After facing a swell of resident criticism over the construction of a new bike boulevard on Ross Road, Palo Alto officials are preparing to increase their community-outreach efforts and take a more phased approach to constructing bike projects in the future, the city announced Friday.
As part of the new effort, the city plans to knock on more doors, meet with more neighborhood groups and make greater use of temporary markings to ensure residents understand the planned improvements. According to the news release, temporary striping and plastic marking will be installed to mark a planned roundabout at Greer Road and planned curb extensions between Louis Road and West Bayshore, according to the city's announcement.
In addition, the city plans to take a more phased approach to building the next segment of the $8.7-million bike boulevard network, which includes stretches of Amarillo and Moreno avenues, between Middlefield Road and West Bayshore Road. The planned network, which also includes bike improvements along Bryant Street, Louis Road and Montrose Avenue, features 11 new roundabouts, three raised crosswalks, five raised intersections and four reconfigurations of intersections, according to the project's webpage.
The bike-boulevard network is a central component of Palo Alto's bike and pedestrian master plan, which the City Council adopted in 2012. Last June, the council unanimously approved the construction contract with Granite Construction Company to implement the improvements.
But many Ross Road residents were surprised when construction began in September. As of Friday, more than 800 people signed a petition arguing that the project is making the street more hazardous and urging the city to stop the implementation of the bike boulevard and to remove the new roundabout on Ross and East Meadow roads, which is set to be completed next week.
George Jaquette, who started the petition, wrote that the changes on Ross Road "have created dangerous interactions between cars and bikes."
"This is not one resident complaining that they lost a parking space," Jaquette wrote. "This is dozens of neighbors trying to raise the alarm before an elementary school bike commuter is crushed by a minivan; before an ambulance is stranded on a concrete island; before another confrontation between two cars given no buffer passing each other in arbitrary constrictions."
While the city has no plans to remove the new roundabout on East Meadow, staff plans to verify its adequacy for large vehicles once construction is complete, the city's news release states. It will also ask independent engineering experts to review the design of all the roundabouts planned for the route.
Once construction is complete, the city will also be verifying adequacy of the Ross and Meadow roundabout for large vehicles, as well as asking independent engineering experts to review the design of all of the roundabouts planned along the route.
"We have heard the community loud and clear," Chief Transportation Official Josh Mello said in the news release. "And while traffic calming elements such as roundabouts are shown to achieve that goal, we recognize the community has concerns and questions. We're going to take the opportunity to modify the construction plan and ensure residents feel comfortable and informed about planned future elements.
"We will also make adjustments to the roundabout design at Ross and Meadow if appropriate and feasible following the review by the outside engineering experts."
The city is now in the midst of constructing another Ross Road roundabout, at Moreno Avenue. Construction of various traffic-calming elements on Moreno and Louis Road will be completed in about two months, according to the news release.
Other traffic calming elements along Moreno Avenue and Louis Road are also under way, and will take roughly two months to complete.
The goal of the project is to slow down vehicle traffic and improve safety for bike riders and pedestrians.
"We knew that expanding the bike network would be an ambitious and challenging undertaking," City Manager James Keene said in the news release, "But both our community and the City's Comprehensive Plan have expressed a commitment to encouraging alternatives to car travel."