Abusing the ADA & Compromising safety of others for the convenience of bicyclists | A Pragmatist's Take | Douglas Moran | Palo Alto Online |

Local Blogs

A Pragmatist's Take

By Douglas Moran

E-mail Douglas Moran

About this blog: Real power doesn't reside with those who make the final decision, but with those who decide what qualifies as the viable choices. I stumbled across this insight as a teenager (in the 1960s). As a grad student, I belonged to an org...  (More)

View all posts from Douglas Moran

Abusing the ADA & Compromising safety of others for the convenience of bicyclists

Uploaded: Jul 11, 2016
False claims about ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)? Unsupported claims about bicycle safety problems? Merely City Hall's rationales for a dubious project that compromises the safety of pedestrians, including small children. Both the ADA community and bicyclists should be outraged at this: Recall Aesop's Fable of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf".

This blog is a successor to my early blog "Amnesia at City Hall" (2016-06-14). That blog presented an example of City Hall making a bad decision on a small project because it was unaware of important stakeholders and their issues and the local circumstances at the site. While City Hall was unaware, that was irrelevant: There was only one priority--removing a trivial inconvenience for bicyclists--and thus the only relevant stakeholder group were bicyclists. This even after being made aware that the change would likely be compromising the safety of pedestrian and bicyclists themselves.

The specific details are unnecessary to the discussion here, but if interested, many of them are in the earlier blog (mostly in footnotes). Briefly, the project being used as an example here is a maze/chicanes at the bike/pedestrian path crossing of Matadero Avenue near Laguna. It has multiple purposes, including:
- Slow bicyclists down so that they can see-and-be-seen.
- Slow bicyclists down in a segment where there are many conflicts with small children being brought to the park (Bol Park).
- Exclude motorcycles--this path is a potential route from the Research Park to Foothill Expressway.


----ADA----

City Hall's initial rationalization for removing the chicanes was "The existing condition does not meet current design standards and places the city in a precarious position regarding ADA regulations and safety." (Josh Mello, Chief Transportation Official). The primary claim was that the chicanes were too narrow for wheelchairs, which was dubious because when the chicanes were updated in the mid-1990s, accommodating wheelchairs was part of the design.(foot#1) Unsurprisingly, when actual measurements were made, this claim was false. The secondary claim was that the chicanes were "a barrier for visually-impaired pedestrians", but the only section of the cited regulations that seemed relevant was that the chicane didn't have a ground-level bumper for people using canes. Since this deficiency could have been solved with a trivial addition during the intervening two decades, this rationale for removing the chicanes has zero credibility.

In the years I have been involved in Palo Alto politics, I have become accustomed to City Hall abusing the ADA in a variety of manners. My first posting to the blog included City Hall making false claims about the ADA requiring the design they preferred ("Librarians Against Books: Subverting the will of the electorate", 2013-10-07). But I also have multiple encounters where projects that could have substantial benefits for the disabled were thwarted by demands for perfection under the ADA.(foot#2)

So why the misrepresentations of the ADA? Does City Hall hope to bamboozle residents? Could they really believe that Palo Altans wouldn't check? Or could it be that they don't take the law seriously enough to check and get it right? Recognize that there are two big categories of mistakes. First, claiming that something is required when it is not, which is an even bigger mistake when it isn't even useful. Second, failing to include features that are both required and useful.

----Bicyclists vs. pedestrians----

After City Hall's decision became public, a committee of the Barron Park (Neighborhood) Association (BPA) held several meetings with Chief Transportation Official Mello and then with Director of Planning Hillary Gitelman. They attempted to explain the local circumstances, but it was an exercise in futility.

Part of Staff's response involved treating guidelines as if they were requirements. Guidelines are given relative to the generic or typical case, and presume that the planner/bureaucrat will have the necessary skills and diligence to adapt them to specific circumstances. Guidelines do have real value by producing consistency both in the generic cases and in the core of what is done for specific circumstances.(foot#3)

Bicyclists should worry about what is being done in their name--"Silence implies consent" will influence how many perceive the attitudes of bicyclists in general toward the rest of the community.(foot#4) This is yet another instance of City Hall taking the policy of promoting bicycling to absurd extremes. In this case, it is a trivial inconvenience that requires the typical bicyclist to slow to a speed slightly faster than that of a healthy pedestrian in two stretches of roughly 20 feet each. Furthermore, this is only slightly less than the appropriate speed for bicyclists in the larger segment (roughly 500 feet) of a shared bike and pedestrian path. This shared path is heavily used by pedestrians, from parents taking small children to the park up to seniors walking for exercise. A long-standing problem has been that of a significant fraction of bicyclists passing pedestrians too fast, too close and with too little warning (if any). This is common enough that various seniors with mobility and hearing deficiencies have reported cutting-back or giving up on using this path as being too dangerous. So what is City Hall's assessment of the situation: Bicyclists should be enabled to go faster--the inconvenience of going at a slower speed in this segment is discouraging people from bicycling. (Potential motto: "Show us a problem and we will make it worse.")

How little City Hall cares for the safety of pedestrians can be seen in their low regard for the issues raised. For example, after the ADA rationale was abandoned, the rationale for removing the current chicanes was that they slowed down bicyclists. Yet in response to the concerns about speeding bicyclists, City Hall claimed that the replacement would slow down bicyclists. Except that it won't: It will be a thin island with bollards (vertical pipes) whose purpose is to block large vehicles (such as cars). I have ridden through similar setups many times without the slightest decrease in speed.

City Hall claims the chicanes need to be immediately replaced because they don't meet guidelines. But it also acknowledges that the bike/pedestrian path doesn't meet the guidelines for a shared path. However, they have not yet even approved a schedule to start a process to plan improvements to the path. For City Hall, cutting a few seconds off the travel time of bicyclists requires immediate action which includes degrading the safety of pedestrians. Improving the safety for pedestrians? That can wait for years and years.(foot#5)

As to rejecting residents concerns about motorcycles using the path? First, City Hall used the logic of the five Republican hacks on the Supreme Court in "Shelby County v. Holder" (2013) where they invalidated portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act on the grounds that since it had been effective in blocking states from suppressing voting of minorities that it was no longer needed (which several of those states promptly disproved--surprise, surprise). City Hall made the similar argument: Since there wasn't currently a problem with motorcycles on the path, the barriers for keeping motorcycles off the path could be removed.

Second, City Hall engaged in the classic misrepresentation tactic of addressing a minor aspect of the issue as if that answered the whole. Way back when the barriers were installed, there were two parts of the problem. The lesser one was that the fields adjacent to the path were a destination for dirt bikers. The larger one was it being used by commuters on motorcycles (Research Park to Foothill Expressway). If the problem was only the former--motorcycles going into the park--why would there be a chicane on the segment between the park and the Research Park (Matadero to Hanover)?

Planning Director Gitelman stated (email) "We are also committed to closely monitoring the situation and implementing other improvements as needed,..." but how credible is this. The initial decision was made without seeking input from the community, and then confirmed in a manner that indicated that the input that was forced upon them was ignored. Smacks of "This time you can trust us!"

The argument that the current chicanes are "dangerous" or "hazardous" has repeatedly been made by those advocating their removal. Yet, when I ask for an explanation, none has ever been forthcoming. Nor can I figure out what it would be: I ride through the chicanes and I have watched many, many, many others ride through them. As I opened with, it seems to be "crying wolf!!!"

So what is the message in City Hall feeling it doesn't need to come up with a rationale that doesn't hold up to even a basic examination? On the larger stage--of the US Presidential Primaries and Brexit (British Exit from the EU) ...--the elites are throwing hissy fits, unable or unwilling to figure out what caused them to be rejected. Palo Alto bicyclists need to be concerned about the power-tripping of those that claim to speak for them: Projects that produce trivial benefit for certain cyclists to the large detriment to the larger community will inevitably produce a large backlash.

----Footnotes----
1. The path is part of the route used by patients at the VA Hospital to get to El Camino and beyond.

2. "The perfect is the enemy of the good-enough", ADA-version: During renovation of a park, I pointed out some improvements that would have benefited many, including people with mobility issues. One-for-one replacement didn't require ADA review, but any additions would trigger it. The path to the potential improvements was judged to be not fully ADA-compliant: After a period of heavy rains, it might be too muddy to be accessible to people in wheelchairs. Since there was no budget for a major upgrade to the path, the potential improvements were precluded. So why it is better to not have a facility,at all than to not have access to it a few foul-weather days per year? The legal/bureaucrat logic is that the risk (to the official) of their judgment being questioned far outweighs the benefits to the public. This is a generic part of governmental culture--imposed by lawyers.
Another example was my futile attempts to provide improved access for patients at the VA Hospital to the nearby parks and open space. Part of my earlier blog "Why not 'constructive engagement'with City Hall?" Note: the back entrance cited has since been moved to a better location as a side-effect of construction.

3. Life lesson on documentation/training materials: Historical examples have been frequent Asides in this blog. For example, certain categories of military history books provide better management case studies than mass market management books. In one book's discussion of the advantages of the German army in the World Wars, especially the opening days, the superiority of their Field Manuals was cited, with the explanation that those manuals provided good-enough solutions to common situations to keep quickly trained junior officers and sergeants alive long enough to develop their own judgment. (Aside: Some other militaries learned this lesson, and the US military was cited as one of the most successful in implementing its own version). Guidelines, Standard Operating Procedures... have analogous roles.
Earlier blog with discussion of the value of learning history: "In search of better formulated questions on school policy: part 2" (2015-05-08).

4. Earlier blog on this problem: "The Palo Alto Bicycle Lobby: Impeding more and safer bicycling?", 2014-03-16.
Another example where City Hall ignored pedestrian safety concerns within what was supposed to be a bike and pedestrian project: "Die, Pedestrians, Die: The City's implicit response to major long-term safety problems", 2014-02-18.

5. "years and years" for safety improvements: Getting traffic calming (speed humps) on a major bicycle route took roughly 15 years from when it was designated a "priority", and two more years for the pedestrian safety component that had been omitted when the project was finally installed.


----
An abbreviated index by topic and chronologically is available.


----Boilerplate on Commenting----
The Guidelines for comments on this blog are different from those on Town Square Forums. I am attempting to foster more civility and substantive comments by deleting violations of the guidelines.

I am particularly strict about misrepresenting what others have said (me or other commenters). If I judge your comment as likely to provoke a response of "That is not what was said", do not be surprised to have it deleted. My primary goal is to avoid unnecessary and undesirable back-and-forth, but such misrepresentations also indicate that the author is unwilling/unable to participate in a meaningful, respectful conversation on the topic.

If you behave like a Troll, do not waste your time protesting when you get treated like one.

Comments

 +   3 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jul 11, 2016 at 3:49 pm

"This is yet another instance of City Hall taking the policy of promoting bicycling to absurd extremes."

The rationale is simple and obvious. Bicycle organizations give city hall elaborate awards with great pomp and circumstance for doing their bidding. ADA and family groups, not so much.

Follow the ego trail.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by sheri, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 11, 2016 at 4:27 pm

sheri is a registered user.

Need a clarification. You say "and then Director of Planning Hillary Gitelman." Do you mean "and then with" or that she was director then and is no longer so? I was away and perhaps I missed something.

[[Meant "then with" (fixed above). I missed the ambiguity because I am old-school and would have hypenated the "former" sense ("then-Director")
]]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Stuart, a resident of Community Center,
on Jul 11, 2016 at 9:08 pm

After attending one of the Bryant bike route 'improvement' meetings, the only thing that was clear was Josh Mello's excitement to scatter 'improvements' all along Bryant. Those 'improvements' appear designed specifically to force cars, cyclists, and pedestrians into an obstacle course at many intersections, and appears to do more to encourage car traffic across Bryant than anything else. I am unaware that that bike route needed fixing, and am unaware of problems that these 'solutions' might fix. In spite of many words put into print about what is going to happen, I'm waiting to read the words outlining the real, not imaginary, problems that need to be fixed.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by PatrickD, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 11, 2016 at 9:12 pm

[[ Deleted by blogger because of the following. ]]

Focusing on the claim that by removing the Matadero chicane would somehow cause motorcycles to use the foot/cycle path is clearly bogus. It's fairly obvious that it's not a motor vehicle path and would have signage to that effect.

[[ Commenter breaks a basic rule against misrepresentation. If a commenter isn't willing/capable of dealing respectfully and honestly with others' positions, I seek to discourage their further participation by deletion. In this instance, it was first not honoring the difference between allowing and causing. Second there is the false claim of my "focusing on ...". Third, the commenter's apparent belief against experience that simply putting up a sign prevents people from doing something.
Three strikes, you're out.

Comment was also off-topic: The blog's topic was how City Hall (didn't) balance various stakeholder groups, not a discussion of the details of bike facilities in the larger area.
]]


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 12, 2016 at 8:32 am

Whereas I wholeheartedly agree with the principles that ADA is founded on, the practice can take on absurd situations.

As a good example, one of the local elementary schools has limited parking onsite and neighborhood parking is difficult too. In the staff only parking lot there are two disabled spots. However, there are no staff who have blue disabled parking tags. As a result, there are two spots in this small staff parking lot which are always unused. When school staff then have to hunt for parking in the neighborhood this ADA compliance is more of a nuisance than a help.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by SUV, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Jul 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

[[ Deleted: disrespectful/troll ]]


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 12, 2016 at 5:23 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

On ADA and parking:
This has the potential fork off onto a large tangent of complaints -- and I would like to avoid that.

However, it is a good example of the problem of bureaucratic/overly legalistic government, where the rules become an impediment to providing service.

My experience around Palo Alto is that most clusters of handicapped parking spaces have a utilization rate less than 25%. But there are also places that have shortages -- for these places the reported preferred strategy is to have someone else drive and if there is an available space, use the placard; otherwise get dropped off at the door and have the driver park and catch up. The reported reason that the latter is not the default is that complicates things in a variety of ways.

So why haven't such shortages of spaces been addressed? First, evaluating service levels is more difficult and contentious than simply satisfying a formula. Second, I speculate that the abundance of examples of places with excessive allocations of spaces makes it psychologically difficult for an administrator to believe that there are circumstances where there is a shortage. Third, administrators get desensitized by false claims by power-tripping advocates with an agenda distinct from providing service (people who want to be seen as supporting a cause or group without any concern about reality).

The structure of our form of government, and hence regulation, makes some of this unavoidable. But we residents need to push back against inappropriate use -- there often is more flexibility than the bureaucrats will initially admit.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Allen Akin, a resident of Professorville,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:45 am

Different context, hopefully relevant: I'm monitoring how Planning's emphasis on bicycles plays out in Professorville. There are suggestions we're headed toward using Bryant exclusively as a bicycle corridor. If that happens I would expect the vehicles that currently use Bryant to spread out into the adjacent streets in the neighborhood. Waverley is the obvious sacrifice zone; it's parallel to Bryant, only one block away, and already has a signal at Embarcadero.

In the past, Planning has been resistant to measuring traffic in the neighborhoods (as opposed to arteries and major intersections). I keep tabs on my corner, Lincoln and Waverley, where we're up to about 5100 vehicles/day. I'd like to make sure the Bryant Street bicycle boulevard isn't another case where catering to bicycle commuters becomes a loss for other groups (including bicyclists elsewhere in the neighborhood).

[[Blogger: This is very relevant and on-topic. It is another good example of the balancing - or lack thereof - between the various stakeholder group relative to bicycling.
]]


 +   3 people like this
Posted by RemoveTheGates&MakeAdditionalParkImprovements, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 4:40 pm

Conflicts in a treasured neighborhood park where people linger and enjoy and a heavily traveled regional bicycle route are to be expected. I run, bicycle, and walk on the path regularly and have an experience from all three perspectives.

I agree that the City was mistaken to refer to ADA and also agree the concept should have been developed in consultation with the neighborhood. Instead the City deployed the "DAD" model-- decide, announce, defend. In this case, the EDD, or Engage, Deliberate, Decide model would have been more effective.

I disagree with the suggestion that the existing entry gates are a mere trivial inconvenience for people who bike.

If gates are a smart solution to reduce ped/bike conflicts, should the City install gates every 100' on the path? Why not every 50'? Should we put chicanes everywhere that people drive cars too fast in Barron Park? We don't have sidewalks and I get scared when cars speed by so close to me. I have to step to the side and stop to calm my nerves. How do you measure actual versus perceived risk?

Both the Caltrans Highway Design Manual and VTA Bicycle Design Guidelines detail the reasons gates are not recommended and have fallen out of favor as a design treatment. See:

Caltrans HDM 1003.1: Web Link
and VTA Bicycle Design Guidelines Chapter 9-14: Web Link

Caltrans recommends a design speed of 20mph for bike/ped paths. Do you disagree that 20mph should be accommodated on the bike/ped path? Caltrans HDM also says:
"Obstacle posts or gates must not be used to force bicyclists to slow down, stop or dismount."

The existing gates effectively create a one-way path and force head-on conflicts between users. Add in dogs and children into the mix, and novice to experienced bicyclists, and the conflict is real. When I am jogging on the path, I often jump off the path before the gates to avoid a conflict with people with dogs and people on bicycles. While I would prefer to run on the path, sometimes I stay on the road simply to avoid the gates during hours of peak traffic.

Commuter cyclists often have heavy panniers mounted on their bicycles. Even when slowing, maneuvering through the existing gates can easily throw a cyclist off balance. There are also hand-powered trikes and recumbent bicycles, tandem bicycles, and bicycles pulling trailers that have a larger turning radius.

I believe that if someone were to be injured by the existing gates, the City would be liable. See $6.95M settlement of injury case due to poor path design:
Web Link#

Check out the new El Camino Park to see pathway entry controls that are in accordance with the HDM and VTA Guidelines, or the Stevens Creek Trail, or nearly any other trail. Palo Alto's dated gates are obsolete and a hazard.

Redesign of the gates should not have happened in a vacuum. Do you think it would have been more palatable if the City hadn't hidden behind ADA and had proposed the changes in tandem with improvements along the pathway that respond to the concerns that have been raised by the committee?

What other ideas did the committee have and how did the City respond? Would you support widening the pathway or adding duck-outs for pedestrians to linger or adding pavement stencils to promote courteous behavior? It is not only bicycle behavior that could improve. When walkers are listening to music and unaware of their surroundings, or not in control of their dogs and children, hazards are created. Some trails have etiquette signs that remind folks to pass on the left, and move right when being passed, maybe signage or pavement markings with similar messages could reduce conflicts.



 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: RemoveTheGates&MakeAdditionalParkImprovements

This is an excellent example of those who speak for bicyclists: It is disingenuous, "me me me", and arrogant.

> "If the gates are a smart solution..."
Disingenuous: Nobody said that. The gates were selected as the least-worse option for a complex problem. However, this was done under a City Staff that supported shared use, whereas the current Staff acts as if "shared" means bicyclists get everyone else's share.
When this sort of misrepresentation is then used to ridicule the position of others, that is grounds for the whole message to be deleted as disrespectful (of both the target and the whole audience). However, I am making an exception because this comment is illustrative of the bigger problem.

> "...fallen out of favor..."
Again, disingenuous. This is talking about a change to approach for the generic case. City Hall and bicycle advocates have refused to consider the unusual aspects of this situation.

> "Caltrans recommends a design speed of 20mph for bike/ped paths. Do you disagree that 20mph should be accommodated on the bike/ped path?"
Yes, I disagree. A bicyclist blowing by a pedestrian from behind with no warning and the tip of the handlebars about 2 feet away is unsafe at 20 mph. Although the injuries to a senior hit by a bike may not be of themselves fatal, they can cause incapacitation that spirals down to death.
Similarly, a bicyclist blowing close by a parent unloading two small children from their car on the way to the park is dangerous. Bicyclists are legitimately upset about cars passing too close and too fast, but when it comes to them endangering pedestrians, they are remarkably cavalier. Arrogant hypocrites.

> "Commuter cyclists often have heavy panniers... can easily throw a cyclists off balance."
Not in my observation. I have seen a lot of commuter cyclists go through the gates and few have more than a minimally filled panier -- often indistinguishable from an empty panier. Furthermore, these commuters maneuver adroitly through the gates.

> "hand-powered trikes and recumbent bicycles, tandem bicycles...trailers"
Observation: very few of these.
As noted in the earlier blog cited here "Amnesia at City Hall" in footnote 3, there is a trivial detour available and there was an attempt at problem-solving that was rejected by the bike advocates.
It is typical of the arrogance of the bicycle advocates to refuse to engage in problem-solving with other stakeholders and demand what is most convenient for them (classic: "Hypocrite: The man who murdered his parents, and then pleaded for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan.").

> "Check out the new El Camino Park to see pathway entry controls"
Disingenuous. This is a very dissimilar situation.
1. Path too narrow to accommodate features.
2. Different traffic pattern.
3. Visibility problems.
4. Very different pedestrian situation.
See for yourself: Google Street Views of crossing at El Camino Park vs Bol Park crossing. On visibility: notice the mound hides a street entering from the left: View of approaching bicyclist. Be aware that the mound cannot be removed--it is a thin covering of a large concrete tunnel for flood control.

> "Redesign of the gates should not have happened in a vacuum. Do you think it would have been more palatable if the City hadn't hidden behind ADA and had proposed the changes in tandem with improvements along the pathway that respond to the concerns that have been raised by the committee?"
Duh, yes. That is the topic of this blog. But notice that Staff rejected this and that bicycle advocates have argued for going ahead on the removal without even the beginning of a plan to address the other concerns.
Aside: It is not "the committee" whose concerns need to be addressed, it the community. The committee is just a group of residents who heard various of the community's concerns and met with City Hall.

> "What other ideas did the committee have and how did the City respond? ..."
As stated, City Hall refused to meaningfully listen to concerns, much less engage in problem-solving. The commenter's "question" is a standard disingenuous argument that implies that the target (the committee) refused to constructively engage instead of being denied such engagement.

> "It is not only bicycle behavior that could improve. When walkers ..."
This is another standard disingenuous argument. Safety design is based on what people will do, and not on a call/hope for behavior to improve. Especially when it goes against many years of experience that it won't. This was discussed in earlier blog "The Palo Alto Bicycle Lobby: Impeding more and safer bicycling?" cited in a footnote.

If bicyclists find it so difficult and dangerous to share a path with pedestrians, maybe the solution is to ban bicyclists from that path.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by RemoveTheGates&MakeAdditionalParkImprovements, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:53 pm

Thank you Mr. Moran for the detailed response. Reasonable people can have differences of opinion.
I shall respond briefly to a couple of your points and then disengage.

I think it is a false assumption that a modest improvement for people who bicycle results in a negative impact on people who walk. See for example the removal of the barriers at the end of Los Robles Avenue last year, and the modification of the Georgia Avenue entrance to the pathway by the school district.

>"The argument that the current chicanes are "dangerous" or "hazardous" has repeatedly been made by those advocating their removal. Yet, when I ask for an explanation, none has ever been forthcoming. when I ask for an explanation, none has ever been forthcoming."

I provided an explanation of why the chicanes are hazardous, which I understand you disagree with. In other cities, people have been severely injured for life by poor facility design. Lives have been forever altered and millions of dollars of public funds have gone to settlements and lawsuits.

You describe the gates as the "least-worse option for a complex problem." This is a transportation facility, not solely a recreation facility. Did you take a look at the Caltrans Highway Design Manual chapter on pathway design? There are many paths in larger cities with similar user conflicts that manage to design pathways that balance the needs of all users, without using gates.

>"A bicyclist blowing by a pedestrian from behind with no warning and the tip of the handlebars about 2 feet away is unsafe at 20 mph. Although the injuries to a senior hit by a bike may not be of themselves fatal, they can cause incapacitation that spirals down to death. Similarly, a bicyclist blowing close by a parent unloading two small children from their car on the way to the park is dangerous. Bicyclists are legitimately upset about cars passing too close and too fast, but when it comes to them endangering pedestrians, they are remarkably cavalier. Arrogant hypocrites."

Why are you implying that support for a 20mph speed limit = support for dangerous cycling behavior? Why are you calling bicyclists arrogant hypocrites? Do you believe there is no way people who bike can cycle safely at 20mph? But cars can safely drive at 20mph? People who walk are much more likely to get hit by a car in Palo Alto, yet you are demonizing bicyclists and name-calling. I did not express a lack of proper concern regarding bicyclists endangering pedestrians.

>"...a standard disingenuous argument that implies that the target (the committee) refused to constructively engage instead of being denied such engagement."

That was not my implication. I am not sure why you perceived my comment that way. I was curious and trying to understand what suggestions the committee raised with the staff. You mentioned that several meetings were held, so I assumed that the committee offered some suggestions. I guess I was wrong to assume that and to inquire.

>"Safety design is based on what people will do, and not on a call/hope for behavior to improve."

I agree with you on this point. This is why the gates should go. My point about potential education on trail etiquette is that if there is in fact a serious safety problem on other parts of the trail, education could be one part of the strategy, along with engineering: path widening. Should we not have signage and stenciling at railroad crossings, and only engineering? Signage and stenciling on transportation facilities is part of safety.

>"If bicyclists find it so difficult and dangerous to share a path with pedestrians, maybe the solution is to ban bicyclists from that path."

The danger is not in sharing paths with pedestrians. The danger is in navigating fixed objects on a transportation facility.

Regarding maybe banning bicyclists, on that I, and many other reasonable people, will strongly disagree.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Robert Neff, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:47 pm

There are two separate problems here -- the chicanes at the pathway crossing Matadero, and the conflicts between pathway users along the length of the Bol Park path. Removing the chicanes will have no effect on behavior on the path, except for a few 10s of yards closest to Matadero.

At Matadero there is no stop sign on the path, and there are stop signs on the approaching streets, so the key question is if drivers, stopped in their cars at the stop signs, can see up and down the pathway. The only obstacle at present is the overgrown coyote bush on the North side that should be trimmed. True, you may not be able to see an approaching car all the way up the street, but we don't make plans for traffic that runs stop signs without yielding. I think the chicanes should be removed.

On the existing ~10 foot wide path all users have to share the space. The city education effort is mostly the signs posted along the path. We can do more for education -- Boulder, CO has more mixed-use paths than Palo Alto, and a "Way of the Path" campaign to encourage sharing: Web Link Would that program work in Palo Alto? Cyclists can go slower when near pedestrians, and everyone should be alert, but commuting cyclists don't want to slow much below 15 mph, and residents out for a stroll don't want to worry about whether they have meandered in the way of cycle traffic. Fundamentally a single, 10 foot pathway with the use seen in Bol Park requires compromises.

I have not seen specific plans for changes to the pathway in the new parks plan, but I think it should be redesigned with at least twice the total width, including an 8-10 foot decomposed granite walking path, and maybe even additional width for jogging. There is enough space, and it would be better for everyone.

For about 2 years PABAC has been officially the Palo Alto Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee. If you are interested in pedestrian issues, please consider joining. There is no application process, you just start coming.



 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 15, 2016 at 12:14 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

Re: RemoveTheGates&MakeAdditionalParkImprovements, comment 2

Yet another good example of why it is exasperating to try to have a productive conversation with those who position themselves to speak for bicyclists. I know who this person is based upon the linkage he provided between the comment here and a message on the discussion group BPA-issues (Barron Park neighborhood). If you think I am being hard on him, his professional profile lists him as a manager with skills of "communicating complex ... issues in a clear and concise manner".

> "I think it is a false assumption that a modest improvement for people who bicycle results in a negative impact on people who walk."
Disingenuous. The comment was about this very particular situation, not the general case.

> "See for example the removal of the barriers at the end of Los Robles Avenue last year, and the modification of the Georgia Avenue entrance to the pathway by the school district."
Another disingenuous statement. Those barriers were of an entirely different design and had different criteria, for example, no crossing street and not through an unloading area for the park.

> "I provided an explanation of why the chicanes are hazardous, "
False. In an earlier discussion on the BPA-issues group, he cited a segment of the guidelines "Should permit passage, without dismounting, for adult tricycles, bicycles towing trailers, and tandem bicycles. All users legally permitted to use the facility should be accommodated; failure to do so increases the likelihood that the bollards will be dangerous hazards." I replied pointing out that an assertion is not an explanation, that the statement is a non-sequitur, and that the statement applies to bollards (vertical pipes), not the chicanes at the location in questions.

> "This is a transportation facility, not solely a recreation facility."
Yet another disingenuous statement. No one said that it is solely a recreation facility. The discussion has been of it being a shared facility.

> "There are many paths in larger cities with similar user conflicts that manage to design pathways that balance the needs of all users, without using gates."
Logical fallacy. There are many airports in larger cities that handle 747s, therefore Palo Alto airport should handle 747s.

> "Why are you implying that support for a 20mph speed limit = support for dangerous cycling behavior?"
Disingenuous. The comment that I was replying to was not about a speed limit but rather "Caltrans recommends a design speed of 20mph for bike/ped paths. Do you disagree that 20mph should be accommodated on the bike/ped path?" A "design speed" is the normal/intended speed: the prediction of the user's expectation of the reasonable speed. Some definitions have it as the practical speed in the "least favorable part".
This is unlikely to be sloppy terminology: The argument by the bicycle advocates (on the aforementioned BPA-issues group) was that adding even small delays to trips--a few seconds in this situation--discouraged people from bicycling. One of the complaints by pedestrians is that the bicyclists see the path as a highway.

> "People who walk are much more likely to get hit by a car in Palo Alto,"
Irrelevant. Or is the argument that it is OK to ignore safety for pedestrians from cyclists as long as for cyclists kill fewer pedestrians than cars?
> "yet you are demonizing bicyclists and name-calling."
Reporting commonly observed behavior is not "demonizing". And pointing out the routine hypocrisy is not name-calling.

> "You mentioned that several meetings were held, so I assumed that the committee offered some suggestions. I guess I was wrong to assume that and to inquire."
I judged the commenter to be feigning ignorance. On the aforementioned BPA-issues discussion group, he posted a reply to one of the reports from the committee on its meeting with Staff.

And on and on and on.
I have been involved in similar exchanges off-and-on for roughly two decades. My assessment is that the bicycle advocates are simply trying to win by exhausting the other stakeholders.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 15, 2016 at 1:05 am

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Robert Neff

"but we don't make plans for traffic that runs stop signs without yielding. I think the chicanes should be removed."
Wrong. You do make plans for that. There is a long history of stop sign running at this location. At various times in the past, this was on a list of intersections to receive police enforcement, but with the unfilled positions, cut-backs and changes in priorities, my understanding is that it rarely happens anymore.

Recognize that the stop sign for north-bound Matadero (toward El Camino) is well short of the intersection, but even drivers who stop or slow to a roll often cue off the intersection, not the stop sign. Major reason: The pavement markings are not visible at non-trivial distances because of the contour of the land -- the bike crossing is on the other side of a rise/mound. Realize that I have experimented with this by driving toward this intersection to see where the marking became visible (in a standard car). This was best-case because I knew where the markings were, was looking for them, and was driving very slowly.

The planned striping has the same problem with visibility. My expectation is that even normally careful drivers will often pass through the bike crossing before stopping.

So the question should be how to minimize the chance of a collision. Instead, bike advocates like commenter Neff believe that existing protective measures should be removed.

Aside: I live further down Matadero and drivers cruising through this intersection was a big part of the need for traffic calming on the street, which was implemented with speed humps. It took 15 years from becoming a "priority" to getting something done. If someone tells you that the City will respond to any problems that develop, they are either naive or dismissing you.

> "commuting cyclists don't want to slow much below 15 mph"
A useful observation about the problem of expected speed.

> "I have not seen specific plans for changes to the pathway in the new parks plan, ..."
There is no plan. As the blog entry stated "they have not yet even approved a schedule to start a process to plan improvements to the path."

> "Removing the chicanes will have no effect on behavior on the path, except for a few 10s of yards closest to Matadero."
First, as stated in the blog, the most sensitive segment is roughly 500 feet, mostly to the south. Second, is commenter Neff really arguing that because the chicanes don't improve safety on 90% of the path (roughly 1 mile) that we should ignore the 10% where it does make a significant difference?

On reports/complaints about the bad behavior of a significant fraction of bicyclists toward pedestrians: I regard this as indicative/predictive of the behavior in the segment in question.

Remember from the beginning of this response that a big part of the safety concerns are for the cyclists themselves.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by RemoveTheGates&MakeAdditionalParkImprovements, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

I am not the person you claim I am. I feel sorry for the bloke you have been so hard on. Maybe if you weren't so hard on people, people would not be afraid to use their real name to comment. You judged me to be someone else entirely and were rather hard on me based on this mistaken identity. Not everyone in barron park is on the email list you mention.
Reasonable people with good intentions can still disagree over matters of substance.

> "And on and on and on.
I have been involved in similar exchanges off-and-on for roughly two decades. My assessment is that the bicycle advocates are simply trying to win by exhausting the other stakeholders."

Your insistence on labeling people who bicycle occasionally as bicycle advocates who care only of themselves is part of the problem. As my initial comment stated, I walk on the path, run on the path, and bicycle on the path. Bicycling is the thing I do least of those three. I also drive on Matadero to visit a friend who lives on the uphill side of the path every 1-2 weeks. The thing I do most frequently is walk in the evening on the path, 2-3 times a week. By labeling people incorrectly you dis-value their perspective and what they have to contribute.

Hiding behind kids safety is a smokescreen camouflaging your true intentions to ban bikes from the path entirely. The layout of the parking adjacent to the park, the playground, and the pathway, does not require parents to unload small children and cross the pathway to access the park and the playground. I trust Gunn "parent" on what's best for kids safety. See "parent" comment on this article here:
Web Link



 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

> "I am not the person you claim I am."
There was only one person in the discussions on BPA-issues and my blogs who claimed to be providing an explanation of the dangers of the chicanes and then you stated that you had provided such an explanation. Consequently, I assumed equivalence. In your initial comment, you described contention for passage through the chicane (inflating it to be "conflict"). If this is what you were referring to, be aware that brief delays waiting for your turn is not "danger". Under such reasoning, every traffic light and stop sign is "dangerous" and needs to be removed.

> "Your insistence on labeling people who bicycle occasionally as bicycle advocates who care only of themselves is part of the problem."
Disingenuous. I didn't label you that because of your being an occasional bicyclist, but because you engaged in strong advocacy for one perspective at the exclusion of others (hence "advocate") and when there were important safety issues (hence "care only of themselves").


> "Hiding behind kids safety is a smokescreen camouflaging your true intentions to ban bikes from the path entirely."
False. If one can't present credible counter-arguments to a case, make an ad hominem attack (normally this would get such a message deleted here). What I stated as the #1 concern was safety for bicyclists crossing Matadero, and this somehow becomes me wanting to ban bicyclists. My statement mentioning banning cyclists was that if they refused to try to accommodate others, they are the ones that should suffer--if one takes an all-or-nothing approach, prepare to get nothing. If the commenter lacks the basic reading comprehension to understand this pattern, he doesn't belong in this discussion. And if he does, but chooses to pretend otherwise, he similarly doesn't belong here.

> "The layout of the parking adjacent to the park, the playground, and the pathway, does not require parents to unload small children and cross the pathway to access the park and the playground."
This statement undercuts the the commenter's repeated claim about knowing the park. He should have noticed that a significant proportion (about 60%?) of the (very limited) parking on the park's side of the street requires walking along the shared path (or in a travel lane of a busy street). (While there are no official parking spaces on the other side of the street, the shoulder provides some additional parking).

> "I trust Gunn "parent" on what's best for kids safety. See "parent" comment on this article here:
Web Link"

That comment is not credible. It claims "These bicycle traps are a lawsuit waiting to happen. I've seen kids on the way to school crash into them and fall of their bikes. Especially in the morning when groups of kids are riding to school, someone in the middle or back of the group may have a hard time seeing the traps"
Notice that it apparently would have you believe that Gunn students are so "intellectually challenged" that they cannot remember from one day to the next that the chicanes are there on their route (but rather they need to see them). BS. The choice of the word "trap" for "chicane" is also a tip-off that that commenter is not being honest.

> "Maybe if you weren't so hard on people, people would not be afraid to use their real name to comment."
On the blog, I expect people to have an understanding of how to participate honestly and productively in a non-interactive discussion, part of which is appreciation for the "precision of language" and avoiding transparently invalid logical arguments. I realize that most colleges no longer teach their undergraduates these skills, but I do expect their graduates to have the tools to quickly acquire those skills upon entering the workplace. I expect commenters to have reading comprehension adequate to be admitted to a selective college (reading comprehension includes understanding how others are likely to interpret what one has written).
I expect and accept a certain amount of sloppiness in online comments. However, when someone crosses a threshold of violations of these expectations, they are being disruptive to the discussion and disrespectful of the audience that wants a meaningful discussion.

For example, is it too much to expect a commenter to understand that if they ridicule someone else's perspective by seriously misrepresenting it (paragraph 4 of this commenter's first posting) that that will be seen as a belligerent act?
Is it too much to expect someone to understand the logical fallacy of arguments in the category "Ostriches must be able to fly because there are other birds that can fly." This is an argument that this commenter deployed multiple times.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by A neighbor, a resident of Barron Park,
on Jul 18, 2016 at 11:00 am

I would like to know how the chicanes prevent bikes from speeding on the rest of the path. Even if a bike gets slowed down by the chicanes they can speed up afterwards. I was hit by a bicycle on the Bol Park path far away from the chicanes.

I don't agree with the comment that the island replacing the chicanes will not slow down any bikers. I bike a lot and it will slow me down, especially if there is a big warning sign.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Max Hauser, a resident of Mountain View,
on Jul 18, 2016 at 12:38 pm

Max Hauser is a registered user.

Doug Moran: "Bicyclists are legitimately upset about cars passing too close and too fast, but when it comes to them endangering pedestrians, they are remarkably cavalier. Arrogant hypocrites."

I've seen that behavior, and cavalier motorists of course; pedestrians too. Local shared trails are notorious for pedestrian groups spreading out in blithe conversation, blocking bicyclists trying to pass safely and respectfully; deafening themselves to warnings by wearing headphones; even reacting hostilely when bicyclists call out a passing alert like "on your left" (an almost universally understood protocol). Recently, a clump of pedestrians playing Pokemon Go obliviously blocked the whole Stevens Creek Trail to all modes of travel.

But rude though it be, doesn't all that just manifest a universal feature of human nature, more than any conscious hypocrisy? We are legendarily blind to our own role in any problem we see -- even one we complain about. Like the new arrivals in periodic employment booms here, grousing about absurd traffic or housing scarcities. I heard one psychologist dub the syndrome "externalizing."


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 18, 2016 at 2:35 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: "A neighbor" (two comments up)

> "I would like to know how the chicanes prevent bikes from speeding on the rest of the path."
Asked and answered many times already -- the issue is speed in the area of the chicanes, with speeding on the rest of the path indicative of what would happen without the chicanes. Is it credible that this commenter can't grasp the difference? Not to me. Consequently, this is simple a Big Lie" tactic.

I > " I don't agree with the comment that the island replacing the chicanes will not slow down any bikers. I bike a lot and it will slow me down, especially if there is a big warning sign.==
Yet another example of a disingenuous argument.
The argument for keeping the chicanes or something equivalent is to require cyclists to slow down. The bollards are pipes of 4-6 inch diameter on a narrow concrete base in the middle of the path. The mention of "warning sign" indicates that the commenter is talking about them possibly alerting cyclists that they should slow down, rather that requiring them to. Again, is it credible that the commenter doesn't grasp this difference? No. Yet when I have dealt with bicycle advocates, it is a massive stream of such nonsense.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Douglas Moran, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

RE: Max Hauser

This comment is off-topic, but tolerably so. Normally I would leave it unremarked, but since this thread has evolved (devolved?) into an example of productive discussion:

The topic of this blog entry was that various stakeholders are being ignored and/or mistreated. The behavior of cyclists was legitimate part of the discussion because it related to the control measure (chicanes) being removed. Behavior of pedestrians on other segments of the path is irrelevant to this particular topic, but is deemed "tolerable" because I understand the psychological need to defend one's "tribe" ("It's not just us").


 +  Like this comment
Posted by WhatsReality, a resident of Green Acres,
on Jul 30, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Having witnessed some of this discussion myself you are right, it doesn't make sense. So the question is what is really going on. The focus on biking has gotten so extreme it seems clear that this route is viewed as a valuable expressway for cyclists. It goes to the research park. It seems clear the focus is on commuters over the local residents. This is a quiet neighborhood park. Let's keep our age pedestrian path and make an expressway isn't routed through here.

If only our transportation department would work this hard on the majority of transportation, our car traffic!


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

Downtown Redwood City gets Japanese kaiseki restaurant
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,909 views

Gobbledygook goings on in Palo Alto
By Diana Diamond | 2 comments | 1,965 views

Couples: Child Loss, "No U-Turn at Mercy Street"
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,365 views

A bad beginning makes a bad ending: City Council
By Douglas Moran | 2 comments | 1,264 views

Which Cocktail Has the Least Calories?
By Laura Stec | 7 comments | 1,138 views