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Residents: Palo Alto bike plan needs education along with new safety measures

Changes to roadways would slow traffic, accommodate doubling of cyclists by 2020

Four planned bicycle boulevards in Palo Alto could have roundabouts, speed humps and other raised surfaces and roadway markings to slow traffic and alert motorists and bicyclists, but perhaps the most important change needed is education on how to navigate the new devices, some residents said at a community meeting on Tuesday night.

The city has done extensive work to educate students in lower grades, but high school students and adults have been left out of the picture. And since they are most likely to be motorists encountering bicyclists, their awareness is crucial to calming traffic and improving safety, the participants said.

City staff and consultants presented the concept plans on Tuesday at Ohlone Elementary School to more than 70 people. The plans are for improvements to roadways along four designated bikeways: Amarillo and Moreno avenues, Bryant Street, Louis Road and Meadow Drive, and Ross Road.

The Amarillo project is near the existing U.S. Highway 101 bicycle bridge at Oregon Expressway and it would make improvements from West Bayshore Road to beyond Ross Road. That route would link to improvement projects along Ross Road from Jordan Middle School to Louis Road, and Louis and Meadow Drive. The Bryant Street project would make improvements along the existing bike boulevard.

The city has a goal to double bicycling by 2020, and it is targeting the 60 percent of people who are interested in biking but who are too concerned about dangerous conditions to get on a bike, said Hugh Louch, who is in charge of the project for consultants Alta Planning and Design.

The chief concerns involve speeding traffic and vehicles cutting through neighborhoods, Louch said.

Slowing cars can dramatically effect the outcome of an accident, Louch said. Studies have shown that a pedestrian struck by a car at 25 mph has an 89 percent chance of survival; but at 35 mph, that survival rate drops to 68 percent, and at 45 mph, there is only a 35 percent, he said.

The city is considering installing humps, curb extensions, raised intersections, chicanes (landscaped areas that narrow the street in places), median islands and mini roundabouts, which force traffic around a circular island at a four-way intersection.

But plans to add a roundabout at Bryant and North California Avenue has elicited concern from residents, who said at the meeting that the change would remove parking from already packed side streets and would cause traffic delays and endanger bicyclists.

City Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello replied that many studies have proven that mini roundabouts in low-traffic areas virtually eliminate head-on collisions between bikes and vehicles.

Four-way stops, on the other hand, create 16 points of potential conflicts for vehicles and other cars or bicycles. Add in crosswalks, and the conflict points rise to 32 and include pedestrians. Mini roundabouts, however, greatly reduce the number of conflict points, and collisions that do occur tend to be sideswipes instead of angled, head-on or T-bone crashes, he said.

The roundabouts are also designed to accommodate fire and construction trucks, Mello added.

But residents pointed to the dangerous reality of drivers and bicyclists who already ignore stop signs or ride their bikes three abreast to school, endangering themselves and others. One high school student said he has seen many close calls and near collisions because people don't know how to navigate new traffic-calming devices.

Mello said there has been discussion about extending education to high school students and adults. The city sponsors a Safe Routes to School program, which teaches bike and traffic safety to elementary school children. The program also creates Walk and Roll maps for safe routes to and from each of the city's 17 schools, evaluates traffic and safety conditions and makes engineering recommendations, as well as developing curricula for student transportation safety.

Penny Ellson, a member of the PTA Traffic Committee, said any time a new device or facility is introduced there is a need to educate the public. When the city introduced sharrows, it created a document to explain what a sharrow is.

The traffic committee publicizes changes along routes through the PTA enews, outreach flyers, poster boards and bike and pedestrian education programs that children receive in the K-6 grades. But as in the past, the Palo Alto Police Department will probably have to do spot enforcement for the first few times when a new device or road marking is added, Ellson said.

She said that at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools, which do not have bike-safety education, there are 800 students biking each day at each of the schools. On certain streets, bikes are significantly outnumbering cars.

"I never thought we'd get the kinds of numbers we have today. I'm happy, but it does create a need to have more education," she said.

The Safe Routes to Schools program is working on a pilot program at Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School with rising freshmen -- students who will go to high school in the coming year -- by showing them new Walk and Roll maps to their destinations, how to use smart phones to access transportation alternatives and directions, and sponsoring an assembly-style bike-safety program, Ellson said.

The traffic committee is also developing a new flyer to teach kids how to ride safely and legally in large packs, she said.

"They will collect on collector streets behind a light and move forward in a pack of 50 bikes," that confuse drivers," Ellson said.

While programs could move forward into the high schools, educating adults is another conundrum. There has been some talk about including high school and adult bike-vehicle safety education as part of the transportation element in the city's Comprehensive Plan, Ellson said.

The California Department of Transportation has also taken a role in adding bike-safety education as part of driver education, and tests for licenses now incorporate understanding and negotiating traffic-calming devices and right-of-way ordinances, she said. And on the state level, there is ongoing work to mandate integrating bike education into secondary gym classes, Ellson added.

Comments

25 people like this
Posted by Pedestrian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 31, 2016 at 10:07 am

I hope education will include not only sharing the road with cars but also with pedestrians. Some bicyclists do not stop for pedestrians crossing at intersections or ride on sidewalks when bike lanes are clearly marked and available.


7 people like this
Posted by I once saw one be rude
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 31, 2016 at 10:25 am

Watch everyone come out of the woodwork with all sorts of advice...for the other guy.

In sticking with the topic and not turning it into my personal gripe session, yes, education is important if these new routes are going to be difficult to initially figure out. I don't expect it will take too long for everyone to get it though.


15 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2016 at 10:26 am

As long as rules for things like roundabouts are the same as international standards there should be no confusion. If international rules are shunned and Palo Alto rules are introduced there will be great confusion. I would also like to see bike riders educated on using lights high visibility vests and old fashioned bicycle bells as well.


1 person likes this
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2016 at 10:42 am

Palo Alto roundabouts will operate according the the rules established by the state of California, not local rules (yield on entry). They will be the same as the ones on Stanford campus, but smaller. There is a reason that education has been focused on the younger kids: they are willing to listen and learn, and they haven't established bad traffic habits yet. Anyone who has been a parent of a high school student knows that you can teach them all you want, but it doesn't mean they will learn and obey. Most adults have such deeply ingrained traffic habits that it is very hard to get them to change their behavior in normal circumstances. When a totally new device or situation is encountered it presents an opportunity to provide education in an area where habits are not already established, so it can be effective then.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2016 at 10:53 am

Donald. Many Palo Alto drivers and bike riders never have occasion to visit Stanford campus so that is not helpful. International roundabout rules are to yield or give way to vehicles already using the roundabout. Is that what you are implying as I was confused by your comment?


17 people like this
Posted by dtn
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 31, 2016 at 11:47 am

I noticed one day going down Churchill when school was out and the kids on bikes are riding 3 or 4 abreast and really not paying any attention to the car situation. They are oblivious as they chat to one another. I then turned off the main road but ran into the same situation just riding along chatting with each other. Which on one hand is nice to see but on another dangerous for the car/bike situation. They have put roundabouts at Stanford and I think more dangerous for the biker


33 people like this
Posted by Begging
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 31, 2016 at 11:51 am

Yes, PLEASE, educate the bicyclists!
There need to be some mandatory courses teaching the rules and safety because most of them don't appear to have any common sense.
I loathe driving around the ones without any reflective lights whatsoever, in dark clothing, with earphones in their ears, and phone in their hands, zigzagging in and out of the bike lane.
Plus, they want the same rights as the cars, when convenient, but don't want to stop at stop lights as we have to.


21 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 31, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Anneke is a registered user.

Growing up in The Netherlands, we received traffic rules' lessons in the 3rd or 4th grade. All students had to take a written exam and afterwards a practice exam, completely similar to drivers' tests here.

We learned together, and the exams, even though they caused some stress, were fun, especially the practice exams. Successful completion was celebrated both in class and at home.




2 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 31, 2016 at 12:16 pm

Anneke is a registered user.

Growing up in The Netherlands, we received traffic rules' lessons in the 3rd or 4th grade. All students had to take a written exam and afterwards a practice exam, completely similar to drivers' tests here.

We learned together, and the exams, even though they caused some stress, were fun, especially the practice exams. Successful completion was celebrated both in class and at home.




14 people like this
Posted by NoWaveThrough
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2016 at 12:44 pm

I continue to see adult drivers contributing to the bad habit of (teen) bicyclists by remaining stopped at an interesection and waving the bicyclist through! I see this done even when there are other cars waiting at the intersection, whose drivers may not know what that person is doing. THIS IS SO WRONG!. Yes, you should be aware of the bicyclist, and No, you should not hit them. But pulling out (slowly) when it is your turn, even if in front of the cyclist, can make the cyclist aware of his/her responsibilities. But for god's sake, DON'T WAVE THEM THROUGH!


15 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 31, 2016 at 12:46 pm

How much is this going to cost?


29 people like this
Posted by slower
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 31, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Park Blvd needs a posted speed limit and enforcement. People treat it like a highway. And there have already been several near fatal accidents...including a young child on a bike.


7 people like this
Posted by señor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2016 at 1:22 pm

What we really need is a Legal Vehicle code and Manual, which outlines all the laws pertaining to Bicycles, including fines for abuse. Mandatory bicycle licensing, and mandatory adherence to the vehicle (bicycle ) Code.


3 people like this
Posted by Bike commuter
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 31, 2016 at 1:45 pm

As a cyclist and driver, I try to be as considerate to car driver as possible because I have been on both sides. I tried not to block the right turn lane so the drivers can pull through without wasting everyone's time. Good idea, right? Not really. After a while many drivers take it for granted -- speed through and nearly hit my bike, honk and shout as they turn when they feel I did not make enough space for their HEMI, and the non-turning cars also hate because I am blocking their HEMI... It is just horrible. Bike vs Car have never been a fair game, and it is not only the cyclists need education. Maybe I should keep on blocking the right turn cars on bike lane because cars don't give a damn.


12 people like this
Posted by Bike Manual
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2016 at 2:00 pm

When I took the written test for a motorcycle license, I seem to recall seeing a manual for bicycle riders right next to the manual for motorcycle riders.

However, there needs to be instruction also for kids, in language they can understand.

When I lived with my parents in Denmark, all children received written and verbal lessons on the rules of bicycle riding. There were probably fewer then, but we all got the lessons in the second grade, because most children rode bicycles to school by second or third grade.

Living in Palo Alto, I make my son walk to school, because it isn't safe to ride in the street. Both Denmark and the Netherlands have protected lanes, just off the sidewalks, for bicycles, and those bike lanes have a curb of their own. Plus, in Europe, if you hit a bicycle rider you will spend most of your life in prison.


8 people like this
Posted by Gas Burner in Recovery
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 31, 2016 at 2:55 pm

These improvements make our city better!

There should be training for adults who are drivers and riders. The city knows well how to involve people and make something like that fun, respectful of rules, experience and creativity, creating an open discussion where best practices can be shared. The informal, "Palo Alto" rules need to be discussed as well. Cover all dangerous or new situations, not just about roundabouts. Instead of being directed toward kids, the class should be piloted with those who have been riding and driving for at least 20 years. Then the presenters would certainly learn something for future classes.

Celebration is good. Give those who complete the course a bike badge that hangs off the seat and share-the-streets bumper stickers for their cars.


38 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2016 at 2:57 pm

I'd like to see automobile speed enforcement on Alma. There is only one "Your Speed" electronic sign stationed between Charleston and downtown. Drivers either ignore the sign or if they do slow to 35 speed back up as soon as they pass the "slow" sign. Palo Alto has a 35 MPH zone on the Alma Expressway for cars but drivers are speeding well over 50 mph. Traffic calming measures are very much needed on Alma as well. I got a postcard note in the mail from the city on how to save energy by minimizing car trips to the grocery store. How about another postcard sent regarding traffic calming and energy saving tips. This might help crazed people trying to get to and from wherever on many of the Palo Alto transportation arteries.


10 people like this
Posted by Slow Down
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2016 at 2:57 pm

I'd like to see automobile speed enforcement on Alma. There is only one "Your Speed" electronic sign stationed between Charleston and downtown. Drivers either ignore the sign or if they do slow to 35 speed back up as soon as they pass the "slow" sign. Palo Alto has a 35 MPH zone on the Alma Expressway for cars but drivers are speeding well over 50 mph. Traffic calming measures are very much needed on Alma as well. I got a postcard note in the mail from the city on how to save energy by minimizing car trips to the grocery store. How about another postcard sent regarding traffic calming and energy saving tips. This might help crazed people trying to get to and from wherever on many of the Palo Alto transportation arteries.


1 person likes this
Posted by We educated the drivers
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 31, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Everyone happy with how they operate now? Haha.
Yes, advice for the other guy is rampant. Fix yourself, you're broken and you don't realize it.


5 people like this
Posted by Don't get too slap happy
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 31, 2016 at 3:11 pm

Nothing will do a thing without enforcement, and if the city has turned its back on enforcing the traffic codes for the vehicles that are semi-regularly killing citizens, what motivation do you think they will have to enforce the simple irritant of cyclists.
If we march into strong enforcement, you MUST look at where the most damage is being done first...cars and their speed.


20 people like this
Posted by Doanld
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Yes, we absolutely need more enforcement. It doesn't matter what your rules are and whether you educate people about them if you don't enforce them. Enforcement is expensive, but so is the lack of enforcement (although the costs are paid by different groups). The rule for roundabouts is simple: when entering you yield to anyone already there, but yielding is not something that people are familiar with it seems...

As far as the behavior of kids being dangerous, the data don't show that. It may seem irresponsible and rude, and it may be annoying, but the crash data don't support concluding that it is dangerous. When kids are traveling in large groups and they take over the road they are quite safe, even if drivers are annoyed. I am not defending this behavior, just trying to look at the actual facts.

Note the comment from above that if you hit a bicyclist in the Netherlands you will spend most of your life in prison. That may be more important than all the traffic rules and bike lanes.


18 people like this
Posted by A. Walker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2016 at 3:59 pm

"There need to be some mandatory courses teaching the rules and safety because most of them [bicyclists] don't appear to have any common sense."

Save the money. The second part of your sentence says it all. Studies consistently show that getting on a bicycle lowers the IQ at least 50 points.


37 people like this
Posted by Here's Something Interesting
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 31, 2016 at 4:01 pm

Hi all,
I have a 3.1 mile bike commute, all within Palo Alto. It's almost exclusively on secondary streets. I did a little data gathering, and here's what I came up with:
Over the course of my bike ride, I encountered 27 vehicles who violated CA Vehicle Code.

Infractions:
Failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. (I think the MAJORITY of vehicles failed on this one)
Failure to come to a complete stop when executing a right turn on red.
Failure to signal.
Running a red light.

Weirdly, I didn't see many bikes, so I didn't gather any data on them. (besides, I don't think I can do that much data gathering while on the move)
It's a quiet afternoon, and I am guessing that those 27 vehicle violations represent 30-50% of the motor vehicles I interacted with on the road this afternoon.

It's true, we DO have a problem on our streets. It involves ALL wheeled users.

BTW - I ran all stop signs where it was practicable - my rule is any empty intersection, or situation where the only vehicle is oncoming and going straight or right.

If there is interest, I would be happy to start filming my commute and providing a "scorecard". Does anyone think it will help provide a bit more introspection?


19 people like this
Posted by Paly resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2016 at 4:05 pm

I went to the bike meeting the other night. The initial cost for the bike markings and roundabouts is $20 million. Yes, $20 million. It will actually cost more than that, but the city is hoping to get grants. A real boondoggle. The new Transportation Director doesn't appear terribly bright. The meeting was poorly run and it appeared the city wants to hide fheir plans from the public. They were sketchy and vague.


11 people like this
Posted by Here's Something Interesting
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 31, 2016 at 4:07 pm

I was at the meeting too. It seemed transparent and open. Plans were openly displayed for comment and discussion. Input was solicited. Questions were answered. Democracy in action.


17 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 31, 2016 at 4:30 pm

"If there is interest, I would be happy to start filming my commute and providing a "scorecard". Does anyone think it will help provide a bit more introspection?"

Don't push your luck. You've confessed to a few hundred bucks worth of violations already.


41 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Let's be realistic, all of these road features are easy to navigate if you obey the speed limit and pay attention to the road. How hard is it to turn your phone off while you drive? Forget "hands free". Just turn it off and pay attention.


24 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 31, 2016 at 6:52 pm

$20,000,000 for bike education and roundabouts and more consultants?

How about some "Keep Clear" signs in intersections that ate constantly blocked? How about fixing the traffic light timing on which we just spent $3,000,000 and now only 1 -- ONE -- car can get turn onto Newell from Embarcadero while the city holds more "community outreach" on how to fix Embarcadero when there's only making it worse by reducing the Newell turn from 3 to 1. Dumb dumb.

This city has too much money to waste. And if they get grants for this, other governments have too much money to waste, also.


10 people like this
Posted by Ronnie
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 31, 2016 at 8:39 pm

I think $20 million sounds like a bargain compared to the hundreds of millions we spend on freeways. This is not all at once, it is spread out over years and many projects all over town.


16 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2016 at 9:56 pm

You'd think there would be more pressing matters in life than trying to encourage more people to ride a rickety two-wheeled contraption. The real agenda here is not "safety", its trying to influence people's behavior because of climate change.

Oh god the bubble that is Palo Alto...

It's up to individuals to pay attention and drive diligently and with courtesy. Many people do. Sure there are lots of lousy drivers, but drivers as a whole are being inaccurately demonized.

I drive a lot in Palo Alto and I see cyclists doing just fine. There is a massive smoke and mirrors act going on here.


Like this comment
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 1, 2016 at 8:55 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Here's Something Interesting
The law needs to be fixed so what you did was not an Automatic Violation so it is only a Violation when you steal the right of way from others.

Example: Park Avenue bike lane. There is a stop at Park where it meets Lambert. The only reason a rider going towards Caltrain needs to stop, is the Law. Not traffic.

BTW many Bike lane share (dashed lane marker) with Right turners. That is not a Right Turn Lane. There is no Arrow on the pavement


39 people like this
Posted by Paul Goldstein
a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 1, 2016 at 9:05 am

I live near Ross Road, and I am on it every day, as a pedestrian, a driver, and an occasional bicyclist. With regard to Ross Road, this program seems to be directed toward a non-existent problem, and its result will be to make driving on Ross even more annoying than it already is without providing much benefit to anyone. What is the evidence to support the idea that there is an enormous pent-up demand for more bicycling? Why isn't the existing Ross Road configuration more than adequate to handle such bicyclists as choose to ride there? As several other posters have noted, isn't the perceived danger of biking on Ross exclusively or primarily a matter of failing to enforce existing rules of the road? Why Ross Road, which, unlike Bryant, does not provide a path through the city which might be useful to bicyclists?

Here is a problem that really exists: pedestrian safety. I walk in the Palo Verde and adjoining neighborhoods every morning, and here is what I see: Adults, teenagers, and pre-teens who should know better riding their bikes at full speed on sidewalks, often refusing to yield to me even after they have seen me on the sidewalk. Drivers who consider a slowing to 15 mph to be adequate observance of stop signs. Drivers who move through intersections while I and other pedestrians are still in them. Drivers who drive in clearly marked bicycle lanes. Pedestrians who walk like zombies, eyes glued to their phones, apparently assuming that the rest of the world will keep them safe. Where is the City of Palo Alto's program for dealing with these very real problems?

One point regarding the Tuesday meeting. My wife, who attended, asked one of the City officials to provide the "research" that he cited to support one of his claims. His response was: "You can look it up." Not exactly democracy in action.


9 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 1, 2016 at 11:55 am

"Pedestrians who walk like zombies, eyes glued to their phones, apparently assuming that the rest of the world will keep them safe."

You way overrate those characters. Assuming anything requires a modicum of intrinsic mental ability on the part of the assumer. They don't just walk like zombies, they *are* zombies, enslaved by their apps.


6 people like this
Posted by Nayeli P.
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Nayeli P. is a registered user.

Since we have lived in Palo Alto, we have had SEVEN bicycles stolen. My sister had four bikes stolen in four years at Stanford. We have had three stolen at our apartment complex. All of our bikes were locked. Some of the bikes were even secured with Kryptonite locks.

Bicycle theft is a big thing in Palo Alto. While upper income families can afford a yearly theft of bicycles, lower and middle income families feel the pinch a bit more in the pocket book.

Last night, we had another bicycle stolen. It was secured with an expensive lock.

I've owned bicycles since I was a little girl. Prior to living in Palo Alto, I never had a single bike stolen. In Palo Alto, we are on a once-a-year track of bicycle theft. We even had a cheap bicycle stolen -- one that had two flat tires, a broken chain and a brand new retail value of $99.

I am happy that Palo Alto is pushing bike education. However, Palo Alto needs a better system to fight bicycle theft. It isn't very encouraging to use a bicycle when you have a bicycle stolen once per year.


Like this comment
Posted by Biking buses - look it up
a resident of Green Acres
on Apr 7, 2016 at 5:34 pm

What about organizing biking and walking "buses"? If they become regular, they will also be community boosters.


2 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 7, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Always an interesting topic.... the conclusion is always the same: bikes and cars do not mix, and painting roads with stripes is a waste of time. We need clear thoroughfares, protected bike lanes, and low-speed access roads to get to these. And anyone who advocates more stop lights in Palo Alto is completely missing the point!


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

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