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.