News

New bike boulevards planned throughout Palo Alto

City Council to consider $2.2 million in design contracts for 17 bike projects

More than three decades after Palo Alto turned Bryant Street into the nation's first "bicycle boulevard," the city is preparing to create similar bike-friendly corridors on Greer Road, Wilkie Way, Park Boulevard and Stanford Avenue.

These four proposed "bike boulevards" are among the 17 bike-related projects for which staff is requesting design services. If City Council approves the request from city planners on Monday night, five contracts worth $2.2 million will be awarded to four different consultants for design work on these projects, which also include new bike boulevards on sections of Ross Road, Moreno Avenue and Bryant Street, where an existing bike boulevard would be extended north to Palo Alto Avenue and south to East Meadow Circle.

Consultants will also consider new bike routes in the Barron Park neighborhood and biking enhancements on Homer and Channing avenues.

Though the projects range in size and ambition, most seek to turn major segments of existing streets into bike boulevards -- streets with low traffic volumes, traffic-calming features such as speed humps, traffic circles and barriers and lane markings that aim to make it easy for cars and bikes to share the road. Bike boulevards also typically facilitate free-flow travel for bicycles by placing stop signs on streets crossing the boulevard, rather than the boulevard itself.

The Homer and Channing avenues project, which would stretch between Alma and Boyce Avenue, would turn each one-way street into an "enhanced bikeway," a less intense version of a bike boulevard that relies on lane markings and signage to encourage cars and cyclists to share the road.

In the staff proposal, the 10 projects would be divvied up between two consultants: Fehr & Peers and Alta Planning + Design. In addition, staff is proposing a $275,000 contract with Sandis Engineers to design bike enhancements on Churchill Avenue, between El Camino Real and Castilleja Avenue, and a $737,767 contract with Mark Thomas & Associates for a bike corridor on Charleston-Arastradero Road, between Fabian Way and Miranda Avenue.

The lattermost project includes new landscaped median islands, intersection bulb-outs, enhanced bike lanes, trees and streetlights, according to a staff report. The city has already received $450,000 in state funding and a $1 million grant from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority for these improvements.

A fifth contract would also go to Alta for creation of a bike route along the Matadero Creek trail.

The city has also received a proposal from Mountain View-based tech giant Google, which is planning to occupy 200 San Antonio Road, a site that once housed Hewlett-Packard Co. and sits on the border between the two cities.

According to the staff report, Google has proposed to make various improvements in south Palo Alto, including a bike route on San Antonio near U.S. Highway 101; another one on San Antonio between Bryant and Alma; a third one on Alma between San Antonio and East Charleston Road; and a fourth one near Cubberley Community Center on Middlefield.

"Staff sees synergy opportunities in expanding this project to include these bicycle linkages," a report from the city's planning department states, noting that Google has agreed to fund "all consultant expenses for these projects directly."

The ambitious list of biking proposals comes at a time of high enthusiasm on the council for both improving the city for bicyclists and a healthy revenue landscape, which makes it possible for city officials to turn their bike dreams into reality.

In July 2012, the council unanimously approved a new Bike + Pedestrian Master Plan. Members vowed at the time not to let the document languish on a shelf and collect dust as its predecessor had been doing since 2003.

The new plan proposes to create a citywide network of bike trails and boulevards as well as new connections across existing barriers such as El Camino Real, Alma Street and U.S. Highway 101.

The plan states that Palo Alto can build upon its bike-friendly history and its demand for better bike and pedestrian access "to solidify its status as one of the most bicycle friendly communities in California, if not the country."

The proposed projects would be the biggest step taken by the city to address the vision of the bike plan since the council committed more than $1.3 million for a new bike bridge over Highway 101, a $10 million project that will be funded largely by grants.

The council is also considering including bike improvements on its list of infrastructure projects that could potentially be funded by a 2 percent increase in the hotel tax, which voters could approve in November.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 12:47 am

Improving our bike routes is dirt cheap compared to building new downtown parking garages. I'm really glad this is finally happening. Bryant Street was a big success and I'm surprised that more bicycle boulevards is taking so long. The city badly needs safer east-west cross-town bicycle routes, since there are so many obstacles to family-safe east-west bicycle travel, including Hwy 101, the Alma Expressway, El Camino Real, Foothill Expressway, and I-280.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:10 am

I'm fine with bike boulevards, but spending $2.5 million just on design consultants is a travesty.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2014 at 4:59 am

Has the city counted the number of bicycles which currently use an existing street or roadway? Maybe those routes which already heavily used by bicyclists should be the first candidates for improvements as "bike boulevards?" Maybe the city should give priority to those routes which are used by children to get to and from school?

If the city already has counted the number of bicycles which use each street per day could someone point me to that dataset?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by marcus.surrealist
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2014 at 6:33 am

Now, if they could only do something about the widely varied quality city-wide of street surfacing, that might make the projected improvements worth all the expenditure. Bikes face this with much more direct effects than do autos.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 7:46 am

@anonymous - the city clearly is giving first priority to routes that are important to commuters, both to school and to work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2014 at 8:20 am

Concerning street surfacing, can somebody explain the purpose of the new
white striped raised crosswalks showing up all over the City? Besides an
annoyance for bicyclists and pedestrians they can even be a potential hazard for an elderly person or a young child who could trip on the raised edge or even a young bicyclist for that matter. Downtown we have one of these crosswalks at Tasso and University in view of one of the "seniors" signs ironically. Where there are metal plates after the City got sued by a
bicyclist who fell the City puts up "extreme caution" signs for bicyclists. If the purpose of these raised crosswalks is to slow down traffic that does not happen. This all seems so obvious, is there something I am missing here?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 8:56 am

If you see potholes or other pavement and roadway problems, you can report them to the city here. They do seem to be responsive to specific requests.
Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2014 at 9:05 am

Regarding the raised white striping in crosswalks we are not talking about
speed tables or speed humps,but the stripes themselves which are creating
an uneven jagged edge on an otherwise flat surface. Any possible positive
effect in visibility or traffic calming which is negligible at best is far
outweighed by the rough surface for pedestrians and bicylists.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walker
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 9:58 am

The new crosswalks are much easier to see and drivers respect them more. They are definitely an improvement in safety even if they are a bit rough. I can't see them being a problem for bikes, only pedestrians who shuffle rather than raising their feet.

I will be glad to see the bike boulevard on Park finally finished. It is a busy route already.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2014 at 10:16 am

Whereas I am all for safety, the idea of turning Stanford Avenue into a bike blvd is a double edged sword. Of course with the fact that it is a school route to both Escondido and Nixon as well as a Stanford boundary we want to improve safety for bikes and pedestrians, but at what cost to motorists.

As far as I know as someone who has had to use Stanford Avenue and tried to use side streets to avoid the traffic on Stanford Avenue, it is nigh on impossible to get through the sidestreets because of barriers. Does this mean that some barriers will be moved to allow motorists to get through, or does this mean that anyone who wants to drive to this part of town will be completely stuck?

I think some more thinking needs to be done on this one.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2014 at 10:20 am

I'm not sure how parking lots entered into comments but aside from the fact that they also cost money, there is little direct relevance between parking and bicycles as not everyone rides a bike. It's somewhat exclusionary to make public policy with the assumption that a majority of people consider cycling a viable commuting option.

Returning to the story, I remember the introduction of Palo Alto's green bike lanes of the early 1970's. It was also accompanied by an increased police enforcement of traffic laws upon cyclists, who were at that time primarily students. The temporary police appeared to be community service officers who were woefully outfitted with Ford Pinto vehicles. "Watch out for the Pinto Pig" became a rallying cry since few bike riders bothered to slow down for a right hand turn at a 4-way stop sign intersection or actually make a HAND signal for a turn! Most of my friends knew the zig-zag routes needed to totally avoid stop signs in the old neighborhoods. I can only imagine what the Pinto would have done if helmets were enforced then.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 10:38 am

Not everyone rides a bike, but not everyone drives a car either.

If just a few percent of the people who drive cars downtown start riding bikes instead, then the city's parking problems may go away. Studies have shown that bicycle commuting rates rise tremendously when safe bicycle routes are built.


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Posted by Sandy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2014 at 11:29 am

I am all for this as long as the bicyclists stay in their lanes. There are a lot of rude bicyclists (as rude drivers) and that does not make for a good situation when one goes into the others territory. But why do we have to always hire an overly expensive consultant. Look what happened to the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center. The City spends too much on consultants and then ends up with not enough for the project.


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Posted by jane
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 12:17 pm

"A fifth contract would also go to Alta for creation of a bike route along the Matadero Creek trail."

Did I miss a chapter here? I thought the first step was going to be a feasibility study of the proposed trail along the creek versus other more sensible plans. Now it's already contracted for creation?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roger
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 13, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Maybe we could spend some of that money teaching bike riders about stop signs and red lights. Oh and riding across a cross walk.
I am not even mentioning lights on bikes and the wearing of dark clothing at nigh.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Jane, the funding for the Matadero Creek trial is just for the feasibility study, though the City seems to assume the feasibility is a done deal.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 1:38 pm

If the city planners think that the Matadero Creek bike trail is going to be able to go across Middlefield,they're crazy--and they don't need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a feasibility study.

Why do I say that? For that trail to cross Middlefield, stop signs or stop lights would be needed on Middlefield. But these would be so close to the existing stop lights at the Colorado intersection. How would traffic backup be prevented? Already there's back up from the lights near Moreno all the way back to Oregon Expressway . . .


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ready for a bike network that works
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Finally!!! A bike network that will work.

Yes, yes, YES!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rides bike to work
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 13, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Is making Park Blvd a bike blvd compatible with the city's plan to build up the area on Park between Fry's and Caltrain with high-density housing and high tech businesses?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown guy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Judging by the photo accompanying this article, biking two side by side is OK? I thought the idea was to ike single file and d share the road with cars. I often see kids three abreast on bikes when I drive down some streets and cannot get through until and unless they return to single file. Streets have parked cars, are two lanes wide, and some streets are narrower than others. People assume too much self monitoring by bicyclists, so some training and enforcement is called for. Use some of that Planning money to develop strategies for education and enforcement of public safety for bicyclists. I just had to deal with two adult cyclists whizzing through a stop sign two abreast, turning right from Colorado onto Cowper. It was all I could do to restrain myself from getting really upset but when we both reached a red light at Oregon, they were still two abreast and ignored my stares ( I held back saying something. I'm getting too old for that stress!) There seems to be an uneven playing field here, with cyclists assuming they are unassailably in the right.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2014 at 5:16 pm

Midtown guy - you can pretty much ride as many abreast as you want as long as you don't impede traffic. The cyclists in the photo are not impeding traffic.

[Portion removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ronnie from Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Why do people Bike on Alma? I know it's "Legal" and it's your "Right"
but it seems to create a dangerous situation and slows traffic for many, many people.
I bike every day, but I use Bryant St. since is designated for bikes.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pundit
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm

why not donate the funds to EPA for a jobs program? $2.5 bills down the drain for bikes? must be nice being 1%er's


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Don
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 14, 2014 at 11:10 am

In the article's photo, the riders have a bike lane. Where bike lanes exist on roadways, CVC 21208 requires cyclists to use them.

Also, it looks as if they're about to run the stop sign (so what else is new).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm

Photo looks to me like they are standing still.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2014 at 10:33 am

Bicyclists are allowed to leave bike lanes when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized, when preparing to make a left turn, and there are a number of other exceptions. It is not possible to see enough from this single photo to tell whether any of the exceptions apply or not. Lighten up, the photo was probably staged anyway.


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