News

Guest Opinion: Safer streets - what's been done, what's possible

As traffic increases, dangers multiply. The question we really should be asking is: 'How can the city help the community find alternatives to driving?'

As traffic increases, dangers multiply. The question we really should be asking is: "How can the city help the community find alternatives to driving?"

As a former Safe Routes to School assistant coordinator in the City of Palo Alto's Transportation Division, a PTA Safe Routes to School champion, and a bicycling member of the community, I have seen firsthand what our city has done to improve safety -- and can suggest some concrete traffic solutions that build on this work.

The Bike Plan

The Bike Plan was adopted by the city in 2012. Currently 14 bike boulevard projects and neighborhood improvements are in the pipeline. Design plans approved by the City Council on 19 street segments displayed at the Neighborhood Traffic Safety and Bicycle Boulevard Projects open house will increase safety and connectivity through the town and entice residents and commuters to try bicycling and public transit.

City action: While continuing aggressive progress on the bike plan, the city needs to educate road users about the new facilities. For example, explanation of the safety and navigation of Middlefield Road and N. California Avenue, where a two-way protected bike lane was installed, will help all road users understand and appreciate the new road treatments.

Safe Routes to School

The Safe Routes program is a result of the strong partnership among the City of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) and the Palo Alto Council of PTAs. Safe Routes to School aims to reduce risk to students and encourage more students to walk, bike and use other alternatives to driving more often. Safe Routes activities include: fall and spring Walk and Roll days, pedestrian safety lessons, the third-grade bike-safety program that culminates with the "Third Grade Bike Rodeo" and a fifth-grade bike-safety refresher assembly at all district elementary schools. Sixth-grade orientation programs at JLS, Jordan and Terman include a "Drive that Bike" safety assembly, and summer Middle School Bicycle Skills classes are offered for students and their parents through a collaboration between Wheel Kids and Safe Routes to School. A "Getting to High School" program organized by the JLS PTA was piloted in April 2016 and will be offered at all middle schools this spring.

City action: Unsafe riding behaviors such as ignoring stop signs, riding on the wrong side of the street, and not using lights at night cannot be changed without parent cooperation and support. The city needs to effectively engage parents in the programs for students and encourage them to practice pedestrian and bicycle safety skills with their children. Furthermore, the police need to engage as partners by patrolling key intersections to educate and enforce safety.

Walk and Roll maps

A VERBS (Vehicle Emission Reductions Based in Schools) grant was awarded to Palo Alto's Safe Routes program in 2012 to develop "Walk and Roll" maps and school zone improvements for all K-12 campuses. This fall, the Palo Alto Library installed bike repair stations and developed a "Walk and Roll to Libraries" map so residents can successfully navigate to all five library branches by foot or bike. Greendell School, which houses the district's pre-K programs, PreSchool Family and the Adult School's ESL classes, begins its Walk and Roll map development process this month.

City action: The city needs to monitor and enforce safety in designated school commute routes identified on the Walk and Roll maps, and as future bikeways are constructed, maps need to be updated. The city should develop a comprehensive Walk and Roll map by compiling data from all 18 schools and make it available at all community centers, schools and community events and make it accessible online. The Palo Alto 311 app should include an option for reporting obstructions in these designated routes during school commute times.

Transit

To relieve traffic congestion, more people need to choose transit. The Palo Alto Shuttle and VTA bus run through a few corridors in town, serving mainly senior and student riders. VTA is undergoing route and service changes and has proposed to eliminate route 89 and replace the 88, 88L and 88M lines serving Gunn High School students with minimal service on the proposed lines 288A/B, only at school bell times so students with later start times or after-school activities will not be able to ride VTA.

City action: The City Council needs to put pressure on VTA to serve the tax-paying residents in Palo Alto or subsidize the Palo Alto Shuttle to fill the gaps in service due to cuts. The Palo Alto Shuttle improvements were put on hold pending VTA's updates. The shuttle needs to update routes, frequency, hours, and marketing to increase and diversify ridership.

Bicycle Friendly Community status

Palo Alto has earned and maintained (since 2003) Gold status as a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. A report card issued by the league offered "Key Steps to Platinum," outlining specific ways Palo Alto can work towards Platinum, the highest level of bicycle friendliness awarded by the league.

==City action:== To increase bicycle friendliness and achieve platinum status in 2020, Palo Alto needs to follow the recommendations from the report card, such as:

• Increase parking space for bicycles.

• Host "Open Streets" events where main corridors are temporarily closed.

• Complete the Bike Plan adopted in 2012.

• Work with local employers to promote alternatives to driving solo.

• Offer retraining for cyclists who get traffic citations for poor safety behaviors.

Platinum isn't just a "status" symbol; it will alleviate traffic congestion.

With the city government's support and community involvement, these concrete and achievable changes will make streets safer. We are the safety problem, and we can solve it together.

Maria Abilock is a Palo Alto PTA Safe Routes to School champion and former Safe Routes to School assistant coordinator for the City of Palo Alto. She can be reached at biotechteacher@yahoo.com.

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Comments

17 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 7:52 am

The city badly needs more direct and continuous east-west bicycle routes, especially across Hwy 101, Alma St, El Camino Real, and I-280. Better bicycle route design will go a long way to solving the safety issues mentioned in this article.


25 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 17, 2017 at 8:29 am

We need better shuttle services, particularly to get students to schools.

We need parking lots at freeway ramps with dedicated shuttles to business districts that don't snake around neighborhoods.

Public transportation needs to get people to their destinations efficiently rather than snaking around neighborhoods.

Shuttles should not necessarily be free, an affordable fare with exemptions for school children and seniors, but they should be frequent and reliable with real time apps so that smart phones can see where the next shuttle is and how long it will take to reach a particular stop.

Technology must be used better for parking and transportation. It is embarrassing to be in the center of Silicon Valley and the only way to find an empty parking spot is to drive around in circles or the only way to wait for a bus is to stand and wait hopefully.


4 people like this
Posted by Nice article.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 17, 2017 at 11:00 am

Well said, Maria.


24 people like this
Posted by mcwolk
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 1:23 pm

The alternatives to driving are thin at best. California does not have a robust public transit system. Almost no changes over the last 40 years. Should have buried and electrified Caltrain in the 70's!
In the mean time, Palo Alto must stop this "war on cars" (IE: traffic calming for starters). Cars will be with us for at least another generation and THIS generation is still using cars. Purposely slowing traffic reduces our quality of life for what? People are NOT going to magically jump out of their cars!


17 people like this
Posted by The Reasoner
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 17, 2017 at 2:21 pm

So self centered. Silly speeder, it's not about slowing you to ruin YOUR quality of life, its about slowing you in order to PRESERVE the life of someone else.
I laugh in the face of those who think, with so many cars on the roads, that anything can be done to get cars moving fast.

Its like demanding a sprint race be held in Time's Square on New Year's Eve...aint gonna happen no matter how much you want it too. On the roads, there are simply too many cars to make traffic flow well. This was prophesied back in the 80's and the warnings have never ceased. Did you think they were joking? Anyway, that ship has sailed. The days of freely zipping around this area in your car are gone because too many people want to do it and there is simply no way to make all those people move freely in their cars. Understand that, no matter how bitter the reality pill is.


22 people like this
Posted by parent of students who bike
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 3:37 pm

Well said! We have great infrastructure and programs and weather. Education and enforcement are crucial for the safety of all our bicyclists (and pedestrians).

For the drivers of cars who want to race through town. Please get over it and leave earlier. This is not the countryside. Other people live here. Allow yourself more time so you don't endanger someone else's life. Stick close to 25 mph. Look before you turn right. STOP at the 4-way stop intersections so that my kids and their school mates are safe and you don't spend the rest of your life regretting your unnecessary rush to a meeting or appointment.

In addition to police enforcement for safety, better monitoring of bike cages at schools and train stations and tracking of stolen bikes would be nice. That is a huge problem and there is little that is ever done.


16 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 17, 2017 at 9:46 pm

I completely disagree with this article.
There is nothing wrong with driving cars. Please lay off this myth.
An individual's most valuable resource is his or her TIME.
Using a bus or shuttle or train is very time-consuming. We can't ride our bicycles down the freeway to work.

The reason we have traffic is not because too many people want to drive cars.
It is because of all the failed experiments the tax-and-spend politicians who throw money down the drain building artificial barriers, double HOV lanes, bike-only thoroughfares that are hardly used -- which all deliberately create needless congestion.
They do it on purpose, to make it so driving is not viable and so painful that people would be COERCED to change their transportation method but it never actually happens...
Surprise, surprise -- people would rather just turn their A/C to full blast and play around on their smartphones while sitting in hours traffic. Alas, such is human nature!

As far as safety -- you are never safe.
End the fetishization of safety -- the overwrought spending and initiatives create stress, waste time & money, and end up making everyone LESS safe.
No matter how much money you throw at a problem, you are never 100 percent safe. This is reality.


2 people like this
Posted by Bikes2work
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 17, 2017 at 11:21 pm

We need to stop all the cars who cut through bike routes like Park Blvd and Wilkie Way to avoid the gridlock on El Camino and Alma. It has gotten horrible in the past few years. Park Blvd at Page Mill (the side street) is going to see a fatality soon. I guarantee it. I ride it every day, and it will be either a pedestrian or a bicyclist. This is right near the new mixed-use building across from the AOL building.

The cut thru cars know how to wiggle thru the barriers. Most of them pass me twice at high speeds as they do it. Some even just drive around the barriers.


9 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 17, 2017 at 11:55 pm

Marie is a registered user.

In general, I've been very impressed with the success of the safe routes to school. Most students and parents accompanying them wear helmets, follow traffic regulations and even use hand signals. It is very positive experience to share the roads with them. Yes I need to go a little slower but that is really minor.

Unfortunately my experience with adults has not been so positive. I very much regret there was no policeman around last week when an adult male bicyclist zoomed west across the tracks on E. Meadow on the wrong side of the road and almost hit my car as I was making a legal right turn. He continued to cross traffic stopped at a light - not sure who he terrorized as I proceeded west. Fortunately, I was driving very defensively and was able to avoid him, as he dodged through stopped traffic. He was right up there with the bicyclist downtown who came out of the tunnel and instead of using the protected bike lane, chose to ride his bike the wrong way on a one way street, with no headlight, no helmet and dark clothing. I can only hope that the police will be more successful ticketing such dangerous behavior.

Fortunately, these bicyclists are the exception not the rule. But I do hope there can be more vigorous prosecution of such scofflaws. I fully support the right of bicyclists to share our roads, but only if they follow the same rules as the cars surrounding them.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2017 at 9:06 am

I was out walking at school afternoon commute time and walking towards an intersection where there's a great deal of bushes. The kids on bikes were all stopped waiting for the crossing guard, but an adult, male on a bike rode onto the sidewalk to turn right, and I had to leap out of the way to avoid him. The crossing guard heard my yell and so did the kids. I don't think he heard anything but I could hear the music from his earbuds.

There are terrible bikers out there and yes I know there are some bad cars too, but I expect to pay attention to cars while I cross a street. I don't expect to have to watch out for speeding bikes while I am on the sidewalk.


20 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2017 at 6:06 am

Cyclists need to behave like cars 100 percent of the time... not just when it suits them. Which means:

Stay behind cars -- do not roll past cars at stop signs and get in front of them just because you can!


12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 19, 2017 at 8:09 am

If you really care about safe streets for your kids, you will 1) fight the city's latest attempts to raise speed limits and 2) oppose the aggressive plans to triple our city's current growth and offices through 2030 when we're currently gridlocked.

It's abominable that the pro-development crew is demanding that we the taxpayers and residents fund the TMA to pay for commuters to come into town and increase this problematic gridlock and already horrendous traffic problems.

Preaching at us to get out of our cars is as unrealistic and unproductive as governing by sloganeering.


11 people like this
Posted by Kya
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 19, 2017 at 9:58 am

More Development -=- more people=more cars. I am a bike rider, bike riding all the time. At the crossing at Bryant /Oregon on my bike I have 30 to 40 cars stopped, so that I can cross Oregon. This ratio is astounding, and shows that Palo Alto is no longer a safe place to bicycle. All the ways cars will get around long wait times , is by driving on Neighbothood quiet streets. Bike advocates never really dealt with Runaway development, bike proposals and bike safety is a losing proposition with the thousands more housing units Palo Alto CC AND ADVOCATES ARE pushing through here. Palo aAlto used to be a bike friendly town, but even I limit my children where and when they bike.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm

I agree with Kya. More and more traffic is cutting through neighborhoods to avoid the congestion on Oregon, Embarcadero, Arastradero, Charleston and San Antonio. Traffic "calming" measures to these streets just make traffic avoid them. Loma Verde and Colorado are also becoming busier with cut through traffic and Louis and Greer get plenty also. Waze is particularly instrumental in getting traffic onto neighborhood streets.

We need more efficient arteries to make them more attractive as primary routes for traffic. Timing lights properly to enable less waits for those traveling at the limit on arteries would help. The last time I was going north on Louis and wanting to turn left onto Oregon I was the only car turning and for some reason the whole sequence ignored the left filter and I waited until the second green before the filter enacted. These types of problems cause drivers to look for neighborhood alternatives.

In the downtown and Cal Ave (probably others too) there is a lot of traffic cruising looking for parking. More efficient signage as to where parking is available in real time will help. We also need to have 20 minute parking outside retail and businesses so that a quick errand can be done at lunch time without cruising to find a space.


19 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2017 at 9:14 am

Since a portion of this article discusses safety, how on earth did the pedestrian walkways on El Camino in South Palo Alto (south of Page Mill) ever get constructed?!

Many a time I have driven this route when a pedestrian, rightfully, utilizes the walkway without a traffic signal and traffic along El Camino grinds to a halt. Talk about a dangerous walkway, particularly at night.

You are telling me the city couldn't splurge for the flashing lights that they have on Shoreline in Mountain View when someone wants to cross? Talk about dangerous!


11 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2017 at 10:42 am

We agree that stop lights at the crosswalks along El Camino would make them tremendously safer. I am really surprised that unsignalized crosswalks across multi-lane streets still exist in these days of iphone distracted driving.

I know that the county removed some of the crosswalks along Oregon Expressway a few years ago, forcing pedestrians to walk several blocks out of their way to cross the street. That was a terrible "solution", forcing less able pedestrians to drive rather than walk the detour route.


15 people like this
Posted by big problem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2017 at 12:38 pm

The City does almost nothing right from a safety standpoint, land use development, neighborhood preservation, quality of life. That's simply not the framework that this City operates within.










11 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 20, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Big problem is SO right. Worse, the city doesn't even bother to respond to questions and complaints.

After a year and a half, I'm STILL waiting for a response from the Transportation Dept. and City Council on what's being done about the mess caused by the changes at Jordan and N. Cal Ave eliminating left turns at N. Cal.

During rush hour, northbound traffic often backs up to and INTO Oregon. This problem will only get worse as traffic gets even worse.

Diana Diamond wrote an article about this ongoing problem in last Friday's Daily News.


8 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2017 at 1:22 pm

As Online Name and Kya point out, run-away development is not helping things. Come to the council meeting tonight and watch safety get thrown under the bus.


4 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2017 at 11:16 pm

I was surprised when I started seeing the new crosswalk markings on El Camino, too. It turns out that those crosswalks have been there for a long time (Since at least 1991, according to images on Google Earth), but with simple parallel white lines. When the street lines were repainted, CalTrans upgraded them to high-visibility crosswalks (with the ladder pattern, which has a lot more paint). All of a sudden they jumped out to my attention, but marked crosswalks have been there all along. This was a Caltrans project on El Camino, not City of Palo Alto.

I don't know what the best response is for Waze using drivers filling every street once the main route starts to back up. The PA Online about traffic filling every street between downtown and Willow/101 every weekday evening was eye opening. Using all the extra routes does not lead to more cars getting through, when what limits is the overpass at 101, so Waze users just fill the neighborhoods with either speeding cars, or idling cars.


5 people like this
Posted by big problem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2017 at 5:35 am

@Online Name. Yes, also at Jordan the sharp left
turn from N. Cal Ave onto Middlefield and sharp
right from Middlefield onto N.Cal Ave with the narrowed lanes and visual distractions from the bollards make that corner very dangerous for everybody. What the City has done at Coleridge
and Cowper is a gratuitous visual atrocity. It
goes on and on in Palo Alto.


10 people like this
Posted by clear and present danger
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2017 at 10:47 am

The non-signalized crosswalks on El Camino Real are exceptionally hazardous to both pedestrians and motorists alike...and Cal Trans is WELL aware of this fact. Cal Trans lost it's first ever claim in December of 2012 when Emily Liou (who was 17 at the time of the collision in 2006) was left with catastrophic brain injuries when she was struck in "marked" crosswalk in an uncontrolled intersection in on el Camino Real Milbrae. Cal Trans was ordered to pay $12.2 million.

Web Link

It happened again in in 2010 when Chris Chandler was struck and killed in the marked but unsignalized crosswalk on El Camino Real and Isabella Ave in Atherton. A crosswalk that Cal Trans had promised - yet failed - to install pedestrian activated stoplights after two other pedestrians had been struck and seriously injured in the same crosswalk. Cal Trans was found 90% liable for this collision and ordered to pay $9.5 million to the family of Mr. Chandler.

Web Link


I know someone who was at a complete stop while a pedestrian crossed at an non-signalized crosswalk on El Camino Real, and was struck from behind by a vehicle estimated to have been traveling 40mph and never applied it's brakes before striking the stopped vehicle. Fortunately, the vehicle that was struck from behind did not strike the pedestrian, but the occupant of the vehicle that was struck did sustain multiple injuries along with the vehicle being a total loss. Clearly, the driver that struck the vehicle should have been able to safely stop without striking the vehicle in front of it, but the non-signalized crosswalk in the middle of El Camino Real created a very dangerous condition that allowed the collision to occur.

I believe non-signalized crosswalks are exceptionally dangerous and should not exist along any road where traffic travels above 25mph, and, imho the accident and injury data supports this opinion.


5 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:40 am

@Robert Neff - I've lived in Palo Alto for 40 years and the unsignaled crosswalks on El Camino Real have been there at least that long. During those 40 years, stop lights have been added at many of the crosswalks, but many still exist, especially in southern Palo Alto (which always seems to get less safety infrastructure than northern Palo Alto). As a regular pedestrian, I feel these crosswalks were much safer 40 years ago since car drivers were less distracted back then. Today, most drivers are using their iphones and these crosswalks are sometimes terrifying, even in bright sunlight. Unfortunately, I've gotten slower over the years and walking several blocks to the closest stop light to cross the street is often not realistic, so I often drive across El Camino instead of risking it. The city and county really need to bite the bullet and install stop lights at all intersections along El Camino. Or install mid-block pedestrian-only stop lights that are only activated when a pedestrian needs to cross, so shouldn't interfere with car traffic flow. Don't wait for pedestrians to be killed (which unfortunately recently happened in Atherton).


5 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 21, 2017 at 11:53 am

How will expanding the expensive roundabouts help anything? I drove by one in Old Palo Alto and they're now putting a raised solid hard (concrete?) barrier in the middle of the street approaching the roundabout. WHY?

They've already got 5 sawhorses with CAUTION signs in the middle of the roundabout and YIELD signs at the intersections. Why so much expensive unwanted ugliness

All this ugliness on a VERY quiet street?


6 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:09 pm

@Online Name - as a frequent pedestrian, I can tell you that most car drivers do not come to complete legal stops at all stop signs in the residential parts of Palo Alto. This is extremely dangerous for pedestrians. These traffic circles that replace stop signs are an admission that enforcing stop sign laws is a lost cause and the city needs to find other ways to make intersections safer for all users (cars and pedestrians). I would like to see more of these traffic circles in southern Palo Alto.


3 people like this
Posted by PM
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:18 pm

What happened to just WALKING to places. We have sidewalks everywhere! Amazingly, so many people DRIVE from e.g. Old PA to California...
30-40 mins walk will get you just about anywhere in PA, even 1 hr walk wouldn't make you suffer, would it? if anything, will keep you healthy


10 people like this
Posted by Pedestrain on the corner
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2017 at 1:57 pm

I'll say it loud and clear right now: car drivers run/roll the stops on right hand turns at an alarming ly high rate. I'd say 75% would be a conservative estimate from one who spends about 2.5 hours a day walking around Palo Alto.
I have to laugh when i hear people complaining about bikes running stop signs. Uh-huh...and that makes them different from cars, how?


9 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 21, 2017 at 6:03 pm

@Pedestrain on the corner - maybe your neighborhood is different but around where I live, I estimate that 99% of cars do not some to a complete stop before running a stop sign to turn right. This is my observation as a pedestrian. If I can see them run the stop sign, that means there was a pedestrian near the intersection (me), so if they were paying attention, they should have seen me and come to a complete stop.

Even for cars going straight through the stop sign, 75% running the stop sign is low (in my experience). The vast majority of cars just slow down at stop signs then plow through (even when they should have seen a pedestrian watching them).


Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2017 at 10:56 am

[Post removed.]


9 people like this
Posted by Let's try to understand and help each other.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2017 at 11:28 am

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

There are thousands people walking and bicycling everywhere at all times of day and night in Palo Alto. (Yes. this is supported by data. PAUSD students alone amount to 4,017 people who bike each weekday.) That is not counting kids who walk to PAUSD schools, people of all ages who walk and run for exercise and transportation, kids who walk and bike to private schools, adults who bike.

All people need to share the road safely--drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians. We are all people. Treating each other with kindness and respect and obeying the law is just being a good citizen--and a good person. Remember that not everyone can have (or may want to have) a drivers license, but they need to transport themselves freely and independently, nonetheless.

As for unsignalized crossings of El Camino and Oregon, people on this thread are criticizing the wrong government agency. The city does not operate those streets. Oregon is controlled by the county and El Camino is controlled by Caltrans, a state agency. Rule one of political engagement: Understand who the key decision-makers are.

Let's stick to the facts--and work together as a community to understand and solve problems for us all. Let's help each other move about safely and efficiently. A lot of that is simply making safe choices and considering the needs of others when we are out there on the street.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2017 at 12:07 pm

One of the things that we must do is all be a lot more careful when out and about.

I know people always blame someone else, but there are faults on all of us at times. Our streets aren't safe because people are not paying enough attention.

On top of that our streets traffic safety is very poor compared to what is in similar suburban areas in other countries. We have no barriers outside school. No zigzags either side of pedestrian crossings. People park much too close to corners and commercial driveways. Pedestrians and bike riders wearing dark clothes, particularly at night. Bikes without lights. Waze drivers following GPS. People driving kids to school because there are no buses or because they think their kids aren't safe walking or biking.

We need to educate ourselves and our children better. The streets are not playgrounds. They are not places to let children run ahead or bounce a ball. Young children have to have their hands held by adults as they cross the street. They have to be taught to wait before crossing until they are sure it is safe to start crossing. They have to treat the streets with respect in a way that they do not now. Bikes have to respect other road users and remember they are vehicles, not pedestrians. Drivers have to expect the unexpected behavior from other road users. They have to do a better job of not being distracted by anything.

The blame game won't help. We have to look at ourselves and see what we are doing that we could do better.


12 people like this
Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 22, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Life would be easier if the Bicylists would obey the laws and stop thinking the are a protected class and own the road.

I agree with the earlier poster, traffic calming measures like lane reduction has only made drivers worse.


6 people like this
Posted by ndn
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2017 at 2:53 pm

Well, as a pedestrian I haven't yet been ran over ( but almost) by bikers due to my attention to many dangerous, illegal and fast maneuvering . I have not felt the same danger by cars. Sure, drivers do drive inattentively sometimes but bikers scoff at laws and dangers, sometimes purposefully. But the worst are the bikers who simply do not apply the laws because they don't know them. Try to apply rights of way and bikers are most frequently the culprits. As for children, sure we look out for them but don't ask drivers to be responsible for their traffic mistakes. If you teach your children the laws the traffic laws that apply to them the risk of an accident lowers. Indeed I have followed accidentally teenage bikers who were impressive both in their diligence, attention to traffic and legal maneuvering,. But I must say that as a pedestrian I fear bikes, because of my experience with them. I don't fear cars because by and large they behave adequately towards pedestrians in my experience.

Bikers want simultaneously to be allowed to behave as bikers (vehicles) or pedestrians as they see fit at a moment. The problem is that we (both drivers, pedestrians or even other bikers) cannot guess in advance what will be the behavior pleasure of a biker., because their behavior is not consistent. And it is that inconsistency in behavior that's a problem, because it renders bikers unpredictable. Traffic patterns apply laws mainly because we all need to predict behavior so that we know how to behave on the road. Bikers, with their unpredictable behavior do not help understanding and they should because they are more vulnerable than cars, but much less than pedestrians.


4 people like this
Posted by Take it easy out there. Your neighbors will thank you.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2017 at 3:06 pm

We all must be more careful. However, drivers have the potential to do the most harm to others when they are careless. Cars are weapons when they are driven carelessly. Driving is a privilege and an enormous responsibility.

Today while I was driving a man behind me honked his horn because I waited for pedestrians (a large pack of children) to clear an intersection after the light turned. This was in front of a middle school at bell time! Shame on him.

Last night I observed a driver of an SUV honk his horn at another driver who was driving the speed limit on Alma. The SUV driver aggressively (and illegally) passed on the right without signalling or providing safe room for drivers in the right lane, and then swerved back into the left lane. Then he proceeded to weave in and out of traffic for the next mile until he reached the Churchill intersection where he was stopped by a traffic signal. All the traffic he'd aggressively passed caught up to him. He saved no time at all, but his reckless behavior was dangerous to everyone around him.

This is the kind of behavior that needs to change. Speeding and aggressive behavior like this really saves drivers very little time, usually only shaving a minute or so off a short, local trip, but it endangers everyone on the road. It is irresponsible and uncivil behavior. Let's all do better. Taking the attitude that everyone has a responsibility to be careful and to leave home in time so we don't have to rush would be a good start.


24 people like this
Posted by Hair Pulling
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2017 at 3:10 pm

First of all, stop this ridiculous narrowing of streets!

This has made driving and bike riding much more dangerous. VTA, Google, Apple, Tesla and other buses do not have enough room. They straddle lanes, because one lane is too narrow. When they are driving down a single lane area, they have two wheels in the gutter, obliterating the bike lane! This is also true of Marguerite and city shuttles.

Please be assured that bicyclists and pedestrians injured or killed will surely be the legal fault of the City of Palo Alto, and will certainly to be sued.


7 people like this
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2017 at 3:22 pm

"This has made driving and bike riding much more dangerous."

Was that your opinion or can you show the increased danger w/ before and after information? I'm guessing it was just an opinion but would welcome ANY statistical information showing increased dangers.
I have much more reaction time when I slow down.


14 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2017 at 3:51 pm

Are these people made of down feathers??
Palo Alto... an unsafe town? Fear the treacherous roads of deadly Palo Alto?
It's these vocal complainers who are at fault for the "traffic calming" measures everywhere which creates needless congestion.

Inefficient traffic flow causes frustration, which leads to dangerous behavior. By trying to make it safer, they end up making it unsafe. This is what happens when money grows on trees.


7 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2017 at 8:55 pm

No, "dangerous behavior" is caused by people who believe their need to be someplace sooner is more important than others' safety.


3 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 23, 2017 at 5:12 am

Todd, I'm sure you've been 100 percent angelic on the roads your entire life. I can even see the halo above your head.

Don't you remember the cartoon video in Driver's Ed?
No one is immune to road rage. Sad but true. They think self-driving cars will be the solution... but I worry about Google's utterly willingness to give ourselves away to robots.


6 people like this
Posted by I Guess I up in a Relative Utopia,
a resident of University South
on Mar 23, 2017 at 11:26 am

@Resident wrote: "The streets are not playgrounds. They are not places to let children run ahead or bounce a ball. Young children have to have their hands held by adults as they cross the street. They have to be taught to wait before crossing until they are sure it is safe to start crossing. They have to treat the streets with respect in a way that they do not now. "

This is not the world I grew up in, nor is it the world I want to leave to my children. Others' need to speed through my neighborhood alone in a car does not outweigh my children's desire to play safely with friends near (or even in) the street. I do not want to be required to grip my child's hand so tight that it almost hurts him for fear of a speeding inattentive driver mowing him down as he crosses the street.

Motorists in residential neighborhoods or near schools should be traveling slow enough that they can stop if a small child runs in front of them. PERIOD.


4 people like this
Posted by Kindness is contagious...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Keep calm, use the road with respect for the law and each others' comfort and safety. We create the world we live with the choices we make every day.

We are all people who use the streets different ways at different times, depending on the length of our trip, our ability, our access to a drivers license, and our desire to get exercise or preserve fossil fuel. Let's live kindly, and our community will be better for it.

I do notice that a lot of able-bodied people in my own neighborhood drive to the library, to the YMCA to exercise (hilarious), to the store, to play tennis--when these trips are less than a 1/2-mile. They drive solo to do this.

Humans make confounding choices. We are the traffic. The vast majority of Palo Alto traffic is people making short, local trips. If you are disabled, that makes sense, but (for the rest of us) there are good alternatives to driving that don't exacerbate congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. We can do this.

I have equipped my bike to carry five grocery bags, so I can shop for my family and carry other things we need. Our community is flat and easy to ride. A very elderly friend, Ellen Fletcher, who was still biking in her eighties, would say, "It's just not that hard." Bless her memory.


17 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 23, 2017 at 12:19 pm

I hear your concerns about your kids but the constant growth and gridlock is what's causing people to use residential streets as jughandles and cut-throughs.

Instead of yelling about the drivers using your streets as cut-throughs, tell the city the current and PLANNED growth is unsustainable. Pay attention to the the latest City Council meeting where yet again they're planning for new jobs to outpace new housing by 2 or 3 times. So either way you'll have be seeing LOTS of new traffic from NEW workers and NEW residents.

People are frustrated. Road rage is increasing. Drivers are so frustrated they're forming new lanes.

And the city is simultaneous planning on 1) raising speed limits and 2) putting more streets on traffic "diets" and 3) adding giant Botts Dots to prevent cars from turning which will only increase the the speeding and the road rage.


7 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 23, 2017 at 12:22 pm

Marie is a registered user.

Calming traffic to 25 miles per hour, the current speed limit on most city streets is very important, which I fully support. On the other hand, why slow speeds on major through streets to 15 miles an hours, as has been done (with bumps, not humps) on Ross Road near Oregon Expressway and Colorado near Middlefield? This could be really dangerous if there is a situation that requires a rapid response by fire or police departments.

Does anyone know when a speed limit of 15 miles an hour, as marked on signs on these streets, was approved for these streets and how?

This looks very much like a whack-a-mole approach to solving traffic issues, by discouraging people from using one street which simply shifts cars to another street which is not only unfair, but ineffective in the end.


11 people like this
Posted by Ross Road is a residential street
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 1:29 pm

Ross Road and Colorado are residential streets, not "major through streets". The city checks emergency response times regularly. Keep calm. Carry on...with care for others.


7 people like this
Posted by Take a deep breath.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2017 at 1:35 pm

I drive. I'm not raging. Please don't assume that just because you feel angry that everyone else is.

Take a deep breath. Driving is a privilege. Be careful out there. If drivers were behaving responsibly, traffic calming would be unnecessary. I support the changes.

Try biking or walking occasionally if you can. Exercise reduces stress.


2 people like this
Posted by joannpottberg
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2017 at 5:23 pm

Lytton Avenue has become a 'shortcut' to the freeway. It's not only the traffic but the air pollution that is a danger to the residents. An idling car at a stop sign is carbon and toxic fume generator....our homes are covered in black particles which are known to cause many illnesses. There are 7 kids, ages 2-11, living on one block and cars speed through even with the roundabouts....in fact, some don't quite make the turn and end up in our yards. Can someone tell us who to contact to take a traffic and speed count?


2 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2017 at 5:55 pm

Marie is a registered user.

@Ross road is a residential street. By through major through street, I meant that it was a long street connecting many other streets. It is indeed a residential street. And the speed limit for residential streets, AFAIK, is 25 MPH. I support traffic calming measures to ensure people travel 25 MPH, but not 15 MPH.


5 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2017 at 7:20 pm

15mph is acceptable to me near schools and parks. Safety first.


2 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 24, 2017 at 8:02 pm

If you're debating between 15 and 25 mph,ask the city why they're planning proposing to raise it to 35 mph and on many streets, sometimes on a block-by-block basis which will only cause more confusion.

I echo Joannpottsberg's comment about the black particles. My nice white outdoor furniture in the back yard was fine for years. Now, though, it needs to be cleaned DAILY to just go outside with a cup of coffee or when a friend drops by without getting filthy.


Like this comment
Posted by Dreaming
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2017 at 9:13 am

Yes, I am dreaming here. But wouldn't it be great if the train were undergrounded through town, allowing higher speed train service while also creating a complete right of way across town from one end to the other. Wouldn't it be great if it could be tuened into a throughway for bikes, pedestrians, and even small self-driving cars? (There would be room for separate tracks of all three.) It might even allow those of us on the south side of town to go downtown again.


4 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2017 at 12:35 pm

Marie is a registered user.

@parent 15 MPH is not the law in Palo Alto and I would oppose it for residential streets. For residents in a life threatening situation, such as a fire or a medical emergency, the difference between 15 MPH and 25 MPH can be the difference between life and death.

The only advantage to a speed limit of 15 MPH on some streets and not another is to protect some streets from more traffic at the expense of the next one over. It changes nothing - it only offloads the extra traffic to other residential streets.

I would be ok for dropping the speed limit to 15 MPH around schools - but Palo Alto has not even considered this. If Palo Alto decided all residential streets should be limited to 15 MPH, I would consider that fair, and would comply, although I would vote against it given the chance. But to slow some blocks to a crawl and not others, for no good reason other than pleasing the people who live on that block, is unfair.


15 people like this
Posted by Hurting
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 26, 2017 at 4:49 pm

I have been hit three times biking to work at Stanford.

The last two were serious, I was hit by preoccupied and inexperienced drivers in big cars who ran stop signs.

I have had to have three joint replacements, plus I know have two rods in my back and a plate holding my neck together.

The last two drivers who hit me were quite wealthy, though uninsured, and had to pay for my new joints, hospital stays, physical therapy, etc.

I drive to work now. Slower, due to traffic, but far safer!


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