 pm

Hey Anon,

No need to make this personal. You can drive at 25 if you like, but that is a non-standard speed limit not used on similar streets in our neighboring cities. I doubt that it would hold up to a court challenge from a ticketed driver. There are laws around using speed restrictions in the way Palo Alto uses them I'm not going to endanger people by driving 25 when everyone else is doing 35 or 40. It may be the speed limit, but it is stupid to do so. The first law of driving is to do so safely!

And sure, I can drive around the traffic circles just fine, but why? Just to prove I can make tight corners? I already proved that during the motorcycle driving test.

And "weavers can only jump ahead of other cars once per merge". Yep, and they do. Rabbiting ahead each and every time. Your assumption that I do so is unwarranted. I'm just pissed that a) they do and b) PA street design encourages it.

And, SCottB, that's not the city we live in. Palo Alto is a car-centric city, as are the other SF Bay cities and wishful obstruction of traffic is like wishful recycling - both damaging the intended use of both services.


1 person likes this
Posted by Kenny
a resident of University South
on Sep 18, 2019 at 12:43 pm

I like traffic circles. They let drivers test the adhesion limits of their tires. Think of them as a roadway cyclotron.

Seriously, traffic circles are not a common feature in the U.S. It is unlikely they will be well received by motorists. Putting unnecessary obstacles in a road defies common sense.


4 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2019 at 1:57 pm

@Kenny: Neighborhood Skid Pads! I love it! I thought it was a neighborhood OHV Trail! I was hoping that since the neighborhood revolt stopped these ill-conceived bicycle throughways we should try and get the initial road furniture removed, but perhaps they are an asset after all. The dual use supports both sports car and SUV drivers alike. Like the fish art embedded in crosswalks are really population limiting devices as children stop mid-intersection to admire them.

It is really Orwellian. Turn Charleston into an obstacle course, -then- claim that adding lanes (that were already there!) will further slow traffic. Why not get rid of the last lane and get infinite flow? Further proof that public education in Palo Alto is in serious decline.


5 people like this
Posted by I do bike more now
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2019 at 2:06 pm

Because of the increased safety brought on by the safety improvements.


13 people like this
Posted by See?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2019 at 2:09 pm

drivers just want to speed anyway and if they can;t they'll threaten to drive even more dangerously.
I'm laughing my ass off right now!

Please more advice for the other guy is needed! LOL!!!


10 people like this
Posted by What about the number of cars
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 18, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Does the number of cars affect traffic flow?
I see no barriers or roundabouts on 101 but I see gridlock.
Please, I've seen traffic jams since 15 years BEFORE any road work. Everyone needs to blame something else though. Silly human nature.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 18, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Posted by Rick, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> You can drive at 25 if you like, but that is a non-standard speed limit not used on similar streets in our neighboring cities.

Actually, 25 MPH is a -state law-, and has been since I learned to drive in California many, many decades ago. I guess what you are arguing is that Arastradero should not be considered a "residence street". See the State of California Vehicle Code in section 22352. Source: Web Link . "The prima facie limits are as follows" [...] .

"(b) Twenty-five miles per hour:

(1) On any highway other than a state highway, in any business or residence district unless a different speed is determined by local authority under procedures set forth in this code.

(2) When approaching or passing a school building or the grounds thereof, contiguous to a highway and posted with a standard “SCHOOL” warning sign"

--

Arastradero -is- a "residence district" with numerous driveways entering. And, there are numerous schools on the ECR to Foothill section, and again, near Middlefield and Charleston, along with a senior facility. So, the City would have to justify increasing the speed limit. Many of us, such as myself, would oppose that.

===

Posted by What about the number of cars, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> Does the number of cars affect traffic flow? [..] Please, I've seen traffic jams since 15 years BEFORE any road work.

There are a lot of graphs that describe how traffic flow collapses when roads get too full in the below PDF. Look in the vicinity of 2-23. When more than a certain number of cars, e.g., 1900-2200 per hour, flow onto a roadway, the actual throughput/flow drops drastically, so that heavy congestion results in fewer cars getting through.

Web Link

That is why on-ramp metering lights improve the throughput of freeways.


4 people like this
Posted by Kenny
a resident of University South
on Sep 18, 2019 at 3:00 pm

"Rants on Next Door or PA Online are just that."

Not if they affect how people vote in the next election. If the Palo Alto city government is not getting the job done, then vote out the city council members and elect some new ones. Perhaps it is time the voters reminded them of who is really in charge. Believe it or not, Palo Alto had very good governance up until around 1980.


5 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 18, 2019 at 3:03 pm

Nothing is more passive-aggressive than obeying traffic law.


4 people like this
Posted by Ralph
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 19, 2019 at 9:06 am

The writer then stopped to demean people who don't meet his perceived fitness standards for bicycling? I have seen quite a few riders with missing body parts, lower legs replaced by proceseses, or not at all for a while leg. People using just hand cranks and old people out riding around. It takes little effort to ride around Palo Alto since it is relatively flat.

Excessive is a proven live enhancer. But we must now down to people who think saving a few seconds is worth the risk of killing of maiming our fellow man..


20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2019 at 9:35 am

@Citizen
Good news for you, the city does not have any policies or documents asserting that making things better for bikes necessarily means destroying traffic circulation for cars and increasing congestion or that they are trying to get people into bikes by making driving miserable.
They do have a pedestrian and bicycle master plan. Rather than demanding that other posters provide you with proof that your baseless assertion is false, you can just go to the city website and look up the Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. Then we could have a thoughtful and informed discussion about the city’s actual plan.
You also asserted that you don’t see any greater bike participation. You and others might want to drop by the Bike Palo Alto event at El Carmelo school on the 29th at 1PM. You’ll see crowds of families wanting to learn more about Palo Alto biking opportunities.
As for people who can’t bike, that’s ok. Every cyclist means one less car on the road for you to compete with in driving and one more parking space available for you.


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