Slew of changes eyed for Charleston-Arastradero corridor

City of Palo Alto considers $8 million in new bike amenities, landscape improvements for busy thoroughfare

The Charleston-Arastradero Road corridor in Palo Alto may not be the city's most famous road but it is undoubtedly its most controversial.

The 2.3-mile segment between Fabian Way and Gunn High School has morphed over the past decade from a four-lane street to a two-lane one in numerous locations, with mixed results. City officials have overwhelmingly supported the changes, which were implemented over two phases on a trial basis and then made permanent in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Bike advocates and school officials have lauded the new bike lanes and traffic-calming measures that the project brought to a busy street serving 11 schools.

But many drivers and neighborhood residents fume and shake their heads when they hear mention of the project they blame for turning their main artery into a congested bottleneck. The project became a lightning rod during the 2013 battle over a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue, which opponents routinely citing the congestion as evidence that the area is ill-suited for more traffic and density.

Now, 12 years after the City Council first directed staff to address safety on Charleston-Arastradero, officials are preparing to make more changes. On Wednesday night, the Planning and Transportation Commission will review an $8 million proposed project for the corridor, which includes new buffered bike lanes at various sections, raised medians to reduce U-turns, and new right- and left-turn lanes at other sections.

Near Terman Middle School, one of two eastbound lanes would be eliminated and 18 parking spaces removed to accommodate a new right-turn lane. Near Gunn High, recently implemented bike improvements would be further refined and a bike path added on the east side of the street, leading from Gunn to the existing trail toward Los Altos. A new crosswalk would also be installed between Gunn and the new multi-use trail.

At El Camino Real, bike lanes are proposed in each direction across the intersection. A raised crosswalk across the southwest corner would slow the high-speed right-turning traffic. Also, the plan includes an optional bike box at the southwest "pork chop" island to allow bicyclists to make a two-stage left turn from southbound El Camino to eastbound Charleston. Improvements at this intersection are subject to pending review and concurrence by Caltrans, which governs El Camino, the report states.

On the west side of Alma Street, a concrete median is proposed from around Park Boulevard to the train tracks. It would prevent left turns to and from Park Boulevard with the aim of improving traffic flow. A small opening in the new median would allow bicyclists to cross, according to Boyd's report.

Farther east, Wilkie Way would get a left turn onto Charleston in both directions. Near Hoover Elementary School, a landscaped median island will be installed between Carlson Court and Nelson Drive to preclude left turns and U-turns from eastbound Charleston. Even farther to the east, Louis Road would get a widened intersection and an enlarged median refuge for bicyclists.

Furthermore, the prior improvements will take on a more permanent look and feel. While the trial projects used pavement striping and marking, this final phase will "complete hardscape elements" along the corridor, according to a report from Holly Boyd, senior engineer at Public Works. Though none of these changes, in of themselves, are expected to be nearly as controversial as the two-phased reduction of lanes from four to two, collectively they add up to a significant project with a price tag of more than $8 million.

The City Council has already included $7.5 million in funding for Charleston/Arastradero improvements through the infrastructure plan it approved last year. The project has also secured $1.45 million in grants for the permanent build-out of the project, according to Boyd.

In the report, Boyd cited neighborhood concerns about increased traffic congestion along the corridor but argued that the problem goes far beyond this project.

"The general growth in traffic is a regional and citywide issue, which we will have to address as a community no matter what we do in this corridor," Boyd wrote. "This effort needs to include increased Caltrain capacity, citywide bicycle facility improvements, expanded commuter and community shuttle service, trip reduction strategies for new and existing employment and efforts such as the Transportation Management Association."

The new improvements have overwhelming school-community support. Joy Henry Hinton, president of the Gunn High School PTSA, submitted a letter on behalf of the organization endorsing the new concept plan. It's time, Hinton wrote, to "put the hardscape improvements in place that will deliver the lion's share of safety benefits to all users."

"These plans provide planted medians, intersection and signal improvements, bulbouts, multi-use paths, buffered bicycle lanes, a dedicated auto right turn lane into the Terman campus from eastbound Arastradero, and built enhancements at the Gunn HS entrance and Arastradero approaches," Hinton wrote. "The project is a key component of the south Palo Alto bike boulevard network, connecting PAUSD corridor schools to residences and after-school destinations."

Hinton's counterparts at Juana Briones, JLS, Terman and Hoover likewise signaled their support for the proposed amenities. Jong-Mi Lee, president of the Hoover Elementary School PTA, lauded the new dedicated left-turn signal near the Nelson/Charleston intersection, which would "separate the movement of cars and bicyclists through this intersection, keeping bicycle commuters safer."

"The many new safety features for bicyclists and pedestrians as well as the landscaped medians will do much to transform the street from its current expressway-like character to a more residential character that will encourage safer driver behavior," Lee wrote. "More importantly, it will encourage more students to bicycle and walk to 'superblock' schools by providing a safer place for them on this well-used school commute corridor."

Cheryl Lilienstein, president of the group Palo Altans for Sensible Zoning, took a more skeptical stance and urged the council not to approve the changes until it considers their long-term impact on the city. She pointed to the traffic backups currently occurring on the corridor and said it recently took her neighbor 20 minutes to drive 2.2 miles on the corridor from the Page Mill and Arastradero intersection to the Gunn High traffic light. Once there, she parked her car in the Gunn lot and elected to walk the remaining 1.6 miles to get home. In another episode, Lilienstein said it took her son 30 minutes to drive 3.8 miles from the Page Mill exit on Interstate 280 onto Arastradero to get home. This was more time that it took him to drive from San Francisco to the highway exit, she wrote.

"I understand that bike safety has been the primary concern, and that students on bikes, and bike commuters too, need safe routes to schools," Lilienstein wrote. "Yet: Efficient transit for cars is essential for safety and a healthy environment. It's not safe to make drivers insane with frustration and it's not healthy to fill the air with exhaust from traffic jams. We ALL need to get to where we are going in timely and responsible manner."

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24 people like this
Posted by Bike Commuter
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 28, 2015 at 6:52 pm

Economic growth is a huge factor in the worsening traffic all over town.

I support the changes to improve bike and pedestrian safety along a corridor that serves 4 schools in under one mile. Hundreds of Gunn students ride bikes to school.

35 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:00 pm

Another day, another expensive boondoggle to create gridlock and traffic backups spewing exhaust.

This is just SO nuts.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:15 pm

This lane reduction is a step in the right direction to simplify and improve safety but I would like to see less of the bright, lime ugly green. Some is OK but the large solid section in front of residential homes even at intersection seem excessive. It could be just as effective for safety to use more strip instead of solid and painting the bicycle icon in the green instead of the entire bike path.

Glad to see that the city has not yielded to the pressure to make the roadway into a thoroughfare instead of increasing safety.

18 people like this
Posted by Mila Z.
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 28, 2015 at 7:25 pm

I attended the most recent community workshop on the proposed changes to the corridor and I support implementing them às outlined. Some of the changes are in my neighborhood and I believe they would make it much safer for me & my kids as we walk & ride our bikes. In particular, I'm very supportive of creating a U turn light at Nelson & keeping folks from turning left earlier.

16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:07 pm

It will be interesting to see if the residents of Charleston like it when they are no longer able to turn either way outside their driveway because of the raised median.

Also, landscaping improvements in a drought? What will the water consumption be like for this new improvement?

19 people like this
Posted by Gunn Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:14 pm

I read the whole staff report and flipped through the plans. The staff responded well to comments they heard in public meetings. It's clear they have tried hard to fine-tune the project for the next phase. It's clear that they listened to the public. There's a lot in these plans for all road users--drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, bus riders. Have a look. The staff report (with the plan line concept drawings) is posted here Web Link .

This article implies that the whole road was reduced to two lanes. In fact, most of it was not. Lane reduction was limited to areas that carry a lot of bike and pedestrian traffic, particularly school commute locations. Some locations received additional lanes. Before the trial, for instance, Gunn High School entrance did not have the 5th lane that provides their dedicated right turn into campus.

The project provides facilities for everyone--people who drive, people who walk, people who bike. Since I use the road all of these ways, I'm pretty happy with that.

29 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:18 pm

I regularly see cars driving in the bike lanes between Middlefield and Alma; not just a few feet, but two or more blocks. This is really scary for the kids bicycling to and from school in the bike lanes. If the police are having a hard time enforcing the bike lane, I am all for more physical separation than just an easily abused line of paint.

44 people like this
Posted by Fed up
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm

1) Creating more traffic congestion on Arastradero will make the air quality even worse for us hapless residents who live on that street. I tried to take a walk one day, and I went back home because of the exhaust fumes. Lots of cars sitting in non-moving traffic makes air polution, which is also sucked in by all the school kids on their bikes.

2) How about the City of Palo Alto just cutting to the chase and completely banning cars within the city limits? If they want everyone to ride bikes, just do it. Never mind that lots of us have health and disability issues and can't ride bikes. Never mind that we have to go places where a bike won't work. Just keep on making us taxpayers and voters more miserable.

25 people like this
Posted by Biking Mom
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 28, 2015 at 10:02 pm

As someone who's trying to ride my bike within Palo Alto city limits, I applaud the re-design of this road. I think the city did a commendable job in making sure ALL needs were taken into account -- bikes, pedestrians and cars. First and foremost should be the safety of the kids biking and walking to school. I'm a little tired of hearing from folks who complain of being stuck in traffic. While some with disabilities may not be able to walk or bike, there are lots of folks who could use other means but just get in their cars as a default to get anywhere. It's time to put our energies into making Palo Alto a safe, walkable and bike-able city where we're first, not cars.

32 people like this
Posted by pacsailor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 28, 2015 at 11:01 pm

Another boondoggle to waste money. The city should add this $8M to the Buenaventura Vista fund.

Everyone talks about the hundreds of Gunn students who bike to school, but they never mention that these students go along Maybell, and Georgia St., then take the bike path to the Gunn parking.

[Portion removed.]

21 people like this
Posted by pedestrian friendly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:12 am

If I have one really really major complaint about planning for "pedestrian-friendly" areas in this area, it's that the planners forgot to look up the work "pedestrian" in the dictionary.

Really, who is going to spend much time walking on an obstruction-riddled surface that one can only really traverse single-file much of the way and often is right next to fast and loud heavily trafficked streets and all that noise and exhaust?

The standard for a pedestrian-friendly sidewalk, being real here, should be that a disabled person in a motorized chair can comfortably traverse next to another walking person, in conversation, without either having to constantly avoid obstacles or risk running into each other. Such a sidewalk would be eminently walkable for groups of kids and everyone else.

No one likes to walk single file, avoiding trees, bushes, signs, obstacles, or walking in the gutter in order to talk with someone else.

I don't know why I thought when we lost a lane of traffic somehow a street billed as being made more pedestrian friendly would actually have sidewalks pedestrians could walk on.

9 people like this
Posted by pedestrian friendly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:20 am

Oh -- another thing. That giant square hotel that dwarfs everything else around it -- it needs to have one of those traffic lights you see in parking garages in Manhattan put at the exit of their driveway that is timed with everything else. The right turn at the pork chop needs a light, too, and all of the lights need to be coordinated, or sensored, or both. That whole setup is just untenable and will result in many accidents at the hotel if something is not done to anticipate it. It's hard enough now to turn out of Hobees. Traffic turning right before the pork chop has to speed up to merge onto El Camino. It's a really tough place that didn't use to be bad just a few years ago before all this overdevelopment.

19 people like this
Posted by context
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:38 am

@pedestrian friendly
Consistent with your comments about the look and feel of a street, in a broader context the City has absolutely no regard for or understanding of aesthetic values, the look and feel of a neighborhood setting as it destroys the character of our residential areas all over the City with yellow paint and signs making them look like and turning them into commute zones instead of residential neighborhoods- the opposite effect of what we are trying to achieve. The City does not understand context in land use, in design review, and in traffic planning.

11 people like this
Posted by Please look at the plans.
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:56 am

The plans fine tune the paint striping trial based on comments staff heard from the public previously and propose a number of improvements that benefit all road users: people who walk, people who bike, and people who drive.

I drive, walk and bike this corridor every single day--several times a day. These changes will improve my experience no matter how I am traveling. I think staff did a good job on this round of Concept Plans. The purpose of this meeting is to give the public and the PTC an opportunity to comment on the concepts before they go to the next, more detailed phase of planning which will also undergo review.

Please look at the plans before you criticize. Provide staff with comments that will help guide their design process. There are some very good things in here for everyone.

14 people like this
Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:25 am

KP is a registered user.

The city already screwed this "corridor" up!
Why do they insist on wasting time and money on continuing to screw up roadways!?! I just don't get it.

Too bad the people living in that area don't have as much say so as the people on Middlefield road...anyone remember the new striping they did to change the lane situation in front of the library - uuuummm, it lasted a couple days before it was put right back the way it was! HAHAHA! Way to go! Oh, and guess what, it still works!

17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 11:50 am

So someone living on this street and can only turn in one direction will be happy? Likewise when they return home they will have to detour to make sure they are on the right side of the street to turn into their driveway? They will be happy? And, I'm sure the residents of the side streets will be pleased with all the U turns or extra traffic as these residents work out how to turn in and out of their driveways to get into their traffic flow.

What plantings will be done? Will they be drought tolerant? Should we be putting in new plantings that will need large amounts of water?

I can foresee all these problems.

4 people like this
Posted by School Advocate
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:02 pm

There are some very easy fixes that require only the money for signs:

1)"No right turn on red" at El Camino, Wilkie, Alma, Carlson, Nelson, Middlefield, etc

2) "No U-turns" all along the corridor.

Not only would this make the route safer for kids, bicyclists & pedestrians, it could be a significant revenue source for the city :)

The number of parents who turn right on red onto Carlson during school drop off and pick up hours is astonishing. As is the number of drivers who pull u-turns at Carlson and Nelson during the same hours - right through the crosswalks! I am amazed that kids and crossing guards are not maimed on a weekly basis.

To enforce safe driving behavior we need mandatory "how to drive around schools" meetings for all parents of kids at each school annually.

8 people like this
Posted by Supply & Demand
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:20 pm

The Project is Great!!! Further improvement is even better!!!

No community will allow their "School Zone" to have speed more than 25 miles per hour let alone 11 schools are within the zone. Certainly should not make this street an artery.

The safety records for the school kids in the past few years speak for itself.

Kudos to the city officials!!!

15 people like this
Posted by Sebastian
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 12:27 pm

As a long time resident and bicyclist I figure I have as much invested in this community as anyone. I'll not indulge the temptation to slander anyone but I must offer my desire for the City to stop doing things to "make life better". There are plenty of laws - in addition to rarely applied common sense - to deal with traffic, miscreants and deviant behavior. Concentrating on the basics of infrastructure, including reserves for the unexpected, rather than constantly looking for ways to spend more money on "enhancements" which benefit a numerically small subset of the citizenry would be delightfully boring.

20 people like this
Posted by Friendly Observer
a resident of Portola Valley
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:03 pm

I'm continually astounded at how many Palo Altans want to return their City to the sleepy little college town it was when I showed up at Stanford in 1960. Things have changed. You can change forward; but changing backward happens only in your dreams or at the movies.

As I recall from many trips over the years down the old Charleston-Aratradero route, there used to be fewer motorists (who often sped by kids at 50 MPH) and fewer pedestrians and bicyclists (who seemed terrified) than there currently are. To me, the recent improvements have helped a lot to cope with the exponential increase in all kinds of traffic. The proposed refinements, which obviously can and should be tweaked, will probably help even more.

Instead of fulminating about City government or wishing all those new stimuli would just go away, how about contributing to the discussions about how to improve the situation as it really is?

17 people like this
Posted by Sheila
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Apr 29, 2015 at 1:21 pm

The hardscaping concerns me. Where it already exists I see reduced potential for fire and ambulance to make their way along the corridor when the lanes are full of traffic. Without the hardscaping, the emergency vehicles could travel down the center in either direction, and cars could get out of the way.

I appreciate the concern for bicyclists and pedestrians, but this will not help us in an emergency. There is so much congestion at certain times of the day, that I hope there is no emergency then because there is no way to get by!

16 people like this
Posted by safety for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 2:05 pm

I would rather see the money from planting and medians put into extending a shuttle service that other parts of town have enjoyed for years. Imagine how different and safer it would be for students that could use a shuttle across El Camino. There would also be a reduction in car travel for parents having to drop students at school and then return to their home (two trips).

This is the corridor that links the south part of Palo Alto businesses to 101 and 280. Expansion continues at both ends of this corridor. If the City really cared about the safety of half of their high school students as well as a third of their middle school students and hundreds of elementary students then they would consider a cross town (south corridor) shuttle. Maybe the grants are driving this project but with 8 million dollars to spend a shuttle expansion seems doable.

7 people like this
Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Apr 29, 2015 at 6:14 pm

@pedestrian friendly
Thanks for remembering the wheelchair or scooter riders. Sounds like this plan will make it harder to cross Churchill at Alma to use the path behind the high school from the side streets. When they first put in the pedestrian gates, I got trapped on the inside next to the tracks because the gate was too heavy for me to open. Train didn't suck me in but it was trying. I suppose they would like me to bump over the railroad tracks, cross at the corner, and bump back. Some of those cut outs for bicycles to cross I'm sure will be too narrow for a scooter.

4 people like this
Posted by Resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 29, 2015 at 7:11 pm

On the news I saw a report on the city of Brentwood - they put a concrete median in the road so that no one can turn into a business - they have to go to a corner and do a U-turn. This is not good for those businesses.
Probably same for residences - why can't a person just turn into their driveway. That is crazy and wrong.

6 people like this
Posted by pedestrian friendly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 9:39 pm

@ context,

You are so right. If you look at City records, Arastradero is what they called not that long ago a "residential arterial" -- it's not supposed to have been treated like some major throughway. In fact, the residential arterial status is what they used to justify the lane narrowing. The nearby development should have been attenuated for that fact alone. Zoning isn't just supposed to be about limits, there is supposed to be context.

But because development pressures seem to make all requirements of context sensitivity moot in planning, perhaps it's time to tighten the rules, as well as to provide actual tools for, say, assessing whether a development impacts the safety of children on major school commute routes.

9 people like this
Posted by pedestrian friendly
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2015 at 9:52 pm


I'm sorry to hear about your experience. That's really unsafe. I hope you also shared your experience with the City Council.

People in this town talk a good game about caring and having liberal ideals, but it's becoming one of the most unfriendly places for the disabled and mobility-impaired and getting worse by the day. The disabled already have a tough row to hoe when it comes to employment, housing, etc.

But because universal design for the disabled (meaning, not just "accessible" but barriers-come-down-the-disabled-really-live-equally standards) tends to be more compatible with high resident quality of life rather than pack-em-in greedy development, you never hear a peep anymore about making sure planning is friendly to the disabled. I sometimes wish someone with disabilities would just sue the crap out of the city over that, I don't know what else will change things. Of course, they would take all kinds of heat. But with the money and (supposed) ideals we have here, this place should be friendlier to the disabled than Berkeley. Instead, even in new construction at the schools, they dismissed universal design for minimum "accessibility" requirements. I guess they figured the disabled are an afterthought and who cares if life is harder than it already is. Or maybe they took a look at the new standard in new housing in Palo Alto and figured no one disabled will be living here soon anyway.

10 people like this
Posted by Dianne
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:07 pm

I'm not sure I understand the bike safety improvements on this road. Not many bikes are on Charleston in relation to East Meadow, El Camino Way, and Maybell. That's were the BULK of the bikes are. For bike safety reasons, shouldn't some of the $8 million be spent of the roads that actually have the bikes.

9 people like this
Posted by History Buff
a resident of another community
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:24 pm

How quickly we forget.

PA Weekly, 7/27/12 "… traffic volume rose in three areas within the Barron Park neighborhood: Maybell Avenue and Maybell Court; Maybell Avenue and Pena Court; and Matadero Avenue at Josina Court. The traffic count at Maybell and Pena rose significantly from 2,700 vehicles to 3,348 daily since the trial changes, according to the study. … Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez admitted a speed survey had not been done along the cut-through routes. But he attributed increases to a 5 percent overall jump in traffic throughout the city."
Web Link

Mr. Rodriguez must have used a faulty calculator. A jump of 648 vehicles/day is a 24% increase, not 5%. But he was determined to brand the "road diet" a success.

Palo Alto Daily Post 9/27/12: "One concern when the trial started was that traffic might get pushed to Maybell Avenue, but Rodriguez said there wasn’t a “significant diversion of traffic onto adjacent streets.”

14 people like this
Posted by Hooray for fact based decision-making
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2015 at 12:07 am

Thank goodness that the planning commissioners actually read the staff report that Gennady seems to have ignored completely in his slanted story, asking clarifying questions to verify actual facts on traffic questions rather than repeating unsupported claims of past, present or future negative impacts by critics whose bottom line is annoyance that their right to speed 35+ in nonpeak periods has been diminished by safety improvements on a 25 mph street. And they forget how bad the congestion was in the first dotcom boom or after Terman reopened in 2003 and Gunn's student numbers went up by 500 students.

Staff did what the council asked them to do in 2012 when the assertions of the critics were shown to be non-fact based in evaluating the paint trial striping on Arastradero. They came back with a design for permanent implementation. They listened to the public and tweaked the design.

Amazingly, the planning commissioners saw through the potshots, listened to all speakers, noticed those who actually had looked at the recommended design, voted to recommend approval by the City Council -- unanimously.
Question: When will the editor at the Weekly use a blue pencil on the "stir the controversy, omit the facts, repeat unsupported assertions by critics" slant to Gennady's writing on anything transportation related?

Just one example from many in this story: GS writes, "The 2.3-mile segment between Fabian Way and Gunn High School has morphed over the past decade from a four-lane street to a two-lane one in numerous locations"
-- Actually, no. The correct name for the trial-now-becoming-permanent design is "two lanes plus turn lane". Adding the turn lanes was the key to drastically reductions in the rear-end and T-bone collisions that are inherent in the outmoded four lane layout. And despite the rants, the facts are that two lanes plus turn lane does not have a significant negative impact on peak carrying capacity. There are lots of streets all over the Bay Area that show this. The backups on Charleston and Arastradero have to do with increased number of trains in AM and PM peaks, plus a state highway (El Camino) and a county expressway whose long traffic signal cycles favor through movements on those higher volume roadways.

Rather than assuming that Caltrans "wider and faster is better" designs are appropriate for today's arterial roadways, maybe Gennady should learn about why federal transportation policy requires that streets be designed for all users.

13 people like this
Posted by Charleston
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2015 at 10:34 am

Having a median strip all down Charleston is another cluster f************ I grew up in this area and were all fine. More freakin money down the drain

4 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 30, 2015 at 11:05 am

I second what Sebastian wrote. Shouldn't "enhancement" be synonymous with "improvement"?

12 people like this
Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2015 at 11:10 am

Everybody needs a safe and functional roadway.

Several bike safety advocates mentioned the increase in residential and business population as the reason the traffic is infuriatingly slow in peak hours, and, unfortunately for motorists, they chose to to disregard that fact in favor of the bike safety issues. The Planning and Transportation Commission apparently agreed, and produced no suggestions that would improve matters for motorists.


It's wrong to see this simply as a "win" for student and bike safety, or to claim, as one commenter does, that this is "safe" and thus good for everyone. The price of that "win" is more pollution, and inefficiency for everyone else...

Community well-being is the heart of this issue, and perhaps folks who are proponents of bike safety and a liveable community will help support a moratorium on the construction of new buildings-- including in the Stanford Research Park -- since existing and projected job and population growth adversely affects all of us --including schools and students--on this corridor and throughout the city.

Gennady, staff claimed the traffic "had not changed" but did not provide data.
At rush hour, is it "level F" ?
If so, there is literally "nowhere to go." (Since there is no "level G")
Might this be a well-known and commonly used trick?
My friend --a former transportation engineer --says it is.

3 people like this
Posted by Not a newspaper
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 30, 2015 at 11:15 am

"Question: When will the editor at the Weekly use a blue pencil on the "stir the controversy, omit the facts, repeat unsupported assertions by critics" slant to Gennady's writing on anything transportation related?"

It is not just transportation issues that the weekly uses the ""stir the controversy, omit the facts, repeat unsupported assertions by critics" slant to "report" on local issues.
The weekly has an agenda and it is not above doing whatever necessary to push that agenda--be it biased "reporting" from Gennady (who, BTW, would not be able to hold a job as a reporter at a real newspaper) or censoring comments that appear on this forum. Lets be honest the bottom line for the weekly is fattening Bill Johnson's bank account and pleasing the people that Johnson is beholden to.
If you want accurate unbiased reporting, I suggest you read a real newspaper in town--The Daily Post or the Daily News.

14 people like this
Posted by Choice or None
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 30, 2015 at 12:15 pm

My family bike and drive so we support bicyclists. But I would REALLY appreciate if bicyclists follow road/traffic rules, do hand signals, check their speed like car drivers do. Unfortunately, their activism does not always embrace consideration for car drivers.

9 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 30, 2015 at 8:49 pm

I use a walker or if I'm lucky, someone pushes my wheelchair for a walk. But i'm really confined to my own block. Why? Because it takes a great deal of effort to get the walker over those yellow bumps, or push a wheelchair over those yellow bumps. They inhibit the handicapped to go over those @#$% yellow bumps so it's better to just stay home. And I join the growing number of resident who despise the green and yellow painted technicolor roadways.
Just awful. Garish. Ugly. It even looks awful looking down from a plane. But then most of the people dreaming up these hideous markings for Palo Alto don't even live here.

9 people like this
Posted by context
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2015 at 10:52 pm

Only Palo Alto spreads ugly bright yellow zebra and laddered crosswalks all over its residential streets. On the PBIC (Pedestrian,Bicycle Information Center) site funded by the Federal Highway Administration which pulls together research information it says "In general, high visibility crosswalk striping should be reserved for uncontrolled locations", i.e. where there are no stop signs or traffic lights in place, not routinely,
degrading whole neighborhoods.

8 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 1, 2015 at 9:02 am

If car drivers would turn off their cell phones, obey the speed limits, and pay attention to the road, then all these road markings would not be necessary. Unfortunately, we all know what the quality of driving is on Palo Alto streets.

3 people like this
Posted by context
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 9:58 am

You are absolutely right that safety is our top concern. This is true
for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) as well and they
recommend high visibility crosswalk markings at uncontrolled crosswalks
only, not at controlled intersections. They also stress the importance
of uniformity in the treatment of crosswalks to condition driver response.
Based on safety studies best practice is "high visibility crosswalk striping should be reserved for uncontrolled locations with high approach speeds when the visibility benefits of the striping enhancements are most needed".

6 people like this
Posted by I support the project. I walk, bike and drive this route regularly.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 10:10 am

Many alternatives were studied. This road serves eleven public and private elementary, middle and high schools. It also provides connections to after-school destinations, including Mitchell Park Library & Community Center, Cubberley Community Center, the Campus for Jewish Life and Elks Club, multiple playing fields and parks, as well as multiple preschools, affordable housing facilities, two senior residence facilities, thousands of other residences, Abilities United rehabilitative programs, and a shopping center. Charleston-Arastradero connects community residents of all ages and abilities who walk, bike, ride transit, and drive to all of these important destinations. Safety is a key concern. I support the project.

I personally know three bicyclists who have been involved in crashes on this street in the last several months--all of which would have not happened if the proposed project were in place. I'm sure there are more that I don't know about, but I was one of those bicyclists. My accident occurred at the location where the bike lane currently disappears at the intersection of El Camino and Charleston. My injuries have kept me off my bike for about two weeks now.

While SOME drivers may complain about inconvenience, other drivers at the hearing acknowledged that conditions are safer and they supported the plan. I appreciated their support. I look forward to being able to bike again. It keeps me in shape and it's a very efficient way to get around town. BTW, I am mostly healthy 55 years old with arthritis in my knees and hips, not a young whippersnapper. Biking is good for me. It gets my joints moving.

To the wheelcair advocate--if you look at the plans I think you will see many accommodations that will make you happy. Staff gave thought to the needs of folks in wheelchairs. I happen to agree about the yellow, bumpy intersection ramps. I personally don't use a wheel chair, but I dislike them too. They are slippery when wet and I can see how they might irritate someone in a wheelchair. That said, they are an ADA requirement. The city doesn't have much say in that.

Thanks for considering the many points of view on this subject.

12 people like this
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 1, 2015 at 11:50 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Pedestrians are allowed to run down the walk And OFF the curb into any crosswalk without stopping, without looking. Hit one and you are in the wrong. Just read the papers/news

Bicycles have the right of way regardless of traffic or signage. Hit one and you are in the wrong. Just read the papers/news

Why is this high traffic route being even considered for Bicycles. There are designated bike lanes on Maybell and Los Robles, Meadow

That is what is insane. Why are there not more Pedestrian/Bike cut-thru paths in these neighborhoods instead f takeing streets that are now needed to support ABAG MANDATED growth.

BTW Government Grant Funded is a piss poor reason to do something.

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2015 at 11:56 am

I agree that those ADA bumpy yellow things are a menace at intersections and I am not surprised that wheelchair users don't like them - in fact I don't know anyone who does.

Apart from the fact that they are easy to slip and trip on, they also tend to cause pooling in the curbs when it rains which makes them even more useless on rainy days as we try to avoid walking in the puddles.

Is there an upside to them?

15 people like this
Posted by not a boulevard
a resident of Green Acres
on May 1, 2015 at 12:10 pm

@ safety for all
Sorry but Arastradero-Charleston road is NOT "the corridor that links the south part of Palo Alto businesses to 101 and 280". It is, in fact, a residential neighborhood full of schools and homes. There are ZERO commercial structures on Arastradero. We deserve a safe neighborhood, not a boulevard. As a resident of the neighborhood, I fully support the city's efforts toward improving safety and alternative transportation for students and residents!

Posted by Job security
a resident of Crescent Park

on May 1, 2015 at 3:01 pm

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4 people like this
Posted by Dangers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 8:19 am

This corridor has become quite dangerous to residents trying to simply cross the street.

It is extremely dangerous to parents trying to unload their children at the two or three daycare centers on Charleston.

2 people like this
Posted by agree with @not a boulevard
a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2015 at 10:05 am

We agree with @not a boulevard. Charleston is not a residential street that is lined with churches, parks, and schools, and thus heavily used by pedestrians. If you want a high speed car route, then take Page Mill/Oregon Expressway which was recently remodeled to be faster for cars and less friendly to pedestrians. The word Expressway in the title is a hint that cars should choose that route and keep other city streets safe for pedestrians.

13 people like this
Posted by Suzanne Keehn
a resident of Barron Park
on May 2, 2015 at 10:54 am

All these issues about safety, need to be balanced with the increased gridlock these plans will produce. Other issues more pollution, worse air quality, irritated drivers and no space for emergency vehicles. Some streets, such as Maybell Way already cannot get out of their street at the high traffic times.

Also I agree with those that said the Arastradero was not meant as a through fare, but a residential street.

We need a moratorium on additional development until we see if we still have any 'livability' left in Palo Alto.

Posted by RWC neighbor
a resident of another community

on May 2, 2015 at 10:59 am

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9 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2015 at 11:49 am

We ARE safe! We are safe as can be! When was the lat time we had an accident in any of these areas??? The amount of taxpayer money and inconvenience, traffic jams, road work and excess will just frustrate everyone and make us LESS safe. The definition of the word "safety" has been twisted and perverted into money sink bases on sheer fantasy.

These people want to live in fluffy rainbow carebear land. But the world isn't like that. The softheadedness of Palo Alto's culture is absolutely nauseating.

I've had it with the parasites in city council.

19 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Kids bike to school five days a week for a total of what, 3 hours a day? That's 15 hours a week 9 months out of the year.

So for the rest of the time, 153 hours a week, everyone should be inconvenienced and stuck sucking in exhaust fumes?

It's the same situation as on Embarcadero Road where the lights are STILL timed as if the kids are in school 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

How about some reality in our transportation planning? Office development continues apace downtown and at Stanford. The number of cars continue to increase and are forced onto residential roads. Taking away 2 lanes of El Camino for buses which may or may not be used will further push cars onto residential streets.

All for 15 hours of kids biking to school a week??

17 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 2, 2015 at 4:44 pm

I suppose when they have finished with Charleston/Arastradero they will decide that other thoroughfares in town should be reduced too! Middlefield, Alma, Embarcadero are exactly the same type of thoroughfares that people use to get from their homes or jobs to highways and should also be given the same road diet. After all, roads are designed for pedestrians and bikes nowadays and anyone who has to drive more than a couple of miles deserves terrible treatment for not choosing to live within a mile or so of where they work!

Please realize I am being sarcastic here.

9 people like this
Posted by pares
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 3, 2015 at 9:07 am

It makes more sense to make side streets bike friendly, such as what was done with Bryant many years ago. Now you are pushing traffic into neighborhood streets which still has bike traffic -- especially Maybell. That is not safer.

Another issue are the many lane openings and closings along the way. Every time I drive the Charleston route somebody speeds up from behind to squeeze ahead of my car. Wonder how many accidents there are along this corridor since the changes were made. That is not safer.

And getting out onto the corridor can be dangerous too, especially when traffic is heavy. Many cars are streaming by one by one and you have to wait while polluting the air.

Some fixes were needed along this corridor to make it safer for children, but this current configuration is over done.

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Posted by I like this plan.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 4, 2015 at 11:56 am

Please check the public records to see that the lane restriping reduced injury accidents significantly on Charleston/Arastradero. Further, to the person who said there is no safety problem: I personally know of two accidents involving bicyclists in my circle of friends-- in the last four weeks. (In both of these cases, the bicyclists were behaving legally.) Though there has been progress in this area, there are still some problematic conflict points that could not be addressed by a paint trial.

Also, there are some issues that members of the public raised in community meetings that have been addressed with the proposal for the final phase of the project--like improving the merge issues mentioned above by some drivers.

Please consider this. Cars have FOUR routes east-west routes across south Palo Alto: Oregon Expressway, San Antonio (both of these are environments that are prioritized for autos and are intimidating to people who bike) East Meadow/Maybell provides connections to many schools, depending on where you live, and is a nice route for many students, but there are thousands of residences south of Charleston/Arastradero...and Terman Middle School is south of Arastradero. This road is an important school commute route. It also provides access for many after-school destinations. Drivers can use any one of the four aforementioned crosstown south PA routes.

Charleston/Arastradero is the ONLY east-west road in south PA that provides a complete, direct, and almost bike-friendly route across town. Presently, the bike lanes on the road are incomplete. (Bike lanes completely vanish on the approach to El Camino (imagine if the only auto lane just disappeared at this busy intersection--that's what bicyclists deal with today). A continuous, complete, safe bike route presently is not provided for bicyclists. That will be corrected by this next phase of the project.

The finished project will provide continuous bike lanes the entire length of the corridor in each direction—including through the problematic El Camino Real intersection where there presently is a gap in the bike lane. The city has worked hard to find a balance that provides safety to people who walk and bike while minimizing inconvenience to people who drive.

The proposed median islands will provide significant additional safety for all road users. For people who drive, dedicated turn lanes will control turning movements and lane changing and protect left-turning vehicles from rear-end and broad-side collisions. The current paint striping provides no pedestrian refuge, little traffic smoothing effect, no bulb-out benefits, no physical separation of vehicles between each other and people who are walking and bicycling at potential conflict points. The planned hardscape will provide these important safety benefits. The changes will also address some of the merge problems drivers mention above.

Alternative solutions have been exhaustively studied, reviewed, and tried. The C-A Plan, though not perfect, is the best solution to accommodate increasing auto traffic volumes while creating safer conditions for people who must drive, walk and bike on this street, especially large numbers of school bound children.

People who bike need more than one east-west crosstown route. Drivers have a choice of FOUR (and autos get the vast majority of the lanes and road space on all of those roads. Please look at at map and consider the kinds of DETOURS this requires of people who bike.

Let's consider each others' needs. All of us need to move about town--including people who are too young to have a driver's license or whose disabilities may prevent them from driving, or those who would prefer a safer, physically active, environmentally sustainable alternative.

We can share the road the way we share our other public spaces.

9 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 4, 2015 at 4:17 pm

why someone would say something so blatantly false is beyond comprehension.
There are TWO routes from east to west in Palo Alto for cars. One is Charleston/Arastradeo, the other is Oregon/Page Mill. Period end of story. Look at a map.

Can you MEANDER through neighborhoods to get yourself to Arastradero? OK, sure.. I'll bite. You can go down East Meadow, a FAR more gridlocked route, that passes by Fairmeadow AND JLS - so impacted by AM traffic that you can't even pass through the lights and stop signs in less than a 30 minute drive to go 3 blocks. which gets you to Alma for another long wait at the crossing, which dumps you on to El Camino Way, and then on to MAYBELL, which is the BIKE ROUTE for the HUNDREDS of kids trying to stay off Arastradero, passing through several stop signs and kids on bike 10+ deep, passing by another elementary school AND FINALLY back on to Arastradero - which is absolutely unavoidable to stay off of if you need to get to foothill or Gunn.... and past another two impacted schools Terman and Gunn. So how in anyone's right mind is that driving route an east to west alternative safer for bikes, is beyond any reasonable person's comprehension.

OK, Can you go through ANOTHER CITY to get to Foothill expressway? Yep, You can detour south - completely outside of Palo Alto - take San Antonio which detours you through downtown Los Altos.. then meander your way back down Foothill to Arastradero (!) to get to school destinations.... (And how that is a reasonable or viable suggestion for driving families with kids in any palo alto schools is beyond comprehension.)

Oregon/Page Mill, sure another route, which will take south Palo Altans about 30 minutes just to reach, let alone the treck then up Page Mill to get to Foothill/280. No, sorry, that's only a reasonable route for those starting in North Palo Alto, or at least north of Loma Verde.

In Palo Alto, there are two, and only two car passages from east to west, ONE in South Palo Alto which is Charleston/Arastradero, and its heads and tails more suitable for a through fare than any meandering round about neighborhood transverse that could alternatively be suggested.

Bicylists on the other hand have ALL KINDS of reasonable and safer alternatives, including east meadow, and many other pathways, neighborhood streets, that are 100X safer than either of these two major arteries.

Yes, Look at the map! Try the 'detours' you're suggesting in a car between the hours of 7:50 and 8:30 Your statements about detours and routes available to cars versus bikes, are completely utterly backwards.

Charleston/Arastradero should be widened and sped up, bikes should be required by law to get off that route, and required by law to take Maybell. There is no other reasonable answer.

8 people like this
Posted by Wake up
a resident of Downtown North
on May 4, 2015 at 4:37 pm

Speaking of saying things that are blatantly false, there is no way the city can legally ban bikes from ANY of its roads. Not only does state law forbid that, it now requires "complete streets" plans that accommodate all users on all roads, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Freeways are the only exceptions. Wake up to reality and stop babbling about things that aren't possible.

3 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2015 at 6:18 pm

How about we stop electing clowns like ole' Jerry into office, implement statewide deregulation, and allow cities to make cycling illegal on certain roads?
This is what would keep cyclists safe. It is far more efficient and logical as well.

Why should the lives of cyclists be put in the hands of drivers? "Sharing the road" between a killing machine and a rickety contraption is fundamentally dangerous. Why is it that cyclists are placed on higher moral ground than motorists? Whatever happened to the pleasure of driving?

Most motorists are productive members of our industrial society simply trying to save time. Cyclists are often retired or off work and are sporting on the road that we use to commute.

And stop acting like drivers are diabolical monsters who are going to crush your children. We actually ARE careful. We have eyes and ears. We pay attention and when I see a cute little girl on a bike I will give her as much time and clearance as possible.

And to the rest of you, who are out there disrupting traffic like you have something to prove. Sporting on the road.

You wanna be safe? Go to the gym and sit on a stationary bike, for Chrissake.

4 people like this
Posted by Robbie
a resident of Ventura
on May 4, 2015 at 8:06 pm

@Johnny, the complete streets law was signed by Schwarzenegger, not Brown. Your attitude is exactly what the law was designed to counter: people who think that car drivers should take priority. You think that car drivers are more important because they are "being productive", while bikers don't count because they are just having fun. Our constitution does not allow us to regulate traffic based on the reason for travel. Otherwise we might ban people from driving to movies or concerts because that is just for fun. Obese people could get tickets for driving to the grocery store because it would be unnecessary, etc. Those people biking for recreation and fitness might actually be saving you money by being healthy and reducing health care costs. That could be more valuable to society than some people's jobs!! Stop judging people and start accepting them. We all have a right to the road regardless of why, when, how and where.

1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 4, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Not only does state law forbid that, it now requires "complete streets" plans that accommodate all users on all roads, including pedestrians and bicyclists. "

Wrong. The Complete Streets Act requires that consideration be given to all modes of transportation, not that every street must accommodate all modes of transportation.

"Government Code
Section 65302(b)(2)(A) and (B):
(A) Commencing January 1, 2011, upon any substantial revision of the circulation element, the
legislative body shall modify the circulation element to plan for a balanced, multimodal
transportation NETWORK (emphasis added) that meets the needs of all users of the streets, roads, and highways for safe and convenient travel in a manner that is suitable to the rural, suburban, or urban context of the general plan.
(B) For the purposes of this paragraph, “users of streets, roads, and highways” means bicyclists, children, persons with disabilities, motorists, movers of commercial goods, pedestrians, users of public transportation, and seniors."

1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 4, 2015 at 8:27 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

For example, the Complete Streets Act does not require that people in wheelchairs be allowed to use any or every street but rather that total transportation network meets their needs such as providing safe crossing points and controls.

1 person likes this
Posted by Streets are public places.
a resident of Gunn High School
on May 5, 2015 at 11:12 am

Streets are public places for everyone--not just people with a driver's license. They should be designed for the safety all of the people (of all ages and abilities) who need to use them. In the case of Charleston/Arastradero, that includes people (including school commuting kids) who bike, people who drive, people who walk.

I live in one of thousands of homes south of Charleston-Arastradero. I have to use that street by bike, on foot, by car to get anywhere else in the city. So do my kids. It's not a choice. There's no alternate route. Those inviting bike routes one writer mentions connect to streets and depend on Charleston-Arastradero at this end of town.

I also drive on the road a lot (as it is my only route to the rest of town). I am fine with the way it's working now.

If I said, we should "ban" cars from Charleston-Arastradero (the best complete and direct route to everything at this end of town), drivers would be outraged. I would never suggest this. I do think, however, it is reasonable to ask for a continuous bike lanes and improvements to the street that are known to improve safety for all users (walkers, bikers, drivers) on such a heavily used school commute route.

This road was originally designed in the auto-centered 1950's. The world is changing--and so our roads are changing. Let's share the road safely.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 5, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Just because the law says something, it doesn't mean that the law can't be changed for changing times. This happens all the time.

I firmly believe that there should be more restrictions for bicycles as a safety issue for all road users. Some roads are fine with bikes and bike lanes, but some are not. If a suitable parallel alternative route, or off road designated bicycle path (not a pedestrian path) it would make sense that other roads had no bicycle traffic.

I think it is time that traffic rules which were invoked in the 1950s and were suitable for that time, were updated for 21st century usage and practice. After all, back then they didn't have seat belts, laws for infant car seats and other safety features that modern cars have, so it would make sense that new rules were brought in for traffic just like new rules have been brought in for vehicles.

6 people like this
Posted by Sunshine
a resident of Barron Park
on May 5, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Once again the city council, transportation, and planning groups have made a bad situation worse. At one time, original road configuration on Charleston/Arastradero, the tie up was brief and reflected commute hours, one way in the morning and the reverse in the afternoon/evening. Now it is total gridlock all day.
Stop already! Multicolored roadways are distracting and confusing for all, whether pedestrian, cyclist, or motorist. The pedestrians and cyclists are not on Arastradero--they merely cross Arastradero at the schools.
The one and only change that would have improved safety and traffic on Arastradero would have been to prohibit all left turns from Gunn onto Arastradero from 7-10am and 3-7pm.
Instead of wasting time and money on such projects, fix the potholes, rough roads, and uneven sidewalks, stop speeding on neighborhood streets. Stop over development. Insist that all new buildings adhere to existing zoning and provide a parking apace for each worker and visitor to businesses.

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

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