So much is riding on Park Boulevard these days.
A popular bike route between south Palo Alto and the highly dynamic area around California Avenue, the street is at the center of both the city's development boom and the city's aggressive push to become a top-notch bicycling destination. It is also the city's second bike boulevard.
The first, on Bryant Street, was established in 1982.
Now, more improvements are on the way for the busy bike artery. On Wednesday night, the city's Planning and Transportation Commission reviewed and gave its own blessing to the latest proposal to make Park Boulevard more attractive to pedestrians and bicyclists. The list of amenities includes landscaping improvements, wider bike lanes, speed tables and a replacement of stop signs at the intersection of Park Boulevard and Stanford Avenue, with a traffic circle and all-way "yield" signs.
According to a report from Sarah Syed, senior transportation planner, the goal is to further reduce car speeds and "provide continuous, low-stress on-street bikeways with travel time and safety improvements to support healthy transportation."
On Wednesday, Syed told the commission that while the street is already fairly low-stress, there is a lot that the city can do to make it more attractive to people who walk and bike.
Park Boulevard is the main component of a broader commute route that also includes a stretch of Castilleja Avenue in the north and Wilkie Way in the south. At its busiest points, it already draws more than 1,000 daily bicyclists. The city's traffic counts indicate that in May 2014, an average of 1,804 bicyclists went through the intersection of Park and Cambridge Avenue daily, while another 1,547 went through Park and Sherman Avenue. In fact, according to the city, Park has already surpassed Bryant as the city's most traveled route.
"It's really a key north-south corridor in the city," Syed said of the 2.5-mile route. "It is our most used bicycle corridor in the city today."
Under the proposal, the northernmost portion of the route around Castilleja would see wider bicycle entrances on streets where car traffic is already blocked by bollards. A "high visibility" bike lane would be installed on the stretch of Park adjacent to Mollie Stone's Market. Most significantly, the intersection of Park and Stanford Avenue would be shifted from its current four-stop setup to one that includes a roundabout and yield signs.
This component of the plan is the only one that the commission struggled with. Commissioner Mark Michael said he was concerned that removing the stop signs would make the intersection more dangerous for bicyclists coming from Stanford Avenue.
"The size of the roundabout seems like it wouldn't really slow down an aggressive driver," Michael said.
In approving the project by a 5-0 vote, with Eric Rosenblum and Kate Downing absent, the commission directed staff to study further ways to make the intersection safer. These could include widening the traffic circle or adding traffic-calming measures near the approach to the intersection.
Other components of the project won a swift endorsement. These include a flashing beacon and a raised crosswalk at Grant Avenue and a highly visible crosswalk on Sheridan Avenue. Bike lanes will be widened between Page Mill Road and Olive Avenue and curb extensions installed at Olive.
Further south, the city proposes to install speed tables between Matadero Avenue and Maclane Street, remove a stop sign at Park and Ventura Avenue to give commuters on Park the right-of-way (Ventura would retain its stop sign) and create a landscaped median on Maclane.
On Wilkie Way, the city is planning to install new speed tables and remove stop signs at Wilkie Way and James Road, Wilkie Court and Carolina Lane (these small streets, meanwhile, would receive new stop signs as they cross Wilkie Way, giving the more prominent street the right-of-way). Similar treatment would be applied to the southernmost segment of Wilkie, between Charleston Road and the Mountain View border. New speed tables are also proposed for various sections of this area.
The commission swiftly approved the proposal, with Commissioner Przemak Gardias calling Park Boulevard a "natural route." The handful of residents and bike advocates who attended the hearing also voiced their enthusiastic support.
Ken Joy, a member of the Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee, said the plan would represent a "vast improvement" for the route and Emma Schlaes, policy manager at the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, said the proposed improvements will create a "much better bicycle boulevard."
City planners expect to start making minor improvements, such as re-striping of lanes, over the next year. Some of the more significant improvements would take place later, as funding is identified.
The Park Boulevard plan is one of 21 bike-improvement projects currently in the pipeline as part of a Bike and Pedestrian Transportation Plan that the council adopted in 2012. The city's capital-improvement program allocates up to $1.2 million annually for the implementation of the plan.