Residents fume over Arastradero Road project

Community members question city's data on traffic improvements along Arastradero

Frustrated residents gave City of Palo Alto officials an earful Thursday night over a trial restriping project along Arastradero Road. Some balked at city data that showed traffic impacts haven't changed.

City officials insisted the program to reduce traffic speeds and improve bike and pedestrian safety is working. But some residents said the project has done exactly what it was supposed to avoid: shifted traffic into neighborhoods and increased the danger to schoolchildren from enraged motorists.

The one-year, trial lane-reduction project is the second phase of the Charleston-Arastradero Road study. The corridor runs from Miranda Avenue near Foothill Expressway to Fabian Way near San Antonio Road. It serves 11 public and private elementary, middle and high schools, many preschools, three community centers, six parks and the Stanford Research Park. The Charleston Road portion of the study was completed and approved by the City Council in 2008.

The Arastradero study added crosswalk striping and turning arrows at some intersections. But the biggest change reduced four lanes to three on a road where schoolchildren must contend with more than 18,000 vehicles daily, according to a city traffic study.

As much as 17 percent of vehicles speed between 37 mph and 50 mph along some stretches of Arastradero, according to the study. The speed limit is 35 mph. Reducing those speeds was a major project goal, said Jaime Rodriguez, city chief transportation official.

That plan is working, Rodriguez said. The very fast speeds have been reduced by 50 percent. East of Terman Avenue, where the interaction between children and vehicles is highest from Terman Middle School and Henry M. Gunn High School, the speed of 85 percent of vehicles dropped by 2 to 3 percent.

But some residents did not believe the data. "They're hardly moving at all. They're moving 4 mph," someone yelled from the back of the room, to applause.

School-bus driver Cary Vierra said the lane reduction from El Camino Real to Arastradero is particularly harrowing.

"I drive on Arastradero four to five times a day, I'm big and I'm yellow and drivers do not see me. It is a hazard. People make really scary moves. I hold my breath. It has gotten 100 percent worse with these changes with that lane merging," she said.

The project might have changed some drivers' habits, but residents insisted it isn't necessarily for better. Traffic backups have led to an alarming increase in road rage as more drivers become frustrated by slowdowns and a sea of bicyclists during morning and afternoon school commutes.

Vierra said she recently had to break up a road-rage incident.

"The road rage I have witnessed has been incredible. They are putting kids' lives in jeopardy," she said.

Heidi Stern, a Suzanne Drive resident since 1973, said he has nearly been hit head on three times by drivers who cut her off at McKellar Lane and Arastradero since the changes were implemented.

"In the past, people were polite, people slowed down. Everyone is so frustrated, all semblance if civility s gone," she said.

Other residents didn't believe the traffic-volume data. Lydia Kou, a Matadero Road resident, said the data is focused on the tactical aspects of bicycles and pedestrian interaction with vehicles, but it doesn't consider impacts on residential streets.

John King, another Matadero resident, said traffic volume on his street has increased by 40 percent.

City officials were at a loss to explain residents' assertions that more traffic is cutting through neighborhoods. The data doesn't support their assertions, he said. Traffic increases were negligible, with a 2 percent to 5 percent change along the corridor, he said. But he conceded that traffic counts on neighborhood streets hadn't been done, and he promised to look into the problem.

The City Council is scheduled to receive the study results in July, when city officials will ask for a one-year extension for further study related to issues residents have raised and to look at impacts from Gunn High School's planned bell-schedule change this fall, he said.

Gunn plans to change its schedule from 7:55 a.m. to 8:25 a.m., which could significantly reduce the traffic load created by Gunn, Terman and Juana Briones Elementary School during peak commute hours, he said.

Some residents embraced the changes.

"The changes I've seen are excellent," said Miranda Avenue resident Jumana Nabti. She rides her bicycle and drives on Arastradero.

"Traffic speeds are slower and I drive slower. You have to consider what our values are in our city. Is it about life and safety or getting to work five minutes earlier?" she said.

Penny Ellson, a Greenmeadow neighborhood resident, said wider bike lanes have made a big difference. Turning movements by drivers are more controlled now, she said.

Ellson's husband is a bicyclist and was hit two times by vehicles prior to the changes. One time, he was broadsided; a second time he was clipped by a driver who made an uncontrolled turn, she said.

"I really appreciate the effort the city is making," Ellson said.

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Posted by Live south of C/A
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2011 at 11:09 am

Wow. Were we at the same meeting? This was a community meeting that staff organized as an information gathering session for problem -solving. The city is now about half-way through the trial and they wanted to report on the changes they made since input from the last community meeting and they wanted to understand what further improvements may be needed.

I heard residents expressing frustration (some of them were pretty uncivil, interrupting staff and each other--frankly, it made me a little relcutant to speak up in support of the plan). After the bile and hyperbole had been spilled and it felt safer to speak, I heard others expressing that overall they liked the plan and found conditions to be safer. Why are none of the people who made positive comments quoted in this article?

I bike and drive the street regularly all times of day (because my family lives in a nearby neighborhood south of Charleston/Arastradero. It is our route to school, work, parks, the library, shopping centers. In fact, almost EVERYTHING in the city is on the other side of that street so we use it a lot. Next year one of my children will be a cyclist going to Gunn. I have to say that, as a bicyclist, the bike route is vastly improved.

As a driver, I have been timing my drives before and after the changes and haven't seen a significant change, though I have to admit it FEELS slower. (Weird. Perception is often different from reality.). The data staff showed supported what I have observed as a street user. They did point out a problem of delays at El Camino Real which they want to work on. They said Caltrans controls El Camino Real (it is a state highway, not a city street). That means the city has to work with Caltrans on those improvements separately. I was glad to hear that they recognize that intersection still needs careful attention.

The key problems that were discussed were:

- Slower access to Arastradero from neighborhood side streets due to fewer gaps in traffic. Requests for "KEEP CLEAR" signs were made for some intersections.
- Some people were concerned about a perceived shift of traffic from Arastradero to neighborhood streets, though the data that staff presented didn't seem to support that. They said showed peak hour counts on Maybell and connector streets that did not reflect significant shifts. Residents asked that staff look at some additional streets for increases in auto volumes.

Staff also reported that Gunn HS has decided to move their bell time next year to 8:25. This is important because it will separate the Gunn traffic surge from the Terman traffic surge, creating more manageable auto volumes.

One resident wisely pointed out that congestion conditions during the peak hour were bad BEFORE the trial. The REASON the city did this was because the crash rate was significantly higher than average with 471 crashes in five years. Also, off-peak 85th percentile speeds were 38mph with the highest speeds at 45 to 49 mph (this includes afternoon school commute times)--very dangerous conditions for kids. SAFETY was a key concern--for all road users. If drivers had been observing the speed limit, the changes would have been unneccesary, but the city MUST maintain safe school commute conditions on a street that serves 11 public and private schools.

Overall, I think staff got some good information for future improvements as the trial moves forward.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2011 at 11:13 am

> Rodriguez said off-peak traffic speeds in critical areas east
> of Terman Road near Terman Middle School and Gunn High School
> reduced by two to three mph and vehicles traveling faster than
> 37 mph, which is considered a very fast speed -- reduced by
> 50 percent.

These are very vague numbers. What exactly is the benefit of reducing the average speed by 2-3 mph during off-peak hours? How have the intersection delays been affected? What is the average queue lenght to pass each of the traffic lights on East Charleston? How has this change affected the Level of Service (LOS) for each of the intersections on the roadway?

Generally, there is very little traffic on Arastradero Road after 6:00PM .. until maybe 7:30AM. There certainly aren't that many cyclists, or pedestrians out after 10:PM. So, what has this 2-3 mph really bought us?

> vehicles traveling faster than 37 mph

So .. how many of these vehicles are there actually? Having spent many hours watching traffic. During "drive time", the volumes are too high to allow very many cars to travel much faster than "the flow". During the 6:00PM to 6:00AM window, there are not that many cars travelling the road, so it's possible that this number is higher than in the day time. But still, why not actually tell us the actual numbers--rather than alluding to big differences?

And what about accident reductions? Any data on that?

Remember, this project was supposed to have a $7+M price tag. While this phase doesn't cost very much, the down-stream costs are HUGE! And all for the reduction of a couple mph?

And what about speeding tickets? Have they gone up, or down, during this test?

All-in-all, it's not really clear what metrics the City is using to declare this project "a success".

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Posted by Floyd
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 3, 2011 at 11:17 am

Maybe so, but for the first in the 52+ years that I live off Arastradero Rd. I found myself stuck in the El Camino/Arastradero intersection when my green light disappeared. In peak traffic time, the cars are lined up from Foothill to El Camino. On Charleston from El Camino to the tracks it's very bad and many cars now make U turns to keep from standing for 3 light cycles and that's not safe either.
It's not safer for bicyclists. I rode my bike on these streets for 4o+ years and the congestion now only makes it worse.
But, what do I know?

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Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 3, 2011 at 11:20 am

I like the new arrangement. I live on Matadero and have a child at Terman and one at Gunn.

The traffic is backed up for about 10 minutes each morning from 7:45 to 7:50 - just before school starts. But this is also when there are hundreds of children (two of them mine) cycling, walking, roller blading to school.

I think the bigger problem is our desire to have these cul-de-sac communities. There is only one street that goes through this area and it get crowded. If Matedero, Barron and Los Robles all connected through - and the same behind Terman there would be far less traffic on Arastradero. I'm not sure I'd advocate that but the reason so many cars are on that street is because the next street to connect through is Page Mill Rd.

the problem is we need to make Arastradero safe for children - that has to be the top priority.

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2011 at 11:30 am

As a bike commuter who uses this road regularly, I find it greatly improved. The speeding has been cut way back and as a cyclist, it's much easier to make a left turn off Arastradero.

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Posted by MT
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:17 pm

This project is a disaster - we used to be able to drive to Gunn from Greenmeadow in 10 to 15 minutes even if we were running late. Not anymore! Now it's a 30 minute afire for 2 mile trip. I am getting better and more predictable travel time going through Los Altos - here is your traffic reduction. The Los Altos route is a little over 4 miles but can be done in under 15 minutes consistently.

I also bike regularly on Arastradero Rd. and, since re-striping, feel more than ever endangered crossing El Camino going West towards Foothill. Don't see any improvement over the earlier arrangement with 2 lanes for cars and a bike lane for the rest of the road.

Another sore point for me is the quality of work. The surface was all bumpy (try it on a road bike) and you can see all the old pot holes right through the new layer of tar. In less than a year I see lots of new pot holes developed. It would have been much better to re-pave the street with no changes to the lanes.

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:22 pm

There's obviously a disconnect between the City's average speed numbers presented last night and our experience walking and driving through the Arastradero corridor. The City's numbers are unrealistically low. I'm sure this was due to the placement of the pneumatic speed sensors in sections immediately adjacent to areas where the lane reductions occur. These are zones where speeds naturally drop and skew the average speeds lower. I don't recall seeing any speed sensors in areas where a single lane opens up to two lanes. In my experience, drivers aggressively speed up once they get to dual lane sections of the roadway. Drivers will even pass on the right with two wheels well into the bike lane for several hundred feet.

As a driver, pedestrian and bicyclist in the neighborhood, I feel less safe traveling on Arastradero with these changes, although having a protected left turn lane at Coulombe is a nice addition.

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Posted by Adam
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Just the fact that there is debate over whether the situation is better or worse shows that, at best, any improvement was minor. "Traffic calming" measures are touted by city planning consultants as a panacea for countering effects of increased development. I think this shows that there is no better way the improve traffic than to reduce traffic. In other words fewer people, fewer high-density developments. We can not have our town grow into a city and expect it to remain as liveable in all ways.

Most traffic in the morning on this street (and all around town) is for dropping kids at school. Having school buses would improve traffic much more than lane re-striping as well as save gas, make biking safer, etc.

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Posted by Skeptic
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I don't know why anyone bothers to give feedback to Mr. Rodriguez. I have consistently found that to be a futile exercise.

Whether this project is "working" all depends on what you are measuring and whether fairly measuring.

I drive route all the time and now quite reluctantly and with greater caution.

I have seen or heard of more accidents than before.

I see traffic backed up where and when it has not before.

I see major portion of the road unused.

What a waste of money this was!

But what is the use of sharing these observations. Mr. Rodriguez is convinced that this is a success and so ipso facto, it is.

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Posted by JL
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm

The Arastradero Road Project has not effectively slowed down cars, nor has it made the road safer. The blinking lights are confusing to everyone--locals and outsiders--and the islands in the middle of the road present an entirely new hazard. Not to mention the chaos of the lanes constantly switching from one lane to two lanes...I am surprised that there have not been more accidents. An absent minded driver could be easily surprised by the sudden merging, swerving into one of those useless islands or into the bike lane. Further, the reason why people are driving more "slowly" is not because of the road project, but because of the fact that a single car can slow down traffic from Foothill to El Camino. Additionally, from my own experience, driving along the road and biking on it, the average speed has not changed from what it once was. I'm curious, has the city looked at the effect the Arastradero Road Project has had on other roads in the area, too? Think about the commuters who take 280. I know many individuals who refuse to exit off of Arastradero now, and will instead go through Portola Valley or Woodside to avoid it. These are other roads that are heavily biked on, and I'm sure increased traffic on those roads has made biking more treacherous than it already is.

We need to scrap this project. Plus, the bike lanes are not even bigger, and the sidewalks have remained exactly the what was the point of this all? I see no positive changes to it. A waste of money, if you ask me.

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Posted by notafan
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Not mentioned here are the lane reductions from two to one then back to to two then back to one all along the Arastradero/Charleston corridor. I have had cars speed up from behind in order to get ahead of me even though they were behind me and in the yield lane. It is not safer. Getting out onto Arastradero is often difficult because of the one lane (and also because two lanes go to one right where we need to get out onto Arastradero). Is it really safer for children with the wide bike lanes that encourage two or more bicyclists riding side by side?

Any kind of problem and there are major traffic jams on the corridor.

The article says 35 was the prior speed limit; not correct it was 25 but most people used to drive around 33 to 35. When students are present it makes sense to have it at 25mph but otherwise a 30mph speed limit is fine on Arastradero. Much better to go back to the way it was and enforce the speed limit of 30 (and 25 when students are present).

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:43 pm

kooky, unnecessary project and expenditure of taxpayer funds. Has created much inconvenience and required detouring. Someone had too much time on his hands to be able to dream this up. Yes, this comes from a person with long-time perspective. How long has the city planner (or whatever is appropriate title, traffic mitigator, etc.) lived/driven here???

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Posted by Douglas Moran
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Douglas Moran is a registered user.

I was there for the full length of the meeting and "Live south of C/A" (first comment in this thread) is an outrageous misrepresentation of the conduct of the meeting. For example, people "interrupting ... each other" was: (1) largely to endorse and expand upon what the speaker was saying (not hostile), (2) what you expect from a meeting where people have to wait a long, long, long time with their hands up before they are recognized.

I found virtually all the comments by the audience to be appropriate and civil. Many were reporting that the data from the traffic engineers on which an eventual decision is to be made is contrary to their experience. As a scientist/engineer, I learned that when you encounter such situations, you need to carefully examine if you are measuring the right things. That attitude was not evident from the presenter, and this produced mild frustration from audience members. For "Live south of C/A" to label such "bile and hyperbole" would imply that s/he is such a delicate flower that the approach of a butterfly causes the petals to close in panic.

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Posted by Sad
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm

How sad it is when we start using "absent minded driver[s]" and the risks they pose to all other users of the road, in all cases and times, as a reason why this change is considered bad.

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Posted by Happy Camper
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I too am pretty happy with the plan the city has come up with. We especially like the increased ease with which we can leave our neighborhood and make a left hand turn onto Arastradero now that there is a dedicated merge lane for us to use. (We live on the Briones side of Arastradero) I think the bike lanes are too narrow however. I make a point of riding on Maybell just because there is less traffic and it moves more slowly. Thanks "Live south of C/A" for taking the time to present such a thoughtful summary of last night's meeting.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 3, 2011 at 1:09 pm

As someone who occasionally needs to drive Arastradero and does everything possible to avoid doing so in school commute hours, I think this is a terrible improvement.

I have one question to ask Mr. Keene and his staff. "Did they ever drive this street before and then after the changes"? Studies are one thing and can be skewed anyway you like. Actually using the street regularly before and after make much more sense.

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Posted by school parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Overall, I find this stretch of Arastradero like driving on the games at Pizza Chicago. At all times of day, I find the merge lanes confusing, especially from Gunn to El Camino. First the left lane merges into the right - such an infrequent merge and here there's a huge blind spot to the driver merging into it. Why not right lane into left, like most merge patterns, and like the merge for oncoming traffic at the other end of the road just after Fabian?

Then the increase to 2 lanes right before the Terman crosswalk & merge reduction just after it are at the very point where I want to have my eyes on the crosswalks, kids & bikes and not on merging cars. Although the left turn lane at Coulombe is convenient, it is too short.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 3, 2011 at 1:56 pm

There's a major faulty premise at work here - and that is that Arastradero needed to be made safer for bikes. Arastradero is a throughfare, and is one of only TWO roads from the city of Palo alto up to 280. Slowing it down for cars and encouraging more bike use is exactly antithetical to what should be occuring. The city measures the success of the program by the fact that it now moves more SLOWLY. Congratulations you have indeed moved Arastradero down to a crawl.

Yes, there DO need to be safe bike routes to schools. But anyone standing on Gunn campus in the monring, or even driving Arastradero in the morning will notice one thing immediately - that 99% of the hoards of bikes DO NOT TAKE ARASTRADERO. Its not a safe route, then OR now. The majority of bikes go through the neighborhoods - as they should. The entrance to Gunn from Arastradero is not safe. The city should be looking at significantly improving bike paths through the back neighborhoods that create safe through fares for bikes, and bikes should be completely discouraged from Arastradero. The only legitimate reason to be on a bike on Arastradero should be that you live on Arastradero and in which case your child should be using the sidewalks to get to the nearest safe bike route, which should be OFF Arastradero.

The concept of improving safety for bikes on Arastradero is like improving the safety for Bikes on Oregon or Alma. The thing that should be happening to improve the safety for bikes on Arastradero is A - keep them off that road B - get the road flowing more smoothly, orderly and safely and quickly for motorists so they don't create undue motor vehicle congestion for the homeowners, pedestrians on the sidewalks, for the cross streets etc.

This strikes me as a very 'critical mass' type of 'improvement' for Arastradero - drive motorist off the road out of frustration.

The situation on Arastradero is horrific and absolutely absurd to suggest that slowing things down to a practical standstill is making things safer for bikes. (I've seen more than once frustrated motorist driving in the wrong lane of incoming traffic - bicyclist weaving in and out of the stand still traffic - bicyclists riding more than one abreast - pushing into the lanes of cars, and not to mention the total blockage of El Camino by cars trying to push through the light on Arastradero. Cars trying to get out of driveways on Arastradero blocking the bikes lanes, and so much more. Its like a circus.

(Turning right on a red, from SB El Camino on to Arastradero should be completely illegal until they get this fixed.)

The City Council should be required to each spend 3 months during the school year getting from Charleston at Middlefield, to Gunn, every morning. And lets see what they come back with.

To South - you would do well to help your soon-to-be Gunn student find the appropriate bike path to Gunn. Its not Arastradero. .

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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 3, 2011 at 2:06 pm

"There's a major faulty premise at work here - and that is that Arastradero needed to be made safer for bikes. Arastradero is a throughfare"

The fact that certain streets are thoroughfares has never stopped attempts to remove traffic from them. We have seen attempts to 'calm" traffic on Embracadero and Middlefield--two other city thoroughfares and get rid of traffic completely on University Avenue . This all comes from the "too much traffic" mindset, made popular by a former council member, in which we heard the constant whine that traffic was a problem in Palo Alto ( and of course that does not take into account the fact that when we court business and visitors to come to town--which we do on a regular basis--there will be more traffic). And of course, from this comes the mistaken notion that if you narrow streets down from 2 lanes to 1, the traffic will magically disappear!!!
Jaime Rodriguez was brought in with one mission in mind--remove cars from the streets of Palo Alto. Period. End of story. Naturally the data presented will be presented to further push this misguided mission. Let's face it,we are a car community and attempts to paint cars as evil are simple-minded and ignore the reality of real life.

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Posted by Al
a resident of another community
on Jun 3, 2011 at 2:20 pm

I am here to say that I am glad that I don't have to use this road any longer; I went to Gunn a few years back. Now I avoid it at all cost. Sure it was bad, but nothing like this.
I am surprised no one got shot yet. People drive crazy under these kind of circumstances. Road rage is caused by frustrated drivers, which is exactly what this restriping is doing.

Few benefited and most are not happy.

Why don't any kids who bike chime in? I would like to know if their commute is better now.

I lived in Palo Alto for 15 years and I am sorry to say that a few ruin it for the rest unlike any other city I have seen.

Stop building condos/houses and think HARD before you restripe roads.

Wish you palo alton's the best of luck in dealing with this.

What a mess!

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 3, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I make a right turn onto Arastradero Road eastbound toward El Camino Real several times a day and specifically during the peak of the morning and evening commute. During morning commute, there are now many student bicyclists riding in the eastbound bike line, pedaling in the westbound direction against traffic. The numbers of bicyclists riding the wrong way in the bike lane have increased since they installed the light up crosswalk by the fire station. 1) I am concerned for the safety of these student bicyclists who could be hit by a car trying to turn right onto Arastradero Road eastbound, or hit head on by a car traveling eastbound. It is often hard to see these kids on their bikes due to the bushes and the speed at which they bicycle in the wrong direction. 2) In the morning the traffic is so bad you could be waiting several minutes to merge onto Arastradero Road in either direction. The students bicycling in the wrong direction really screw up the few opportunities to merge and add to the road rage.

At the last meeting we talked about the safety of student bicyclists on Maybell Way. Traffic is so backed up on Maybell Way that bicyclists are weaving thru slow traffic to get to class on time. I think that is also an accident in the waiting.

It is my personal opinion that traffic speed is not improved with this project. I have no scientific data to back me up, just my opinion and my experience as a resident shuttling kids back and forth across Arastradero Road 3+ times per day, during the peak morning and evening commute and in the middle of the day. Cars speed to jockey for position at both the lane merge at El Camino Real and the lane merge near Terman intersection. I don't see how this is safer for the bicyclists. Perhaps it is safer for pedestrians because during peak hours Arastradero Road is a parking lot.

The traffic revision is a nightmare and I would like the lanes restored to the way it was previously. It's unclear to me who's benefiting from this revision.

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Posted by just sitting waiting and wondering
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 3, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I too agree that the traffic has gotten worst, more congestion and probably (as seen from these comments) more frustrated drivers. Don't know how that makes things better and safer for a cyclist.

Today I left Los Altos Hills at 7:48am and didn't get to JLS until 8:15am, luckily just in time. My friend who drives this route daily has given up and diverts to JLS via Page Mill Road. I know, I know. You wouldn't think that was faster but it is now.

Every time I try to turn into Greenmeadow on my way home from work, I think about this project and wonder why this is deemed such a success. I now have to wait for the long long line of single file cars before I can turn left into Greenmeadow.

Wouldn't mind it things went back to the way they were

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2011 at 5:10 pm

From reading the postings so far, it seems to me that we need a framework of traffic-related issues that were on-going here in Palo Alto over the past decade (or more) to make sense out of this matter. The following is a “brain dump” of my recollections of the last fifteen years, or so, of issues associated with “traffic”, “traffic engineering” and the general response by the residents of Palo Alto to these issues (not presented in chronological order):

Road Downsizing Proposals On-going since the mid-90s
Middlefield Target
Sandy Eakins, Nancy Lyttle and Yoriko Koshimoto Emerge
as “leaders”

During the Kott Era
General Theme—Traffic Calming/Roundabouts/Bicycles/
Resident Revolts

Roundabouts and downsizings to one lane on Embarcadero
City-wide Revolt Results
Project Terminated By City Council Direction
Trial downsizing on Middlefield in Midtown
Considered Failure--Terminated
Roundabouts on East Charleston/Arastradero Proposed
Negative Reaction—Idea Stillborn
Downtown-North Traffic Circles Proposed/Installed
Revolt By Local Residents
Kott Proposes “People Mover” Along Page Mill Road To
Caltrain Station
Idea Ignored By Everyone
Anti-Rickey’s Hyatt activity on part of City
Secret meetings with Joe Kott and
Neighborhood Associations
and Anti-Rickey’s Resident Group
Kott Forced To Admit Rickey’s Agent and
other interested parties
Rickey’s Eventually Gives Up Plan To Refurbish
Hotel Complex
Rickey’s Exits Palo Alto--Denying Palo Alto
Hotel TOT and S. Palo Alto a recreation facility
Charleston/Arastradero Development Moratorium for six months
Study conducted—Moratorium Eventually Ended
Alma Plaza Plans for 40,000+ sq. ft. market
complex scuttled.
$7+M Charleston/Arastradero Downsizing Project Approved
By City Council
Beautification Components Increase downsizing Costs
No Vehicle Underpass At Caltrain Tracks To
Increase Safety For All
No Pedestrian Underpass At Caltrain Tracks To
Increase Pedestrian Safety
Downsizing of El Camino Real Proposed
State Caltrans Partnership Involved
Joe Kott Resigns—Goes To City of Berkeley
Joe Kott Returns Two Weeks Later
Adaptive Traffic Signals Proposed for C/A Corridor
Some hardware installed within last 2-3 years
Bicycles Promoted as “Alternative Transportation”
City-wide Bicycle Master Plan Completed
Traffic Calming devices installed in College Terrace
Traffic Calming devices installed on Louis Road in
South Palo Alto.
$5M Bicycle Underpass Constructed At Palo Alto
Medical Foundation

During the Rodriguez Era
General Theme—Road Downsizing and Resident Revolts

Trial C/A Corridor Downsizing Project Commenced
Residents Generally Unhappy
Bicycles Promoted As Alternative To Motor Vehicles
“Year of the Bike” “proclaimed by Mayor
California Avenue Downsizing
Suit Filled to Stop/Moderate Project

(Note—this is really a hastily constructed list, so others are invited to add to it as they remember events.)

In the case of the Charleston/Arastradero Corridor, these downsizings have been the typical mechanisms proposed by the City to deal with traffic that might have appeared due to the possible construction of a new Rickey’s, and a much larger Alma Plaza than is currently being built. The politics were hot-and-heavy, and it was clear that a couple of the Neighborhood Associations were much more influential in the “public process” than the public record probably reveals. One of the leaders of one Association kept claiming: “We are redesigning South Palo Alto!” What was never clear was why these so-called “leaders” were given the mandate to redesign anything, and why the rest of the public was effectively ignored during the proceedings that resulted in this downsizing being approved by the City Council.

This is, at best, a very minimal version of events that transpired during those years—and that of a resident who was not considered a “stakeholder” in the process. It’s a shame that Palo Alto has developed a kind of institutional amnesia, so that we tend not to remember our own past very well. In the case of this C/A Corridor downsizing project, it needs to be seen against the backdrop of the Kott years—which promoted “radical” traffic engineering solutions to our local traffic problems where perhaps more common sense would have provided solutions more acceptable to the public.

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Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm

Live South of C/A. I don't know where you got the "471" Arastradero crashes in 5 years data. A citizen accumulated PA police reported accident data on all the major Palo Alto streets from 2004 to 2009. The data for 2010 were not available, but the decision to revamp Arastradero was made in 2009 or earlier.

For that period the 5 year total for Arastradero from Foothill Expressway to McKellar Ln. was 19. The data for the intersection of El Camino and Arastradero were not available. Of course there may have been many unreported accidents, but where were are they available?

West of Foothill there were 4 accidents on or near the intersections of Manuela and Arastradero and 3 on Foothill and Arastradero.

Excluding the Alma and El Camino intersections E. and W. Charleston to Fabian Way show similar very low numbers during that same 5 year period.

I have noted that most children on Charleston ride on the sidewalks, not in the bike lanes on the way to and from school.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm

I agree that while it is great to encourage biking here in PA, trying to force it on Arastradero is pointless, dangerous, and causes more traffic problems. Every day as I sit fuming in traffic, trying to dodge frustrated drivers who cut me off as we change lanes again and again, I marvel how one person can impose her will on everyone else.

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Posted by It works for me
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 3, 2011 at 6:26 pm

People who live south of Arastradero, as thousands of Palo Alto residents do, must travel along or across Charleston/Arastradero to get ANYWHERE else in the city EVERY time we leave our neighborhoods. Our children have no choice but to use Charleston or Arastradero EVERY time they go to school. Some suggest that they use Maybell, but they have to use Arastradero to get there, and it is a rather indirect route. On a bike or on foot, that matters.

I think this is a worthwhile trial, and the purpose of the meeting was to gather information about what they need to work on next. For me, it works better for driving and bicycling --even during the peak hour.

I have always driven the speed limit, 25 mph, on the corridor. I find that I have no trouble negotiating the new merges if I drive the speed limit. While there are some aggressive drivers, that has always been so. I let them go ahead. I prefer to have them in front of me where I can keep an eye on them.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 3, 2011 at 6:34 pm

> I don't know where you got the "471" Arastradero
> crashes in 5 years data

I agree .. this number is not correct, by any means.

I am working on a comprehensive review of the traffic accident history of Palo Alto, which is not yet finished. I can share a couple of data tables, however:

Web Link

There are some "issues" I've encountered, which might make two different people's use of this data result in two different answers. However, generally the number of accidents along the entirety of the C/A Corridor has ranged from 4%-6% of the total number of accidents in Palo Alto, on a yearly basis.

Hopefully I will have the C/A Corridor data finished soon, so that I can publish the entire result.

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Posted by South PA Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 3, 2011 at 6:58 pm

One of the big problems with the Arastradero Road improvements is the neighbors who don't like the new plan; they failed to get organized and protest the changes before they were installed.

Meanwhile, the bicycle lobby, which is very organized, lobbied and pushed for the changes years before they were actually made. Where were the protesting neighbors?

I attended meetings way back when East Charleston was reduced from four to two lanes. It was made quite clear then, that when the City had the money, they would also reduce the lanes on Arastradero Road, but I never heard anyone object.

Now that Palo Alto has spent $1 Million on re-paving and re-striping Arastradero, the City is not going to change it again. So, the neighbors better get used to it.

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Posted by Hazel
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm

I now know why I moved away from here.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Thanks, Wayne, for the “history.”

I don’t know exactly who or when the “traffic calming” bandwagon started rolling, but it was certainly pushed hard by Yoriko Kishimoto and Joe Kott.

Palo Alto longs to be the #1 bike city (and the greenest city) in the nation. Cars are anathema. No one at City Hall cares how long you sit in your car at jammed intersection. Everyone should walk or bike.

> All-in-all, it's not really clear what metrics the City is using to declare this project "a success".

> I have one question to ask Mr. Keene and his staff. "Did they ever drive this street before and then after the changes"? Studies are one thing and can be skewed anyway you like. Actually using the street regularly before and after make much more sense.

From an email exchange late last year between me and Mr. Rodriguez:

Q.The Daily Post (Diana Diamond’s column 12-9-10) quotes you as saying, “We expected there to be some congestion” on Arastradero. How much is “some”? What does the city consider acceptable congestion? Please be specific.

A. We can’t provide an exact limit on how much congestion will be acceptable until we are finished with the one year evaluation and determine what, if any significant delays are observed.

(This seems backwards. How do you set a target after an experiment is complete? If you can’t define “acceptable congestion” at the start, do you just wait until the end and decide that whatever the congestion is at the time is “acceptable"?)

From the same Post article: "Rodriguez has no old data for comparison before the lane change."

But I got this email from Curtis Williams, Rodriguez’ boss: “Time of travel studies were prepared in advance of the trial and will be reviewed by Jaime and his staff as the trial progresses.”

Williams also wrote: “There are no triggers or benchmarks for acceptable vs. unacceptable congestion, but it will be evaluated relative to the extent of safety benefits derived from the project. Congestion in this case is measured either by level of service at intersections or travel times through the corridor. While Jaime does not have the pre-trial travel times in a readily available format, our consultant (TJKM) did analyze that information, and we will extract it for comparison to current travel times for the next update.”

Has anyone seen those comparisons?

Q. Also from the Post: “The city’s goal has been improved pedestrian and bicycle safety, NOT improved traffic flow.” (Emphasis is mine.) Exactly what does that mean? Does the city think that current traffic flow through the city is fine as is? Is the city’s goal to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety WITHOUT affecting traffic flow? Or is it OK to impede traffic flow? If so, by how much?

A. Through the lane reduction we hope to provide a more comfortable bicycle experience on Arastradero Rd and that is consistent with input we have received.

(An evasive answer, to say the least, and “comfortable” is hardly a precise measurement. How about a “comfortable” experience for drivers?)

Q. The Bicycle Advisory Committee seems to be extremely influential (e.g., Homer Ave. tunnel, proposed unfunded new over/underpass across 101). I can't help wondering if there are any car drivers involved in the planning process. Is there an Automobile Advisory Committee that participates in traffic planning? Or is it politically incorrect to drive a car?

A. The Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Commission (PABAC) is a great resource for the City to solicit input on ideas we come up with directly or proposed through other city groups. All projects, the 101 Bike/Ped Bridge project and Arastradero Rd, have had a significant amount of community input opportunities.

(Note that the city “solicits input” from the PABAC, which is obviously biased toward bicycles. But no input is solicited from a group of drivers. Community input, which is random, is not the same as input from a lobbying group that “is a great resource for the city.”)

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Posted by withheld
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 3, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Also coming out HATING the changes. Why are our comments dismissed as they are? I do not think the changes make the road safer for ANYONE. I've been driving to Gunn as needed for the past five years and the road is now SO FRUSTRATING and SO AWFUL that anyone driving as I have done and seeing what I have seen must conclude that the situation is less safe for everyone. Please, please change it back!!

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Posted by Fernando Pereira
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 3, 2011 at 9:47 pm

I drive on Arastradero between Foothill and El Camino almost every working day. On the whole, the changes have made the road safer, with two exceptions. First, forbidden islands between double yellow lines are often ignored by aggressive drivers. Those should be replaced by actual traffic islands. Second, intersections with side streets should have enforced "do not block" boxes. To those who complain about "confusing" lane changes: is it too much to ask that you pay attention to signs and other road users? To those who complain about heavy traffic at rush hour: leave a bit earlier in the morning, return a bit, later in the evening. Traffic at 7:15am or 7:15pm is negligible, your body will than you for the reduced stress.

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Posted by Hugh Satterlee
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 3, 2011 at 10:44 pm

I use Aratadero on occasion, happily, not when schools is taking up or out. Residents and commuters should put the safety of the kids going to or from school first. Start 5 minutes early and be grateful that the kids are on bikes. They could be driving. Use your cruise control set at the limit. You'll ge there!! Be calm!! Take it easy!! Don't shorten your own life or that of someone else.

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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 4, 2011 at 9:08 am

Thanks Wayne and Pat for your comments and history of the traffic issues in the city. It is clear that Rodriguez has an agenda and this agenda involves impeding automobile traffic flow in the city. For all the talk about encouraging everyone to use bikes, there are too many reasons why this is not practical. Also, I see a degree of hypocrisy in this anti-auto stance--we want businesses, visitors, people coming in to spend money etc. Do we think these people will bike and walk into Palo Alto?

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2011 at 9:50 am

Why are we trying to making Arastradero better for bikers (of which I am one, btw), when the easier solution would be to separate the bikes from the cars altogether. This largely happens already - the vast majority of Gunn kids proceed up Los Robles and Maybell and enter the school from the rear, which is closer to the bike cages and away from the parking lot traffic. Terman kids almost all do the same, and only hit Arastradero at the monitored crosswalk. Rather than encourage them to use Arastradero, we should push them away from it, so they can use bike-friendly side streets, while the cars flow on denser main streets. This seems safer and faster for all - why do we want a bike-friendlier Arastradero??

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Posted by Shuttle Diplomacy
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2011 at 10:18 am

Another way to calm traffic along Arastradero is to improve shuttle and VTA service from Midtown to Terman and Gunn. The recent improvements to the Crosstown shuttle service from Midtown to JLS have been wonderful. It is somehow ironic that the Crosstown shuttle to Gunn was discontinued due to safety reasons, which I believe was due to overcrowding. Why were the shuttles overcrowded? Maybe because the service was in such demand? It seems that reliable mass transportation to and from school would help reduce car traffic. I'd also like to hear from those bright Gunn students for their ideas on how to reduce car traffic to school.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 4, 2011 at 11:06 am

It isn't all about the area near Gunn,either
Those of us who drive Charleston near Middlefield and Louis, down towards 101 have to cope with the silly lane mergers and unnecessarily choked auto traffic now.
Often it is challenging to exit out of the shopping ctr at Charleston/Middlefield, used to be easy.
The current situation (sudden merged lanes, odd striping) seems UNNECESARY and creating difficulty for drivers.
No, I live far enough that I have to drive when I go to this region of the city, I can't walk/bike. Great for those who can, of course. I actually don't see many bikers in the section where I drive. Biking/walking is good to support, but in a reasonable way.
But when it gets UNNECESSARILY burdensome for drivers on standard, regular city routes -- Arastradero, anyone?! Then I strongly oppose this oddball arrangement.

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Posted by Gunn student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 4, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Fools!! If you continue to screw up Arastradero like it is, then I'll just take the sidestreets! I gotta get to school or I'm gonna be tardy! Deal with it! Or fix Arastradero so it's not 4 mph anymore! Because right now going down Maybell is a lot faster. And all the annoying biker kids are there. Don't want me to hit them, then change it back! Foolish committee. I agree with the man who yelled out 4 MPH. You had to drive to gunn every morning you'd understand... But none of you do. You're just like the people who think that starting school later in the year is going to alleviate stress... clueless.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Gunn student: Thanks for writing. It’s important that young people understand how the government works. You’ve already learned that (1) the city doesn’t care about people who are affected by what it does, (2) it knows better than you what’s good for you and (3) whether you like it or not, you pay for it.

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Posted by South PA Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Withheld from Greenmeadow says: "Also coming out HATING the changes. Why are our comments dismissed as they are?"

Answer: The City has spent over $1 Million to make the changes to Arastradero, they are not going to waste that kind of money by changing the street back to the way it was - four lanes. The City is going to make every effort to justify they're reducing the lanes from 4 to 2 lanes.

Like all decisions made in Palo Alto, this is about money!!!

Many years ago the Transportation Department had this great idea of reducing Embarcadero Road from 4 to 2 lanes. Since many members of the then City Council lived near Embarcadero the plan was scuttled. The Transportation Department immediately turned to putting their energies into reducing both Charleston and Arastradero from 4 to 2 lanes. This was very attractive because no members of the City Council lived near either street in South Palo Alto.

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Posted by Driver
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Just spent ages trying to turn left coming out of Charleston Plaza onto Charleston to try and turn left onto Middlefield. No one would let me in to cross to the left turn lane. Eventually I had to come out and continue straight onto Charleston to try and turn left onto Louis. Once again, it took ages for a break in the oncoming Charleston traffic to turn left even with a dedicated turn lane.

On the whole, drivers on Charleston will not let traffic enter in front of them because it means they may miss a light. They block driveways and won't make eye contact with a driver trying to enter the street.

I feel sure this is all due to the so called improvements. It just ends up making drivers bad tempered and selfish.

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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 4, 2011 at 4:06 pm

svatoid wrote: “It is clear that Rodriguez has an agenda and this agenda involves impeding automobile traffic flow in the city.”

Email from Planning Director, Curtis Williams:
“The City's transportation POLICIES focus on methods to encourage alternatives to using the automobile, particularly the single-occupancy automobile. The POLICIES specifically focus on enhancing safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, and to provide access to transit. Land use POLICIES further encourage increased intensity and walkable neighborhoods near transit. Other POLICIES discourage the widening of roadways that would affect residential neighborhoods and adjacent landscapes. … Ultimately, the trade-offs between modes are made by the City Council (after review by the Planning and Transportation Commission), based on these various POLICIES and public input, not by staff.” (Emphasis added.)

Where do all these “policies” come from. Naively, I thought the Policies and Services Committee (comprising 4 council members) proposed policies, which were then approved (or not) by the full council.

That’s not how it works. The P&S Committee takes direction from the full Council and decides things like naming policies for places and things in town. (I’m not making this up!)

According to a former council member, “....those transportation policies in the Comp Plan were developed by the Citizen's Comp Plan Committee and approved by the City Council....P&S didn't develop them.”

I found the 57 "policies" in the old 1998 traffic plan. Web Link

POLICY T-1: Make land use decisions that encourage walking, bicycling, and public transit use.

POLICY T-3: Support the development and expansion of comprehensive, effective programs to reduce auto use at both local and regional levels.

POLICY T-20: Improve maintenance of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Yet POLICY T-25 says: When constructing or modifying roadways, plan for usage of the roadway space by ALL users, including motor vehicles, transit vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. (Emphasis added.)

Note 1: Most of these “polices” are not quantifiable, i.e., they encourage, support, improve. How do we measure success?

Note 2: The city uses the term “policy” for small, tactical details. I consider “policy” to be a direction of guiding principle.

From Wikipedia: "A policy is typically described as a principle or rule to guide decisions and achieve rational outcome(s). The term is not normally used to denote what is actually done, this is normally referred to as either procedure or protocol. Whereas a policy will contain the 'what' and the 'why', procedures or protocols contain the 'what', the 'how', the 'where', and the 'when'. Policies are generally adopted by the Board of or senior governance body within an organisation where as procedures or protocols would be developed and adopted by senior executive officers."

By this definition, I would expect that some council – our elected representatives – at some point in time directed staff to “develop a transportation plan that favors bicycles and pedestrians over cars.” If that ever happened, I can’t find any record of it.

I’m left with the conclusion that staff sets “policies” (as in the Transportation Plan) and asks council to approve them, which it typically does. Then, when we ask staff, “Why are you doing this?” the response is, “We’re just following polices that the council approved.”

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 4, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Driver. It's Charleston Center, not Charleston Plaza. I, too, have problems coming out of the Center and want to head north on Middlefield.

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Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm

I drive this route home most every work night. And, I'm very happy with the changes to Arastradero. From my perspective, they've done a great job.

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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm

I did not attend the meeting, it sounds as if the same issues with the city counsel and Mr. Rodriguez continue. They do not listen to anyone, but themselves and the biking community. Has anyone else besides myself wondered where the Palo Alto Police are in the morning? I never see them down by Gunn or anywhere along Arastedro. The only police I see are Los Altos Police I guess we should thank them for trying to make our roads safer since our Police are no where around. Has anyone thought about the revenue that the city loses on a daily basis because it is harder to get around in our city. I do most of my shopping in other cities its easier. Our city counsel did not seem to care when I told them that and Mr. Rodriguez said that it was about getting cars out of the city. Well I guess we really don't need any of the revenue those cars stuck in traffic bring in. As for making it safer I fail to see how cars in the middle of intersections, road rage and No Police anywhere has made Charleston/Arastedero improved. My guess is the police have been told not to come down to Arastedero, but what I do I know, I only drive it everyday and I don't see any of them.

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Posted by Karellen
a resident of another community
on Jun 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Hey editors,

Why is the comment by "Gunn Student" still here? Do you condone threats of violence on these boards?

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 5, 2011 at 7:13 am

From review my old correspondence with the City about C/A Corridor, I see that most of the old issues that were being debated almost ten years ago have not been dealt with.

The issue of average speed, by fifteen-minute intervals, was promised by the Transportation people (at least verbally)--and then never delivered at the time. Frustrated by the constant claims about "speed" on the various segments of the Corridor, I decided to use the two speed-measuring signs (one on E. Charleston, near Fabian, and the other on Arastradero, near the memorial park, to obtain some more-or-less accurate speed numbers. This posting contains those numbers, and the memo sent to the P&T Commission at the time--

The following data set of vehicular speeds was taken between 14:40 and 15:00 in the afternoon of 11.26.03 at the radar speed monitor on W. Charleston at the Alta Mesa Memorial Park, one block east of Gunn High School:


There are a few observations to be made about the effects of the radar monitoring unit on traffic at this location:

1) For cars traveling in clusters, the speed of the lead car in each lane tended to set the speed for the cluster. The lead cars did not tend to slow down, as there were cars following fairly closely behind.

2) Cars in the left lane did not seem to slow down as much in the right lane when the unit began to flash red -- indicating speeds over the speed limit.

3) Cars in the right lane planning to turn into the Memorial Park slowed down for their turn, bringing down the average speed for the road segment.

4) There was a bit of a cascading effect in speed reduction as cars towards the end of a cluster realized that they were traveling too fast.

5) The traffic along this segment at this hour could only be considered as sparse.

6) The legal speed is not visible at all times with this particular monitoring unit. When the unit locks onto a moving car, reporting its speed on the LED display, then the posted limit disappears. This problem could be easily solved by affixing signage with reflective letters which displayed the posted speed on the pole above the monitoring unit’s display.

7) The unit is programmed to flash when a vehicle’s speed is greater than some speed. Unfortunately, this behavior does not seem to work intuitively. The speed on the unit is frequently the posted speed (25 mph), rather than the vehicle’s actual speed.

8) The unit does not shift from it’s normal orange color to a red color when it flashes to indicate that a vehicle is traveling too fast. This feature is considered desirable, and should be included in the specification of future units.

9) The number of “flashes” for this unit was quite small, compared to those at the unit on Charleston/Lewis.

10) The Radar units do not indicate which lane the unit is tracking. Activating an LED close to the edge of the sign (left and right) could provide the lane in which the tracked vehicle is traveling.

11) East Charleston is clearly capable of handling vehicular traffic safely of 35 mph at this location.

The traffic signal at Gunn High School seems to favor queued traffic on the Gunn site more than one might think it should. At this particular observation, only one to three cars were exiting the Gunn site per light cycle, proceeding east-bound on Arastradero. This provided the opportunity to “clock” each Gunn-originating car as it passed the Radar Monitoring Unit.

The following data set was collected for all the cars exiting Gunn during (and after) this observation period:


Remember: the posted speed is 25 mph at this location on Arastradero.

Given that of the special interests groups pressing Palo Alto to reconfigure Charleston/Arastradero Road is the PTAs. Certainly having everyone associated with the Staff of the School District would be a mandatory requirement of the Palo Alto City Government before imposing rather stringent controls on other members of the community.

What is very frustrating about this issue of "speed" is that the City does not continuously monitor speed on this, or any, roadway in Palo Alto. The City does not collect the speed data from these signs. Nor does it collect the speed data from any of mobile units that appear, from time-to-time, on Charleston (usually near Hoover School). If they did, there would be vast amounts of data to use to evaluate the anecdotal claims of "speeding" that is occurring on the streets of Palo Alto.

There are a class of microwave speed monitoring/counting devices that have been on the market for over ten years now, that cost as little as $4,000 (grid powered). The following link (2002) is from a review of these units almost ten years ago by the Oregon Department of Transportation--

Web Link

At this low price, 10-20 of these units could be installed around town--proving both the police, and the Transportation Department, a real-time stream of data that could provide instant answers to issues of speed/traffic volume on any street(s) in Palo Alto. I have been making these suggestions for over ten years now. The City has refused to consider such suggestions (or so it seems), and still continues to operate its Traffic Engineers Department as if this were the 1950s.

Whatever data the Traffic people bring to the table, it is just a snapshot on a very tiny window of 7/24/365 traffic streams. It is simply incomprehensible that Palo Alto, sitting in the middle of the Silicon Valley, is so backward in its approach to traffic engineering.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 5, 2011 at 7:27 am

> 5-year accident count on Arastradero ..

I probably should post this number, to help add a data point as to how dangerous Arastradero Road is--from El Camino to Foothill Expressway.

The following is the accident count I have at the moment for 2009:

El Camino to Foothill 14

There are some issues with interpreting the data that might result in other people coming up with another number, that is slightly different. The problem is that the Transportation people invented the concept of "The Charleston/Arastradero Transportation Corridor" to support the need to shut down the Rickey's project, and the Alma Plaza project--through the "Moratorium" that was imposed for 6-8 months, some years ago. The Police see accidents as "location specific", and don't recognize any designations that are (effectively) political, or contrived for the convenience of another department. So, we end up with accidents in the intersection of El Camino Real, W. Charleston and Arastradero. I've decided to include these accidents in my "Corridor" count, but others might decide to exclude them, since the vast majority of the traffic flows on El Camino. At any rate, given the small number of accidents, any differences in counting will only result in a 1-3 difference in the number of yearly accidents on Arastradero.

At any rate, the five year number is in the range of 100 accidents along this roadway.

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Posted by Observer
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 5, 2011 at 9:55 am

I did not take Gunn Student's comment as a threat. I thought it was a reasonable expression of the frustration many of us feel. We have to get somewhere along this route - the city has made it very difficult. The bicycle fanatics have a great sense of entitlement and superiority. They do not follow any rules of the road, no matter where they are routed. Anyone in a car must try and avoid hitting them when they run red lights and stop signs, ride on the wrong side of the road, dart out in traffic, ignore the bike lane and ride instead where cars are meant to go. To drive a car in this city, which is a necessity for many of us, is to become responsible for the safety of hoards of people who do not look out for their own welfare. Many of us do not have the luxury of choosing a bike. Perhaps we have to transport more cargo than will fit on a bike; maybe we have physical limitations that make a car the only option; perhaps we have to go farther on our commute than is possible on a bike, or have to transport others who are unable to bike. The city discriminates against drivers with these absurd concessions to bicycle fanatics, who often cause their own injuries in the way they conduct themselves. This is not a threat; it's a reality we drivers have to live with every day.

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Posted by anotherway
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

Drive in page mill.

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Posted by anotherway
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 5, 2011 at 11:20 am

and watch a movie before come to c/a.

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Posted by upset student
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Students at Gunn are sick of these changes to Arastradero.
Even the teachers at Gunn complain about how long it takes to get to school. Furthermore NO ONE at Gunn takes Arastradero on a bike, they know its too dangerous and so most students take the neighborhood streets through Barron Park. The new speeding signs are also a joke to the students at Gunn, its impossible to even speed on that street. The sudden merge of the lanes is WAYY too dangerous for the students to do, half the kids even driving haven't had their license for more than a year. Thanks to these changes students have to find alternative ways of commuting to school, like going through Los Altos, because NO ONE wants to deal with theses changes.
People for these changes do not realize that its harder for the whole school, and a lot more kids are late to school thanks to this experiment.
Also I took a quick poll with a fellow student about how staff and students felt about the new changes, my results were
10% were for the changes
10% did not have an opinion
80% disliked the changes.

Most of the people that were for the changes were staff member that commuted an hour after school started and the last 80% were people who had to be at Gunn at the beginning of school everyday.

Palo Alto needs to think about the students as a whole and not just the adults who bike through Arastradero.

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Posted by Underlying cause
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:17 pm

As long as the city keeps approving more and more housing, the traffic problems and school crowding will get worse. Putting a bandaid on the road won't work.
That's where the anger should be directed: at the cause of the problem. Too much housing = too many people.

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Posted by newhousing
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm

No One wants new housing.

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Posted by Judy
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 5, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I travel South on El Camino every weekday morning at about the same that schools open in PA. Not only is the backup to make a right from El Camino horrendous, but the cars attempting to turn left frequently ignore the yellow lights and, in their haste to get their kids to school, block the intersection for those of us heading south. It is very dangerous for everyone, especially pedestrians and bicyclists as drivers often try to go around the cars, making a huge mess along both El Camino and Arastradero.
Witnessing this daily (and never ever seeing a ticket issued to anyone) I can't imagine how reducing lanes on Arastradero could be judged a success. In my view, it is a huge mess and an accident waiting to happen!

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a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 6, 2011 at 2:23 am

The bike commuters are happy because they are actually going faster than the cars are.....

That traffic monitor at the Terman site sure has his hands full. Someone should see that he gets a raise that must be getting as high as his blood pressure due to the congestion of cars vs the children backups...

Yes, I am one of the neighborhood persons who cut through the neighborhood instead of using Arastradero at certain times of the day. As I turn onto Arastradero near Terman, I have no choice but to join in the long wagon train down to El Camino, which consists of at least two or three light changes. I have been searching for a good radio station to listen to so as to avoid road rage.

Some days if I needed to turn left off Arastradero towards Briones School, I am the ONLY car that will make the turn during the completion of one signal change. That is totally unacceptable. I have had cars behind me run the light behind me as they do not have the patience to sit through another light change, therefore making it an accident waiting to happen.

Just day dreaming of closing off traffic and making two entrances to Gunn at stop lights near Foothill Expressway and using the other one in existence now for the LOCAL traffic, thereby making this area a safer, closed in residential area. Traffic should keep on flowing to main, widely paved Page Mill Road to enter into Palo Alto. Other traffic from Charleston will then be using Oregon Expressway ( again, not using our residential streets for high volume traffic and potential high volume traffic to the jobs up on the other side of Foothill Expressway..) It makes sense to commute onto the expressways instead of commuting through our neighborhoods. It's out of control.

The City needs to pay attention as we need to take back our neighborhoods for LOCAL traffic.

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Posted by Sad
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 6, 2011 at 9:31 am

So sad. The argument for why this trial is considered a failure seems to boil down to the mindset that motorists should be alleviated of frustration and having to pay attention (shocking!) as much as possible b/c if not, they might act irrationally and dangerously, and given free passes for breaking the laws (proceeding into intersections when it's not clear the intersection can be cleared, speeding, passing where not allowed to - such as in bike-lanes) and being aggressive, while other users of the road should be held strictly to the laws. Even a threat - and yes, it is a threat when someone says "Don't want me to hit them, then change it back!" - gets a free pass and even defended. Talk about a sense of "entitlement and superiority."

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Posted by PISSED
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 6, 2011 at 3:01 pm

You guys dont know what your talking about, sorry but you dont.

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Posted by perturbed
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 6, 2011 at 6:12 pm

The re-striping projects of Arastradero Road and Charleston Road are a complete disaster. Those behind the implementation of this project had no idea of the consequences that would arise. My daughter is a Gunn student, and currently has to be driven (along with her friends) through Los Altos to enable them ample time to get to class. Bus-forget it! Bicycle-too dangerous! I wouldn't let my worst enemy bike on Arastradero because of the danger. It is sad that some "squeaky wheels" whose friends or family were hit bicycling on Arastradero have so much input into this issue, but don't have any actual experience as to the reality of their kids going to Gunn, and having to deal with this complex commute. What a shameful waste of money and of time. Especially in these difficult economic times.

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Posted by enemy
a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Who is your worst enemy?your kid or your city?

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Posted by Misha
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 7, 2011 at 12:45 am

This is not a bike versus cars issue. The issue is that the road has been made less safe and more dangerous for everyone.

It is now akin to "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride"! Just nuts!

What a waste of money...

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2011 at 7:37 am

How can this be classed a success when many residents do their best to avoid the street for their regular commute?

If people are using Page Mill, San Antonio or other routes to get to Gunn or to 280 which is longer in miles but shorter in time, that is not a success.

If cars are using sidestreets where they do not live, that is not a success.

If the powers that be are not hearing these complaints, they are not doing their job. Attempting to make a busy arterial road road safer for cyclists by sending cars onto other streets is akin to taking a lane away on 101 to reduce speeding. It just clogs the flow of traffic.

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Posted by resi
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2011 at 8:29 am

I am hearing your voice.Now this problem is causing its neighborhood resi complaining too.

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Posted by perturbed
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 7, 2011 at 6:53 pm

Enemy, that is a logical question. And I will give a logical answer: It is not my kid. It is not the city. My post was meant to say that I don't wish anyone to have to endure the ridiculous decisions and consequences that have turned this "path to school" in to a traffic nightmare.

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Posted by D
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 11, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I think the most accurate comment so far was that of “upset student”: for 10% of people the impact of the change was positive, for 10% neutral, and for 80% negative.

I’d like to repudiate the comments of those who said the residents did not object to the proposed changes: I was at the August 5th 2010 meeting in Juana Briones school, which was hosted by Jaime Rodriguez. I did tell the hosts and the audience that restriping on Charleston, where I traveled at least twice a day, has been disastrous, and that extending it to Arastradero will be a disaster squared. I was not alone.

I have to corroborate other comments here: Jaime Rodrigues and others in charge of restriping did not respond to our objections in any meaningful way and were exceedingly evasive when pressed for objective information and true goals of that project. If I had to summarize my impression of this bunch in just three words, it would be “incompetent, lying bureaucrats”.

Little did I know that my “disastrous” comment would turn literal. At around 5 p.m. on April 15th 2011, Judy Goldblatt was trapped in her car by the traffic and killed by a train at the newly “improved” intersection of Charleston and Alma. As commented at length in a Palo Alto Online thread (Web Link), this accident was not purely accidental. In fact, I too was once trapped at that intersection at around same time of day about a month before Judy was killed. This has not happened once in the previous 12-odd years of me traveling that road before the restriping. Luckily, in my case, there were no oncoming trains. Others were precariously trapped as well and left comments about that.

Now I’m a part of the developing situation around the Arastradero/Maybell/Los Robles, as I’m giving my daughter a ride to Juana Briones in the mornings and observe first-hand how extremely dangerous these streets have become, especially for Gunn bicyclists. Apparently, Palo Alto School District had been penetrated by incompetent, lying bureaucrats as well, and from their actions so far it appears that their unstated objective it to push as many schoolchildren as possible from the School District. Why else would they set the school bell times at Juana Briones and Gunn in such a way as to maximize the overlap of morning traffic spikes to these schools, said overlap gravely endangering the health and lives of our children?

I talked to Juana Briones principal about the morning traffic situation. He acknowledged the issue, yet offered no options for resolving it. During that conversation, I realized a crucial fact: Palo Alto officials do not believe that they will be ever held responsible for their actions that indirectly cause suffering, injuries, and deaths of the same citizens whose well-being and lives the officials are supposed to protect and improve. This is a classic “parallel universe” bureaucratic phenomenon. The bureaucrats are much more concerned about their budgets and perceptions of them held by their superiors than about how their actions or inaction affect citizens.

If we the citizens want to change things, rational argumentation is not going to work in this situation. Neither will threats of physical retaliation, at least not until some of them are put into action, and I do not endorse that at the moment. We need to find a way to strike at reputations and budgets of the bureaucrats who make our lives miserable.

Public ridicule and complaining to their superiors are good options for attacking their reputations. Obviously, the public ridicule has already started. As the frustration spreads, it will intensify. Now, if we really want to change things pronto, we need to start complaining to their superiors, in a traceable way, so that such complains can be later used in court to establish the said bureaucrats’ and their superiors’ guilt and complacency in actions and inaction resulting in bodily injury and death of citizens.

If their superiors do not take action, keep complaining to superiors of their superiors. Eventually, one of them, who is smart enough, will realize the implications of a very probable adverse event on his or her reputation and thus career. It is one thing for an out-of-towner being killed at Charleston-Alma intersection. It will be another thing entirely if a Gunn student, a child of parents of means, gets killed or disfigured by a car on Arastradero/Maybell/Los Robles while biking to school. If that happens, PAUSD superintendant and perhaps even Police Commissioner may have to eventually say goodbye to their positions and pensions.

Another kind of things that bureaucrats are mortally afraid of are budget cuts, especially of the variety threatening the very existence of their department. In this vein, let me pose a question – do we even need a Traffic Commission (or whatever it is called) in the form it exists today in Palo Alto? Obviously, if these bureaucrats are spending way too much money on projects that harm 80% of affected Palo Alto citizens, the logical thing to do for their superiors would be to cut those expenses, along with the people alienating the citizens, and use the money for something else. In order for this to happen, we the citizens shall demand *independent* evaluation of the projects, by complaining to the County and State officials. Frankly, I don’t think even complaining to Federal authorities would be out of the question, as the seemingly “illogical and pointless” projects may have strong corruption undercurrents in them, which are of course subject to FBI investigation.

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Posted by yes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2011 at 7:11 pm

"which are of course subject to FBI investigation."

yes, I am sure the FBI will jump right on investigating pavement restriping corruption. Give them a call right now and if they dont take the matter up, escalate to the white house.

Tongue firmly in cheek ;-)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2011 at 7:43 pm

It is worth mentioning that all over the country as well as the State, it is the responsibility of the school district to get the kids to school safely by means of school buses.

Many years ago, for reasons long forgotten but probably money, PAUSD ditched school buses and left the responsibility of safe commute to school to the students and their families. By doing this they are in effect not taking the responsibility of school commutes seriously.

Not only are there no school buses for the majority of students, there are very few public bus options for a great many of our secondary students. Some have a free shuttle, some have a VTA, and some have nothing.

Many can walk or will ride bikes, but many will or cannot do this at least on a regular basis. Also, many of the homework assignments are not easily transportable in a backpack or on a bike and there are not the means, at least in the high schools, of getting these large projects to school the day before.

PAUSD has been neglectful in the school commute angle for too long. Paly and Gunn, due to parent pressue I might add, have both changed their start times. The start times were set up eons ago so as not to interfere with the start of other nearby schools. Now the schools are growing huge and the commutes for all schools are about the same time.

This is another gross problem by overcrowding our schools. We need another high school and another middle school. We need better transport options to school. These are city/PAUSD problems and they need to address these. One day there will be a huge accident that will be one parent in a car killing students - possibly friends of their own child. It may even be a student driver under the direction of parents who kills a classmate. This is an accident waiting to happen.

These things are urgent, not feel good issues.

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Posted by Hmm
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2011 at 8:01 pm

So, D, you're saying that if you get frustrated and hit a Gunn biker with your car, the principal of Juana Briones, or the district, is going to look bad? Maybe there is an issue here that needs to be addressed, not sure, but I think you may have things upside done.

From your posts, something tells me that you may not be the parent that school administrators look forward having drop by to make suggestions. Maybe try to get other like minded parents to work with you on the issues.

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Posted by D
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 11, 2011 at 11:29 pm

To Hmm. I could take offense at your comments, yet I realize you don't know me and thus don't know what I'm coming from. So here's some background.

I've been driving a car for 34 years now. Not a single accident. Part of that is of course due to sheer luck, yet a significant part due to evasive driving, constant vigilance taught to me by my father early in life. Anticipating what other participants will do and getting out of dangerous cituations before they develop beyond the point of no return.

For quite some time, I was employed by major corporations In the Bay Area in capacities involving scientifically based trends predictions. Basically, I quite often has been paid and still paid today to predict and to shape the future. Part of that is based on data collection and heavy math, and part on gut feel and intuition developed over the years. I'm not right all the time, yet right often enough to remain successful in the very demanding local market.

Two of my numerous hobbies happen to be studying about car technology and neurophysiology, which gave me reasonably good understanding of what happens to humans before, during, and after car accident. While not having been professionally trained as a doctor, I have some basic training in first aid and CPR, and specifically CPR related to industrial and car accidents. I understand reasonably well the causes and physiology of traumatic dying.

It also so happens that I had unfortunate multiple opportunities to observe up close the aftermath of car accidents, with bloody broken bones protruding through skin, cracked sculls and all. The most recent time I saw an accident was eight days ago: an older man was hit by an SUV moving at about 40MPH on a residential street. I saw it in real time from a distance of about 50 feet. The victim was "lucky" as one of the witnesses happened to be a doctor, and ambulance arrived in 7 minutes from a very nearby hospital. He'll live yet very likely will not keep his legs.

Now back to the situation at hand. Based on everything I learned, saw, heard, and felt so far, if no adjustments are promptly made to the Gunn / Juana Briones morning commute routine, it is very likely that a Gunn student will be hit by a car in the near future. Moreover, it is unlikely that medics will be able to arrive within the crucial 15 minutes time interval right after the impact, as the streets around the accident site will be solidly gridlocked. Most likely, this will result in either death or crippling injury of a young innocent kid. Many people observing the accident and its aftermath will be psychologically traumatized and will require rehabilitation - this is especially applicable to younger students.

The severely heightened probability of such event was created by actions and inaction of Palo Alto city officials. Specifically, the people responsible for the Arastradero "experiment", PAUSD, and PA Police Department. In case of the tragic event, parents of Gunn and Juana Briones students will become highly agitated and irrational in their desire to exact vengeance on the officials involved. The City of Palo Alto will sacrifice some of those officials to calm the populace. Prosecution for criminal negligence would very likely take place. Yet none of that would turn the clock back and restore the happy life of the innocent victim, his parents and friends, unfortunate driver who happens to pilot the tool of destruction, and his or her family and friends.

Do we really want all this to happen?

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Posted by Hmm
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 11, 2011 at 11:53 pm

D, I don't want anything bad to happen. But while you clearly have thought a lot about traffic accidents, maybe not so much about human behavior and organizations. If you, or someone else, hits a kid on a bike with a car, I think the driver is the person people are likely to blame - not school administrators, traffic engineers, or police departments. I can't think of any accident, ever, where the general view was that the driver was just the victim of circumstances and the "politicians" or "bureaucrats" were to blame for his actions - can you?

Given that, the administrator's reaction to your urgent demands for action makes more sense. They see it differently from you. So if you want change the situation, you probably need to take a different tack - get parents to change voluntarily, or you change, or figure out if other elementary schools start earlier or later, and whether Briones could too. I'm sure you can figure out better solutions that I can.

So please be careful driving, and don't feel like an accident isn't your fault. And good luck with your quest to improve traffic safety.

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Posted by yes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2011 at 7:16 am


With the street "gridlocked", how does this hypothetical horrific accident even happen? Seems like any accident will now be low speed and palo alto officials have technically made the street safer for all which I believe was the goal.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2011 at 8:38 am

After an accident, the gridlock in the street will be because the cars have to stop because there is an accident!

The thing to remember which hasn't been mentioned much is that many of these drivers around Gunn (and Paly) are inexperienced Rookie drivers or permit holders driving under a parent's direction. These type of drivers are not experienced enough with difficult driving conditions or situations and are much more likely to be distracted by seeing a friend or showing off. Remember, we have no way of knowing whether the driver of any one of these cars just got a license yesterday and this is the first time to drive alone to school!

Scary scenario!

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Posted by yes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2011 at 9:58 am

How does the current road configuration make driving harder for Rookie drivers? If anything, it should be simpler. Less speed, fewer choices. Besides its the over confident experienced adults I consistently see driving poorly around town.

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Posted by D
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Sep 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I'm very saddened by the fact that not everyone understands the gravity of the situation. To better understand it, travel on Los Robles From El Camino toward Gunn at 7:30 a.m. You will encounter virtually empty streets - this is the environment Gunn bicyclists used to travel in - for years. Now try the same at 8:05. You'll see dense streams of cars and bicyclists touching and intersecting each other seemingly every second.

The school district put children in a very dangerous environment suddenly and without preparation. The children keep behaving the way they used to behave on streets almost devoid of cars. As to whether or not the school district is responsible, this will be tested in courts, when a kid gets killed or disfigured on Los Robles or nearby street during the morning ride. Given the frequency of near-collision events seen by me and reported by other parents, it won't be long till that happens.

Believe me, I do understand the point of view of school officials and where they are coming from. I also understand the virtues of teamwork, playing nice with others, searching for common ground, letting one's colleagues and superiors to save face etc.

Yet this is simply not the time and place to play it nice. Some of these officials made serious mistakes, which endangered lives of innocent children. If the officials are incapable of understanding that, they need to be told. If they do understand it, yet think that inaction is their best option, they need to be helped to realize that it is not. Really, it is not at all an acceptable option. Rather, it is criminally negligent.

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Posted by a new driver
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I think I'm going to start driving my kids to school. I use to let them bike but it is just getting too dangerous to keep it up.

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

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