The road well-taken

City looks to complete its transformation of the Charleston-Arastradero corridor

Students from Terman Middle School bike past traffic heading east on Arastradero Road on May 21, 2018. A new streetscape project includes a new ramp for students to enter the school without weaving through vehicles. Photo by Veronica Weber.

Don't call it a bike project.

Yes, Palo Alto is full of bike projects, from the unfolding reconstruction of Ross Road to the extension of the famous Bryant Street Bike Boulevard. And yes, bicyclists will see plenty of improvement when the city completes the latest upgrades on the Charleston-Arastradero corridor, a 2.3-mile south Palo Alto artery (the conjoined Charleston and Arastradero roads) that passes by 11 schools, eight residential enclaves and a smattering of shopping centers, parks and senior facilities.

But as city officials will quickly tell you, the latest stage of the project — which an exhausted but enthusiastic City Council approved just before the stroke of midnight Tuesday — will have much to offer motorists, pedestrians and everyone else who uses the busy commuter route. Drivers will get a new traffic light to help them make the difficult left turn from Louis Road onto Charleston; additional lanes to give cars more room at the often-congested Alma Street intersection; new dedicated right-turn lanes at Middlefield Road; and SynchroGreen traffic signals throughout the corridor that will track "cohorts" of cars and adjust green lights to facilitate a smoother traffic flow (a similar system has been installed at Sand Hill Road and, more recently, at San Antonio Road).

Pedestrians will find new "refuge islands" as well as widened sidewalks and crosswalks at current danger spots. And everyone will see new trees, shrubs and "bioretention" areas — landscaped islands that both slow down traffic and treat stormwater.

Which is exactly why city officials balk at any suggestion that the latest phase of the Charleston-Arastradero transformation will further slow down traffic for the sake of bicyclists — a criticism that has haunted the streetscape project ever since 2008, when the city's reduction in the number of lanes along a portion of Charleston-Arastradero sparked outrage in Barron Park and beyond.

"This is a multi-modal, complete-streets safety project," Chief Transportation Official Joshuah Mello told the Weekly during a recent interview. "It's a wholesale improvement of the entire corridor."

It is also the only project that the City Council deemed important enough to include on its 2014 list of infrastructure priorities — a nod to the project's critical importance, its high cost and its long, rocky history. And coming in the wake of waves created by the ongoing Ross Road project, which triggered an angry petition calling for it to be reversed, the Charleston-Arastradero streetscape plan is also a chance for the city to restore its credibility with a public that has grown increasingly skeptical about "traffic-calming" proposals.

Minutes before the council voted to approve more than $9 million in construction contracts, Councilman Greg Scharff told the small crowd that stuck it out to the end of the seven-hour-long meeting that the lesson of Charleston-Arastradero is simple: Perseverance pays off. Mayor Liz Kniss predicted that it will make a "dramatic difference" for all users of the busy street. And Councilman Cory Wolbach, who used the road to get to school in the 1990s, said the proposed improvements will "save lives."

"When I was going to Gunn — by bus, by car and by bike, occasionally even walking — back in the 1990s, it was a nightmare going up and down Charleston-Arastradero," Wolbach said.

The city's controversial 2008 switch from four- to two-lanes on Arastradero made things safer — and more sane, he said. The next phase of reconfigurations will further these goals, he said.

"My regret is we weren't able to do this sooner," Wolbach said.

Yet for all of its purported benefits, Charleston-Arastradero is also the only project that requires a trigger warning for certain crowds. In 2013, more than four years after the city implemented its lane-reducing "road diet," a large number of Barron Park residents complained about the change and argued that it has slowed traffic to a crawl, making it all but impossible for them to exit homes during school-commute periods. Many pointed to increasingly congested traffic on Charleston-Arastradero as the basis for their opposition to a proposed housing development on Maybell Avenue, which was overturned in a referendum in November 2013.

The current project — which is being undertaken in three phases — is notable for not including any reductions in the number of lanes on the road. Its aim is to "moderate" car traffic, not slow it down. Mello said.

"And when I say 'moderation' I don't mean creating congestion," Mello said, correctly anticipating the next question. "I mean designing a roadway so that people can travel in continuous speed along the corridor. We're actually going to be improving operations."

The new streetscape project includes a list of improvements geared to improve traffic flow, Mello said. Near the rail crossing, a westbound lane on Charleston at Alma Street will be lengthened to create more room for cars and help them get through the rail crossing faster. And the "adaptive" signals, he said, will track cohorts of cars and respond in real-time to traffic conditions to facilitate a smoother and more comfortable drive.

Holly Boyd, a senior engineer at Public Works who is managing the streetscape project, said staff had reached out to residents around the corridor and solicited their ideas before formulating the final design. As a result, the city made a few dozen tweaks to the design, including a change to striping and readjustment of median islands so that residents would not lose their ability to turn into their driveways.

"We tried to listen to people and accommodate them," Boyd said.

Given the city's rocky Ross Road experience, public outreach has been a priority for this project, Boyd and Mello both said. Mounted poster-boards along the corridor describe the changes to come, as do the temporary markings at places where new bulbouts will be installed. Residents who live along the corridor will receive up to three separate notices before work commences, the earliest of which would start next month. In many cases, they will also get a knock on their door from staff, just to make sure they are aware of the work to come.

"I think it's safe to say the majority of people in Palo Alto know about this project," Mello said.

Even so, many residents remain skeptical or downright opposed to the latest slate of changes. Becky Sanders, a Ventura neighborhood resident and co-chair of the umbrella group Palo Alto Neighborhoods, urged the council in a letter last month not to move ahead with a grant application to fund the project. She said there's a "growing rumble in south Palo Alto regarding the contemplated transformation of the Arastradero corridor."

"Residents deserve more time to weigh in on the design, based on the fact that the original plans are quite old and the city has changed so much in the intervening years," Sanders wrote. "Circumstances have changed. Plus, we don't want another Ross Road situation."

Avivit Katzir, whose five children have been biking to Palo Alto's schools since third grade (two of them still bike to JLS) said she believes the latest changes are counter-intuitive and "odd."

"I always felt that biking to school was safe and that the community is aware of young bikers and the bike lane. ... Seeing the changes at Ross Road, (the) Louis Road and Amarillo intersection, and the proposed plan of Charleston-Arastradero Corridor looks wrong to me," Katzir told the Weekly in an email. "I felt that my kids biking ... are becoming less safe due to the implemented and suggested 'improvements.'"

She specifically criticized the proposal to expand sidewalks, which she noted would narrow the road and "force motorized vehicles and bikers to merge into a narrow lane."

Art Liberman, the former president of the neighborhood group Barron Park Association, said he continues to see polarization in his neighborhood about the corridor's recent changes. Some see them as a boon to bicyclists; others view them as a disaster for drivers during busy commute times. A traffic analysis released earlier this year indicated a delay of 51 seconds at the intersection of Arastradero and El Camino Real during the peak afternoon commute, the third longest wait citywide.

"There are people who are still infuriated that they can't get out of Barron Park and use Arastradero to go to Foothill," Liberman said. "There are people close to Arastradero, on Georgia and Donald and Coulombe, who have a difficult time getting out. But there are also people who have kids and who recognize that the street was very dangerous, and so they say, 'Let's go on with this.'"

For Liberman, the biggest problem with the project is its cost. The city continues to grapple with an estimated shortfall of $76 million in its infrastructure plan, a list that also includes a new public-safety building, two new garages, two rebuilt fire stations and a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101. Given the scarcity of resources, the city should have re-evaluated the Charleston-Arastradero project and reconsidered whether the latest set of improvements is really necessary.

"It makes no sense to approve one project in isolation without viewing it as just one of a collection of projects approved years ago but for which there isn't sufficient funds for all of them now," Liberman wrote to the council last month.

Liberman also noted that the main objective of the project — slowing down traffic and making biking safer — has already been achieved with the lane reduction.

"I just don't understand why staff is pushing ahead right now on this one project, when there's been no discussion of (infrastructure) priorities," Liberman told the Weekly.

Some on the council share his view. Councilwoman Karen Holman chided staff on Monday night for not presenting the project in the context of the broader infrastructure picture, though she ultimately voted along with her colleagues in approving more than $9 million for the first two phases of the three-phase project. (Phase 1 extends from Miranda Avenue to Clemo Avenue, while Phase 2 covers Charleston between Alma and Middlefield.)

Kou raised similar concerns and voted against the two contracts with O'Grady Paving, Inc.

But for project proponents, the waiting game has gone on long enough for improvements that are not cosmetic but critical.

Among the project's biggest benefits, Mello said, is the creation of a continuous east-west bikeway along the corridor. One of the most significant gaps in the bikeway, he said, is along El Camino Real, technically a state highway that currently doesn't have bike lanes crossing it. As such, El Camino creates a key deterrent for potential bikers, Mello said.

"The theory is that someone's trip on a bike is defined by the most stressful moment on their trip," Mello said. "Ninety percent of your trip can be comfortable but if 10 percent is uncomfortable, you're less likely to make the trip at all."

Penny Ellson, a pioneer of the city's hugely successful Safe Routes to School Program and a long-time proponent of the Charleston-Arastradero project, believes the time is more than ripe for moving forward. A resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood southeast of the corridor, Ellson has been watching the transformation of Charleston-Arastradero since about 2000, when a slew of new developments began cropping up along the corridor, including the Arbor Real housing development that replaced the Hyatt Rickey's hotel; the new Elks Club; and the Taube-Koret Campus for Jewish Life.

Alarmed by the potential traffic increase from these projects, Ellson and a group of concerned residents reached out to the city to raise their concerns. The effort resulted in a temporary construction moratorium and the adoption of a new "traffic impact fee" that developers must pay the city to fund street improvements, she said.

Since then, the street has undergone two reconfigurations that were initially tested on a trial basis and later permanently adopted. The first one, finalized in 2008, boosted the road's traffic capacity and created a right-turn lane into Gunn. The second one, which was made permanent in 2012, reduced the number of lanes on Arastradero, added bike amenities and made many people angry.

Ellson said she understands the critics' concerns. Drivers, like bikers and pedestrians, often go into "autopilot mode" when they use a street on a consistent basis.

"There's a lot of motor memory that works when you're driving or bicycling," Ellson said. "Overriding the motor memory is not just a matter of changing behavior, it's a matter of rewiring your brain. It takes people time, and it's uncomfortable."

But for all the criticism, Ellson is heartened by the results so far. During a recent interview, Ellson watched a video that was taken at the intersection of Arastradero and Donald Drive during a busy school commute. A large group of students crowded inside a green "bike box," waiting for the light to turn green. To their right is a stationary car, awaiting its turn. The light switches and the bicyclists take off in an exuberant but orderly wave, while the driver awaits her turn on the four-way stop.

"What used to happen on the intersection was there was a blind curve down the street and the kids would be on the right side of the road and they'd cross on the wrong side of the road and they would ride the wrong way, approaching the intersection from Arastradero into traffic that was turning the corner."

The bike box had initially created a "brouhaha" because of the green marking, which could be unsettling for the driver next to the youthful mob, she said. But behaviors have changed; people have gotten used to it; and, from her point of view, things are now far safer.

Ellson said she expects some people to be unhappy with this project, just as with Ross Road and almost any other traffic project. But she pointed to a variety of features that will make a big difference for students, including a new ramp for Terman students that will allow them to enter the school without needing to weave through vehicles. A new multi-use pathway near Gunn High School will make it safer for kids using all forms of transportation, from bikes to scooters.

The improvements at Gunn and Terman will be among the first features implemented in the next stage of the project. With the contracts approved this week, contractors plan to start construction on Phase 1 and Phase 2 in the coming month and to complete them within a year. After that, work will kick off on Phase 3, which includes the segments between Clemo Avenue and Alma, and between Middlefield and San Antonio Road (the segmentation of the project was driven by grant deadlines that required the city to prioritize sections of the corridor closest to schools).

If things go as planned, the final phase of the project will conclude in 2020. For project proponents, the hope is that residents will adapt to — and embrace — these changes.

"We may be in a situation five years from now where Ross Road is ancient history and people are saying, 'This is a great thing,'" City Manager James Keene said. "We've had people trying to stop the California Avenue improvements. It was decried as if it was going to create the worst situation ever. Now, it's a jewel."


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58 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2018 at 7:06 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

Wow. It looks like yet another part of town is going to get mangled. As a cyclist, "improvements" to Louis @ Amarillo have been pretty disasterous. They took the bike lane away, broadened the sidewalk, and then put in a curb and trees as obstacles, forcing cyclists onto the sidewalk, dodging pedestrians. It's not done, but it's chaos right now, and not just for cars.

47 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2018 at 7:11 am

DTN Paul is a registered user.

And let's not forget the damage recently done to Ross road and Middlefield. [Portion removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Looking forward to this
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 25, 2018 at 7:42 am

Looking forward to this is a registered user.

I am really looking forward to these changes. As a driver, it will make me more comfortable on that road with all the bikes and the various turns. As a parent of some bikers, I think it will make them safer and more comfortable on their way to Gunn.

36 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 25, 2018 at 8:12 am

Online Name is a registered user.

He plans to reduce cut-through traffic on residential streets by putting up helpful signs warning commuters they're in a residential neighborhood! As if all the homes weren't a clue!

Someone should cut his budget for silly signage and road obstacles. Maybe the auditor could review.

Web Link

The new poles at the foot of many driveways like mine back up traffic behind us and increase the risk of rear-end collisions. Following his logic re "Residential Area" warning signs, we clearly need "Driveway" warning signs to match the poles, bollards.

No wonder Becky Saunders and Palo Alto Neighborhoods and so many other residents are skeptical about his costly "improvements" that send us miles out of our way.

21 people like this
Posted by Growing pains
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 25, 2018 at 8:55 am

The teen years are tough but once these projects have matured, it will be nice for all. I'm looking fwd to watching it progress.

2 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2018 at 10:33 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

I spoke at the meeting Monday night and I actually was referencing a man who had posted a very long comment here at Palo out the weekly website allows back his name is Russell Reed and he appears to be an engineer apple and a father in fact his daughter is Joanne fire steel read the Olympic skier and he cautioned us at the time and I reiterated Monday that are basically our bike lanes are systematically week and that they do not prevent cars from encroaching and potential he harming us we bikers. I lost a gun classmate sadly enough in 1980 as he was leaving gun to turn left on his bike I’ll spare his name here so I’m with Miss Sanders and Mr. Lieberman here as well

3 people like this
Posted by TorreyaMan
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 25, 2018 at 10:52 am

TorreyaMan is a registered user.

This, overall, is an excellent project. Particularly important is the traffic light at Charleston/Louis, and improvements to the Charleston/Fabian intersection.

7 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2018 at 10:59 am

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

There’s a little irony in my post preceding this one in that it includes syntax and word choice errors inherent to even a very good dictation feature, yet I’m praising an Apple engineer and his way of thinking. His name is Reid, not Read. I don’t know him but made the connection when his daughter was on tv. He wrote on these pages in reference to an accident on Park Blvd here

A worry that bureaucratic solutions to complicated problems could endanger us
There’s no accounting for chaos.

16 people like this
Posted by bike parent
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2018 at 11:02 am

The Cal Ave "improvements" are a jewel?! Classic politician speak. Just saying it makes it true, huh?

13 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 25, 2018 at 11:02 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Growing Pains, teens get moderate allowances, not huge budgets, to teach them how to manage projects and money responsibly and to teach them to be concerned about those effected by their decisions.

35 people like this
Posted by Ed DeMeo
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2018 at 11:16 am

Ed DeMeo is a registered user.

As a frequent biker on the Charleston-Arastradero corridor, I'm looking forward to these changes. It may take a while for us to get used to them, but they sound like improvements. I'm also a frequent biker on Greer or Louis or Ross, and was skeptical about the Ross changes while they were in construction. However, now that they are mostly complete, I have become a real fan of the Ross route and even go out of my way to travel it. Making our streets friendly to bikes, cars and pedestrians is a balancing challenge, but my sense is that as a community we are addressing this challenge productively.

18 people like this
Posted by Exciting times
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 12:38 pm

I love watching these new transformations.

21 people like this
Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on May 25, 2018 at 1:07 pm

Just great... now you won't be able to go in either direction on Louis from midtown without getting bottlenecked on both ends... by an unnecessary traffic light at Charleston and the pointless multi-stop sign bottleneck at Amarillo. Too bad Ross is also no longer a reasonable option either due to the installed obstacle course. I guess Middlefield will just get more traffic. They will call it a success only when the Charleston backup created by two traffic lights a few hundred meters apart backs traffic up onto Middlefield as cars try to turn left with no where to go. They had better get the traffic light synchronization right. I have been making the left turn from Louis onto Charleston for many years ... never felt it was in any way dangerous. There is a left protected lane so if you look left and right (for the rare car turning onto Louis from Charleston) before entering the intersection, there is no problem. If you need the aid of a traffic light to navigate the turn there is one a couple of blocks over at Middlefield.

15 people like this
Posted by Jay Ess
a resident of Los Altos
on May 25, 2018 at 1:50 pm

Looks like a lot of money for bike riders safety, but whatever happened to the bike bridge over 101 at Adobe creek?
Adult riders need improvements too.

19 people like this
Posted by Yoriko
a resident of University South
on May 25, 2018 at 2:01 pm

Yoriko is a registered user.

This has been a long time in coming. It's been my pleasure to support Penny and the team of PTA volunteers, residents, engineers, etc. in their hundreds of hours spent to slowly transform this corridor. It used to be a corridor dominated by car speeding most of the time.

Palo Alto has great weather and is relatively flat. As more of us choose to bike or walk for local and cross-town trips, this transformation into a pleasant residential arterial safe for all users and residents all day will make more and more sense.

I always remember a resident telling me, "I don't necessarily like driving in Palo Alto, but I choose to live here because my children can bike to school safely." We have to remember what our long term vision is for our city.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2018 at 5:39 pm

This should be a good step toward discouraging the use of this residential street as a thoroughfare not only when completed but during the 2+ years of construction.

I can see this as a big step to reduce and eliminate much of the non-local traffic. This will provide a safer and better use for the school traffic and neighbors living in the area.

6 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 25, 2018 at 6:08 pm

If you want to speed through town, please use Oregon or San Antonio. Leave Charleston/Arastradero to families and kids who want to get to school safely. Thank you.

20 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2018 at 9:09 pm

The situation at Donald and Arastradero was and is most certainly not a “’brouhaha’ because of the green marking. The fact that the City chose to overtly withhold information from the neighbors and ignore complaints after the fact, saying that they didn’t know how to contact us (seriously, we have that in writing), and have treated our complaints considerably less seriously than others’, is not the same as people “getting used to it”.

Referring to a recent article in the Weekly, the Barron Park Association has taken up the issue of traffic dangers, including at the intersection of Donald and Arastradero precisely because of the dangers created by a combination of poor design and the City turning a deaf ear to feedback from residents in that neighborhood:
“Affeld said his son was also hit at Arastradero Road and Donald Drive, another location residents say is dangerous because of changes the city of Palo Alto has made to Arastradero to slow traffic. The city added a "bike box" for cyclists at Donald and Arastradero to wait in, but the box is too narrow[*] and is at an intersection with visibility problems, residents have said. Cars on Arastradero frequently run the light at high speed, they claim.”

The installation caused the following problems:
1. The intersection has no visibility at all for cars turning from Donald onto Arastradero, not even one car’s length. If someone wants to safely turn, they have to move forward then stop and look left, something the DMV warns against as unsafe behavior in an intersection. 

Pushing cars back means they now have zero visibility for the entire 23 1/2 hours when there is essentially NO BIKE traffic there for which that bike box was installed. MY FAMILY HAS ALREADY BEEN NEARLY BROADSIDED BECAUSE OF THAT LACK OF VISIBILITY. People run the light at Arastradero. It was simply UNNECESSARY to create this DAILY SERIOUS DANGER for everyone leaving the neighborhood in order to solve the problem Elison claims was there, although she seems confused in her description of it.

2. Student bikers all over town have begun exhibiting unsafe behavior in which they seem to believe it is the rule of the road for them to jump ahead of cars on the right and ride across their bumpers to the left. I have witnessed several near misses from behavior I had never seen before the installation of this bike box.

The situation at Donald and Arastradero has created completely unnecessary dangers for passengers in cars.

Elison and others wanted kids riding to school — in the 15-30 minutes before school starts at Terman, the rest of the day there are almost never any bikes there — to ride in the road instead of the wrong way on the sidewalk. That was possible to achieve with half of the education involved with this “bike box”. Remember, we have a crossing guard in the morning at Donald and Arastradero who stops/stopped traffic in all four directions during the time before school when all the bikes are there.

There never was a problem with cars waiting for the bikes, they always wait for the crossing guard just fine. There never was a problem with the bikes crossing Arastradero on that side because of the crossing guard. In fact, there never was a problem with residents running into cyclists on the “wrong”-way sidewalk, as was the theoretical worry of Elison and other bike enthusiasts, because residents are aware that they live on a school street. There were several bikes that wiped out on a particular point on the sidewalk because of some City utility box too close to the sidewalk which would hook stuff sticking out from kids’ bikes, coupled with a bump in the sidewalk. That could be solved just by educating the kids to ride in the road as vehicles. Putting the security cameras on our street without giving residents notice as they did would have been enough further incentive to get the kids to stop along with education. There were already lots of bikes riding in the road at that intersection before this bike box.

That said, I can see the reasoning behind having the intersection divided up into left and right lanes approaching Terman on Donald, with the bikes given a lane on the right side of the left-turning lane, as they are with this new addition. But shoehorning a “box” in FRONT of the cars, too, was poor design* and unnecessary, and simply seriously endangers car occupants throughout the entire day.

The City has implemented large bike lanes to the right of cars on a split street like that in other parts of town, they could have done the same here. In other words, they could have put in just the lane indicating where the bikes should go to the right of the cars in the left-turn lane without putting the space in front of the cars forcing the cars to wait so far back (including the 23.75 hours of the day that there are virtually NO BIKES there) the cars have absolutely zero visibility before pulling into the intersection.

When the bikes pull into the intersection from Donald left to Arastradero, they stay to the right of the cars anyway, in order to go the bike racks at Terman or the bike lane on Arastradero, and BEFORE SCHOOL THE BIKES HAVE THE CROSSING GUARD WHO STOPS ALL CAR TRAFFIC SO THE BIKES AND WALKERS CAN CROSS FIRST ANYWAY. THERE NEVER WAS A PROBLEM OF CONFLICT BETWEEN THE CARS TURNING LEFT AND THE BIKES RIDING IN THE ROAD TURNING LEFT. I REPEAT, THE CARS ALWAYS WAITED ON THE BIKES. The bike box had nothing to do with it, as Elison’s description erroneously indicates.

*According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, a good bike box should be 10-16 feet deep, that “eight feet is not large enough to comfortably maneuver into the box.” I can’t go into the street to exactly measure it, but the box does appear to be less than 10 feet deep. Regardless, the box part in front of the cars itself was completely unnecessary to solving the problem Elison describes, which could have been solved with biker education. But if they had to have their expensive streetscape, the wide bike lane there on the right side of the left lane would have solved the problem, without putting the box in the car lane, pushing the cars back so far they have zero visibility, even for 23.5 hours of the day when there are no cars.

If the bike advocates had wanted to implement that intersection as a real bike box before school, they should have put in the green river on the right as a straight lane, and put a simple white line across the car left turn lane with the words “Cars Wait Here 8-9AM”. Problem solved for everyone, without everyone in the neighborhood in a car being suddenly put in mortal danger every day, or having to choose to behave in an intersection in contravention of DMV instructions, for no good reason.

When City employees ignore neighbors like this, and belittle our feedback about serious dangers as Elison has done, they will be morally and actually responsible when someone is killed at that intersection because of the utter lack of visibility, especially since the solution for everyone is not that difficult.

If you agree with me, please forward this post to
Post your answer, if you get one.

23 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2018 at 9:14 pm

"I can see this as a big step to reduce and eliminate much of the non-local traffic. This will provide a safer and better use for the school traffic and neighbors living in the area."

I'm sorry but that's just delusional. Arastradero is the way to get from Stanford Research Park over the 101, and one of the only of a few clear connections between 280 and 101 (the others equally congested). We have non-local traffic because we have a City Council that has for years treated the infrastructure like it is without bounds and allowed unsustainable office growth.

I think the City puts in hardscape on Arastradero at the peril of its residents, because the space between the parking lots we call lanes will then be inaccessible to emergency vehicles. It is a stupid stupid stupid thing to destroy that.

13 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2018 at 9:22 pm

In reference to my above post, with a solution the serious dangers created by the poor design of the "bike box" at Donald and Arastradero,

If you agree with me, please forward this post to

That is the corrected address, sorry about the misprint the first time.

13 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Green Acres
on May 25, 2018 at 9:30 pm

One more thing:

"...watched a video that was taken at the intersection of Arastradero and Donald Drive during a busy school commute. A large group of students crowded inside a green "bike box," waiting for the light to turn green. To their right is a stationary car, awaiting its turn. The light switches and the bicyclists take off in an exuberant but orderly wave, while the driver awaits her turn on the four-way stop."

This video must have been taken from the Terman side. If the bikes were actually "crowded inside" the "green 'bike box'", the car would not have been to the right of the bikes but rather BEHIND the bikes, too. Are the kids even using the "box" part that is creating all the danger for the cars even in the 20 minutes before school? If they were, the car wouldn't have been visible to the right. Can someone from the Weekly please comment on that? If the kids aren't even using that part of the "box", there shouldn't even be an argument about removing it.

To repeat, there never was a problem with cars not waiting for bikes to go, BECAUSE THERE IS AND WAS A CROSSING GUARD AT THAT INTERSECTION. Regardless, there is a solution that retains the special place of bikes to turn left while also remembering that serious endangering occupants of cars also endangers children, too.

18 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 25, 2018 at 11:36 pm

Two things.

Palo Alto is doing a horrendous job of making traffic flow inefficient and for those of us who live here and need to get across town the obstacles and bottlenecks are horrendous. Once again, bikes should be deterred from busy arteries, not encouraged. All schools have "back entrances" and these should be the ones that are used by bikes, not the main vehicle entrance.

Once again, huge amounts of money being spent on roads for the sake of bikes, but nothing has been done about the bike bridge to replace a tunnel that is out of action 6 months or so each year. There are so much better ways to spend this money.

19 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Deterring student bicyclists from certain streets is a wrong approach. What the city should do is build much more usable bicycle routes. Bicyclists will be naturally drawn to the safest most direct least convoluted routes to their destination. Why is there no east-west bicycle boulevard from Midtown to Gunn High School??? There are lots of east-west car routes, but Charleston is the only direct route for bicyclists.

9 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Green Acres
on May 27, 2018 at 9:22 am

I have also been told that the new bike arrangement is still a mess because of parents who stop to let their kids off on Donald too close to Arastradero on the approach side. The cars block the new “right” lane, so other cars try to go around those cars, which causes the bikes to swing around even further or be unable to access the new bike lane part of the bike box. Apparently it creates a real mess and further endangers the kids using the new system.

The solution is for the crossing guard to put up a few movable signs when he arrives, No Stopping, for about the length of two homes back from Arastradero. Parents will need to be educated and also probably ticketed for blocking driveways even more than they already do if they can’t drop off at the corner at the intersection (as they already should not).

Most importantly, though, the box part needs to be removed and the new lane extended straight if it is kept. The street conditions simply don’t allow for an adequate box per reasonable design, and it not only serves no purpose, it creates a serious 24 hour hazard for occupants of vehicles because it forces cars to stop where there is ZERO visibility. If the City thinks a place for bikes to be in front there is a good idea, they should change things so it can actually happen. they should still remove the green box and extend the lane to the intersection, and create a white line even further back with a sign that says “Cars Wait Here 8-9 am” That way the only time the cars have zero visibility turning onto Arastradero is when everything is stopped with a crossing guard anyway.

8 people like this
Posted by East Charleston Road
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on May 27, 2018 at 6:13 pm

We have lived on East Charleston for 44 years. Arastadero/Charleston is a major cross-town street. Oregon Expressway is the other one. ECR is a connector from both directions. There are large numbers of non-residents using this particular road to get between 280 and l0l. That exacerbates this contentious issue. Both residents and non-residens drive like heck ( the other word is not allowed) trying to beat the stop lights. I mean exceeding speed limits by 15-30 mph.
Here is an example of our daily lives. (Too bad we didn't have enough foresight when we bought here 44 years ago. Who knew?) If we want to back out of our driveway toward Alma, we can't. (Darn those double yellow lines now and future hardscape in the future.) So, we drive to the Carlson light, make a U turn and continue on our way. When we come home, we have to turn left onto Mumford, make a u-turn, wait for a break in passing traffic, and then turn into our driveway. Are we complaining? No. (Well, at least 99% of the time). We fully understand that this project has many more pluses than minuses. We all have to make concessions.

Finally, the greatest issue is the increase in cross-town traffic, and It's only going to get worse. We often wait for 15-20 cars to pass before we can even back into the street. This is just the beginning.

16 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2018 at 7:48 pm

If California will allow large trucks to be restricted from certain roads, then why can't bicycles be restricted from certain roads if they create a hazard to themselves and drivers of vehicles? There is little reason for cyclists to pedal along Alma Street (with its speeders, narrow roads, etc.) when there are safe and fast bike-designated streets a few blocks to east and west?

There are just some streets in Palo Alto that are dangerous for bicyclists or being trying to drive by them. When we bicycle along the routes, we go out of our way to avoid streets that might be dangerous to ourselves or streets that, unfortunately, would cause us to be an obstacle or hazard to drivers.

19 people like this
Posted by Why?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 28, 2018 at 11:05 am

@East Charleston,
"We all have to make concessions."

Why? Why do we have to make concessions that include destroying the throughway that emergency vehicles could use in a serious emergency to get between 101 and 280 when the traffic is completely clogged as it is much of the day? The greenspace descriptions sounds like it's saving the planet, which is baloney, when the City could do that a million other ways by not creating the overdevelopment that caused the traffic or by coming through on its responsibilities to us in the code (such as open space to compensate for development). (It says it wants to save trees but won't do anything to save the 100 trees at Maybell when the plot could have been had for almost free and the City had the right to buy it noncompetitively. That sure made me wonder about the whole "finder's fee" thing and whether councilmembers were offered a finder's fee related to Maybell.)

Why do residents have to make concessions for companies that are growing too big for the infrastructure to support, companies who aren't paying for the impacts on the City and the region?

14 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 28, 2018 at 11:27 am

There are plenty of roads in Palo Alto that strongly discourage bicycling. For example, the University Ave underpass under Alma, the Embarcadero underpass under Alma, the Page Mill underpass under Alma, and the San Antonio bridge over Alma. If the city wants to encourage kids to bicycle to Gunn HS instead of drive there (causing a lot more traffic as well as parking problems), they have to make at least one direct route friendly to bicycling. Charleston is the best choice. Car drivers have lots of other choices. Kids bicycling to Gunn do not.

6 people like this
Posted by Dennis
a resident of Terman Middle School
on May 29, 2018 at 12:42 pm

I posted on Nextdoor and the Palo Alto group of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition about this. Most of the discussion was civil. However, the proponents, while polite and thoughtful, did not really convince me of their position.

Public data shows 1-5 minor bike/ped injury accidents per year on Arastradero between Foothill and El Camino, despite 3+ million car/bike/ped trips; there was one severe bike accident in the past 10 years ( If you still want better safety, despite these data, why build medians to push cars, trucks and buses closer to bikes and the sidewalk, as opposed to physically separating the bike lane instead? And, if we really want to close off the median, it would cost a tiny fraction of $20M simply to use metal studs or plastic posts.

I was assured that the planning process involved people who didn't think the road was so dangerous (as the data show), but not sure to what extent this is true.

Some believe that in the next 10 years or so, the train tracks will be grade separated at Charleston/Arastradero. (Probably we all want that.) If this happens, C/A shoudn't turn into another Oregon Expwy, as it does border schools and houses. I think the true reason for this $20M project is to ensure that C/A is a terrible option for commuters by the time grade separation happens.

I just wonder, if it takes 25 minutes to get from 101 to 280 via C/A, will the grade separation even be a priority anymore? What road are south PA commuters supposed to take? Was there maybe a more fiscally responsible, moderate solution here?

32 people like this
Posted by Asking all the wrong questions
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 29, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Too many cars, not enough roads. All the data in the world won't change a thing until that matter is addressed. The question on EVERYONE'S lips should be "How do we reduce the number of cars on the road so those who have to use it, can, without the traffic caused by all the others."

Any other discussion is about as rational as trying to doing something with birds in order to reduce airplane flight delays

7 people like this
Posted by Local Traveler
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 29, 2018 at 3:10 pm

The changes made, without any prior testing, at Miranda and Charleston are a disaster. Making the right turn lane also a straight way to go, thereby eliminating the free right, has most certainly turned that intersection from a level C or D to F. Now cars are backed up through multiple lights and into the bike lane, so that doesn't even work. Change it back.

9 people like this
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on May 29, 2018 at 4:00 pm

Greetings comrades! Your better educated leaders have decreed that your time spent waiting in traffic is a sacrifice needed for the greatest good of all. So sit back and relax, for compliance is mandatory!

9 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Annette is a registered user.

@Asking all the wrong questions: I think that question gets asked and asked and asked. What is doesn't get is answered - at least not in actions. And the answers and actions that are provided are woefully inadequate because we stubbornly refuse to stop growing the supply side of the problem. Just as we do not have the housing for all the people who want/need to live here we do not have sufficient mobility/transportation options for all the people who want/need to work here. Eventually other shortages will become evident. I figure when our children are undeniably disadvantaged by this stubborn adherence to an unsustainable approach, things may start to change. Because, thank goodness, we love our children and want the best for them. Until then, money will continue to talk and our "leaders" will continue to make matters worse. If only they'd fast forward their thinking . . .

5 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 29, 2018 at 5:45 pm

Annette is a registered user.

Make that "what it doesn't get is answered."

15 people like this
Posted by Stupid Stupid Stupid
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2018 at 1:35 pm

Bikes and Cars need to be separated.

It is STUPID STUPID STUPID to force these wildly different modes of transport into one skinny lane. East Meadow at Ross Circle is now a well understood tragic disaster.

Penny. You are wrong. The project is WRONG. You guys never informed us that the bike routes would be anything other than what we have now at Bryant Street. This was shoved down our collective throats. It will not stand.

Ross and Louis WILL return to their former alignment.

How many residents will it take to convince the city that this was a poorly conceived and stupid idea? It seems that only 10 -15 misguided souls bent the City to this stupidity. Perhaps 100 residents crowding the chamber will finally get your attention.

Stupid Stupid Stupid

Like this comment
Posted by Uh-Oh
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 30, 2018 at 2:28 pm

"Ross and Louis WILL return to their former alignment."

Looks like we got us a zealous true believer.
It's a lost cause friend. Let it go like the rest of us have.

13 people like this
Posted by Stupid Stupid Stupid
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2018 at 2:46 pm

@ Uh-Oh

Nope. Justice will prevail.

Will not go quietly into that night.

Ross Road and Louis Road misadventures will result in injuries to pedestrians, bicyclists, and damage cars. Eventually, the lawsuits against PA will become so so will be cheaper to return to the correct safe configuration than to keep paying out damages.

Save Our Streets (SOS)!

42 people like this
Posted by Uh-Oh
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 30, 2018 at 3:03 pm

You'll need actual reported accidents on the record to prove it's a danger.
In lieu of that may I suggest another petition? Perhaps a strongly worded letter? Good luck.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2018 at 5:03 pm

What is with these people?
Can't they leave well enough alone?
The roads are fine the way they are.
Repave, re-stripe, but don't force all these bizarre and irrational reinventions that are clearly designed to punish car drivers for no good reason.
If anything, increase lanes to relieve congestion. Cyclists don't really need bike lanes, they should stay to the right and motorists and cyclists can learn to share the road properly.
What a stultifying sickness we have in PA City Council.

14 people like this
Posted by Stupid Stupid Stupid
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2018 at 6:02 pm

@ Uh-Oh


I would argue that the true zealots here are the handful of folks who thought they could remove cars from Palo Alto and make a bike utopia. That train left the station long ago.

Wake up. The streets worked just fine as they were. Bryant bike boulevard worked because through auto traffic was stopped at strategic points. That would have worked on Ross. A few well placed traffic bumps would have reduced auto speeds elsewhere.

This was a poorly conceived solution prepared by bike utopia zealots.

This failure will be studied by traffic engineers and public policy students for many years to come.

We need to hold our elected officials accountable for this debacle.

28 people like this
Posted by Uh-Oh
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2018 at 5:22 am

Hilarious how it's always the fault of some outside group. Sounds like you'll have a full summer. Knock yourself out Don Quixote.

26 people like this
Posted by Nguyen
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 31, 2018 at 10:51 am

It would work for everyone if people stopped bashing each other over unimportant things and look at the important things. Annette and some others already pointed out the root cause of the disaster. Insatiable greed keeps pumping office space into the city without major changes to the infrastructure.

Biking lane here, or turning lane there ... that does not matter; it won't help the big picture. Don't you get it? Adding housing won't work - except enriching developers. More infrastructure while placing moratorium on office development and very well regulated housing may move the needle towards sanity.

In the musical chairs game the number of players always exceeds the number of chairs by one. In this city, the number of players steadily goes up while the same number of chairs is shuffled around making it even harder for more butts to land on them to the populace dismay.

10 people like this
Posted by Yes but
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 31, 2018 at 2:34 pm

Ngyuen, you are 100% correct.

Some people, however, don't want a big complicated (possible) solution for far into the future. They need to point at people who ride bikes and say "Seee! That's why me and the hundreds of other drivers are stuck in this jam...those few people over there on bikes are the reason because they want to remove cars from the road. (Psst: I hear there is an underground group of extremist bike riders hell bent on destroying our lives as we know it)"

No, those folks don't want to hear the inconvenient truth, to coin a hopefully not triggering phrase, so they blame some imagine outside group in a semi-baked conspiracy theory.

After decades of warning of this traffic nighmare, it is now upon us.
Stop building, grow alt transport routes, pray.
That's what we have left.

7 people like this
Posted by Reason
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 1, 2018 at 9:28 am

These specific issues matter because the dangers they present affect people who live there and their children every day. The stupid and unsafe design at Donaldd and Arastradero that was done so myopically as if the safety of passengers in cars is unimportant is courting disaster, for no perceptible gain to bikes. Purposefully (and with malice of forethought since Maybell? Staff seem to single out residents of that area for special nastiness) completely destroying the ability of drivers to see oncoming traffic to the left at all at an intersection that frequently gets light runners is bad enough, but the part of the ill-conceived design causing the ever-present danger to car occupants appears to be doing NOTHING AT ALL of benefit for bikes. The box part simple doesnt have enough space to be designed properly and was never meant for an intersection with such poor visibility. The lane on the right of the left turn lane might be justifiable, but not the box. It should be removed before someone is killed, and cars allowed to pull up where drivers can see left before turning.

Planning needs to include Safety First, and safety planning doesn’t wait until people die or accidents bad enough to report to police accumulate until doing the right thing. You don’t wait to put signage of some kind at an intersection where two highways cross, because it’s not a mystery what might happen and how to prevent it.

The bike box at Donald and Arastradero doesn’t and can’t meet minimim design criteria for its purpose, there aren’t even any bikes there 23.5 hours of the day, and the half hour it was intended for, it wasn’t necessary for fixing the problem it’s supposed to be fixing (and some evidence the box part that is creating the complete lack of visibility for cars the rest if the day, isn’t even being utilized as intended because of the design flaws).

I wonder how staff will feel the rest of their lives if this negligent design that ignored public input is responsible for an accident there? Probably not as bad as they will feel when their derogatory attitudes towards the residents that fueled it gets scraped out if them in depositions. (Unlike the badly designed bike box, there is no way to take any of that history back.)

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

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