Palo Alto approves new bike boulevards

City Council moves ahead with aggressive plan to expand bicycle network, double the city's number of cyclists

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."

Related content:

Behind the Headlines: building a bike-friendly city


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16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2017 at 9:54 am

Sometimes you call these traffic circles and other times you call them roundabouts.

I hope that they are truly roundabouts with international rules for yielding to those already on the roundabout rather than stopping and confusing everyone.

I look forward to using roundabouts instead of four way stops. Stopping when there is absolutely no other traffic is a waste of time and energy. In fact, some of out traffic lights should turn into four way stops for the hours 11.00 pm until 5.00 am as waiting for the red lights to change to green at this time of night seems pointless.

20 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2017 at 10:17 am

Our kids are looking forward to using these safer bicycle routes this summer and especially when school starts again in the fall!

24 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2017 at 10:20 am

Does anyone know if the city plans to build a safer, more direct bicycle route from Midtown to the California Ave business district? We've given up on visiting California Ave because the current bicycle route is so slow and difficult.

14 people like this
Posted by VS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 28, 2017 at 12:15 pm

Can you please provide the link to the map of proposed bike path changes you provided? It cannot be easily read as an attached picture. Thanks.

7 people like this
Posted by Judith
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 28, 2017 at 12:43 pm

Does anyone know the status of the 101 bike bridge project?

8 people like this
Posted by vmshadle
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 28, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Resident (author of the first letter) is right. As a regular Bryant Boulevard commuter, I even find it counter-intuitive to have stop signs along one axis of a roundabout/traffic circle/rotary (different terms appear in different places).

We bicyclists have right of way, but cross-traffic has stop signs, effectively balancing bicycle safety with motor vehicle confusion.

My hope is that the learning curve levels off for everyone, and pedal-ers as well as gas-pedal-ers can enter these roundabouts without menacing one another. The savings in energy will be realized not only in terms of fuel dollars and patience of motorists but also in terms of bicyclist efficiency. After three years of biking to work every day, dealing with non-stop stop signs for streets with no traffic is demoralizing.

10 people like this
Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 28, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Does this mean they did not fund and move forward with one of the most important improvements--the student commute corridor along Arastradero-Charleston? If not, that is a big disappointment and a continued safety hazard for an extremely busy route.

5 people like this
Posted by Matt Austern
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 28, 2017 at 2:46 pm

In response to Judith: there's actually a Web page for the Adobe Creek 101 bike bridge, Web Link.

My understanding is that a new design was approved by the city late last year, they're now going through various rounds of approvals by other entities (e.g. Caltrans), they hope to begin construction in 2019, and that the bridge may be finished as soon as 2020.

I don't know what additional approvals are needed, why it takes more than two and a half years between design completion and the start of construction, and whether there's anything the city could do to reduce that delay.

5 people like this
Posted by Scotty the Boot
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 28, 2017 at 2:51 pm

Unless there is a wall dividing "cages" aka cars from bicyclists then anything else is a wast of money. The green paint indicating a bike path is moot, it's nice and a little helpful but moot.

16 people like this
Posted by Shame on them
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 28, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Matt- 2.5 years? How about 8-10 years. You are forgetting the karen holman related effort. Liz kniss got the money for the bridge when she was still a county supervisor. Instead of a simple bridge, karen decided palo alto needs a statement bridge. Then we need to have a design contest. Then they reject the winner of the design contest. By that time costs have soared and we are back to square one. All because of the ego trip of some local representatives.

4 people like this
Posted by Annie
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2017 at 5:07 pm

I hope any new speed humps are not similar to the ones on Matadero. On a bike those are not smooth at all and since there are about 6 of them, very annoying.

5 people like this
Posted by Good plan.
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 28, 2017 at 5:28 pm

I agree with the writer who made the roundabout comment above. I'm excited to see the city moving this direction. Stop signs impede traffic (when people stop for them). When there are too many (we have too many on some of these streets), people (drivers and bicyclists) tend to roll through them. Dangerous.

This will improve safety and efficiency. Good plan!

17 people like this
Posted by Berms Needed
a resident of University South
on Jun 28, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Most of the bike lanes we have now are extremely dangerous. In the places where roads have been narrowed( aka road diet), berms are needed to separate the cars from the bikes.

As it is, if an emergency vehicle needs to get through, cars have to pull over into the bike lane, endangering the bikers, who have no escape route!.

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2017 at 9:11 am

Whomever decided to put byciclists on West Bayshore needs their heads examined. I have witnessed several accidents already. I watch in horror as mom and/or dad lead their inexperienced kids down the bike lane. It is downright scary to watch the kids weave into the road unbeknownst of their parents. Many drivers need to drive in the other Lane just because of this situation, it is even worse on Bryant, but at least the speeds are slower there. The city needs to use that 9 million dollars and use it for bicycle education and traffic enforcement for byciclists. Before another tragedy happens.

15 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2017 at 10:17 am

West Bayshore is the only bike route from southern Palo Alto to the Baylands, at least until the city gets their act together and finally builds that bridge over Hwy 101. Cars just need to slow down and pay attention, especially around the curves where visibility is limited.

6 people like this
Posted by Let Googke Pay
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2017 at 11:55 am

Let Google and the other companies east if 101 pay for the bike bridge. If Google's hiring 20,000 and only 300 fit in their new trailers, they can do the math on the impact of their policies. Actually, they're letting lots of people work from home 3 days a week so that's a small help.

13 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2017 at 12:04 pm

Didn't Google offer to pay half of the Hwy 101 bicycle bridge cost if it was built in a timely manner? Palo Alto snubbed their nose at them by delaying the project for years.

3 people like this
Posted by Let Google Pay
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2017 at 1:36 pm

@parent, if that's the case, shame on Palo Alto. Too bad Google didn't put some pr muscle behind its gesture.

12 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2017 at 1:43 pm

Google's offer was discussed by the city council and reported in this newspaper. It's not their style to bully people with crazy Tweets like some other people do.

9 people like this
Posted by Max
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 29, 2017 at 6:07 pm

Roundabouts are not safe for pedestrians, especially the one at Emerson and Everett. Although it is a popular pedestrian route, leading to the bike bridge into Menlo Park, there is no crosswalk for pedestrians, and cars driving through the roundabout swerve towards pedestrians who are crossing the street. Since there are no stop signs at that intersection, cars also do not stop for pedestrians, even though they're required to by law. How about some pedestrian safety?

3 people like this
Posted by @ parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2017 at 9:08 pm

"West Bayshore is the only bike route from southern Palo Alto to the Baylands."

It is much safer to ride down Louis to East Meadow, then a quick right onto Fabian , then left onto West Bayshore, go past Pinewood gym, you are at the creek underpass. Is it really worth you and your family's safety to ride West Bayshore!?

How does the saying go?

Here lies the body of William Jay, Who died maintaining his right of way – He was right, dead right, as he sped along, But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.
– Dale Carnegie

2 people like this
Posted by @ @Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 30, 2017 at 6:22 am

How many bike fatalities have occurred on that section of road in the past 5 years?

You know the old saying: People will always exaggerate dangers to irrationally instill fear in people.

I'll wait on those fatality stats in case you want to try to prove you're right, but I've yet to find any evidence that you are.

5 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2017 at 9:59 am

Can some of the money be used to maintain existing bike paths please? City COuncil members who cycle - please try riding eastbound on CHurchill between Alma and Bryant to see if you think that bike lane pavement quality is acceptable.

Like this comment
Posted by Norton Bell
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 30, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Newell Road should be a bike route from 101 to Embarcadero. There should be a bike/pedestrian bridge at the end of Newell Road over 101 joining Clarke Ave. in East Palo Alto. The bridge should be a copy of the bridge over 101 at the end of Ringwood Ave. in Menlo Park. The bridge would allow cyclists & pedestrians to cross 101 without using the dangerous University overpass. Please look at a map to see the advantages of this suggestion

6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2017 at 7:41 pm

A few years back a motorcycle had a head on with a car on Loma Verde and West Bayshore, he was injured bad. About a year ago a father and his son were bycicling northbound on the left-hand side of the sidewalk, just past the creek.The son missed the fire hydrant,the father did not, bad concussion. A group of us waited for his wife to pick him up,she said she was going take him straight to the hospital. And let's not forget, the lady on a bycicle that was trying to pass the dump truck on the right hand side, as it was taking a right.I believe this was near Midtown, she died, the driver of the dumptruck was found not at fault.

What a lot of byciclists do not understand is that they are operating a vehicle , and need to follow the same rules as ALL vehicles. They are not pedestrians. Look it up in the California vehicle code handbook.

Byciclists stop riding three abreast, impeding traffic, thinking you have the right of way....You don't

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2017 at 8:11 pm

Here is a statistic that was pulled off a local law website:

Palo Alto is a university town with many students choosing bicycles as their mode of transport. 44% of high-school students also use bikes to get around. With so many cyclists on the road, bike accidents are bound to happen in Palo Alto. In 2012, 746 cyclists were either injured or killed in bicycle accidents in the Santa Clara County."

Like this comment
Posted by Alex
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 30, 2017 at 9:30 pm

Someone asked for statistics.

According to UC Berkeley's TIMS, between 2006 and 2016 there was one non-fatal injury crash involving a bicycle on W Bayshore in Palo Alto. I see 2 fatalities (one on Greenwood, one on Palm Dr.) and over 900 injury crashes involving bicycles in Palo Alto during the same period. The data for 2014-2016 is provisional and incomplete. Also please note that TIMS collects its data from police reports and that there may have been unreported crashes.

3 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2017 at 9:51 pm

One of the biggest deterrents to biking for me is concern about bike theft. Is any of this money going toward preventing bike thefts and/or catching bike thieves?

4 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2017 at 12:59 pm

@Online Name - bicycle theft is of course a huge problem in this city. The new bicycle boulevards seem to be primarily intended for kids bicycling to school (no connections to train stations and no new bridges over Hwy 101 or the train tracks). In recent years, schools have been taking steps against bicycle theft with higher quality bike racks and bike cages that make bicycle theft more difficult. The city has been installing more secure bike racks in some parts of town (mostly downtown). I wish these were more common.

Reading the crime reports printed in this newspaper, most bicycle thefts in this area seem to be from people's homes instead of from city bike racks. This is especially a problem at condo and apartment complexes. Residents should ask the police to review the security of the bicycle storage areas on these properties.

Like this comment
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 1, 2017 at 1:10 pm

@parent, thanks for your comments but bike thefts have been an ongoing problem here for decades. I also see reports of bike thefts at the train station, downtown, on Cal Ave as well as from homes. Someone was recently beaten with his own bike lock when he tried to stop a thief. Many of those reports appear on Next Door and I suspect people have stopped bothering to report bike thefts to the police because they know nothing will be done.

Decades ago a neighbor was furious at the police's lack of response when their bikes were stolen and the neighbors themselves found their bikes but couldn't recover them safely.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Interesting discussion about bike thefts (and yes we have had a couple stolen in our family too).

I was recently talking to an apartment dweller on the subject. She told me that they had been keeping a bike on their balcony which was against the complex rules. They received a warning from the apartment manager telling them that if they "did not desist in this practice that they would incur a stiff financial penalty" and they were to use the bike racks provided by the complex. The first night they used the bike racks the bike was stolen. When reporting the theft to the manager they were told that there was a sign saying bikes were parked there at the owners risk and it was nothing to do with them.

8 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Please continue to report bicycle thefts to the police. In person if at all possible, instead of online. The police will take theft even less seriously if victims fail to report crimes.

Take a photo of your bicycle and a closeup of the serial number right now, just in case. A photo of the store receipt is useful, too. There is little that the police can do without basic information about your bike.

2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 1, 2017 at 9:44 pm

On the bright side you rarely hear about horse thieves any more.

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

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