After Ross Road blowback, Palo Alto looks to shift gears on bike boulevards | News | Palo Alto Online |

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After Ross Road blowback, Palo Alto looks to shift gears on bike boulevards

City Council considers fresh slew of changes to controversial segment, including modifying the roundabout on East Meadow Drive

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Chastened by the outpouring of residents' complaints about the city's new "bike boulevard" on Ross Road and recent collisions involving cars and bicyclists, Palo Alto's transportation planners are preparing to make some major changes to the controversial corridor, as well as to the city's process for redesigning roadways.

The new approach, which the City Council plans to discuss on Monday night, aims to regain the community's trust and restore some momentum to Palo Alto's multiyear effort to enhance its bike facilities. While the city has no plans to remove the most contentious feature of the redesign — a roundabout at the intersection Ross Road and East Meadow Drive — planners are now proposing to modify it by removing the island's river stones and filling that space with concrete.

On the Ross and East Meadow street corners, they're thinking of adding red to the curbs to prevent cars from parking and interfering with traffic flow. And to minimize collisions between cars and bicyclists, planners are also proposing new stop signs on East Meadow.

The city's effort to build more bike boulevardskicked off in earnest in 2014, when the City Council signed a contract to enhance biking amenities on Ross, Greer Road, Amarillo Avenue and Moreno Avenue. But it began to veer off tracks in late 2017, when construction crews began adding new features to Ross, including speed humps, road markings and the roundabout on East Meadow.

The features, most notably the roundabout, divided neighborhood residents and local bicyclists. While some lauded the new biking amenities, many others have argued in letters to the council and in public comments at community meetings that these features made biking more dangerous and driving more confusing. Facing a flurry of concerns, the council halted construction in the fall of 2018, having completed five of the nine planned phases and spending $6.4 million in the process.

Since then, the city's newly created Office of Transportation has been gathering data, surveying residents and considering ways to address residents' concerns. The collected data, which the office released last week, offers both sides some ammunition. On the one hand, weekday bicycle traffic has gone up from about 150 per day before the project to about 230 after the project, a 50% increase. A new report from the transportation office notes that more commuters are using the Ross Road Bicycle Boulevard than before, though it's not clear whether these are new bicyclists or people who used to bike on other streets. The ratio of bicycles to total vehicle volume grew from 6.7% before the project to 11% after, a rate that the report described as "remarkable."

But just as the number of bicyclists has increased, so has the rate of collisions. According to the report, Ross Road has averaged about 3.6 collisions per year before the construction and 5.3 after the project was implemented. The main cause, according to the report, is the intersection of Ross and East Meadow, which has seen four collisions after the project was implemented. Three of them involved bicyclists. In all cases, the collisions were broadsides in which a motorist did not yield to a bicyclist (or, in one case, to another vehicle) at the roundabout.

Given the collision history, staff had determined that clearer traffic control needed to be added at the intersection. This includes installation of a two-way stop on East Meadow, even though the street actually has more car traffic than Ross (typically, stop signs are reserved for roads with fewer vehicles). The report notes that over a 12-hour period, there were 4,086 vehicles on Ross and 5,406 on East Meadow.

"Another stop on Ross Road, however, would negatively impact the attractiveness of the street as a bicycle boulevard," the report states. "For that reason, adding stop signs on East Meadow Drive is proposed."

The city's decision to modify the intersection was informed by recent surveys of residents. Results from those whose homes front onto the bike boulevards showed 47% of the respondents saying that they believe the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians has decreased, while 31% said it had increased (the remainder said they saw no change or weren't sure). And 53% of the 83 respondents said they would like to see modifications to the recently redesigned streets, while only 24% said "keep as is" (of those, half said they would like the city to build even more bike boulevards).

The skepticism about the recent modifications isn't limited to those living next to the new bike boulevards. When other road users were asked about the modifications, 41% if the 255 respondents said they believed that safety has decreased for bicyclists and pedestrians, while 31% said it had increased.

Many concerns were also aired during a July 2018 community meeting, which was focused on the Ross Road bike boulevard and which brought more than 100 people to sound off on the recent modifications. Some, like Louis Road resident Bill Higgins, lauded the improvements on Ross and urged the city to extend these improvements to other parts of the city. Others, like neighbor Terry Martin, claimed the changes made conditions less safe. Martin called the Ross Road project "an epitome of incompetence."

In addition to modifying the roundabout, the new plan suggests adding a speed hump on Ross, south of Mayview Avenue (which is parallel to East Meadow, one block over), to account for the relatively high volume of traffic and proximity to Ramos Park. It also proposes restoring signage on three T-shaped intersections on Louis Road (at Amarillo Avenue, Fielding Drive and Moreno Avenue) to the way it was before the roads in this area were equipped with raised intersections, widened sidewalks and decorative paving.

This means shifting the Louis and Amarilllo crossing from a two-way stop to a three-way stop and changing the intersections of Louis with Fielding and Moreno to one-way stops. In each case, the intersection would require eastbound cars to stop when approaching Louis while letting cars on Louis to go without stopping. Today, Louis has a stop sign for just one of two directions.

The changes were based on concerns from residents and other roadway users, including the Ohlone Elementary School administration, that the new intersection controls "are unclear as to who has the right-of-way," according to the report.

The city's Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi, who heads the Office of Transportation, is also proposing that the city proceed with four undertakings for future bike-boulevard projects: clearly defining the performance metrics for new projects; creating guidelines for installation of various design features (including roundabouts, speed humps, stop signs and crosswalks); improving the community-engagement process; and developing the "technical capacity" of the Office of Transportation, an effort that is currently underway, according to the report.

Kamhi, who was hired last year, is also holding "Word on the Street" events -- open-house style discussions aimed at gathering residents' ideas about traffic improvements. The next two are planned for March 19 (6 p.m. at JLS Middle School) and for April 16 (3 p.m. at Gunn High School).

Kamhi also told the Weekly in an October 2019 episode of the "Behind the Headlines" webcast that his department is also considering installing "temporary treatments" for future projects to give residents a chance to react before the changes are made permanent.

"By putting it out there and letting them react to it, as opposed to installing something permanent and having it be there and having them react to it, I see as an opportunity to have discussions," Kamhi said. "And, more broadly, I want to go out to the community, not just when we have projects that are resident-driven, but go out and hear about potential issues that may be unreported or undiscussed or have not come to the point of a petition yet."

Editor's Note: The story initially misstated the name of the park in close proximity to the Ross Road and Mayview Avenue intersection. We regret the error.

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Comments

34 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2020 at 3:08 pm

If all of the collisions are caused by car drivers failing to yield, the obvious solution to me is better enforcement. Car drivers are going way to fast on this street, especially when bicyclists and pedestrians are present.

Can the roundabout be redesigned to improve visibility? If car drivers have an easier time seeing traffic already in the roundabout, they may be more likely to slow down to a safe speed.


28 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 19, 2020 at 3:30 pm

I'd favor eliminating the parking on both sides of El Camino, and adding bike lanes protected by concrete curbs each direction. I've seen that on roads in Sunnyvale, and it seems to work great. It makes my heart skip a beat whenever I see schoolkids biking to class with nothing to protect them but luck.

It would probably be a boon to retailers along El Camino, as well... and would help eliminate the illegal trailer park that blights the side of the road.


15 people like this
Posted by Greenwithenvy
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 19, 2020 at 3:58 pm

Passing Gunn high school on Arastradero And turning right onto foothill Expressway towards page Mill Road is particularly And dangerously Confusing especially between 730 and 10:30 in the morning. The bike path bisects the confounding turn lanes for large buses, pedestrians and vehicles with commuters alike. Confusing, to say nothing of the which way how onto Miranda, bikes, lights and all. An accident waiting to happen.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2020 at 4:25 pm

Stop signs on roundabouts make no sense. International rules should apply because otherwise out of town drivers will be confused. So stop signs on two of the entrances and nothing at the other two entrances will cause confusion and be a bad precedent for local drivers who suddenly come across a roundabout in another area.

The roundabout needs to be altered to enable large vehicles (buses, fire trucks, movers) to get around and pedestrians should cross further back from the roundabout with an island in the middle of the street. Visibility is very poor.

The entrance/exit to the Y is dangerous, as are all the narrowings of the street.

The area on Louis with the blue and red crossing points are confusing. Once again, visibility is poor particularly for traffic exiting Moreno.


11 people like this
Posted by hm
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 19, 2020 at 5:22 pm

What about the bike and vehicle collisions on Embarcadero? Quite dangerous for a road that connects our library, parks, shops, and schools.


28 people like this
Posted by Alex
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2020 at 6:01 pm

Josh Mello, our previous transportation leader, was obsessed with "street furniture". I assume the various traffic circles installed and planned, count as street furniture. After attending several meetings to hear about these new bike boulevard improvement plans several years ago, it was abundantly clear to me that street furniture was hip in the world of traffic management, and Josh and his Entourage were determined to install as much as possible. A solution for a mostly non existent problem. I can't help but wonder what 'solutions' will come next.


24 people like this
Posted by Louis Bookbinder
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 19, 2020 at 6:33 pm

I cross the EMeadow/Ross roundabout every time I ride my bike from or to the YMCA. I appreciate the roundabout. Auto drivers who complain actually have to stop less often because all the stop signs were changed to yields. Yes, they have to slow down, but autos in south Palo Alto are notoriously breaking the speed limits. Like 40mph on either EMeadow or Ross, or 55mph on Middlefield.

The roundabout is very appropriate for the bike boulevard.


14 people like this
Posted by Terry Martin
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 19, 2020 at 7:15 pm

I understand why the Ross/ EMeadow collisions are classified as car drivers failing to yield, but more accurately is should be "drivers failing to see".

The circle is too small with obscured vision of oncoming traffic. I have noted a number of scenarios where drivers within the speed laws would not have a reasonable reaction time to avoid a collision in specific cases.


23 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 19, 2020 at 7:20 pm

It's very simple.... People drive too fast through the roundabout on East Meadow and Ross. Few people seem to know what the word Yield means. In fact, I've seen people actually speed up as they approached the roundabout instead of slowing down. How about placing speed bumps at the roundabout entrances?


13 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 19, 2020 at 7:46 pm

I was behind a cement mixer and watched as it went around a roundabout today with difficulty. This was Ross and an intersection close to Oregon Expy (near Colorado, I don’t know which small intersecting street). I don’t see the point of having baby roundabouts at some of these intersections -


17 people like this
Posted by newpaloalto
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:15 pm

Adding two stop signs to this roundabout makes no sense - it should be four. Who is designing all of this? Why is there so much money being spent on street improvements (over and over again)?


6 people like this
Posted by Adrienne
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:20 pm

I continue to have a hard time finding any info about ANS for the intersection where I live at East Meadow and East Meadow Circle. There are 70 families living on the north side of this intersection and there are still no crosswalks, let alone the roundabout that was planned. It’s a very wide intersection, perfect for a roundabout. The roundabouts are great, I think, especially as people have learned the traffic rules (which was initially a slow learning curve). Please help us at East Meadow and East Meadow Circle!


2 people like this
Posted by Adrienne
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:22 pm

Plans, not ANS.


53 people like this
Posted by Really, Only Now?
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 19, 2020 at 9:06 pm

Only now the CPA realizes the Ross Road bike lane is a complete and utter disaster.

Only now they realize that forcing bikes into a car lane is a really stupid idea.

Only now the CPA realize that mixing bike and pedestrian traffic on Louis road is dumber than dumb.

Only now CPA realizes that taking away on street parking to install bulges to push bikes into car lanes is a stupid idea?

Only now CPA realizes using non-conventional and illogical non-standard street arrangements makes traveling by foot, bike, and car MORE DANGEROUS.

Good grief.

Only now CPA realizes that spending millions of tax dollars to appease about a dozen noisy advocates might not have been in the overall resident's interest?


18 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 19, 2020 at 10:31 pm

Stop signs at roundabouts? Just say no. Most of the offenders at those roundabouts are probably locals who think if they drive a Tesla, the laws don't apply to them. Or maybe they think if they are wealthy enough to pay occasional ticket, they don't have to follow the laws. It's always fun driving through Palo Alto, and watching how there's at least two to three cars going through the red on every traffic light change. It's not the roundabouts that are the problem, it's the local drivers flouting the traffic laws.


36 people like this
Posted by Bliker
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 19, 2020 at 11:20 pm

Is there the slightest prior data on all this weird non-standard bumps and swerves on streets?

I'm a bike everywhere person and on Ross, bikes and cars are constantly forced to swerve together towards center or jog left and right. It's hard to concentrate on moving objects when you are constantly avoiding fixed ones. Dangerous.

The same thing now exists on W. Charleston/Arastradero, but mostly for cars: jog left, right. Cars are constantly putting wheels into the bike lane. It's a mess.


27 people like this
Posted by DTN Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 19, 2020 at 11:51 pm

Hey, better late than never.

The changes to Ross and Louis made by the previous administration under Josh Mello were truly "the epitome of incompetence," with so many greatest hits that I can't name them all:

Do you like bikes to be forced to ride on sidewalks where elementary school kids walk? Check!
Would you like to add trees in the middle of those sidewalks where bikes are forced to ride? You got it!
How about more 4 way roundabouts with only two stop signs and impeded visibility? No problem!
Can you take away bike lanes while you're at it on those roads? Of course!
T intersections with ambiguous right of ways on busy streets where kids are crossing near an elementary school? Why not?

I'm just glad someone came to their senses, and they're fixing some of these ridiculous decisions.


20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2020 at 5:14 am

I can't trust anything they're doing, I don't care if they had some sort of epiphany they're still thinking "bicycle good, car bad" and creating chokepoints to make driving inconvenient and unbearable in favor of phantom bicycle riders. Most people are going to Oregon to get on the freeway, no one's riding a bicycle to merge onto the freeway ramp.
ALL of these bike "improvements" have ruined Ross, Louis and Cowper and created more traffic chokepoints for no reason.
I don't want them to do anything with the roads at all, stop blowing money on it! Leave it the way it is! HANDS OFF!
I want everything reverted to how it was years ago, where car traffic is prioritized because that's what most people do. Just common sense! None of this ideological "cars are bad" crap and trying to get people to drive less, its all pure nonsense.
I also want the new Mitchell park library gone, I want that hideous "inclusive" playground gone all it does is draw more noise, traffic and screaming children to the scene, I want everything to be peaceful, quiet and low-population density the way it was decades ago. Never gonna happen but one can dream!


41 people like this
Posted by James Thurber
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 20, 2020 at 5:27 am

As a cyclist (I don't own a car) I suspect the problem is the myriad of bicycle riders who behave like they OWN the bloody road.

Dear Cyclists: You have all the rights of a vehicle and thus you also have all the responsibilities. See a stop sign? STOP for it. A red light? Ditto. Keep right, except to pass. Is it dark? Turn on your stupid lights !!!

Remember that you have right-of-way over a pedestrian and that's it (OK, maybe a squirrel). Right-of-way depends entirely on gross tonnage. If it weighs more'n you, it has right-of-way. Got that?

Oh, that's not the law? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is, in fact, the law of physics (which trumps everything else). If you get hit by a car YOU LOSE.

So cyclists - PAY attention and RIDE responsibly and quit behaving like you're the king / queen of everything . . . 'cause you are NOT !!!

Thanks for listening.


10 people like this
Posted by Wea
a resident of Green Acres
on Feb 20, 2020 at 6:36 am

Lol @ the thought that eliminating parking on El Camino will help business owners. School kids on bikes don't shop at those! And they should not be biking to school on El Camino anyway! Bikes should be banned on El Camino.

As a lifelong PA resident, the problem isn't the cars, it's your kids on their bikes, and sometimes a "WFH" millionaire on his bike. It's tough to tell who's the more entitled demographic


19 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2020 at 6:49 am

I'm from Bulle, Switzerland, a city of 25k inhabitants. We've had zero traffic lights and barely any stop signs in the city for the past 15 years! All traffic lights were replaced by roundabouts and it works great! It's safe and I've never heard someone complaining. Can anybody from the government fly there to see how it's done? Or even easier, just check out Google Street View.


11 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2020 at 7:30 am

@Anne, you are correct that roundabouts work. But the roundabouts you are talking about are not a 4 way intersection with a circle slapped in the middle.

If Palo Alto wants to remove all 4 homes at every intersection and construct real roundabouts I'm all for it but the people living in all those homes might have a different opinion.

/marc


17 people like this
Posted by Brit
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 7:46 am

Roundabouts are great when everyone uses them correctly. There are many places in Palo Alto where a full size roundabout would make a lot of sense rather than traffic lights. They are a tool to help move traffic efficiently and to help those exiting a minor road access a major road as well as two similar roads intersect without causing bottlenecks.

Mini roundabouts in the UK are basically just circles painted in the road with arrows painted in the road to show drivers how to use them. They are not obstacles and are not designed to slow down traffic but to move efficiently.

These roundabouts on Ross are obstacles with poor sight lines, no arrows painted in the roadbed and are designed without efficient traffic flow in mind.


21 people like this
Posted by Carolyn
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 20, 2020 at 8:06 am

With the new crossing and signage, my husband and I RIDE to the YMCA everyday -- where we used to drive creating GHG emissions, decreased air quality for residents, noise, and a lack of community spirit (we pick up trash and talk to neighbors on our bikes).

Hooray for good bike infrastructure and slower driving!

While I don't appreciate being the "traffic calming measure" (having to dart into traffic at all the narrowed choke-points on Ross, getting honked at all the while), I appreciate efforts at slowing traffic and making the City more friendly to all modes of transport.

Remember folks, we all can't drive and/or won't be able to drive forever. Old and young need safe, green options. You should have your spot on the City's sustainability committee/Sierra Club/environmental cause rejected if you don't support transport other than cars.

We need to speak on behalf of those who can't show up at evening meetings to complain for hours (i.e. busy parents, kids, handicapped, elderly, disabled, people who work nights). We are a COMMUNITY after all and we need to look out for each other!


17 people like this
Posted by Abby
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:14 am

The roundabouts may be better for single cyclists but they are a total disaster for anyone biking with kids. There’s not enough time and visibility to get a parent + children into the roundabout safely. We now AVOID biking the so-called bike boulevards on that side of town because they’re so dangerous. It doesn’t seem like anyone took this use case into account. It’s only designed for individual adult bikers.


23 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:32 am

Maybe now the city will also revisit some of its other "traffic calming" moves like the absurd use of bollards and bulbouts like those in front of the former Jordan school. Larger vehicles turning onto Middlefield from Santa Rita force the Middlefield traffic to back up to let them in while the bollards prevent cars from going around turning traffic, pushing cars back into Oregon and Embarcadero.


15 people like this
Posted by BobH
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:44 am

I am pleased to see the City is starting to acknowledge that the Ross Road project is a mess and a mistake.

Unfortunately, they only seem to be talking about making minor changes. They need to make major changes, this isn't going to be fixed by adding a few stop signs on East Meadow and painting the curbs red.


10 people like this
Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:55 am

I agree with "resident" above. Traffic circles should not have any stop signs. They are supposed to signal "yield before entering the circle." The tiny circle at Bryant and Addison has stop signs on Addison street.


14 people like this
Posted by Safety First
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:57 am

Another ridiculous change was on Arastradero at Coulomb. The City moved the bike path to a channel on the other side of parked cars, which unfortunately makes the bike path invisible to cars right there until they are turning, if they even see it then while trying to avoid hitting oncoming cars because of the new unrealistic turn radius.

This change is basically designed to kill a bicyclist someday. The only reason it hasn't happened is that bikes don't use it. They go on the sidewalk, or veer off into the park to avoid going into the channel. I use this route daily and have only since ONE bicycle take it in all these months. I have witnessed several veer away, confused as they approached it.

Complaining to the new traffic chief was useless, he think that all the bike traffic from school kids can be used to justify the unsafe new configuration, not appreciating that there is a crossing guard at that intersection for the school traffic who makes it safer already, and that there's far more school traffic than that little well can accommodation anyway.

In the meantime, given how narrow they've made Arastradero now, and how they angle out the curb suddenly at that intersection (and another), cars on Arastradero keep hitting the angled out curbs, so that the tire marks hide the reflective paint and more cars hit them. The City should fix this, and at least keep coming out and repainting those curbs on a daily basis so that people can see them, especially at night.

A number of cars have had accidents on these curbs, because the one at Coulomb includes parking but rarely cars parked there, so it's easy for drivers (and potentially new bikes) to get confused and think there is a lane there until they hit the curb. The danger is also a bicyclist breaking their next someday on that curb, not to mention the right-hook accidents between cars and bicyclists given how that intersection is designed to cause them, and only hasn't because outside of school hours (when there is a crossing guard) practically no one uses it.

What's really disturbing in speaking with the traffic department is the lack of common sense, sense of things like physics, and tendency to justify whatever they do because someone is using whatever it is somewhere else (but differently), regardless of safety problems introduced in how the City does things. And the tendency to avoid listening to feedback until there are more accidents.

Can the Weekly please post the dates the data were taken? The City has been known to take data on days that school was out in order to get lower numbers and vice versa to get higher.


21 people like this
Posted by You're all so ADORABLE!
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:59 am

Haha. You keep being you Palo Alto. Fixing traffic without reducing the number of cars on the road? LOL! Wow, that's some miraculous stuff right there.

Sure, you can "fix" traffic...of course you can. Who's my big traffic fixer? You area! Yes you are! Yyyyes you are! :)


17 people like this
Posted by Bad Drivers
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Feb 20, 2020 at 10:10 am

The problem is the Palo Alto drivers who have no sense of obeying traffic laws. I saw someone else post it as well, drivers here speed constantly, California stop at red lights and stop signs, fail to yield, look at cell phones while driving. Driving is a privilege, not a right. I know many drivers are from out of town trying to get to work, and that makes all the traffic worse. I love the Ross Rd format. People complaining about it are drivers who now have to pay more attention and resent it.


13 people like this
Posted by Rick
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 20, 2020 at 10:38 am

1) REMOVE the roundabout and restore a four way stop.

2) Can someone please explain what the "Oncoming traffic does not stop" signs mean at the Louis and Amarilllo intersection. I have seen some drivers assume they can just turn in front of traffic on Louis coming off that stop sign. This is INSANE.


9 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 20, 2020 at 12:04 pm

The roundabout is the only thing on the boulevard that makes sense. I was opposed to it initially but learned to use it and like it, especially when I’m the only one using it at the time.

I have, however, witnessed some close calls. I generally approach it on Ross heading north towards the Y. On one occasion four of us, in our cars, came to it at the same time. Fortunately we were observant and made eye contact. I have seen other cases when a car on East Meadow showed no sign of looking to either either side and slowing down.

And on one occasion I was just a few feet from getting into the roundabout when a cyclist coming from the left, and not as close to getting into it as I was, came flying through, yelling at me. I think that’s part of the problem, the cyclists’ mentality that they rule the road since the boulevard was built for them.


3 people like this
Posted by duveneck
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 20, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Also. The round-about at the intersection of Everett and Fulton is almost impossible to see at night. No indication as to the diameter of the circle. So easy to run over the curb of the circle and do damage to car and opposing signage and plants. Now that we are aware of this nighttime obstacle, we can avoid it, but there have been several close calls. This is a narrow street at best, in both directions, made even narrower by the circle. This intersection used to be fine. Was the circle installed as a "traffic calming" measure for commuters who want to avoid University? Trucks need to drive partially on the sidewalk to go around it.




11 people like this
Posted by sad ross road
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 20, 2020 at 1:34 pm

@ Caroline
I don't understand why you didn't bike to the YMCA before.
Ross was always an easily bike-able road.
And more so before all the crazy pinch points.

In fact, I think all that was needed was a couple of speed bumps to slow down traffic coming in and out of the Y. Without adding all the dangerous narrowing that make it now HARDER to bike on Ross than it was before.


21 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 20, 2020 at 2:04 pm

It is refreshing to see the city addressing past mistakes, and the new transportation manager is advocating for a more inclusive approach to future changes (temporary installations to let people react, which is how the city spent its last two million dollars in 2018 before ripping up the hay tubes on Amarillo). It is disappointing to see the misleading bike traffic measurements though, since the city was unable to produce ANY count of bicycle traffic before the construction was done and anecdotally it has been pretty constant. Alta Design (the contractor who created the plans) promised to do a video count of bikers by skill and age, but never did the work so there is no way to produce the data from "before the furniture". East Meadow is the best route for many children crossing town for school, so it would make more sense to return to four-way stops rather than having another non-standard design
The intersections at East Meadow and Ross Road, and at East Meadow and Moreno Road, are too small and don't actually qualify as roundabouts (according to the Federal Highway Administration, who agreed in writing that these are neighborhood traffic circles). As noted, mini-roundabouts should have completely traversable islands (no center island, just a small raised center circle and no "splitter" islands). There just isn't room to shoe-horn in a real roundabout, as has been done in many places successfully at Stanford and in Mt View. Roundabouts can be very effective at encouraging through traffic, but they require much greater visibility (150' "sight lines" at 25mph) and much more space (never smaller than 90 feet in diameter).
The article cites "failure to yield", but the drivers have told the bikers that they didn't *see* them because they are looking left for cars (watch this video about selective attention Web Link ) and this failure mode is supported by data. Roundabouts are safer for cars (eliminates head-on collisions) but are more dangerous for bikes, especially where bikes represent a large proportion of traffic. Just before school starts, there can be 200 bikers compared to 40 cars.
The intersection was safer before the modifications, and it would be great to completely restore the old design rather than doing minor adjustments to a bad design in my opinion.


23 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 20, 2020 at 2:28 pm

I ride my bike on Ross Road at least three times per week. I believe some of the crosstown commuter traffic moved to other streets to avoid the pinch points and the speed bumps. While the fancy retrofit to make biking safer on Ross Road was ridiculously expensive, in my experience the street is at least as safe as it used to be (probably safer) and it is now very clear that the road is a bike boulevard. Of course some idiots still speed, just as they do everywhere in Palo Alto (where are the police?). We should be glad that many more residents/commuters are actually using Ross Road on their bikes. Hurray for setting that expectation and realizing it to some extent.

I hope everyone interested in making Palo Alto a safer city for biking would take a look around Mountain View's recent improvements. You may find that their bicycle improvements are both effective, intuitive and no doubt less costly than the Ross Road infrastructure. Live and learn. Let's keep improving.


8 people like this
Posted by Crazy drivers
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:34 pm

Another new danger with the new Ross bicycle boulevard is the technique I have seen quite a few drivers use to basically avoid the speed bumps. They actually cross the double yellow line when approaching the narrowed area with the speed bumps. Then, once quite squarely in the middle of it all, they cross the speed bump, straddling the double yellow line, so that their wheels fit in the notches in the bumps so that their wheels do not have to go up at all. And voila, they have avoided going over the bump this way. Crazily, they will do it even when bicyclists, or another driver, are approaching the same speed bump from the other direction. This ends up being a real hazard for bicyclists (and I say this as a car driver).

City of Palo Alto, are you aware of this way of circumventing the bumps? Are you going to crack down on the drivers who do this? Or, better yet totally redo the boulevard?


12 people like this
Posted by asr
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2020 at 3:53 pm

Apart from the faults other people have made, the City has made Ross Road so unsightly. When you look down the street you see white everywhere, huge lettering, bulges coming in from both sides. It looks a real mess.

What was wrong with Bryant as a bikeway? Why did the City have to do anything different from that?


12 people like this
Posted by JustGuessing
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2020 at 4:51 pm

Stop signs at intersections provide more safety to bicyclists than roundabouts because almost all cars stop at these signs but most bicyclists don't, even though California Vehicle Code 21200 REQUIRES them to do so. Thus from a practical point of view even when a bicyclist disobeys the law and rolls through a stop sign at an intersection, there is a high probability a car about to pass through the intersection will have stopped. Sorry to inform bicyclists that the Idaho rolling stop is not yet legal in California, although there is a move to make it legal. (Only 4 states allow the Idaho Stop.)

Unless roundabouts are large enough to provide good visibility they are less safe than 4-way stops at intersections that have to handle both cars and bikes.

The theoretician who formerly ran the Palo Alto Transportation Department read in his transportation management text books that roundabouts are good because they work in Europe. So Palo Alto installed tiny roundabouts having very poor visibility, e.g. the Ross Road roundabout that is now causing more problems than it solved. Roundabouts have certain advantages complex intersections, but they must be large enough to provide good visibility and allow cars & bicycles to merge in and out gracefully. The new roundabouts at Stanford are examples of good designs and seem to work quite well. The Palo Alto ones are not good designs and obviously don't work very well.

Perhaps the new head of the Palo Alto Department of Transportation will be more inclined to propose measures that appropriate for Palo Alto streets and less inclined to use traffic control theory from Europe.


8 people like this
Posted by In Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2020 at 5:34 pm

@ Anne - I did check out Bulle Switzerland on Google Maps satellite view and those roundabouts are huge! They are 2 lanes in each direction. The ones that are being discussed here are in the middle of 2 lane residential intersections and are completely inadequate and unsafe. And this multi million $$$ project has made the intersection of Amarillo and Louis a complete mess. It wasn't broken! I live across from Ohlone on Amarillo and at pick-up time instead of bicycles using the ultra widened sidewalk on the South side of Amarillo which, we were told, was to accommodate riders on their way to and from school, they ride IN the street against the one lane of oncoming traffic caused by the street now being too narrow for the pickup line AND 2 way traffic. Don't fix it - restore it stop signs and all!


28 people like this
Posted by Ahem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2020 at 6:40 pm

Bicycling advocates have been their own worst enemy.

Mark Twain said "to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail". In a city controlled by real-estate interests, the solution to every problem gets twisted around to build, build, build. Unfortunately bicycling advocates drank the developer Kool-Aid and foolishly started believing a more urban Palo Alto would be a more bike-able Palo Alto.

By allying themselves with developers and their urbanization plans, bicycling advocates were able to get a few bike paths built, but their utopian dreams blinded them to the unintended consequences of urbanization. Urbanization has congested our streets, making it unsafe for bicycles and motor vehicles to share the same roads, effectively destroying bike-able infrastructure faster than it could be built.

The hippy's dream of a bicycling utopia has turned into a dysfunctional nightmare.


16 people like this
Posted by Patrick
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 20, 2020 at 6:56 pm

I agree with "Safety First's" comments that Arastradero has become a nightmare for bicyclists. I will no longer cycle on that obstacle course. What are the planners thinking? Have they never ridden a bicycle themselves? What was once a wide boulevard with room for all has now become a narrow weaving lane that pits motorist against cyclist.
Likewise on Junipero Sierra between Stanford Ave and Campus Dr where previously there was a wide bike lane there is now an obstacle course that is a death trap on dark rainy evenings, forcing vehicles to veer and point themselves at the bike lane as they negotiate artificial twists and turns. Just look at the skid marks on the barriers.
I love a wide bicycle lane, but not one that has zig-zag traffic alongside.
And as to the facetious comments here about the number of cars in Palo Alto, I say making bicycling a safer and more attractive option will reduce the number of cars. Strangling the streets with obstacles is not the way to do it.


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 20, 2020 at 8:44 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 20, 2020 at 9:05 pm

[Post removed.]


3 people like this
Posted by LookedItup
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 20, 2020 at 11:33 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 21, 2020 at 12:35 am

Can we discuss the insanity of the stoplight at Ross and Oregon Expressway? Went to the meeting in 2014 as a tax paying citizen who uses this turn every day, was met by a biker who told from Oregon that Ross was great for kids riding to Green Middle School. Ross ends in a neighborhood with houses! Kids still ride straight down Middlefield on the sidewalk from the middle school to get home and to Midtown! Insane! The dumb dept. received Federal money and we’re going to spend it despite the residents who live here.


15 people like this
Posted by Instand egomaniac, just add a car
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 21, 2020 at 5:54 am

Why should I apply the brakes to get behind anyone. I'm in my car! Me first!
It's all about me! Oh damn, I just ran over a child.
...It was the city's fault!!!


19 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 21, 2020 at 7:28 am

The Ross Road improvements were not made for the benefit of cars, they were made to improve the biking experience. If car drivers are upset, angry, confused and thus avoiding Ross Road then the improvements were a great success. Ross Road is a Bike Boulevard first and a Car Boulevard second. If you don't like it then get on a bike, or ride your car on one of the other 100+ streets in Palo Alto. Save Ross, Bryant, and a few others for the bikes.


4 people like this
Posted by Walker
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 21, 2020 at 7:47 am

I walk to the Y and other places regularly using Ross Road. When you walk you have time to observe what is happening. Here are some observations.

Many bike riders move to the sidewalk at the pinch points.

Many cars park opposite the bulbouts at the Y making the road very narrow particularly when cars are turning and have to wait. This would make it very difficult for emergency vehicles to turn into the Y in an emergency.

The house beside the Y has been demolished and a new construction is taking place. The large construction trucks are having problems turning into the site particularly when other cars are parked. The road is often blocked by these trucks and cause problems for bikes, pedestrians and other road vehicles.

Delivery trucks, FedEx, UPS, etc. often race to the narrow spots so that they don't have to slow down behind bikes. These truck drivers are on timed schedules and even a few extra seconds can cost them time penalties.

Cars exiting the Y pay more attention to what is on the road rather than what is on the sidewalk. In effect, they should stop twice but rarely do so.

The bulbouts and the islands at intersections are covered with black tire marks as cars have hit the curbs.

There seem to be more cars parking half on the sidewalk due to the street furniture giving the street an overall narrower feel, at least that's how I view it.

Bikes pay less attention to stop signs, pedestrians and even each other. In the past couple of days I have seen one bike rider riding with his arms folded and a group of young bikes taking up the whole width of the street in the same direction. A rider in the opposite direction went on the sidewalk to avoid them.


6 people like this
Posted by senor blogger
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 21, 2020 at 9:28 am

JR, I live on Ross and I'm not moving. you, however could move to My.View. BTW there were 100 people at the July protest meeting, not 100 as reported. I was there.
To the City, Get rid of the split speed bumps and road furniture. they are the most dangerous aspects of the remodel.
Someone is going to get killed trying to navigate this disaster.


12 people like this
Posted by Barriers are all over parking lots
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 21, 2020 at 9:33 am

How ever do cars navigate this without killing themselves or others?
Simple: They slow down.


3 people like this
Posted by Barbara M
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2020 at 9:48 am

I am a bicyclist and driver who has had two negative experiences on both bike "friendly" roads. I was almost hit on my bicycle at a narrowing on Louis by an impatient driver, and as a driver who almost hit a bicyclist in the roundabout (he was unlit, wearing dark clothing, entered when I was already in the roundabout, at night) I would love to see the roundabout removed with a 4-way stop returned to the intersection or put stop signs on Meadow to allow bike traffic on Ross to continue through the intersection as works so well on Bryant. The curbs that narrow both streets create dangerous interactions between cars and bikes. They should also be removed with the speed bump remaining to slow the car traffic.


11 people like this
Posted by Richard
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 22, 2020 at 6:48 pm

"While the city has no plans to remove the most contentious feature of the redesign — a roundabout at the intersection Ross Road and East Meadow Drive — planners are now proposing to modify it by removing the island's river stones and filling that space with concrete."

I'm sorry, to me this is simply a double-down on a really dumb "improvement" pushed on a neighborhood by a city transportation office determined to install as much street furniture as possible. Period.

Remove it and admidt that it was, and still is a costly blunder, and move on. The current "plan" does little to rebuild trust in my opinion.


2 people like this
Posted by Jerry Underdal
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 22, 2020 at 8:56 pm

I share Safety First's concern about night visibility . I bicycled both Ross Road and Arastradero at night last week. For some reason, Ross Road seemed easier to read than Arastradero. I did the route again last night. One feature that stood out on Ross was the placement of reflectors atop curbs to help street users be aware of potential hazards. I didn't see that on Arastradero and wondered if the city could make it standard practice where it's possible to of use reflectors this way.

If reflective paint can't be restored on a scheduled basis, I strongly recommend abundant use of reflectors, elevated or embedded in the road. Over time, black asphalt turns gray and as reflective paint loses its luster the curb also turns gray. That produces a constant hazard, day or night, but it's especially dangerous at night.


14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2020 at 10:57 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 23, 2020 at 10:17 am

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2020 at 10:52 pm

[Post removed.]


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