New bike corridors get green light in Palo Alto

City Council supports new signs, roundabouts and speed bumps on Ross Road, Amarillo Avenue, Louis Road and Bryant Street

Palo Alto's ambitious plan to making biking easier and safer on local streets received a burst of momentum this week when the City Council enthusiastically endorsed the creation of three new bike corridors, along with an enhancement of the city's pioneering bike boulevard on Bryant Street.

By an 8-0 vote, with Tom DuBois recusing, the council approved on Monday night a slew of traffic-calming measure -- including new signs, roundabouts, speed humps and curb extensions -- at three corridors in Midtown and south Palo Alto. One would be a north-south bike route along Ross Road, from just south of Oregon Expressway to Louis Road. It would connect with two other east-west corridors, one along Amarillo Avenue and Moreno Avenue and another along Louis Road and Montrose Avenue.

In addition, the Bryant Street boulevard would see new improvements, including wayfinding signs, raised intersections and a traffic circle. A prior proposal to include green "sharrow" (markings that indicate the area of roadway to be shared by bikes and vehicles) on the road was scrapped by staff and consultants after community criticism.

All of these projects were included in the city's 2012 master plan for biking and pedestrian improvements, a plan that the city is now aggressively trying to turn into reality. Before the Monday action, the city had 7.9 miles of bike-boulevard corridors in the planning phase, said Joshuah Mello, the city's Chief transportation official. This week's vote the number to 11.1 miles.

"These are bike projects but they really are traffic-calming projects at heart and soul," Mello told the council Monday. "One of the primary goals, if not the overarching goal, is to reduce motor-vehicle speeds on these streets and get motor vehicles operating at moderate speeds, closer to speeds at which bicycles travel along the corridor."

The new projects have won overwhelming support in the city's bicycling community, with dozens of people attending Monday's meeting and almost all speaking in favor of the proposed improvements.

Resident Zoe Hoster said the ability to bike and walk in Palo Alto is "one of the great advantages of living in the city." However, occasional hazardous traffic conditions often make it difficult for people to bike around.

"With these improvements, they will be able to enjoy the benefits of walking and biking around the city and all of us will enjoy the benefits of reduced traffic congestion and improved safety," Hoster said.

The projects will also require the city to remove 266 parking spaces from the areas where the new corridors would be constructed, or about 1/7 of the total number of spaces. In making the recommendation, Mello said, staff was "very conscious of parking impacts to residents and adjacent property owners as we consider infrastructure recommendations."

He said most of the "large-scale parking modifications" are along south Palo Alto corridors, in areas where staff is proposing to add street trees. But while downtown areas won't see major parking impacts from the new Bryant Street improvements, there are some areas where staff felt it would make sense to remove parking spots despite the heavy parking demand.

Much like the majority of the speakers, the council agreed that it's time to get moving with the new bike projects.

Councilwoman Liz Kniss lauded the large number of bicyclists, particularly students, who already use the Bryant Street boulevard and called the new proposal "an idea whose time has come."

Mayor Pat Burt concurred and called the new effort to build new bike corridors the city's "first significant reinvestment in our bike plan since the 1970s."

"I think staff and consultants have developed a better and continually improved and refined plan in response to feedback from the community," he said.


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80 people like this
Posted by Begging
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 12, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Bicyclists, i am begging you!
- Pay attention to your surroundings, look around
- Signal your turns
- Have reflective lights on your bicycle - and clothing too, if possible
- Keep your hands on the handles
- Don't stare at your smartphone while riding
- Don't clog your ears with earphones
- Stop for Stop signs
- Stay in the bike lane
- Don't ride two or three of you next to each other
Remember that cars are heavier and bigger than you

7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2016 at 1:22 pm

I really wish bikes did have their own green light, and red light and stop sign. Bikes are not part of regular traffic and they are not part of pedestrian traffic either. Give them their own traffic signs, their own sequence in the lights, and stop letting them be motor vehicles at one time and pedestrians at another. They are neither.

18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm

P.S. And please give them better east west bike corridors, we have no safe ones.

6 people like this
Posted by bikermom
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 12, 2016 at 1:24 pm

Can you please repave Park Blvd between Cal Ave. and Peers park, and Stanford Ave In Evergreen....actually all of Evergreen is a bumpy mess.

20 people like this
Posted by Mental Floss
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 12, 2016 at 2:02 pm

@Begging. I see cyclists that already do the things you say. You must see other individuals who do not. Not all people who ride a bike act the same, but it can sometimes seem like that. Did you know that if you only look for negatives that is all you will see?

Most everything you described above could be equally applied to drivers, so it's really more of a human behavior thing, not just a bike thing.
Your sage advice needs to be followed by all road users, but it's impossible, to think all will so better to let the cops worry about it and do the best you can behind the wheel, using the brake pedal when in doubt of the safety of the rider. No matter what, there will ALWAYS be people who do not behave the way you would like them to, laws or not.

3 people like this
Posted by Judith Wasserman
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on May 12, 2016 at 2:51 pm

Judith Wasserman is a registered user.

I agree with "resident". Bicycles are neither cars nor pedestrians: we have neither the speed nor weight of a car, but our speed can be enough faster than walking to do real damage to an unprotected person.

There definitely should be a different set of rules for manually powered devices - bikes, skateboards, scooters, etc. My favorite example - stopping at a stop sign at a T intersection. No reason a bike can't roll right through.

42 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2016 at 3:44 pm

We are really looking forward to a safer east-west bicycle route from Midtown to the California Ave business district. Right now, all bicycle traffic is funneled through the pedestrian tunnel at California Ave, which is really too narrow for bicycles. I once saw a mother with a child trailer tip over because she could not squeeze through the crash bars in the tunnel (she was pushing slowly uphill and trying to weave around the bars at the same time). There is no map of the new bike routes in this article, but I hope a safe bike route from Midtown to California Ave is at the top of the priority list. East Meadow is a long detour and not safe for bicycles (at the Park Blvd intersection).

11 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2016 at 4:16 pm

Oops ... someone let the cat out of the bag: "but they really are traffic-calming projects at heart and soul"
translation: designed to make car traffic worse, call them "traffic-enraging" projects.
In my mind, aggravating drivers by erecting barriers is a poor way to increase bicycle safety. Improving flow of traffic would be more beneficial. I don't worry about my son being run over biking to school by a car in free-flowing traffic ... I worry about accidents being caused by someone frustrated by lack of efficient traffic flow shortcutting in one way or another.

Resident said: "I really wish bikes did have their own green light, and red light and stop sign."
Has someone actually seen a bicycle stop at a stop sign anywhere in Palo Alto at any time?

Like this comment
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 12, 2016 at 4:40 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Both drivers and cyclist break the rules of the road quite blatantly in Palo Alto. The difference of course is that cars and trucks can be deadly in a collision, unlike bicycles. The general attitude among drivers and cyclists alike in Palo Alto is that they are above the law and can't be bothered with it, which is why i stopped biking in Palo Alto all together. I bike in the gym and in Europe. New bike corridors won't make a difference unless the snarky attitude is changed dramatically. Knowing how toxic the Valley is, this is not going to happen, and that's why I have donated my three bikes, and I don't miss biking in Palo Alto and surrounding areas even a bit.

15 people like this
Posted by East-West
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2016 at 4:41 pm

I'm really looking forward to the Charleston Arastradero Plan being completed. WHEN, WHEN, WHEN is that going to happen? That's a very important east-west route for bikes as well as motorists.

South of Oregon (if you include Oregon) there are three direct routes across town and one meandering route--Oregon, East Meadow to Maybell, Charleston-Arastradero, and San Antonio. Motorists get to use all four of these routes. I don't know many bikers who would brave those expressways. Most bicyclists choose Charleston-Arastradero--or East Meadow to Maybell, depending on their origin-destination.

Only one of these routes that accomodates bikes can get you all the way across town from the Bay Trails to the recreational biking the hills and the Stanford Research Park. Only one connects thousands of households south of Charleston-Arastradero to the REST of Palo Alto.


11 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 12, 2016 at 5:03 pm

Palo Alto is quite safe for bikes as is.
The demonizing of cars, the #1 method of transportation, a vital part of our lifestyle and economy, is bizarre.
The obsession with bikes is neurotic and "traffic calming" measures are a violation of our liberties.
There is too much apathy regarding politics and the Silent Majority doesn't pay attention, which is why these ambitious do gooders get elected. Too much power subverts their good will as they try to impose ideology over pragmatism and real life demands.

10 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 12, 2016 at 5:13 pm

Congratulations to the city for making some progress! I look forward to our residential roads become slow and safe, and our main roads becoming fast and free-flowing. I bike all the time, and would love a good network of safe, car-unattractive roads, so that I don't have to ride on the busy roads of Charleston, etc.

21 people like this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Drivers, i am begging you!
- Pay attention to your surroundings, look around
- Signal your turns
- Be aware of your surroundings, it's call situational awareness
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel
- Hang up while driving
- Turn down your radio
- Make a full stop at stop signs and lights
- Stay out of the bike lane
- Give bikes reasonable space
Remember that humans on bikes have no protection from your two tons of speeding mass

Thank you.

2 people like this
Posted by Awni Ranjan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 12, 2016 at 6:34 pm

... and never forget your's and others life is very precious

10 people like this
Posted by More Caution Signs
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2016 at 12:24 am

There is apparently a pedestrian underpass that goes under El Camino at or the BofA. Why is this closed?? I agree. The bike/pedestrian journey from Calif Ave east/west is shaky at best. I especially don't like the maze one has to go through to cross over Oregon Expswy to walk or ride down Alma to get to Grocery Outlet and Starbucks. There should be blinking yellow warning lights for auto drivers and YOUR SPEED signs all the way on Alma and into downtown.

16 people like this
Posted by What?
a resident of Mayfield
on May 13, 2016 at 1:29 am

To Awni Ranjan:
Certainly not all lives are precious ... How about rapists' or pedophiles' or murderers' lives? Are those precious too?

8 people like this
Posted by Ed
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 13, 2016 at 7:24 am

With respect to Bryant, in my view, this is a case of a solution to a problem that does not exist. I thunk the traffic circles proposed for Bryant are a mistake. The justification, in part, from the city goes something like this: When you are T-boned by a car and you are on a bike, you probably die. If you are side swiped by a car because you are in a traffic circle, you probably live. I am unaware of bikes getting T-boned on Bryant, though it certainly could happen. Adding traffic circles that invite cars not to stop when crossing Bryant seems to encourage car traffic on that bike route, not discourage it. I see this aspect of the Bryant 'improvements' as a costly failure

4 people like this
Posted by Margaret
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 13, 2016 at 11:55 am

Agree with many of the comments above about bikes (and walkers, seniors, children, pets, other animals, etc.) not travelling well with fast cars… of course if everybody goes Human Speed, no problem

However… stop lights (and four-ways) for bikes are stupid, you have to be a car speed obsessed person to suggest this. Roundabouts are great, no electricity needed, no annoying stopping needed… flow!

Like this comment
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm

What we really need is Berkeley like tank traps all over South Palo. Screw the cars, plant trees in the middle of the streets. That was proposed at the Council meeting. Bike on!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2016 at 2:27 pm

When it is a police car that actually hits a bike in a bike lane, as has happened on bike to work day in SanFrancisco, we can only then get the full scope of how dangerous it is to ride a bike on an unprotected street. Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Oh please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2016 at 12:55 am


I suppose we can only get the full scope of how dangerous it is to drive a car Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 15, 2016 at 8:38 pm

The traffic circles on Bryant are unwanted by the residents that have to live near them.

As for the comments around "Bikes are not part of regular traffic and they are not part of pedestrian traffic either."

Yes they are. They are supposed to follow the rules of the road according to the CA DMV.

Good try in trying to pretend you guys can blow through stop signs. You should be getting tickets.

Like this comment
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 28, 2016 at 11:46 am

Marie is a registered user.

I support most of the changes being made - except those that increase Palo Alto's parking deficit and leave entire blocks in residential neighborhoods without street parking. From time to time, we all need work done on our homes. Palo Alto Utilities needs somewhere to park when meter reading - etc etc etc

Also, I would also like to see the police enforce the requirement that bicyclists have adequate lights for night time riding as well as increased enforcement of traffic laws for bicyclists.

I cheer when I see a helmeted parent demonstrating left hand turn signals to their kids. I'm happy to slow down for law abiding bicyclists, even in the middle of a lane, as I realize that is what it takes to safely turn left.

I hope that more bicyclists will take the minute it takes to ride two blocks and bike on Bryant rather than Alma, as it is so much safer than Alma.

I am terrified when I encounter bicyclists with no headlights riding against traffic in the night on a one way street in dark clothing and no helmet as has happened twice in the last two months.

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

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