Dozens of Palo Alto bicyclists cheered Monday night as the city approved more than $2 million in design contracts for 17 different bike projects throughout the city.
More than 30 people, some donning bike helmets and others wearing neon jackets, came out to the City Council meeting to show their support for a new staff proposal, which involves five contracts to four different consultants for work on different elements of the city's Bike and Pedestrian Transportation Plan.
The projects include new "bike boulevards" on Greer Road, Wilkie Way, Park Boulevard, Stanford Avenue, Ross Road and on extended portions of Bryant Street (the city's original bike boulevard). Once in place, these streets would feature new traffic-calming structures such as bulb-outs and traffic circles. Stop signs would also be shifted from the bike boulevards to streets crossing them to facilitate smoother traffic flows.
Though the $2.2 million in funding approved by the council doesn't commit the city to any of the projects on the list, it does kick off the design process for all of them. Each will ultimately be subject to public hearings and official approval before it is put in place. Planning staff expects the design phase to take between one year and 18 months.
On Monday, the council heard from several bike enthusiasts, all of whom urged approval of the design contracts with the firms Alta Planning + Design, Fehr & Peers Transportation Consultants; Mark Thomas & Associates and Sandis Engineers. Alta, which helped the city put together the bike master plan, will also get an additional contract to design bike improvements on Matadero Creek Trail.
Dozens of others submitted letters of support. Barron Park resident Lynnie Melena said she was excited about the proposed changes on the Charleston/Arastradero Road corridor, a long-planned project that is one of 17 to be analyzed.
"I have been concerned that the painted lane markings, including left turns and medians, make the roadway confusing and frustrating to drivers," Melena wrote. "Once the concrete (and eventually landscaped) medians are installed, drivers will feel more confident of where to drive and pedestrians and bicyclists will feel safer and actually be safer."
Scott Seligman, a resident of the Greendell neighborhood in south Palo Alto, also urged approval of the contracts and wrote that "Palo Alto deserves a first-class, interconnected, citywide network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities."
Speakers at Monday's meeting echoed his sentiment. One bicyclist showed the council his helmet, which was cracked a week and a half ago when a right-turning car hit him on Charleston Road. He concluded that much can be done to improve bike safety.
Others agreed and praised staff's multi-pronged approach toward bike improvements. Penny Ellson, co-chair of the Palo Alto Council of PTA's Traffic Safety Committee, praised the staff proposal as a "thoughtful and efficient" way to get the projects designed.
"Working on these facilities as a network through the design and environmental review phase means consultants from each projects will have the opportunity to collaborate," Ellson told the council. "It's a smart approach that I hope you'll approve by funding the compete network proposal tonight."
Minutes later, the council did just that. Members approved all the contracts by an 8-0 vote, with Gail Price absent. The vote came as part of the council's consent calendar, with no discussion or dissent.