Palo Alto Boy Scout advocates for street safety

Dangerous crossing at Middlefield Road and Everett Avenue had at least seven accidents in 16 months

A Palo Alto Boy Scout is trying to get city officials to change a Middlefield Road crossing he says is dangerous.

Thibault Collignon, a 15-year-old Palo Alto High School freshman, says he has heard numerous crashes from his home near the intersection of Everett Avenue and Middlefield in the past six years. He was nearly struck one day as he crossed with his bike and now uses a safer crossing at a light at Lytton Avenue, he said.

Everett is a traffic-calmed street between Alma Street and Middlefield. Once a cut-through for drivers, traffic roundabouts now serve as deterrents, and Alma Street traffic is forbidden during rush hour. Many bicyclists and pedestrians travel up the relatively quiet street. But the traffic calming stops at Middlefield. On any given day, cyclists and pedestrians must run a gauntlet of speeding vehicles, he said.

"Lots of neighbors cross here and there is a lot of traffic here. It can take three to five minutes to be safe (to cross)," Collignon said of the intersection where there is no painted crosswalk or traffic signal.

Standing at the east corner on a Thursday afternoon, he pointed to a spot just south of the intersection.

"There was an accident there this morning. A car hadn't stopped in time and it hit the back of another car, which hit the car in front of it. It was a sandwich," he said.

The intersection had seven vehicle accidents between Jan. 31, 2013, and April 6, 2014, according to Palo Alto Police Department records. Five of those accidents occurred during afternoon rush hours. All but one took place on Middlefield, and one was on Everett, according to police data. Two persons were injured in two incidents.

Collignon said he would like to see a crosswalk with a pedestrian button that would activate flashing signs, similar to one near the Menlo Park Library on Ravenswood Avenue.

He is trying to earn a Scout badge through his efforts, which appear to be paying off. The Weekly contacted the city's transportation division after being contacted by Collignon.

Jaime Rodriguez, city chief transportation official, said a transportation engineer has examined the site.

"We will be moving forward with the installation of 'Pedestrian Xing' warning signs on each approach of Middlefield Road before Everett. The signs should be installed in the next four to six weeks," he said in an email.

But he said that adding a signal or another form of traffic control near Lytton Avenue would require study, as it might have unintended consequences on Middlefield traffic.

Also, the city is sparing about marking crosswalks along residential arterial streets such as Middlefield Road without adding controls, such as flashing lights or stop signs, he said.

"The signalized intersection one block south at Middlefield Road and Lytton Avenue is the best location for pedestrians to cross Middlefield Road," he added.


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Posted by Biking Advocate
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 9:15 am

Way to go Everett! Congratulations on stepping up and pointing out a situation where pedestrians and cyclists are having difficulties.

It is great to know our transportation department takes these types of requests seriously and can take action to make intersections safer.

Like this comment
Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Apr 27, 2014 at 9:19 am

Research done by myself over the past couple of years, and submitted to the City Council, reveals that this intersection is about the 8th most dangerous intersections in Palo Alto--

Dangerous Intersections In Palo Alto (CA)--Middlefield Road and Everett Avenue:
Web Link

The determination was made using fifteen years of traffic accident data that is publicly available from the CA CHP.

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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 27, 2014 at 9:25 am

I uploaded the list of most dangerous Palo Alto intersection a couple of years ago:

Most Dangerous Palo Alto Intersections:
Web Link

The determination was made by downloading the accident data for Palo Alto from the CHP and accumulating it over a 15-year period. To date, no one on the City Council, or any of the operating departments, have ever commented on this date, or produced their own.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 10:00 am

The entire length of Middlefield Road in Palo Alto is treacherous for pedestrians. The city knows this and has installed more stop lights over the years, but there are still far too few of them with lengthy gaps in between. Trying to cross Middlefield in any crosswalk without the protection of a red light is suicidal. Drivers mostly consider Middlefield to be an expressway, despite the 25mph speed limit and numerous homes, schools, and churches along the route. The police used to have more regular speed enforcement along Middlefield, but I rarely see them any more. Are they hiding better or have they just given up?

Like this comment
Posted by Citizen PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2014 at 10:30 am

I"m really proud of such initiative by a younger member of our community! Thank you!

And, as we all know, traffic studies in this town have a foregone conclusion: if City staff want something, there will be no impacts, if they don't, there will be vague but technical-sounding too many impacts. Perhaps with everyone watching, the traffic people will opt to hire a more objective traffic engineer? Nah...

Great job getting this into the paper and taking it on. Thank you for your work, Wayne Martin. Let's hope all the dangerous intersections get dealt with in the context of a more holistic look at traffic circulation AND safety in this town. (It's about time those state-mandated elements (traffic circulation and safety) of our Comp Plan were made separate elements in their own right and not just rolled into others where they are insufficiently addressed).

Which brings me to my next question:

Wayne, if citizens feel a City does not adequately address a given state-mandated aspect of the Comp Plan, what recourse, administrative or legal, do citizens have to ensure Cities adopt them (as required by law)? It's really about time we all had rules we could point to to make the City deal with an unsafe situation like this long before there are so many accidents (or any at all - an ounce of prevention in safety).

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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Thanks, Wayne Martin for your research.

One difficulty drivers seem to have with the Middlefield/Hamilton intersection is that there's a stoplight there, but some drivers simply ignore it.

In fact, just yesterday I walked across Middlefield (on a green, go figure!) but the minivan cruising south on Middlefield just barreled through the red light, narrowly missing me (I was just past half-way through the intersection). At not time did the driver slow down. And no, there's no way she entered the intersection on a yellow light - I didn't leave the curb until my light was green, and at that time she was multiple car lengths away from the intersection.

I'm sure she's still unaware of her (in)action.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous1
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 12:36 pm

GardenGnome,yes I have seen cars completely ignore the stop light.
Middlefield another freeway for commuters that are in such a rush to get onto University to the 101.

It is NOT a freeway. I rarely see Police on Middlefield, this is a ticket goldmine if they'd sit on every street
crossing Middlefield.

I do not find it odd, in any way, that City Council ignored Wayne Martin's efforts.

Good for this boy scout, is this seriously what it takes for CC to take action? If this is what it takes
to get City Council to see what is actually happening in Palo Alto, I guess if adults have something they want CC
to address, you need to have a child/teenager to address this for you.

Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous1
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Edit/Add to my last comment.

I meant to write: I am not surprised, that City Council ignored Wayne Martin's efforts.

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Posted by palo alto resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 27, 2014 at 2:02 pm

There are a number of stretches of Middlefield that need additional crosswalks since many, many students and other commuters cross over Middlefield on their way to work or school. For example, for on the 3/4 of a mile stretch of Middlefield from Embarcadero to Oregon Expressway, there is only one crosswalk and signal - at North California - although literally hundreds of students from Paly, Walter Hays and Jordan cross over that stretch of Middlefield every day.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 27, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Agree with @"palo alto resident" that Middlefield is especially dangerous for pedestrians south of Embarcadero Road. The California Ave intersection is worse than it seems since the stop light is only one on side of the street. Westbound bicyclists are forced to either bicycle on the sidewalk (as most of the kids do) or try to shoot through gaps in Middlefield traffic, which is pretty terrifying during rush hour.

South of Oregon, Middlefield is just as dangerous, with stop lights spread out to about one every mile. Walking to the next stop light takes a long time, especially for slower walkers like young children or the elderly or the disabled. Intersections without stoplights are still legal crossings, but you have to have a lot of faith in Palo Alto drivers if you try that.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 27, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Middlefield Road from 'the Creek Bridge" to at least Lytton needs resurfacing. It's been bad for years. Pot holes.
[Portion removed.]
Also another hazard to cars is El Camino between Scott's northward to the Stanford Shopping Center.Both directions. Some of those holes are dangerous. Palo Alto should get on CalTrans case because that is CT's responsibility. Also cut down the weeds along that stretch of El Camino. Doesn't anyone CARE? How about landscaping it? Hasn't been done for at least 40 years. Also Caltrans turf.

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Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2014 at 8:29 am

Thank you Wayne Martin.

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Posted by Sara
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2014 at 8:32 am

Thank you for addressing this issue. It is truly an unsafe corner. Cars come really fast down Middlefield from Menlo Park around the curve into Palo Alto. When they reach Everett Avenue they are still moving quite fast. Sometimes when I'm in the right hand lane and want to make a right onto Everett I feel like I'm going to get rear ended because the cars are still moving fast around that curve. It's tricky.

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Posted by JerryL
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 28, 2014 at 11:49 am

I reviewed Wayne's data tabulation and it was interesting but, I saw
no surprises. Many, if not all, of the 2 accidents/year intersections are
very busy streets. There ought to be a high correlation between accident rates and the number of 'traffic conflicts' at an intersection and I think these data confirm that.

Middlefield Road, has been mentioned in several comments. I would like
to point out that Middlefield Road is a very important thoroughfare to cross town citizens. It is the only means of getting between North and South Palo Alto between Alma and the Bay-shore Freeway, neither of which are really viable options for getting between the Midtown area and points North or South.

So, please lay off Middlefield with any further "traffic calming" measures.

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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 28, 2014 at 12:33 pm

"traffic roundabouts now serve as deterrents" should read "traffic roundabouts now serve as irritants"

These ugly concoctions only marginally slow drivers, while directing their path toward any pedestrians unlucky enough to be on the sidewalk at the corner. The streets would be much safer without them.

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Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2014 at 1:13 pm

Thibault--Keep using your head! While I admire your trying to fix the situation I more strongly admire your decision to find a safer place to cross.

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Posted by no frills
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2014 at 10:15 pm

Landscaping the roundabouts is a frill the city can't afford.

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Posted by H
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2014 at 2:18 pm

I live near this intersection and cringe every time I hear another car honk its horn or tires screeching. It usually doesn't end well. Glad it's being noticed and hope something is done about it. Maybe a "x days since last accident" sign could go up. Anything to get drivers to be more cautious. It's got an odd ability to have sneaky blind spots for those turning left onto Everett from Middlefield.

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Posted by H
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 31, 2014 at 6:52 pm

There's been at least two more accidents here since my last comment. You can't even see the stop sign because of a tree heading NW on Byron.

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Posted by H
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 31, 2014 at 6:52 pm

I mean Everett, not Byron.

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

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