Stanford University set to roll out ambitious trail project

Work to commence later this month on project that includes new trails on Stanford Avenue, El Camino Real and Junipero Serra Boulevard

After more than two years of planning and designing, Stanford University is looking to break ground this month on an ambitious trail project to create a smoother trip for bicyclists and pedestrians around its campus, the nearby foothills and north Palo Alto.

Once completed, the 3.4-mile multi-use trail will stretch along sections of El Camino Real, Junipero Serra Boulevard and Stanford Avenue, providing new connections to Stanford Stadium, Town & Country Village, Palo Alto Medical Center, Stanford Shopping Center and the transit center on University Avenue.

In the near term, however, the project will hit local bikers and pedestrians with a few construction-related inconveniences, including the closure of the Stanford Dish for a month in July. It would also remove dozens of parking spaces on Stanford Avenue, near the Dish, and create new ones on Coyote Hill Road.

The trail project was sparked by a $4.5-million allocation from Santa Clara County, which agreed in November 2012 to accept a joint application for the trails from Stanford and Palo Alto. The money was initially transferred to the county by Stanford as part of the school's "general use permit," an agreement signed in 2000 that allowed Stanford to build up to 5 million square feet of new development. While the original plan was to spend the money on a trail in San Mateo County, that project fizzled under political opposition, freeing up funds for the new perimeter trail in Palo Alto.

Larry Horton, Stanford's recently retired vice president for public affairs, lauded the new trail system as "an exciting project and a big win for both Stanford and Palo Alto.

"After a few months of construction inconvenience, we will have a new connector trail, more and better parking, safer conditions for people and access to new recreational opportunities," Horton said.

Construction will begin later this month, when workers start setting up the new pathways on El Camino Real, between Stanford Avenue and Quarry Road. In mid-summer, the popular Stanford Dish will be close to the public between July 13 and Aug. 16. The summer months will also see a flurry of construction on Stanford Avenue, according to an announcement from the university. That component of the trail project is scheduled to coincide with the summer break.

The trail project has won an enthusiastic endorsement from the Stanford Campus Residential Leaseholders, which is composed of Stanford employees who live on campus.

Jim Sweeney, the group's board president, said in a statement that the plan makes "great strides toward completing a well-planned integrated set of recreational facilities that would allow walking, jogging and bicycling connections from the Bay to the Arastradero Preserve.

"As an integrated package, these improvements would be used regularly by a wide spectrum of campus residents, by residents of our neighboring cities and by others who visit Stanford to use its recreational facilities, including people from many different age groups – from children to the elderly," Sweeney told the Stanford News Service.

Not everyone, however, is as enthusiastic about the trail project. Dozens of residents who frequent the Dish have been complaining about the new parking plan for Stanford Avenue, which leads to the main gate of the popular hiking destination.

The new trail system would replace the existing parking arrangement, in which cars are parallel parked along Stanford, with an unusual alignment in which cars would have to back into angled spaces between Junipero Serra Boulevard and Raimundo Way. North of Raimundo, cars would still be able to parallel park on the north side of the street.

Because the new backed-in angle parking would result in a loss of 15 spaces on Stanford Avenue (where the number of spaces would drop from 60 to 45), the university is creating a new parking area with 33 spots on Coyote Hill Road, about half a mile from the Dish entrance. The new parking area is expected to serve visitors to both the Dish and the recently created Matadero Creek Trail.

Critics of this plan contended last year that increasing the distance between the parking spaces and the Dish would discourage people from going to the preserve, which attracts an estimated 600,000 visitors. Supporters have countered that the segment of Stanford Avenue near the Dish is already too congested and chaotic and that the redesign will make road conditions safer for students at the nearby Nixon Elementary School.

While the new configuration on Stanford Avenue will reduce the number of parking spots for cars, it will add a new bike corral capable of accommodating 50 parked bicycles near the intersection of Stanford Avenue and Junipero Serra. Stanford Avenue, which serves as the most direct route between El Camino Real and the Dish, will also be furnished with green bike lanes on both sides and traffic bumps to reduce car speeds. Much of the work will take place in the summer months, when school is out, according to Stanford University.

More information about the Stanford Perimeter Trail project is available here.

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5 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Stanford
on May 18, 2015 at 12:09 pm

When are we finally going to get a family-safe bicycle route from Stanford to the Arastradero Preserve? Hasn't Stanford been promising this for years (or decades)?

Also, how about installing some toilets at the Dish? Pushing the parking lot half an hour (walking speed) farther away really puts the Dish out of bladder range for most families.

43 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 18, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" how about installing some toilets at the Dish?"

First - demand public access to private property
Second - then demand amenities like free parking
Third - then demand toilets
Fourth - then demand right to camp overnight
Fifth - then demand the obvious right to build homes on someone else's property.

This is the Palo Alto Entitlement Association at work.

14 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on May 18, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Calling this effort a "trail" serves to unjustly associate it with the idea of walking through a pleasant natural environment. It would more accurately be called a "sidewalk".

20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 1:03 pm

Please do not mix pedestrians and bikes on the same trail. Having attempted to walk Stevens Creek Trail with my family one weekend, it proved impossible to relax, walk together or have a conversation. Fortunately we did not have young children with us, but I did see those with young children scared for the safety of their toddlers who were not able to deal with the steady stream of bikes.

Bikes are vehicles and should not be mixing with motorized vehicles or pedestrian (foot) traffic.

12 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2015 at 1:44 pm

Bicycles can co-exist in a relatively peaceful way with pedestrians and automobiles in pretty much every country on this planet. Go to the Netherlands, Southeast Asia, etc. and see for yourself.

Is there something inherently different and unique with Palo Alto that makes this an impossibility?

And yes, I am a pedestrian, cyclist, and automobile driver.

2 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on May 18, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Any improvement is welcome. Regarding the Stevens Creek trail, all cyclists must treat each pedestrian like a 3 year old child, and always be prepared for the unexpected, because the trail belongs to everyone.

5 people like this
Posted by Dorx
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 2:13 pm

I remember Stanford promising this back in the early 90s, when I first attendeda! As usual, the powers that run these things at Stanny are full of baloney.

Secondly, in the Netherlands, there is a separation of pedestrians ( sidewalk), bikes ( lane next to sidewalk protected by berms), and motor vehicles ( roadway). There, if you hit a bikerider, you get mandatory lifeprisonment!

4 people like this
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Larger Dutch cities do have cycling lanes, but not everywhere, and in some places, bicycles and pedestrians share the same asphalt. On some paths, bicycles and autos share the same asphalt.

Dedicated cycling paths are quite rare in Southeast Asia.

Again, there is nothing unique about Palo Alto that requires dedicated bicycle paths. More, it is limited lack of awareness of others.

This self-absorption has infected pedestrians as well, as many are far more interested in looking at their cellphones while they are walking and bumping into other pedestrians.


13 people like this
Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 18, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Drivers get mad at cyclists, cyclists get mad at drivers. Now, we're moving on to pedestrians not liking cyclists and I'm sure cyclists are annoyed by pedestrians. I doubt any of these "factions" are solely members of only one of these modes. I think a lot of it goes to the growing selfishness of people in general. When someone else makes a mistake, that person is an idiot. When you make a mistake, it's, well, just an honest mistake. No one is perfect. We've all made boneheaded moves either in a car, on foot or on a bike. We're all in this together. The sooner we accept that other people are just important as we are, the better it will be for all of us.

5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Can we please stop calling this a "trail project?" These aren't trails. They might be bike paths or sidewalks with yellow lines, but they aren't trails.

Like this comment
Posted by parent
a resident of Stanford
on May 18, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Conflicts can be avoided if the trail is designed with enough width and visibility to support the expected traffic level. If they build a substandard path, they are asking for trouble. They seem to be advertising this as a transportation route, so it should be designed to support large numbers of commuters (students biking to school, etc).

29 people like this
Posted by Kate
a resident of Stanford
on May 18, 2015 at 8:52 pm

I am a Stanford resident who pays taxes to the City of Palo Alto. When Palo Alto grants me the privilege to hike at Foothills Park, then it will be acceptable for non-Stanford residents to complain about parking, access to the Dish, and everything else Stanford does to help the community. Let's have perspective, people: this is truly a First World Problem.

1 person likes this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 18, 2015 at 9:33 pm

@Kate, you can hike in to Foothills Park from the Arastradero preserve anytime the park is open.

13 people like this
Posted by funny
a resident of Stanford
on May 18, 2015 at 10:10 pm

@musical and you can hike to the Dish from El Camino anytime too!

Like this comment
Posted by K
a resident of University South
on May 19, 2015 at 3:49 am

It would be so amazing if they would build a nice pedestrian and bicycle bridge where University Avenue in downtown crosses over Alma, the Circle and El Camino Real into Palm Drive. There are so many people who walk and bike there everyday and the traffic is pretty darn dicey for pedestrians and cyclist. The campus is such a beautiful place to walk and ride but you take your life in your hands crossing from downtown or vice versa.

Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of College Terrace
on May 19, 2015 at 11:36 am

Kudos for proposing to relocate this death trap parking alongside Stanford ave! I frequent this route as a driver, runner, and cyclist, and at least once a week some person with poor driving/parking skills puts me in a very dangerous situation. Hopefully, they'll put a nice wide sidewalk on the other side of Stanford ave as well, so people would stay clear off the bike lane and the road.

Like this comment
Posted by Look at the plans, please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2015 at 5:01 pm

What's evident in most of these comments is that the writers have not bothered to LOOK AT THE PLANS. They have made lots of wrong assumptions about what is to be built.

Based on the comments, I bet that if these folks bothered TO LOOK AT THE PLANS before they wrote, they'd be celebrating rather than complaining.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 19, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It would be so amazing if they would build a nice pedestrian and bicycle bridge where University Avenue in downtown crosses over Alma, the Circle and El Camino Real into Palm Drive"

Alma is a Palo Alto street - why should Stanford solve every problem that poor Palo Alto has?

3 people like this
Posted by MadamPresident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 19, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Just please don't kill cats when driving. Please don't speed, please stop, please let them pass

1 person likes this
Posted by Stanford Employee
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2015 at 9:45 am

This is a good compromise. The only thing that could be improved is to make a Marguerite stop at or near the Dish. Otherwise, employees, students and residents alike should be happy about this.

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

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