News

City Council OKs new bike routes on Churchill and Maybell

Sharrows, speed tables and more planned for pathways to schools

Students biking to Palo Alto's two public high schools and southernmost middle school will be getting help with their commutes, as the City Council on Tuesday approved concept plans for two of more than 20 proposed bike projects aimed at making local streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.

By approving the staff proposals for new bike amenities on Maybell and Churchill avenues, the new council made it clear that last year's election did nothing to stymie the city's dream of becoming one of the nation's top biking destinations.

The Maybell project expands the existing bike route beyond Maybell to Georgia Avenue and Donald Drive to the west and El Camino Way to the east. The project includes extension of an existing bike lane on Maybell, addition of "sharrows" (a stenciled image of a bike and a few arrows, meant to encourage motorists to share the road with bicyclists), and installation of three new speed tables.

One of the major goals of the project is to make the bicycle commute safer for students at Terman Middle and Gunn High schools.

Later improvements proposed for this corridor include raised intersections on Maybell and improved crosswalk markings near the Bol Park path and at the intersections of Donald with Maybell and Georgia avenues.

Also as part of the plan, daytime parking is to be restricted on the north side of Maybell and across from Juana Briones Park, between Amaranta Avenue and Juana Briones Elementary School. On the south side of the street, along Juana Briones Park, parking spaces would be formally marked.

On Churchill, the plan is to create a new bike ramp that allows westbound bicyclists heading to Palo Alto High School to turn onto an existing pathway leading to the campus without having to travel through the busy intersection of Churchill and Castilleja avenues.

Staff plans to reach out to neighbors on the south side of Churchill, between Castilleja and Miramonte avenues, about restricting parking between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., as well as creating a wider area for bicyclists and for vehicles turning right onto southbound Alma Street.

The council approved both projects Tuesday with no dissent and with only minor modifications, including a direction to staff to consider additional improvements to facilitate access to the bike trail near Paly as cyclists cross Alma.

During Tuesday's meeting, Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez presented the council with an overview of the city's 24 projects and its myriad efforts to improve safety and better measure pedestrian, bicycling and vehicle activity at major corridors.

This includes new camera technology that the city plans to install to count bike riders and pedestrians (and, ultimately, cars) at major thoroughfares; green bike lanes coated with colored glass beads; "bike boxes" that carve out space for bikers at intersections while they're waiting for the traffic light to change; bike-corral parking; and road markings such as sharrows.

The current list of bike projects includes new amenities for Greer Road, Fabian Way, Charleston Road, Stanford Avenue, Homer Avenue and San Antonio Road. The city is also preparing to build a new bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 at Adobe Creek, a project with an estimated price tag of about $10 million.

Council members had few reservations about the comprehensive bike plan or its first two projects Tuesday. Rodriguez said the plan is to bring the concept ideas for all 24 bike boulevards to the council sometime this year. Councilman Pat Burt predicted that the roll-out of the plan will be a "real milestone in our community.

"Frankly, with the problems we have with traffic, this is one of the essential ways for us to have a high quality of life in our community in the future," Burt said.

Comments

13 people like this
Posted by bike commuter
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2015 at 9:39 am

I hope the city can get Caltrans on board with cameras or other sensors for bikes to cross El Camino. Right now they only work sporadically and most of the push buttons are difficult to get to on a bike.


15 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:12 am

There needs to be more space for bikes to wait at Alma on Churchill for when the Caltrain barricades are down. As it is, bikes and pedestrians crossing here can be 30 or so at each red light and when the trains come there is no waiting space for this amount of students.

Also there are signs that say vehicles should turn left during the morning school commute. These are ignored by so many vehicles who go straight across. I have even seen Palo Alto utility vehicles ignoring the signs!

One day soon we are going to have a major accident at this intersection. It is beyond belief that nothing has been done to improve safety here.


9 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:42 am

We agree with both of the above comments. Red lights seem to be getting a lot longer at intersections where bicycle-friendly streets cross busier streets (like El Camino or Alma or Oregon). Bicyclists have to wait several minutes for a green light and during that time, cars can come up behind you and are impatient to make as right on red, etc. A dedicated space for a large number of bicycles to wait in the middle of the lane (not at the right gutter) will be safer for everyone.


4 people like this
Posted by AME
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:43 am

It's a fine idea.. So why is one of the dimwits not in the lane...to do this right the lanes néed physical separation from traffic lanes...whatever it takes to do so. Otherwise this is partially useful, but mostly cosmetic.


3 people like this
Posted by Andy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:47 am

Yay! Great to have more bike boulevards! Kudos!

Regarding the $10M bridge, well, that's just silly. They should do a simple one like over by Embarcadero and spend the rest of the money on schools or infrastructure or to fund pensions or something infinitely more important than a trophy bridge...


3 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 22, 2015 at 11:00 am

To "Bike commuter" - yesterday I found that at El Camino and Park there's a push button especially for bicyclists: same as for pedestrians, but placed at the curb so easy to reach. A great idea that I hope will be put at other places bikes have to wait. E.g. Quarry and Arboretum by BofA; Pasteur and Sand Hill (where the light sensor is very reluctant to respond to bikes in the evenings).


14 people like this
Posted by Resident Walker
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 22, 2015 at 11:49 am

Will you please state the Rights of Pedestrians on Sidewalks in these areas? To go along with that--for many, many years homeowners or property owners were required to keep their shrubbery trimmed so that the 2 pavement squares were available for walkers, baby strollers, and toddler bikers. They were also required to keep tall shrubbery away from heads and City Signs. What happened?


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 11:58 am

"The project also includes an extension of a bike lane on Maybell and installation of three new speed tables on the prominent school corridor, between Donald and Arastradero Road."

Excuse me, but where does Maybell intersect with Arastradero Road?


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:02 pm

The posts from neighbors on our local list are quite different than this article would indicate. Not everyone can attend the meetings, I didn't think this new City Council would be deaf to letter input this soon. For what it's worth, this is what I wrote:

Congratulations to the new Mayor and Vice Mayor. I am taking the time (when time is tight) to send this message today, where in the past I might not have for lack of faith at being heard.

Generally, the way the City communicates with the public is still problematic. Many people cannot physically go to all the many City, County, school, environmental, etc, meetings even over issues that directly concern them. Even when people can and take the time to give input, there is no way to solve problems in dialog, which can straighten out misunderstandings before they snowball. Please bring our city into the 21st century when it comes to communication. When I used Google to try to get information on this issue, there was no interactive resource on this issue, and no clear up-to-date informative resource. I only found the staff report because of an informational email sent out to the neighborhood by Lydia Kou.

My comments about the Maybell - Donald - Georgia bike improvements:

1) The plans appear to be geared to facilitating passing through the neighborhood by older students, who present safety problems and infrastructure use problems for families with young children who are usually the least able to engage civically over such issues. That should be addressed before moving forward on this plan. Safety should be improved for the high school cyclists with the younger kids, most of whom walk to school, as much in mind.

The staff report makes no mention of the OH at Juana Briones or any dialog with families who use the OH or the county rehabilitation center for disabled students that faces Maybell. Taking away the parking spaces on the street there could (has anyone looked into it?) pose safety problems for those who need to pick up their kids from the OH, especially since the plan seems to simultaneously take away stop signs in front of the school. A dialog should be opened with affected families that does NOT require dedicated evenings at physical meetings.

2) As someone who lives here, the only reason I can think that anyone would want to remove those signs on Maybell at Amaranta and Coulomb is the expense caused by people constantly knocking them down and the embarrassment the City experienced when that issue came up when it tried to continue to develop that area beyond reasonable. Those stop signs should remain. They slow traffic. They are regularly needed by kids going to and from the park and schools.

3) The Gunn pathway at Georgia to the bike path and high school is an impossible and dangerous nightmare for pedestrians, especially those needing to go in the opposite direction to teenaged cyclists. There should be a raised pedestrian crossing there ONLY if there is also a separated pedestrian-only path there that is cognizant of actual usage patterns.

4) PLEASE no green on Maybell, Donald, or Georgia. The staff report mentions no green on Donald and Georgia due to residential characteristics, but treats Maybell differently. As a neighbor who just endured that awful need to go to referendum to prevent upzoning of my neighborhood, I feel this is once again the City, people who do not live here, misunderstanding the character of this area and making decisions that are essentially a self-fulfilling prophesy. Maybell should not have green sharrows either. If you want to make Maybell safer, underground the utilities along it so those stripes where the utility poles currently sit can be used as free pedestrian and bike ways.

I would further add that adding street markings at all, green or not, is ill advised on Donald and Georgia due to residential characteristics, too. Something I was surprised to hear from older residents but was born out by experience, is that a lot of street markings of any kind (nevermind the color) cause increase in usage and speeds on our residential streets that are already under stress because of overdevelopment around us, much of it still not completed.

Donald as a street especially looks quite different during pick up and drop off at the schools. Between all the cars parked and all the cars milling around, the markings will be useless anyway, and all the markings will do is indicate to people at non-school-drop-off times that the road is more of a thoroughfare than it is and the experience of longer-term residents is that traffic speeds and recklessness increase. We get too much through traffic already. (No one in the neighborhood owns that many Teslas - the overflow traffic is not a debatable point, if you live here.)

5) El Camino Way is a different matter and really needs overhaul. That effort, however, should start with the long-term parking problem, since the street is so narrow. The City should attempt to figure out where all the cars are from, and how to make BOTH sides (and for sure at least one) no parking, without just sending the parking problem into the neighborhood and along East Meadow where it already is somewhat of a problem and will be equally unsafe to the bicyclists. The patterns of harsh light and dark along that segment because of building up in recent years has created momentary blinding of drivers that make that crosswalk at the Subway dangerous. It needs flashing lights and a button for those who wish to cross there. That should probably happen at East Meadow and El Camino Way, too.

Once the parking problem on El Camino Way is solved, THEN plans should be made for how best to make it a connector, as it should be, for bikes and pedestrians.

6) The crosswalks at El Camino and El Camino way desperately need to be improved, made nicer and more obvious. I couldn't tell if that was being considered, maybe I just missed it. Please refer to my opening comment. As a City, we need to better consider how to handle lights and left turns when pedestrians are crossing. We've already had tragic accidents that could have been prevented if the lights didn't put pedestrians and dedicated left-turners onto a collision course. Because unfortunately there is no consistency nationally in how that is handled, we should err on the side of just removing that conflict, especially on busy streets.

7) We desperately need a crossing guard at Donald and Maybell. No matter what you put on the street, the large numbers of bikes going to the high school are a safety problem for small kids walking and biking to the elementary school. More education has not worked and will not solve the problem, and neither will a more obvious cross walk, although improved, nicer crosswalks (that take into account the residential character) are needed, too.

8) I saw this in the staff report but no image to show where: "A total of three to five (3 to 5) new speed tables are proposed along Maybell Avenue between Donald Drive and Arastradero Road," Maybell doesn't run to Arastradero. The segment of Donald and Maybell between Arastradero and El Camino is already busy with speed tables. I can't see where you would put more and be effective, without compromising access by emergency vehicles, a concern that doesn't seem to be considered except in isolation, so problems are never found. Please refer to a recent article in the Weekly about delays to a home fire and regional fire department's concerns about traffic affecting response times because of development.

9) I'm concerned about the way all this planning is proceeding with no understanding of how it fits in the broader scheme of development. During the Maybell debates, we were told the City had a policy of heightened scrutiny of developments on school commute corridors, yet that translated to no actual steps or evaluations, no actual scrutiny with objective information, no actual policies the residents could enforce to ensure safety. I attended an initial meeting about this corridor, and was told by staff that they were NOT ALLOWED to incorporate impacts or potential impacts by developments along the corridor in the planning with the public, and there seems absolutely no coordination when it came to school planning. (Whether Cubberly is reopened and Gunn becomes smaller or Gunn expands to 2500 students has a huge impact on needs and traffic patterns here.)

We need a tool for assessing impact of development along the corridor, any corridor, for taking a systems look at our decisions, or all this work may create more problems than it solves. We need a tool for reaching out directly to those with experience in using the exact places being changed. Don't tell me about the "outreach" efforts, I barely have time to get a broken washing machine fixed (hasn't been in two months), who has time to go to all these meetings? And even when you do, it's not clear we aren't wasting our time -- neighbor who had been involved with the first Maybell overhaul in the last decade asked where was the information from all the work they did on that, so they didn't have to waste time finding out the same limitations again like they did before, and was told the City just wasn't going to use any of that information. So she stopped going to those meetings and left in disgust. There aren't that many people directly involved in some of these decisions. Like I said, in regards to removing the stop signs on Maybell (bad idea), I don't see the OH at Juana Briones mentioned anywhere in the staff report. Did anyone bother to go over there and talk to the staff and families? (Hint: They are usually busier even than families of young children normally are. You'll have to put some effort and thought into how to best reach out without burdening them further. And it will need to be personal and sincere. But the effort will inform future, hopefully more effective and targeted outreach efforts.)

Sorry to send such a long email, but it was a lot more work and time for me to write than it will be to read and consider. Thank you for considering my input.


7 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:14 pm

"Residents on Bryant Street panned the city's plan to draw green boxes on their leafy residential streets, prompting the city to scuttle the plan."

I think the green lanes are a great safety measure for bikers and cars alike. I really don't see why folks would complain about these.

Standard street markings like road dividers, street signs like stop signs, should not be the prerogative of people living on the street. The streets should be marked to provide maximum safety for drivers of all vehicles. Streets are not "owned" by residents.

Can residents tell the city they don't want street lights? What if they don't "like the looks of "wheelchair accessible curb cutouts"?



7 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:25 pm

Another thing is that pedestrians and bikes are not the same thing. They should be kept separate.

Just this morning driving I encountered an adult biker who crossed on the wrong side of the street with the pedestrians. He was oblivious to the danger he presented himself to those crossing and to those in cars. Bikes generally travel faster than pedestrians and should not be in crosswalks or waved on by crossing guards. They should also be on the right side of the street and follow traffic signals just like other vehicles.

On my daily outings, I never see bikes giving way to pedestrians at intersections properly.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Jim,

At one time, I had exactly the same reaction as in your post. My street is pretty wide and when it was repaved a few years ago, one of the neighbors went around with a petition asking the City not to put down the double-lane and other markings that had been there before. She said they were only supposed to be temporary anyway. The problem, she said, is that putting the markings down changes the residential feel of the street, and there is a change in the behavior of drivers who end up increasing speeds and driving less carefully.

I disagreed and felt like you that markings and signs always equated to safety and did not sign her petition. She got a lot of signatures, and got the City to listen, and we have lived with an unmarked street in the years since, and I have to say, she was right.

Putting markings down again on Donald is a bad idea and will work at cross purposes to safety. The street is only busy at certain times of the day, which also happen to be the times that parents are parked, sometimes double-parked, along the street to pick up and drop off their kids at school, or milling around in the space between. Markings will be useless then. But they will indicate to people driving through at other times that the road is more of a thoroughfare than it is, and experience shows that this makes this less safe, not more.

Who would think that removing a little spray paint graffiti would significantly reduce more serious crimes? The feel of a place makes a huge difference to how people behave, and all those markings make places feel less residential, more impersonal, and have an impact on behavior.

People who live on a residential street are the ones using the street mostly, the ones affected most by the use of the street, and the ones with the most experience with how it is used. Ignoring their input is foolhardy and autocratic, something I know we are better than in this town. The City did make efforts to reach out, they just need to revise the outreach a little bit to get a broader-based input in the future.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Paly Parent,
I second your comment! To anyone who doesn't get that, I welcome you to walk, with a small child in tow, from Georgia to the bike path in the opposite direction of the kids on bikes. Or even in the same direction in the morning.

Actually, strike that about the small child in tow. I did that once and it was terrifying. Try it with an elderly person, and only start when there is a break in the bike traffic. (My apologies in advance for what you are about to go through...)


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 22, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Good news. Next, Adobe and Matadero Creek provide elegant and obvious bike routes to address the lack of E/W bike corridors. Why these nearby 'neighbors' object to these improvements - or even have a say in the matter - is inexplicable.


5 people like this
Posted by Anniesbiped
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2015 at 1:38 pm

People in the Midtown neighborhood who complained about the proposed Matadero Creek bicycle/pedestrian route had many concerns, chief among them safety. To say an EW corridor is elegant when it begins blocks away from a well established NS bike corridor and zigs and zags across heavily travelled roads mid-block without benefit of stop lights or pedestrian crossings, is to redefine the word elegant. Hazardous is a much better description of the proposed route.


4 people like this
Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2015 at 2:05 pm

10 million for a bike bridge is ridiculous. Who did the design? I.M. Pei? I guarantee with the city or one of its consultants managing this project, it will go over budget and take 2-3 times longer than expected. If we have to have another bridge, let's keep it simple, basic and inexpensive. The bridge over Oregon Expressway hardly gets any use as it is. Why do we really need another?


14 people like this
Posted by david
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 3:26 pm

This may sound harsh, but but I don't think biking should be permitted on Alma at all. There are other options for bikers and the road just isn't wide enough to share with autos.


7 people like this
Posted by Matt Austern
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jan 22, 2015 at 3:39 pm

We need another bike bridge because it's unreasonable to ask people who need to get across 101 to make a five mile detour, getting to and from a bridge that's several miles away from where they are and where they need to be.

It's not such a complicated concept, is it? It's the same reason that we allow cars to cross 101 both at Embarcadero and at San Antonio -- only more so, since a five mile detour is more of a burden if you're on a bike than if you're in a car. There needs to be more than one bridge because a bridge that's two miles away is no substitute for a bridge where you are.

(The other concept, which also isn't very complicated, is that a bridge in 2019 is no substitute for a bridge in 2015. I wish the city had a better understanding of that part.)


10 people like this
Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 22, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Lunacy, we don't need to enhance anything for a few bicyclists. Its a complete waste of money. The City Council has money burning a hole in its pocket and looking for any crazy way to spend it.

The bicycles will also provide a good way for our many burglars to rob houses and quietly leave. That would be its most probably use.

When are people going to realize that PA residents live too far from work to bicycle?


2 people like this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2015 at 3:54 pm

While I welcome bike improvements on these streets, calling them "bike boulevards" is an abuse of the term. I don't understand why the city continues to perpetuate this dishonest labeling.


2 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 22, 2015 at 5:42 pm

I disagree with Chris:
"yesterday I found that at El Camino and Park there's a push button especially for bicyclists: same as for pedestrians, but placed at the curb so easy to reach."
1)If a bicyclist uses the pedestrian button causes a very long red light on El Camino, much longer than a cyclist needs to cross. This delays traffic on El Camino unnecessarily and makes a lot of people unhappy.
2) It is unsafe for someone going straight ahead to be to the right of cars which may be turning right. The safe place to be is in the center of the right most lane. The button may be 'easy to reach', but then you are in danger of being hit by turning vehicles.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Not sure about the press buttons for bikes, how about some traffic lights with red and green bikes to show when bikes should stop and when they should go.


7 people like this
Posted by daily bike commuter
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Hurray for the bicycle improvements. Boo to objecting to occasional green paint to make streets safer for cyclists. It makes a huge difference in visibility and both bicyclists and cars obeying rules. I agree with the commenter that compared the green striping to stop signs and other safety related infrastructure. Who are these people? Some green paint on small parts of the street adds safety for no damage to your precious "neighborhood character".

@Jerry99: your statement is pure lunacy... do you even live in Palo Alto? There are literally thousands of cyclists every day in Palo Alto. Just the kids alone biking to school every day are in the thousands.


9 people like this
Posted by Questioning
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2015 at 8:47 pm

The Transportation Chief, Jaime Rodriguez admitted at a recent city council meeting that there is no literature proving green sharrows (bright green 4' x 7' rectangles) improve bike safety. And the rectangles are not paint. They are a thermoplastic material that has glass beads imbedded in the plastic. The glass beads wear off over time. And where do the glass beads go? I wonder if they are inhaled into the lungs of cyclists or go into the bay? They are ugly, too.


12 people like this
Posted by Conflict
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Jaime Rodriguez, Chief Transportation Officer for PA, is a proponent of green sharrows and other offensive graffiti on our city streets. Here's why. He owns a traffic pattern company called Traffic Patterns. His company designs street patterns and he sells his plans to other cities. He is using PA as his "showroom" to get business for his company. And our city officials are allowing him to go wild and mark up our streets all over town. It is a complete conflict of interest for him to own and operate a company that can potentially profit from his job as Transportation Chief for PA. He also answers his Traffic Patterns work phone during work hours for his city job. The guy is duping PA. Two articles in our local paper outlined his conflict of interest. Rodriguez also owns a company called American Asphalt. Has anyone noticed all the hideous bright green street signs going up all over town too? Rodriguez's traffic Patterns website www.trafficpatterns.net also mentions a company called Sign Cells. The company fabricates street signs. Does he own that company, too? Just the appearance of a conflict of interest should not be allowed by the city.


6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:15 pm

We really like the green bike arrows and the green bicycle-only lanes. They are a great reminder that bicycles are on the road and help show bicyclists the safest part of the road to use. I have no idea how anyone could call these offensive, unless they are just totally offended by having kids bicycle to school.


3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:20 pm

Here's a message that someone posted to the neighborhood list:

Maybell Avenue is a neighborhood street that is under 1 mile long. Currently there are:


5 speed tables

10 bump signs

6 speed signs

2 bike signs

11 parking signs

3 school signs

8 stop signs



The plan calls for:

1. "This proposed concept plan includes the use of green back sharrows on Maybell Avenue and El Camino Way. Due to local residential characteristics, Donald Drive and Georgia Avenue are proposed to use traditional (non-colored) sharrows."

2. "Bicycle Boulevard Branding and Wayfinding Signage – New signage at every intersection corner to brand the bicycle boulevard facility and Wayfinding signage to highlight the path to points of interest."

The new plan intends to add more bike signs, Wayfinding signs and more parking signs immediately. Can we consider just adding the parking  signs? It will be hard to miss the bike paintings on the street. I believe we have reached “sign saturation” for a residential street. Adding more signs (other than parking) may create more of a road hazard and distraction than inform drivers and bicyclists.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:25 pm

daily bike commuter,

Having a fire station nearby makes us all safer. This does not mean that putting a fire station in the middle of a schoolyard is a great thing, for example. Sure, they'd be right there to put out a fire. But there would also be downsides.

Marking up residential streets isn't just about visual pollution, though it is also that. There are also downsides that residents on those same streets have actually experienced from lesser visual pollution, downsides that make things less safe, the same way having fire engines in the middle of a schoolyard would have safety downsides, too, even though they'd certainly have the upside intended, too.

Having had a major bike accident at a high speed once in which I lost a lot of skin, I'm concerned to hear about the lack of research.


Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:27 pm

Come to think of it, Maybell's only strip where you could have a bike lane is full of sign posts and telephone poles. The undergrounding ends right there -- if the City just finished the undergrounding and moved all of those many poles so they weren't right smack in the middle of the only place to ride on that street, they could probably make at least one, albeit substandard, bike lane down Maybell.


3 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:34 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

I watched the study session on the bicycle program with great interest and was delighted by the nature of the subsequent discussion as well as the vote on the Maybell and Churchill projects. I feel much better informed about how the pieces will fit together and relieved that everyone at the dais was ready to move the process forward.

Council members brought their own experience to the discussion, but were also diligent in bringing forward concerns that residents had communicated to them. I heard wise counsel to be as mindful of the perceptions people have of as of the facts of each matter. Jaime Rodriguez made clear that resident buy-in, neighborhood by neighborhood, was the only way the project could succeed and called for sustained resident participation in the process.

On the matter of how much green to put on the streets, we have an opportunity to judge from samples placed around town. As a former teacher, I took note when Mr. Rodriguez pointed out that even marginally attentive student cyclists seem to flow naturally into a green-demarcated path. Maybe residents will find their objections reduced as they get used to seeing green if they see that it might have a safety benefit.


1 person likes this
Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 10:50 pm

"was the only way the project could succeed and called for sustained resident participation in the process."

Many residents were disillusioned after the first meeting. Only people who can stomach being in the same room with someone like you who treats others who disagree like they're bad people with bad motives are likely to still be involved. This is proceeding a lot like the Maybell pre-rezoning "engagement" did -- all the stakeholders went on and on about how there was all this engagement and everyone was on board with the plan. Anyone who tried to chime in with any input that didn't agree with their steamroller was marginalized. Then later, anyone who points out problems it dismissed because they weren't on the steamroller.

There is no point to marking up Donald because it's covered wall to wall with cars much of the school year, rendering markings useless, and the rest of the time, markings are neither needed nor do they contribute to safety, they encourage drivers to treat the road less safely because it feels less residential and more like a busy roadway just from the markings. That is from experience. Markings also cause deterioration of asphalt road surfaces, which poses dangers and costs, too.

I frankly don't see any difference in usage on East Meadow from the green markings. The biggest danger I find on that route is bicyclists flowing to the right of cars at intersections even when they have appropriately signaled and moved into the bike lane to turn.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 22, 2015 at 11:18 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Resident,

How much support did you have from anyone else about complaints you made at the one meeting you attended. Just because you don't get what you want doesn't mean no one has listened to you. There was abundant time and opportunity to share concerns with neighbors and then bring them to the process. If it didn't show up at the first draft, you should have pushed to have it in the second, or in the third, or the fourth. Stopping the process turns out not to be a viable option, judging from what the new council decided this week. PASZ is no longer the outsiders, they are part of the process, thank goodness.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 11:37 pm

@ Jerry Underdal,

Here you go again. You have assumed something about someone and the situation from what I said that isn't true or accurate, but that smears the person you disagree with. Ironic that you would do it even after I pointed out that you do it.

I think the major complaint from several people in the first meeting was that the City employees refused to use the information from the lengthy, involved process of the last Maybell upgrade, which wasn't that long ago, nor incorporate any potential impacts of sites that might be developed along those routes. Your comment is simply inapplicable.

Secondly, I believe I pointed out above that in my own situation, I am not part of going to meeting after meeting because I have a life, and have to give my input by some other means, as do many people who live in this town, even the ones who could stomach your attacks and negative twisting around of what they say.

Lastly, the whole Maybell fiasco only became conflict because of people like you who turn any disagreement into conflict rather than listening to input from people who ostensibly disagree with you. How about for once taking a deep breath and instead of reflexively attacking, considering that other people might have something of value to say, even if they disagree with you, and even if they COULDN'T spend all their time in meetings like you can, even if they wanted to spend that much of their life in the same room as someone so incredibly negative.

Do you not see how you have tried in your message to drive a wedge where none exists? I'm not even a PASZ member.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 22, 2015 at 11:45 pm

"f it didn't show up at the first draft, you should have pushed to have it in the second, or in the third, or the fourth. "

I can't go to the meetings. You know, it's really not hard to put things online anymore, and when the City wants to, it clearly does and can. And yet, it was hard to find the information and give input. And yet... I put the time into doing that as above. Are you saying that because I went to the trouble of doing what I COULD, and giving that input -- even though the plans are not finalized -- my input is to be invalidated? This is EXACTLY what happened at Maybell prior to the rezoning.

For all those meetings, you know something? There aren't that many people living on Donald/Maybell/Georgia, directly affected. D'ya think anyone in the City could have just knocked on a few doors, even spending a fraction of the time preparing for and in those meetings? I know a few neighbors who aren't on lists, several elderly, who aren't going to go to those meetings even if they heard about them, and I'm guessing no.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2015 at 12:47 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Resident,
You did work hard to inform yourself and be engaged in the process of affecting the outcome by attending the first meeting. You saw that everyone was encouraged to mark on blown-up images of stretches of the project exactly where they wanted something, or not done, and why. I wrote down a few suggestions based on my street experience, but was pleased to find that most of what I was concerned about had already been noted down. We were, by and large, seeing the same problems and generating ideas for the consultants to incorporate into their rough plans for the next meeting. Some suggestions I made found no resonance and didn't make the cut. Not a problem. The bigger picture was that many, many detailed questions and concerns were being addressed even if some weren't.

I seem to recall, though I didn't take advantage of it, being given information at the meetings that there was a way to add input to what was captured on the images if something occurred to us after the meeting.

I hope you noticed echoes of concerns similar to your own in the questions posed to Transportation Planning Manager Jaime Rodriguez by city council members. Many of those clearly came from skeptical residents across the city who trusted the council to get answers while Mr. Rodriguez was available. Maybe this council can be more successful in convincing residents that their interests are being looked after than the previous one. Now is the time for hope, not despair.


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2015 at 1:29 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Resident,

There was great frustration that no record of those meetings was retained either by the city or by the community participants. Jaime Rodriguez was not on city staff at the time of the previous examination of Maybell traffic so he had no direct data or personal experience to draw on. Would it have been better to not do anything since there was no written record of the previous efforts? What I heard Mr. Rodriguez say was that since the funding situation and other parameters had changed since the previous round anyway, it would be good to start again by finding out what people would like to see in the way of traffic and safety improvements in the Maybell corridor if there were no constraints and then incorporating as much of that as possible into a community-supported plan which could be funded and carried out.

Of course, if what a person wanted was no bicycle boulevard plan at all, that could not be satisfied by a Traffic Manager who had been hired and charged by the city government precisely to put together a plan. That's a matter of overall city policy which has just been reaffirmed by the newly formed city council.


7 people like this
Posted by clean it up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 6:11 am

Destroying the residential character of a neighborhood with bright yellow
paint and zebra crosswalks (which might be seen in commercial areas or
along highways)in addition to bicycle markings at controlled residential intersections (4-way stop signs or traffic lights) does not make it safer for anybody.The PBIC (Pedestrian,Bicycle Information Center) site funded by the Federal Highway Administration which presents the latest research information, states that "In general,high visibility crosswalk striping should be reserved for uncontrolled locations" where appropriate. At the same time,it should be noted that studies in San Diego, Long Beach, and other cities,presented on the City of Irvine site show that the pedestrian accident rates for marked crosswalks at uncontrolled locations are actually much higher because pedestrians have a false sense of security and are less careful so the findings "support minimal use of these types of crosswalks". To summarize,the mentality that more paint,more signs,which at the same time degrade and transform the look and feel of a residential corridor, and might actually distract drivers is an approach which equates with safety is not supported.So let's do the appropriate bicycle markings and clean up the rest.


6 people like this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:44 am

Jerry99 said, "When are people going to realize that PA residents live too far from work to bicycle?"

The facts show otherwise. Well over half of Palo Alto residents work in Palo Alto, Stanford, Menlo Park, or Mountain View. More Palo Alto residents bicycle to work than take all forms of transit combined. The number of Palo Altans who bike to work has been increasing, and so has the number of Palo Altans who bike to school. Palo Altans walking to work is also significant.

And the City *is* working on dealing with the multiple light problem on Embarcadero Road by Paly and Town and County Village. See Web Link for a staff report by Jaime Rodriguez addressing this issue.

Some (including members of the Planning and Transportation Commission) have suggested putting putting a new bike bridge across Embarcadero Road serving Paly students visiting Town and Country Village. Considering that there is a walk and bikeway over Embarcadero Road on the western edge of the rail bridge of Caltrain over Embarcadero Road (a few hundred feet from the traffic light), an additional bridge is unnecessary.

So let's see how well coordinating the traffic lights for the pedestrian crossing and the Paly/T&C entrance work.

By the way, in my analysis, the coordinated two traffic light solution should work better than a single traffic light with an integrated pedestrian crossing, because of interference with the frequent left turning cars. It should also work better than the uncoordinated pair of traffic lights. Unfortunately, coordination with the El Camino Real light will require approval of Caltrans, as El Camino Real is a state highway. Perhaps that can be done as part of the further improvements proposed for Embarcadero Road between Paly/T&C and El Camino Real (which also require Caltrans approval).


4 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:50 am

There are many things that bikes, pedestrians and residents can do to make it safer.

1 Bikes can use lights at night starting at dusk. Here's an innovative type called the blaze laserlight that is so high tech that kids would love using them. Web Link

2. Bike riders can use reflective vests. In some countries, there is no helmet law and yet most people use reflective vests.

3. Pedestrians can carry a flashlight at night and wear light colored clothes at night. Everyone on the streets should make themselves more visible. With all the trees, there are a lot of shadows and even on a bright day, someone in the shadows can be hard to see.

4. Better pruning of trees and bushes around signs and at corners. This is both for the city owned trees and those homes that have greenery overhanging the sidewalks.

5. Don't park right up to intersections. If a small pedestrian is hidden by a parked vehicle they can't be seen as they step off the sidewalk.

Pedestrian and bike safety is a defensive activity as well!


1 person likes this
Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:52 am

For an update on the Embarcadero Road/Paly/T&C traffic light fix, see Web Link file page 10, item 13.


2 people like this
Posted by Bert
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 23, 2015 at 8:25 am

Somehow overlooked in the discussion of green-backed sharrows is the fact that Caltrans has not approved them for use in public streets in California, so they are prohibited! You can submit a request to experiment with them, which is not hard to get approved, but you then have to do before and after data collection to evaluate them and remove them if they are not helpful. Palo Alto officials can't be bothered with doing actual data collection and evaluation, so they just use the green-backed sharrows in violation of the rules. I am pretty sure that City Council and PTC members are not made aware of this legal situation by city staff when they propose such things.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2015 at 9:53 am

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Arthur Keller,

Bravo! May the facts you've made available have an impact on public understanding of the challenges at T&C and be reflected in the posts here in the Town Square.


4 people like this
Posted by John Murphy
a resident of another community
on Jan 23, 2015 at 10:35 am

I find it amusing that green sharrows are seen as visually offensive for a quiet residential neighborhood. It destroys the bucolic nature of the neighborhood.

How is it that 24-26 feet wide asphalt strips are bucolic? If it is quiet and bucolic you seek, the roads should be turned to dirt.

The best way to make a residential street quieter and more bucolic is to attract pedestrians and cyclists to that street, lowering the speed and volume of motor vehicle traffic.


4 people like this
Posted by Stu Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2015 at 10:40 am

After many years with few bicycling improvements in town it thrills me to see all of the recent activity and discussion. I ride whenever and wherever I can around town and look forward to great bicycling improvements in the near future. They will make us safer and healthier.


4 people like this
Posted by Fix The T&C Lights
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2015 at 10:46 am

Mr. Keller, thanks for your link re the T&C lights. You got my hopes up that progress was occurring but unfortunately it links to a September 2014 report.

Since that time we've been told change was "imminent," candidates bragged that progress was happening etc. Mr. Rodriquez even put out 2 160+ page RFPs with NO textual descriptions of what fix he wanted and only 2 weeks to respond. The last RFP was due right before the XMAS holiday, ensuring no one would bother to wade through all the contract boilerplate shovelware for such an ill-defined project.

It seems the city only wants the political coverage of claiming they've put out the RFP's but doesn't really want to save the drivers the frustration of getting stuck repeatedly at the never-synchronized lights.

If more current progress is happening, I'd love to know but have seen nothing in the meeting agendas and have gotten no reply to my latest email to City Council, Mr. Keene, Mr. Rodriquez and Ms. Gittelman.


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Posted by Arthur Keller
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 23, 2015 at 11:07 am

Fix The T&C Lights,

I can't speak to the RFPs. I can speak to the presentation to the Planning and Transportation Commission when I served on it, and our recommendation in favor of proceeding.

Since I no longer serve on the Commission, I no longer serve in an oversight capacity.

I would suggest you send a polite email requesting status to planning.commission@cityofpaloalto.org. That goes to the entire Commission as well as to staff. A response is supposed to go to the requester with a copy to the entire Commission.

I do not believe that there is an intent to delay drivers regarding those traffic lights. However, it is my understanding that those traffic lights were installed prior to Mr. Jaime Rodriguez serving as Chief Transportation Official. Changing the traffic lights requires a Capital Improvement Project (CIP), which is a multi-year process. The question of why the traffic lights weren't synchronized when the second of them was installed (I believe that was the ones at the T&C/Paly driveway) is that may have occurred under the previous Chief Transportation Official or when we had a gap between the previous one and the current one. It really should have been installed as a coordinated signal in the first place. I don't recall the exact chronology.


3 people like this
Posted by Fix The T&C Lights
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 23, 2015 at 11:21 am

Mr. Keller, thank you very much for your reply. I'll try sending another email.

It's beyond my comprehension why the cross-walk light is still operational when school isn't in session, late at night, when no pedestrians are there, etc., etc.

People have been complaining about this for years. The backups are increasingly dangerous. I really don't understand why this has been allowed to drag on so long. I don't understand why it matters who was in charge when the 2d light was installed. Isn't it still the current officials' responsibility to fix problems even if they pre-dated them?

Can you shed ANY light (no pun intended) on why this should take so long to fix.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 23, 2015 at 1:33 pm

@Jerry Underdal,
You were doing pretty well there until you said, "if what a person wanted was no bicycle boulevard plan at all"

I don't know how anyone could even imagine that people spending their time at a meeting for bike boulevards, encouraging the City to expand their view beyond just Maybell, would want no bike boulevard plan at all.

You have to stop yourself, Jerry. Your post there showed a really different side of you at first. You could be a great force for community if you could just stop yourself from always imagining the worst and attacking others with it when you even think they might disagree with you.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 23, 2015 at 1:39 pm

The previous improvements of Maybell were public, paid for with public dollars, and not pre-Internet. It defies credibility to say there are no records, someone wasn't looking very hard. (I think part of it was Caltrans grant? If so, they probably have records, too.) The neighbors who worked on it spent months and months of their time, and in the end, found a lot of their plans thwarted by the physical limitations of the infrastructure, that will not change here. Using our resources wisely would have meant spending a little time up front learning from past work.

I can't get rid of online emails I sent the City like twelve years ago to comment on some nothing project, because it's a "public record" -- I'm sorry, to say there is nothing from a more recent, involved, heavily funded project that took place over a much longer time period and involves school safety (liability) just does not pass the smell test.


1 person likes this
Posted by The Future is Now
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm

25 yrs ago when people complained about congestion they were told that the issue will likely worsen over the years unless a transportation ALTERNATE to cars gets single drivers out of their vehicles.
What do I see all over everywhere? Single drivers in their cars; all looking for that magic(fictional)fast route.

The problem, while frustrating, will not get better. <Pause for a second and know that as fact. Let it sink in> The days of convenient driving as a single car occupant are done. Those who listened to the warnings all knew it was coming and the day is here. You can mope or evolve, but regardless, the single car occupant will be doomed to inconvenience. It's just the reality of things. 1.1 gallons in a 1 gallon tank so to speak.


1 person likes this
Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2015 at 3:46 pm

Someone said they weren't sure the new bike lane configuration on Meadow at El Camino Way was an improvement.

There are before and after videos:

Before: Web Link
After: Web Link

The changes virtually eliminated bikes turning left in front of right turning cars, and cars on the left turning right across left turning bikes.

I guess it can be debated how much is due to the lane reconfiguration vs. the green in the bike lane, but I think the green lane does tend to pull in the bikes, and push away the cars.

Arthur Keller - Thanks for the posts!


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Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 23, 2015 at 5:55 pm

Jerry Underdal is a registered user.

Resident,
Please, there has been a strong voice in public discussion of bicycle plans in the Bay Area generally and in Palo Alto in particular arguing that it is an indulgent folly to pursue expanded bicycle use. Those people would not be satisfied with any bicycle plan.There are many more voices involved here than yours and mine. How would you characterize your own approach to it?

The important point now is that there's a new political context surrounding development and transportation issues. Avowed residentialists have a majority on the city council and the others realize the importance of acknowledging residentialist concerns. That was not the case two years ago when the city council didn't know what hit them over approval of the Maybell project.





2 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Marie is a registered user.

From Arthur Keller's link above:


"Timeline
Staff anticipates completion of the PS&E for the near-term traffic signal modification improvements at Embarcadero Road & PALY-Town & Country and the Embarcadero Road & PALY Pedestrian Crossing by September 2014 pending Commission and community input. Staff plans an immediate release of bid documents in October and construction award before the end of the year. Improvements can be completed by Spring 2015 pending general agreement on the design and property owner participation."

Did any of this actually happen in Fall 2014? Were the RFP's referred to by Fix the T&C lights or are they for the longer term solutions? I'd love to see an update to this timeline, with new dates.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Here's a BBC article about a different type of bike light.

It is about time we insisted bike riders could be seen. Web Link


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 23, 2015 at 7:08 pm

@Resident, interesting bike-light concept but fraught with complications. Most of the light reflected off the pavement will go forward at the specular reflection angle and blind oncoming drivers. Green laser diodes are not eye-safe. I'll have to look for the BRDF of asphalt, which will indicate how much light comes back in the direction drivers going the same way as the cyclist, as advertised. It will be a tiny fraction, even less when it's wet.


5 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2015 at 12:14 pm

This is hilarious, it seems like the overfed bureaucrats in city council have nothing to do. I've had it with the bicycle worship. Motorists and cyclists should be treated equally. One form of transportation should never be incentivised over another through the force of government expenditure. I wish the good citizens of Palo Alto would be able to look beyond this "safety" obsession and realize that Palo Alto can't get any safer or more sterilized.

Honestly, can't we fire the people in city council's and have them do a real day's work? Instead of leeching off of actual productive members of society so they can sit around arguing over duck pond permits and bicycle boulevards all day.


2 people like this
Posted by Johnny, We agree that improved bike facilities are needed.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Johnny,

Great! You and I are in agreement. "Motorists and bicyclists should be treated equally." That means they both deserve safe and convenient facilities on the street. Presently, motorists are much better served than bicyclists due to decades of heavy spending that primarily addressed the needs of motorists.

I'm very pleased to see the bike boulevard projects moving forward, and I look forward to more. It's time for that.



2 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm

Are you serious? Sounds like your egalitarian views cloud rational thinking. Most people would rather drive a car. This is fact. Treehugging cycle advocates can lead by example and make me jealous of their calves and ride their bikes as far as Peru if they want to. But please keep city council members out of it!
If they want to encourage cycling they can lead a bike marathon through town. Maybe getting a little exercise will divert their attention from trying to mold Palo Alto into a perfect, sterilized little utopia whilst acting as a fiscal black hole.


1 person likes this
Posted by Two wheels good, four wheels bad
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2015 at 5:11 pm

It's not fair that cars get to have four wheels on the pavement, but bicycles get to have only two wheels on the pavement.


10 people like this
Posted by Ralph
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2015 at 10:18 pm

The traffic light at Park and El Camino used to detect in the straight through lane. With the revamping of the intersection the detection no longer works, a violation by CalTrans of the CVC. The cyclist beg buttons are to the extreme right of the placing cyclist dead in the way of drivers who wish to turn right. This is especially bad on the Stanford side of the road. The beg buttons need to be replaced with the correct and legal detection that was there before. Some one in going to get hurt because of this deprovement.


5 people like this
Posted by Just Mike
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jan 28, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Thanks for the heads up Ralph. We have a personal injury lawyer in the family who keeps tabs on such things.


4 people like this
Posted by Biker Behavior
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 20, 2015 at 12:22 pm

The picture attached to this article is priceless; tandem bicyclists, one in bike lane and one in the lane of traffic for cars. Why, oh why bicyclists do this is unforgivable. You have a lane and you ride tandem asking to be pushed off the road, entitled selfishness, not to mention sheer stupidity


13 people like this
Posted by Holy Moly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 20, 2015 at 1:02 pm

I was once hit riding tandem on Waverley with my husband. When I was side-swiped by a large car ( Mercedes S 550 w/no plates! The car dealer's name had even been inked over!), the impact pushed me HARD into my husband's bike, which in tun pushed him into a parked car.

As a result, my husband had to have extensive surgery on his right elbow and knee, and I was hospitalized with internal injuries as well as requiring surgery on both elbows, both knees, and my left hip.

There was also damage to the parked car, a fairly new Volvo wagon. The owner of the Volvo felt fairly certain she knew who the hit-and-run driver was, but the police told us that without a license plate, we had no case. Also, at the time (late 2009), the hit-and-run driver ( if he was indeed who the Volvo owner thought he was) was a very prominent and well-known billionaire, and none of the three of us thought we could win a case against him because he was extremely lawyered up.

So, PAPD never found the driver ( did they even try?), and my husband and I had BIG hospital bills that insurances didn't completely cover. The lady with the damaged Volvo had to pay her repair bill herself.

The moral is: ride single file even though it is legal to ride two abreast, because the legality will NOT ease the pain, or the expense, of your injuries!


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Posted by Nope
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 20, 2015 at 1:16 pm

Nah. Not a moral in my world or experiences in 30+ years of pedaling on these roads. I evaluate the situation and act accordingly for each situation.
Being fluid but predictable and always being aware of escape routes or traps will allow you to ride safely, even two abreast.
There are always going to be those who get into accidents. Some are avoidable, others are not, no mater what you do. Be alert aware and able to adapt to the current situation and you should be fine. That said, some people do get hit by lightning, so no promises.


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

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