Palo Alto's effort to reach the front of the peloton of California's most bike-friendly communities received a massive jolt on Tuesday night, when the City Council approved a $9.6 million contract to construct a network of bikeways throughout the city, including an extension of the famous bike boulevard on Bryant Street.
The new contract with Granite Construction Company, which the council approved at its final meeting before its summer recess, would fund biking amenities such as raised intersections, speed humps, curb extensions and traffic circles along more than 7 miles of streets. This includes 11 new traffic circles, four redesigned intersections and a series of medians, curb ramps and expanded crosswalks throughout the city.
Collectively, the series of projects approved Tuesday night represent about 54 percent of the 18 bike projects that the city is currently designing, according to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. The newly approved projects will be implemented along Amarillo Avenue, Moreno Avenue, Bryant Street, Louis-Road-Montrose Avenue, East Meadow Drive and Ross Road.
Once completed, these streets will be equipped with features such as speed humps and chicanes. Stop signs will be replaced with traffic circles that aim to reduce the speed of cars and improve safety for bicycles.
The work will create three new bike boulevards along Amarillo and Moreno; along Louis and Montrose and along Ross, from Garland Drive to Louis Road. Boulevards are defined in the city's Comprehensive Plan as "a low volume through-street where bicycles have priority over automobiles, conflicts between bicycles and automobiles are minimized, and bicycle travel time is reduced by the removal of stop signs and other impediments to bicycle travel."
The Amarillo-Moreno bike boulevard will stretch from Middlefield Road to West Bayshore Road. At Middlefield, a new crosswalk will be added at Moreno and new slotted speed humps will be installed between Middlefield and Louis Road, with a mini traffic circle added at Ross and Moreno. The boulevard will jog along Louis and connect to Amarillo, along which the city will install raised crosswalks (including one near Ohlone Elementary School) and, at Greer Road, another traffic circle.
The Ross Road boulevard will stretch from Garland Drive to Louis, connecting there to the new Louis bike boulevard. The Ross boulevard will include among other features new stop signs at Colorado Road, slotted speed humps, a traffic circle at East Meadow, a raised intersection at Mayview Avenue, and a traffic circle at Louis.
The Louis boulevard will stretch from Middlefield to the proposed Adobe Creek U.S. Highway 101 overcrossing. It will include new striping and signage and a traffic circle at East Meadow.
The addition of traffic circles along all three new routes will allow the city to remove stop signs -- a key feature of bike boulevards, according to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment.
"Reducing cyclist fatigue increases the feasible length of a trip by bicycle, and is especially important to people who are hauling trailers, carrying children, groceries, or parcels, thereby encouraging more trips by bicycle," the report states.
The improvements approved include an extension of the Bryant Street bike boulevard -- which currently stretches from the north end of the city to East Meadow Drive, all the way to the Mountain View border. The city expects to launch construction later this year and to complete the projects in about a year.
Collectively, the projects approved Tuesday night represent roughly half of the $20 million budget that the council had set aside in its infrastructure plan for implementation of the city's 2012 bike master plan, the city's official road map for doubling the rate of bicycling for commuters within the city and coming in to work (to 15 percent and 5 percent, respectively) by 2020.
The council, which had reviewed and endorsed the bike projects at prior meetings, approved the contract Tuesday on its consent calendar, with no debate and little discussion. The only dissenter in the 8-1 vote was Councilwoman Karen Holman, though her concerns pertained to procedural matters (the contract would amend the 2018 budget, which at that point of the meeting had not yet been approved) rather than the project's merits.
About two dozen residents had submitted letters supporting the bike projects, which they said will both make school trips safer for children and address the city's growing traffic woes.
"The population of Palo Alto is growing, and so is traffic," wrote Lanier Benkard, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business and a father of two children. "Bike commuting can help alleviate this pressure, but if we don't promote infrastructure that is friendly to bikes and make sure that bike commuting can be done safely, people won't do it."
Penny Ellson, a longtime champion of bike improvements, noted in a letter that the projects being approved go well beyond making streets bike-friendly.
"Each one of them contains new facilities for all users," Ellson wrote. "These multimodal projects are for everyone, creating streets that serve people people who drive, walk, bike and use transit.
"Let's implement the long-awaited safety improvements families have been calling for."