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Do you like the new Charleston Road?

Original post made by Victor, Charleston Gardens, on Aug 10, 2006

I'm having a hard time adjusting to the lanes and general layout of the street. Today, they just finished most of the paint and whatnot on the road and to me, it's a mess. Like you have double yellow lines which you would have to cross just to get into your driveway, if you happened to live on Charleston. Parts of the street also have very large empty spaces in the middle (it's like 2 sets of double yellow lines as a divider), which seem like turn lanes, but I'm not sure if they are. I'm yet to venture all the way down the street near Gunn, but at least the road near my house, well, I'm not sure if I'll ever like it. I prefer the older layout. I guess it will need more time once the school year starts to truly gauge whether the temporary changes were worthwhile or not.

Comments (85)

Posted by Lee
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 10, 2006 at 11:20 pm

You are so right, it is downright dangerous driving on Charleston now, and even more so for biking. After all the analysis and money spent conceptualizing how to mitigate the traffic flow, this seems like a disaster so far. I agree, we will have to see what happens once the project is finished and schools starts. I predict mass confusion.

Posted by Voter
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 11, 2006 at 9:43 am

Based on my memory, the middle lane IS the turning lane. It is supposed to get cars needing to turn left along Charleston to move out of the one-lane traffic. I'm sure drivers will get used to it in no time.

What I'm not sure of is how the new one-lane stretch will handle the heavy crunch-time traffic. I'm particularly worried about the morning commute hour during which many Gunn students use the road to get to school. Late in the afternoon, Charleston between Alma and El Camino has always been clogged up. It'll be interesting to see what will happen now.

Posted by Louise
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2006 at 1:11 pm

Let’s not rush to judgment. Yes, this week it has been a mess on Charleston between Alma and El Camino. But look carefully – it’s not the repaving and restriping of Charleston east of Alma that’s to blame.

At least when I’ve been driving through the area, the real snarls have been caused by some heavy duty city utility project involving major gas mains near the train tracks. I remember reading something on my neighborhood’s enews list that this utility work was related to the Arbor Real project (aka as the old Hyatt Rickey’s site).

Responding to concerns about “heavy crunch-time traffic” raised by “Voter”: the new striping that’s going in on West Charleston between Alma and El Camino *does* show two lanes in each direction.

Finally, I was very surprised to discover that the city’s main web page ( actually has a link to updated information on the Charleston/Arastradero project. Here’s the direct link for anyone interested:
Web Link

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 11, 2006 at 2:59 pm

I drove between Middlefield and Alma today, and I think those are double double yellows creating a solid barrier? Maybe I'm wrong about that, but even if you can cross them to enter a driveway, what's crazy is that the median is so WIDE that it puts the through traveling lane so far over to the right that it leaves about three inches for bike lane. I thought the whole point was to make that corridor safer for bikes?

Maybe the city figured if they leave that median wide enough they could sell that strip of land to a developer for some more high density housing.

I probably shouldn't even joke about that...

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 11, 2006 at 6:05 pm

In the neighborhood meetings, the city planners explained that the median created by the "double double" yellows is a space that eventually will be replaced by landscaping if the plan is made permanent. I look forward to the addition of beautiful new trees to this southern Palo Alto corridor. This is a trial. That is why the median was marked temporarily with paint.

Construction has not been completed yet. The construction signs say that gas mains are still being laid on the sections between Middlefield and Alma,so it's probably a little early to start evaluating the plan. It's normal to have some delays with construction.

So far, it looks pretty good to me. I have driven the corridor between Nelson and Foothill three times in the last two days carpooling children to summer camp and transporting visiting relatives to Stanford...once during the morning rush hour. Even with the construction, delays weren't bad. I'm waiting to see what happens after the first week of school. I figure it will take a little time for people to get used to it.

I did notice that the striping still is not complete. That may be why some people are finding it confusing. Let's let the city finish their work and then give them useful feedback about what's working and what isn't. They said they could tweak it. That's why they are doing a trial. If we can help the city make this project work, it will be a big improvement over the former configuration.

As a parent whose children walk to school, I am VERY glad to see traffic moving closer to the posted 25mph speed limit at the crossings we regularly use to get to the schools, park and library.

Posted by Moe
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2006 at 8:35 pm

As long as drivers obey the red light at Wilkie Way, I'll be happy. Remember, it's a bike route, too, people... and we don't need another Robert Beebe.

Posted by a concerned
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2006 at 2:04 pm

What a waste of money! I am sure the money could be better spent.

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 12, 2006 at 4:06 pm

I'm with the poster from Charleston Gardens -- I thought the whole point was to make this a kind of safe school corridor, since so many schools are situated on this street -- I remember reading the write ups that it would be friendlier for bikes, i.e., so kids could more safely bike to school. If anything, the changes look less safe for bikes.

If it's a choice between medians with trees and wider bike lanes (with some kind of physical barrier between the car and bike traffic to improve safety for kids going up and down Charleston and Arastradero to school), I'm for the biking/safety measures. I thought that's what was going to happen -- maybe it still is, but the temporary stuff looks less safe.

But, my bias is for completely separating bike and car traffic, or as much as is feasible, and creating a pedestrian-bike friendly network across Palo Alto. I think that's the only way to really make biking a lifestyle for kids (and many other Palo Altans). Yes, I am dreaming, but maybe someone with the same dream will read this and imagine what could be, too. I have probably been reading the leaflets with that bias, I really thought that's what was going to happen at least on Charleston/Arastradero, hence my disappointment.

Posted by Michael
a resident of El Carmelo School
on Aug 12, 2006 at 5:57 pm

Our primary goal must be to reduce auto exhaust emissions. Slowing down traffic and spending more time idling our engines while waiting for our antiquated traffic control systems will only exacerbate our unhealthy air quality effects.

Regional economics must change and more job opportunities arise in all the new Central Valley communities that sprang up in response to a robust Silicon Valley job market and cheap mortgage interest. Until then, we will not discourage commuters from the twice daily onslaught of traffic.

Also, we must reserve high school driving for only those Junior and Senior students who can document a compelling need to go to after school jobs. Given the gold plated demographic that most Palo Alto High school students come from, that is probably less than 5% of the school population.

Posted by Brendan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2006 at 11:39 am

The choice of narrowing the lanes just after rounding the corner from San Antonio was a poor one. My choice would have been for pushing that change closer to or after Middlefield. This will cause accidents as there's little to no warning that the merge is upcoming.

Posted by Richard
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2006 at 7:04 pm

We drove up Charleston yesterday and back down it and I think the new stripping is great. The cross walks are well delineated, the one lane will slow the traffic and fanning out to two lanes at the signals gives the right turners a chance to get out of the way.
I like it.

Posted by Priscilla
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 14, 2006 at 9:47 am

Because this is a trial, the median was marked temporarily with paint. After work is finished, give the city feedback about the change. "If we can help the city make this project work, it will be a big improvement over the former configuration." Another goal must be to reduce auto exhaust emissions. Because slowing down traffic (and causing dense traffic)encourages idling engines and will only exacerbate our unhealthy air quality effects. Remember, none of the proposed South Palo Alto developments have been built. Traffic will increase. This is a good time to tell the City Council that the proposed Jewish Life Center and Bridge Development is too large - there should be no event center, there should be height limits to reduce the density of the project. Also, this is a good time to tell the City Council that proposed South Palo Alto housing will not only make the Charleston/Arastradero school commute corridor unsafe and unhealthy, but the housing will be a drain on Palo Alto resources.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 16, 2006 at 10:04 am

A.J.: Placing a physical barrier between a bicycle lane and an automobile lane won't improve safety in any meaningful way. Most car-bike collisions happen as a result of crossing and turning movements at intersections and driveways, and barriers tend to make cyclists less visible in those situations without being able to protect them.

In addition, by preventing sweeping, such a barrier will result in the accumulation of broken glass, nails, and other debris in the bicycle lane, which will effectively make the bicycle lane unusuable.

Posted by Wheeler
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 16, 2006 at 12:45 pm

My first impression is that I like the new arrrangement, both as a driver and a bicyclist. I didn't understand the comment about idling engines and air pollution. The goal of this project is to keep traffic flowing at a lower speed, rather than move in a series of accelerations and stops. The transit time from end-to-end should be the same, but the flow will be smoother. This will reduce emissions without increasing delay. The lower speeds should make the road safer for everyone, both inside and outside cars. Drivers will need some time to get used to it, so I don't think we should be passing judgement yet.

Posted by Heidi
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 16, 2006 at 4:11 pm

I've riden my bike from work to home traveling west on Charleston several times since the construction and it is harrowing nearing the intersection at El Camino. Cars are parked in the bike lane and I have to pull out into traffic to go around them. Once across El Camino I have to ride in the gutter with cars whizzing by. I don't understand this part of the plan at all.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 16, 2006 at 4:41 pm

Heidi: The construction advistory talks about eliminating on-street parking on that stretch during the day. I'm guessing that the signs for this aren't up yet.

See Web Link

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 16, 2006 at 5:46 pm

David: Imagine with me for a moment what Palo Alto could be like if there were a completely separate system of bike/pedestrian trails that allowed kids/walkers/bike commuters to get easily around all of Palo Alto without being in traffic at all, except to cross at intersections as equals. No-uh-stop -- please just let go and imagine for a moment. (Think bike trail to Los Altos, for example.)

That's what I was imagining, not barriers. (Reread my message and imagine just a little more with me.)

However, I saw barriers used quite effectively in Beijing (haven't been there in a long time though) when bikes were accorded the same planning gravity as cars, actually more. The problems arise with barriers when bikes and pedestrians are accorded the kind of second-class afterthought status that they are now on our streets. I thought the Arastrader Charleston corridor was going to put bike traffic planning on an equal footing in order to make it a major commute route for bikes (especially for school children).

Like you, I don't think barriers in the current configuration would be a good idea. I just had a bias in looking at the plans I guess, I was expecting/interpreting a much improved configuration that planned in bike traffic in a more thoughtful and equal way.

If we build it, they will bike... (btw, in interest of full disclosure, I am not a biker, but I would bike more than drive if we had such a system around our town -- yes, I am dreaming, but something like this has to start that way, doesn't it?!)

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 17, 2006 at 3:07 pm

AJ: With no disrespect for the intensity of your belief, there are a LOT of people who say that they'd ride if only a lot of paths were built. In practice, only a few paths do get built, and most of the people who do say that such facilities would induce them to ride don't actually do so when the paths are built.

If you're really interested in taking up cycling, I'd advise you to join a local club such as the Palo Alto-based Western Wheelers, and getting more experienced cyclists to show you how to safely use our existing roads.

Posted by Boris Foelsch
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 17, 2006 at 3:17 pm

I think it's great! I trust the traffic engineers on this one. It's much safer for cycling now and therefore will encourage people to cycle more. This is a fact that will manifest over time. I bike it all the time and have, in the past, been put off by that corridor. I can now ride it much more safely, both to work and to Charleston shopping. Gunn High students will have better options too.

-Boris Foelsch
Louis Road

Posted by "member"
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2006 at 3:45 pm

I like the new Charleston Road changes just fine. It's safer and cleaner! Good job!!

Posted by Jon
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 17, 2006 at 6:06 pm

I think this is absolutely ridiculous. So far when I've driven, it has been non-stop chaos. Jammed up all over the place. And having it switch back and forth from 1-2 lanes just adds to the choas. I think the city just wants ppl to obey the 25 mph speed limit, and now with non stop traffic, we will all be driving 5-10 mph during any sort of commute time. I can't even go to Piazza's without having to wait 10 minutes when it used to take about 1-2. Horrable iniatitive, clogging up the roads, which will eventually lower property values as everyone realizes that you have to wait tremendously long to go anywhere

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2006 at 8:04 pm

To the publisher of The Weekly: is there any way that residents can, by mutual agreement, privately contact each other for offline discussions? Adding such a capability might be a wonderful way to encourage community. Sounds like I could have a constructive and interesting discussion with David of Charleston Meadows about local bike trails.

David: When pedestrian friendly streetscaping is done right, it invites foot traffic (look at the transformation of downtown Mountain View, for example), when bicycle friendly systems are built, they invite bicycle traffic. We'd have to look in other countries to find examples of the latter, but they do exist. The way spaces are designed has everything to do with how communities use them and function.

You are absolutely right, when these efforts are done in an incomplete way, they never work or invite a critical mass of participants. An independent system of bike trails really has to be done right or it doesn't work. Participation levels improve exponentially as one gets closer to a fully-realized, functioning separate system of trails, it's not a linear relationship. Our children making biking a way of life (and Silicon Valley parents allowing it) will only happen if we have such a system of trails, it's just not going to happen with these afterthought-type trails like on Charleston. Again, it all starts with a dream...

We regularly use the walk-bike-only paths such as at Shoreline or the one to Los Altos because they are off-street. But it's recreational, the paths don't really go anywhere we need to go. If there were such a bike-only path to get from our neighborhood to anywhere near my spouse's place of work, my spouse would bike to work every day. (We used to and made a conscious decision to stop because of safety issues.)

I KNOW there are a lot of people who say they would get out and ride if those paths are built, glad I don't have to convince you of that. But those paths haven't been built-- not even close -- you can't draw conclusions from efforts that don't even count as partial! Imagine what an amazing place this would be if it were equally easy to cross town by bike as by car! I'm sorry, but you can't tell me that those trails wouldn't be full it it were so. We have the best biking terrain and weather in the world, would that we had the safest system of bike trails.

As for the current configuration of Charleston, I think the way the bike lane vanishes in the approach to El Camino is pretty unsafe -- like someone said, oh gee, we need two lanes for cars here, guess we'll just have to start the bike lane up again somewhere else. It might be an improvement for people who are already resigned to the hazards of biking in this area, but I don't think many more people are going to encourage their children to ride to school from the other end of Palo Alto because of these "improvements".

Posted by Vincent
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 17, 2006 at 8:57 pm

I'm a biker going to work every day using Charleston. It has become so dangerous now with the bike lane disapering and crossing car lanes that I will not us it anymore. It is too dangerous for biker (and for car too I guess). I'm glad that I do not have to send my kids to this street to bike to school ;-0

Parents: consider yourself warned! Do not send your kids biking through this stree anymore. Drive them school. It will be slower but safer.


Posted by Moe
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 17, 2006 at 10:40 pm

On 17 August 2006, Jon wrote:

"...which will eventually lower property values..."

And at the end of the day, that's what it's really all about, isn't it?

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 17, 2006 at 11:30 pm

I think you are referring to the disappearing bike lane west of El Camino. (Please correct me if I have misunderstood you.) A bike lane was never there. I agree that this intersection is very dangerous for cyclists. The plan, when fully implemented, will provide CONTINUOUS bike lanes from Fabian to Foothill. This portion of the road (El Camino to Terman) will be improved during phase two of the trial which will occur next year.

The Charleston/Arastradero Corridor Project is a big undertaking. Let's work with the city as they iron out the bugs over the coming months. They have asked for our feedback, and they have made a commitment to be responsive. Let's give them information from our experience and observations that they can use to fine tune the striping plan, so we can get the best possible permanent installation.

I am grateful to the city for taking this innovative step. I've been walking, biking and driving the corridor over the last week or so with my kids and it seems like a BIG improvment to me. So far, even during rush hour I have not experienced major delays (except around the gas main construction, but that is to be expected and it's temporary.) I'm still waiting to see how the new configuration carries the higher car volumes that will come with the start of school.

I also have noticed that drivers are driving closer to the speed limit in the school zones. That is a wonderful change. Remember that this road serves ELEVEN schools, several parks, two community centers, a library, a neighborhood shopping center, several temples and churches, senior housing (Many seniors can't drive any longer. They have to walk.) These are all walking and biking destinations. Pedestrian and bicycle safety is critically important on this corridor.

This was money well spent.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 18, 2006 at 10:08 am

AJ: I understand how you're hoping to promote cycling by building complete network of off-road paths which reach all destinations. The problem is that we live in an already-developed city, not an empty meadow awaiting the planner's pen. If you want to put in such a universal network of paths, you'd have to knock down hundreds of homes and businesses. This would both be incredibly expensive and is unlikely to be politically viable.

People put paths were they do today because that's where you can put them in inexpensively and without displacing residents. Even so, they often encounter significant NIMBY type political opposition.

Making matters worse, even if you did build such a path network, existing businesses are situated so that they're easily reached by road. As a result, the path network would end up being less convenient than our existing road system, and cyclists would still need to use our existing roads, so people would still be able to say "I'm not comfortable on the roads".

There are a whole lot of measures which we could take which would do far more, more quickly, and less expensively, to promote cycling than building a city-wide path network:
1. Put a wide outside lane or a bike lane on Alma, and miniaturize on-street parking in the downtown stretch which permits it.
2. Remove stop signs along Park Blvd so that cyclists can travel more quickly along that route
3. Eliminate on-street parking on El Camino so that cyclists don't end up traveling in the door zone
4. Remove on-street parking along Middlefield Road for the same reason
5. Rebuild the Oregon Expressway underpass at the railroad tracks so that the outside lanes are wider or include bicycle lanes
6. Update our city building code to require that employers provide showers and lockers after any major construction.
7. Create more legal railroad track crossings for cyclists and pedestrians

A lot of these ideas probably would encounter significant opposition from neighbors and businesses (eg: removing parking is NOT a popular thing to suggest) but probably nowhere near the level of opposition that you'd get from trying to build a citywide path network, and they're generally apt to be far less expensive than buying out hunderds of homeowners at Palo Alto real estate prices.

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 18, 2006 at 11:30 am

David: All of our cities in this country that so desperately need to improve community and foot and bike traffic are built up. Imagining an independent system of paths means being creative with what's here, not hoping to start with meadowland. First we have to be willing to say: wouldn't this be great?! We have some of the best minds and hearts in the world right here -- sure, it's not an easy undertaking, few things worth doing are. This is worth doing. If Palo Alto could do it, think what a tangible example it would be for other communities.

I think all of the specific measures you brought up would improve cycling for people who are now cycling (and allow them to choose cycling more, too). I think they are well worth doing in the near term just for that and worth the effort in negotiating through the inevitable opposition. The situation with on-street parking versus biking is especially untenable, we need something better. Realistically, I don't think those measures will substantially raise the level of cycling in this area, though, especially among children.

Here's one suggestion for the Charleston corridor: (it's really different, so please think first about how it could be improved to work rather than discarding offhand -- then start bringing up objections).

How about making the bike lanes slightly raised where they are "safer"? Put them next to sidewalks where there are well-delineated parking zones. (In other words, make on-street parking zones more like downtown Mtn View -- in spirit at least -- and wind the bike paths gently around the sidewalk side of these well-delineated zones so that bikers and parked cars aren't in conflict along this corridor.) When the bike lanes physically go back down into more hazardous bike-car zones, such as near intersections, then they ramp down. That way, for example, the bike lanes will stay cleaner and not end up being a gutter for all the trash on the road. Plus, there is a greater psychological barrier there for car drivers and it gives the bike lanes a new prominence without taking away from existing car traffic. It also decouples the bike lanes from car lanes (I'm thinking ahead to getting people to think about those independent paths!) The height difference wouldn't be as great as with sidewalks, so it wouldn't be as much of a hazard for bikes to cross back down to street level where necessary, yet would be something of a physical barrier for cars, but continuous (so not as hazardous for bikes as those reflectors in the road).

The bike lanes in this case should be wider (the width coming out of the planned center islands, not the car lanes), and there can even be narrow strips of flowers between sidewalks and/or the bike lane and streets which taper off where the bicyclists have to be more alert and careful. This would also give the bike lanes less of an afterthought appearance -- the prominence would itself be an inducement to cycle. I'm not talking about raising the bike path as high as a sidewalk, but enough to make it visually distinct from the road (again, with the possibility of small medians with flowers between the raised parts and the road).

We put in a short curb in our garage (not our current garage which we'd have to shoehorn our cars into if it wasn't already filled with other stuff) to delineate the area for cars and other activities. In other words, the area where we could walk, store our bikes, put some of the larger tools, was all on a raised pavement as compared to where the cars parked. People really scratched their heads over it until they saw it, then they would say, "This is so great, why doesn't everyone do this?" Indeed, it was GREAT. That's kind of what I'm envisioning here for the bike lanes along that corridor. One way of making the bike lanes seem more deliberate and less like an afterthought.

(Okay, please first think of how you could make it work -- really think about it -- THEN compare it with what's there... maybe it's not better, maybe it is, but start first by thinking about it!)

One objection I can think of right off is that having a raised pavement means it's hard to cycle together with others except in single file because you can't use the road so easily when it's empy -- but my answer to that is to make the bike lanes wider and more prominent for this corridor that is supposed to encourage children to bike to school, not to discard the idea offhand by imagining bike lanes as always so narrow. After all, bicyclists routinely have to take to sidewalks in many circumstances, it's not that raised surfaces are so unimaginable. This wouldn't be a sidewalk for bikes, it would just be a more prominent and well-delineated bike lane.

Posted by David
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 18, 2006 at 11:40 am

AJ: If you're out to prevent doorings, posting a sign at the beginning of on-street parking reminding cyclists that car doors can open more than 3 feet, and that cyclists need to keep well left of parked cars ought to be sufficient, and would be cheaper than changing the elevation of a bicycle lane. In addition, I worry that the elevation difference could constitute a surface hazard to cyclists, and that it would make sweeping difficult.

As to sidewalks, I have yet to see a location in Palo Alto where cyclists are forced to take sidewalks. Sidwalk riding is well established to carry a risk more than ten times that of riding on roads -- in particular there was a study done on El Camino a few years ago where riders on the roadway had a much lower accident rate than those on the sidewalks.

Posted by Betsy A llyn
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 18, 2006 at 12:52 pm

Let's give the C/A Corridor a chance. It's not quite finished yet,
that is the first phase. The left hand turn lane at Gunn will be
put to the test next week when school starts and by all accounts
should help west bound traffic move more quickly. I think that
the city public works dept. deserves a great big thank you for
being able to finish all this work on schedule. Remember that
the corridor is for the SAFETY of the 10,000+ school children who cross it daily as it encourages traffic to move through with a
smoother flow. Let's reserve judgment for now.
it daily, as well as being able to

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 18, 2006 at 6:07 pm

I have driven Charleston once, and it works the speed is slower. However, from Middlefield turning onto Charleston takes at least two green lights, and that is if there is a green light on Nelson. When that light on Nelson is red, traffic doesn't even move from Middlefield on its green turn light. I think that what will happen is that everyone will avoid Charleston because it is so slow and all the sidestreets will become faster short cuts. So beware those of you who live on Mayview, because your street will be the one everyone uses to Gunn and Terman and the same can be said for all the sidestreets between Middlefield Alma Meadow and Charleston.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2006 at 11:50 am

A.J. for mayor!!
If bikeways need sweeping, tax bikes to pay for it. Or write tickets for bikes running stop signs, and set the fine high enough to pay for a squad of sweepers.
Then raise the speed limit to 35 or 40, and set signals accordingly.

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 19, 2006 at 5:13 pm

David: I love your dedication to getting it right for biking, which is why I'd love to continue this conversation offline. I've been trying to think of a way to do that -- if you are willing, I will set up a temporary email with netscape and post it here.

The reason to be concerned about sweeping the bike lane is because current bike lanes are the lowest point in the road, next to the gutter (often in the gutter) where all the crud from the road collects. Raised sidewalks are generally much cleaner and stay cleaner even where people don't sweep them. One purpose to (the idea of) widening and raising bike lanes would be to keep the trash from collecting so they don't need sweeping, and to allow bikes to comfortably stay in their lanes. Naturally then the trash would collect between the car lane and the bike lane, so it's a trade off.

A planned elevation difference between a bike throughway and car lanes would have to be carefully thought through so that it is safe to cross yet visually distinct -- and the elevated lanes would be kept apart from the roadway wherever possible, possibly separated by small, landscaped medians. The elevation would drop to road level wherever bike lanes interact with street traffic, removing any potential problem and providing an extra cue for alertness where cars and bikes interact.

It's not surprising that sidewalks are more dangerous for bikers than roads -- sidewalks are not designed for bikes or cars and are full of hazards for bikes, they are designed for pedestrian traffic. What is the reason they are more dangerous for bikes, is it because of the elevation, the separation from the roadway, or something else (such as frequent and unpredictable obstacles like sign posts and the fact that sidewalks don't "interact" with the road in a safe way for bikes)? I say there are lots of indicators that the answer is the latter.

Where are pedestrians more often injured, on the sidewalk or in the roads? Natch, on the roads, not the sidewalks. Point is, each type of traffic does best on its own best-designed path, and bikes would be better off on throughways that are designed for bikes -- which we don't have, we have bike lanes that are a car-traffic afterthought. I'm just trying to imagine something better for the bikes that doesn't detract from existing car traffic. I'm not saying this idea is the way to go, I'm just suggesting something new for the bike lanes with bikes first in mind, which I don't think is happening in the Charleston Road improvements.

We're spending the money on changing Charleston Road, with the goal of making it more safe -- from the descriptions on flyers, I was just expecting some really innovative changes to improve safety and appeal for bicyclists and pedestrians, hence my disappointment. If all we are doing is adding center medians and timed lights and removing a lane to slow traffic (but not increase transit times), well, I suppose that's laudable, but I frankly don't see any revolutionary safety improvement or appeal for pedestrians or bikes. I was just expecting more was going to be made of this opportunity. Maybe something different is going to happen, and I'm willing to withhold judgement til I see the end result, but for now, I think I had overly optimistic expectations.

Posted by Wheeler
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2006 at 7:57 pm

I don't think this cost very much money. The road was being re-paved anyway and had to be re-painted afterwards. Perhaps there is a little more paint now than there was before, but the cost is negligible. I am glad that they took this opportunity to make some low-cost improvements, even if the result is not perfect. My son bikes to high school from Louis on Charleston, and now he has a bike lane where there was none before. Coming home he only has to cross one lane of traffic to make a left turn instead of two, which is vastly easier.

Posted by Allan
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 20, 2006 at 5:07 pm

I have rarely seen a government agency work harder to create problems where none existed. As traffic contracts and expands from single lanes to double lanes to single lanes (and what about losing the clearance to make right hand turns without holding up traffic in these new single lanes?!). I have to tell you that it is irrantional to drive past double-lines mid-street boulevards that are wider than the adjoining driving lanes.

If it is the city's intent to make traffic on Charleston so burdensome that it will shift to San Antonio Road, I wonder if any of our benighted traffic guardians have noted that the parallel sections of San Antonio Road are both traffic saturated and have more vehicles pulling in and out of driveways than do the residences on Charleston.

Old motto to live by: If it aint broke, don't fix it. Who is the genius who tried to fix Charleston Road?

Posted by Louise
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2006 at 9:38 pm

For the record, contrary to Allan's snide comments, much of Charleston and Arastradero *was* broken and had been identified as needing a fix for many years -- not by a "government agency" but by the residents themselves. Finding a way to reduce speeding and lack of safety for pedestrians and bicyclists on Palo Alto's residential arterials was identified as an important priority in our 1998 Comprehensive Plan.

A brief summary of the process that led to the City Council approval of this project in 2004, and then to the approval of funding for the trial plan in 2005 may be found here:
Web Link
But this summary barely hints at all the public hearings, the outreach meetings and other public input on this project.

And, regarding Allan's statement about "losing the clearance to make right hand turns", it just ain't so, friends. Actually, the reason that bike lanes have dashed lines near intersections is that drivers are SUPPOSED to move to the right when making right hand turns. There is plenty of room on the new Charleston for through drivers to continue around a right-turning driver who is following the Vehicle Code.
Note: doing this is also safer for the cyclists using the bike lane than the clueless drivers who speed past them only to turn right at the last second, oblivious to the danger they are causing for the cyclists.

Comment for A.J. : Can you cite any credible research proving the safety of your assertions about raised bike lanes? Or separate bike paths? Bet not.

Posted by Priscilla
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 21, 2006 at 9:12 am

I live on East Charleston Road and received the flyer from the Police Department explaining that the center divide is not a turn lane. The flyer asks that I change my route home so that I can make a right turn into my drive way. Although I enjoyed turning left into my driveway from the center divide because I didn’t inconvenience any cars behind me, taking a different route home is no problem. I’m happy with the new lanes; the school commute corridor feels more like a street lined with neighborhoods and schools (and a senior center and a church). A wonderful thing happened on my way to work this morning - a policeman on a motorcycle pulled over a car that had cut in front of a school bus. I also saw lots of students on bicycles stopped at intersections with traffic lights and crossing guards. I was too early for the mothers and fathers pushing strollers, walking Hoover students to school. I hope the city will put plants in the center dividers.

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 21, 2006 at 11:29 am

HI Louise,
By your rhetorical question, are you really interested in a discussion and the possibility of improving bike safety by looking for better solutions, or are you just only interested in defending the status quo at all costs and proving it by answering your own question with a belligerent "Bet not."? If you want a real discussion, I'll make the same offer I made to David, I'd love to continue this discussion offline, because I think for people who really care about the future of biking in Palo Alto, we can do a lot better.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 21, 2006 at 1:25 pm

I walked my children to school today during morning rush hour across Charleston at Nelson. Wow! What a difference. Cars consistently were driving the posted speed limit, 25mph, for the first time I can remember.(This corridor serves ELEVEN elementary, middle and high schools. Speed matters here.)

THANK YOU, City of Palo Alto! This is a big improvement. I look forward to the planned landscaping in the center medians. I think this will make the striping plan more clear and the road well as more shaded and beautiful.

The city is evaluating the plan against a carefully developed set of performance measures. I see that some of you have concerns about possible impacts of this plan. These potential impacts are being studied.

Before the restriping, the city compiled data on vehicle speeds and volumes, cycling and pedestrian level of service, intersection level of service and crash data. They will be taking new data periodically over the next two years to evaluate the performance of the see if the city has accomplished the goals they set.

They will be watching carefully to make sure that traffic is NOT being diverted to other streets. One of the performance measures for the plan specifically addresses this concern.

Second, I disagree with the fellow who said he would prefer raised bike lanes. Research shows that drivers are more aware of cyclists who share the road with them. The place where car/bike collisions are most likely to occur is at intersections. Studies show that cyclists who ride on the sidewalk and suddenly appear at an intersection are MORE likely to be hit by a turning vehicle. I'm more comfortable riding where drivers consistently see me...on the road.

I did notice that some drivers, out of habit, made errors today. One driver used a bike lane for just a minute as a second lane. (Maybe he hadn't had his morning coffee yet. It looked as though he was used to the old configuration where there was NO bike lane and in his morning fog thought he was in a car lane. Anyway, he quickly figured out his error...and I bet he won't make it again.) Let's give people a little time to get used to this.

The city also will be making some tweaks over the coming weeks. I noticed that they are still posting they still have some work to do yet. We are a community of engineers and scientists. I'm always amazed that we expect an engineered system as complex as this to work perfectly, instantly. This is a very worthwhile project. Give the city useful feedback about your observations. Help them make it work better for all of us. You can contact them with your comments at .

I appreciate the effort the city has made to balance the many needs of the users of this corridor. With so many children walking and biking to school on this road...and with such high traffic volumes and speeds, something HAD to be done. Similar plans have worked in other cities. Let's support our city's effort to create a solution to a very complex set of problems on this school corridor/residential arterial.

I count among my friends, all neighborhood residents, four people who have been hit by cars on Charleston. One of them was my husband (who has been hit twice--both times by drivers who were not paying attention because the road used to look like an expressway rather than the residential arterial/school corridor that it is. Did you know that the crossing guard at Hoover was hit and hospitalized once?I bike, walk and drive this corridor regularly because Charleston is the primary access to my neighborhood...and I think this is a wonderful improvement.

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 21, 2006 at 4:18 pm

Since several sweeping and erroneous conclusions about bike safety have been made in the above messages, let me set the record straight:

If you would like to read a very thoughtful paper reviewing the research on different bike trails/paths/lanes and safety, you can link to (or read the original research via references):
Web Link (This link goes directly to the discussion about safety, but all the chapters are worth reading.)

Specifically, the paper mentions that one of the most recent studies about sidewalk bike riding vs. road bike riding (conducted in Palo Alto) found that the "most dramatic finding was not the difference between road and sidewalk, it was the difference between riding with traffic and against it. In fact, they found very little difference in risk between road and sidewalk for cyclists riding with traffic." ... and that "as long as sidewalk cyclists ride with the traffic, they run no greater risk of an intersection collision than do road cyclists. If that is true, then right-way sidewalk cyclists, who are removed from the threat of mid-block overtaking collisions, appear to be better off than road riders."

I'm not trying to make a case for sidewalk riding (which I personally think is bad for a host of other reasons, some mentioned in the paper), I'm not even trying to make a case for the idea I threw out above (raised/widened bike lanes), I'm only making the point that -- first of all, the "facts" the posters above are throwing out are wrong and not actually from the studies they purportedly quote -- and everyone is arguing with facts that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Do we want to go on having such inane discussion, or do we want to make bicycling far more safe and common in Palo Alto? If you truly want the latter, please, let's all stop and think instead of arguing! I invite everyone to imagine something better -- this is Palo Alto, if anyone can, we can!

The above link addresses many of the other issues brought up above -- the long and the short of it is that ideal situations for bikes have not really been created in this country. (I think I already said that.) The Palo Alto study doesn't address what I have proposed AT ALL, but the specific safety issues brought up in the study would be mitigated by what I have proposed. (Are you reading this, Louise?) Again, I'm not here advocating raised bike lanes for Charleston or as a solution for bike safety, all I am saying is that we need to imagine something different if we want significantly safer roads and roads that invite significantly more bike traffic. The above paper handles this issue far better than I have or can in this forum, it's worth a read.

In indirect support of that one idea, I bring up the town of Munster, Germany, where more than a third of routine travel is by bike. This is a large city of a third of a million people. Giving bikes more prominence (in places, far wider lanes and priority over other road traffic) and giving bike lanes more visibility (many are red) appear to be reasons for their success. In principle at least, these same innovations are why I made the above suggestions. You can read more about how they do it in Munster at
Web Link

Again, I'm not here arguing for a specific plan, I'm just saying that we really truly can do better. I'm not wholly dissing the changes on Charleston, I just had an expectation from the write up that the plan was to truly do better for biking safety and encouragement. I don't see that so far. I was, for example, at least expecting the reduction in car lanes to provide for wider and more prominent bike lanes. (Having bike lanes wide enough for bikes to pass does seem to improve safety.)

It's worth reading the discussion in the above paper, because it points out that in one survey, people say they will ride more if they have "safe" bike paths, yet people don't ride more where the lanes are built -- but (the paper points out) it's wrong to conclude that this means nothing will induce people to bike (clearly, if you look at success stories around the world, that's wrong), it's more likely that people do not perceive the bike lanes that are built as "safe".


Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 21, 2006 at 7:26 pm

I would like to add my thoughts on bike safety and would stress that bicycles, whether in a designated bike lane or not, are vehicles and should act on the roads as such. They should always stop at stop signs, red lights and crossing guards. If a cyclist wishes to cross as a pedestrian, then he/she should dismount and push the vehicle across the intersection. Crossing guards are for the safety of pedestrians primarily and even though they often wave a child on a bicycle to cross with pedestrians, this is not safe for pedestrians.

I walk my children to school and have done for the last number of years and during that time I have been almost hit several times by bicyclists who think that they are entitled to cross in a large group of pedestrians and expect the pedestrians to get out of their way. This is very bad road sense as well as bad manners. We have parents walking to school with dogs, strollers, toddlers on tricycles and scooters. We need to teach all those who choose to share the road with motorised vehicles on their pedal powevered vehicles that they have to yield to pedestrians.

Now that we have designated bike lanes on Charleston as well as other school commute routes, lets make sure that bicyclists do not take advantage of us other road users as we need to cross.

Posted by Rich
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 21, 2006 at 9:19 pm

I would caution A. J. against an over simplification of the relative safety of sidewalk riding. The rest of the analysis of the Wachtel and Lewiston study cited by the Hiles reference acknowledges the complexity of the issue, and this can be seen in the second paragraph below Figure 5.

Web Link

Here is the end of the quote you cited above followed by the rest of Hiles comments on the Wachtel and Lewiston study:

"If that is true, then right-way sidewalk cyclists, who are removed from the threat of mid-block overtaking collisions, appear to be better off than road riders. Once again, though, it’s not that simple. For one thing, the study only dealt with roadway intersections. Sidewalk riders, even right-way sidewalk riders, probably run a higher risk at driveways; and they have to cross every driveway, including busy entrances to commercial parking lots, whereas road cyclists travel a track that’s beyond the point where motorists have to stop before entering the roadway."

Wachtel and Lewiston state in their report: "Separation of bicycles and motor vehicles leads to blind conflicts at these intersections. It also encourages wrong-way travel, both on sidewalks or paths and on the roadway at either end, further increasing conflicts. Shared use of the roadway in the same direction of travel leads to fewer conflicts and fewer accidents." The study, Risk Factors for Bicycle-Motor Vehicle Collisions at Intersections, appeared in the ITE Journal, September 1994 and can be found at Web Link

Palo Alto city staff is very aware of this research. The report contains a nice acknowledgment to Gayle Likens of the City of Palo Alto Transportation Division for providing access to the raw data and arranging for the collection of some of the data used in the study. Gayle is the current Acting Chief Transportation Official, and she has an active role in the planning and implementation of the Charleston/Arastradero trial.

For those interested in more information on the subject, John Allen, author of Bicycling Street Smarts, provides an overview of research on relative safety. He includes the Wachtel and Lewis study with a relative car-bike collision rate of 1.8 more accidents for sidewalks versus street riding. This is the lowest for all studies cited. (I would like to think this is because Palo Alto drivers from 1985-1989 were so alert and careful. Hiles’ conjecture was that their study neglected accidents that did not occur at street intersections.) For the specifics, see:

Web Link

Allen’s assessment at the top of the web page: "The evidence that bicycling on sidewalks and similar facilities is more hazardous than bicycling on streets is overwhelming."

Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 21, 2006 at 11:22 pm

We live on Charleston Rd. near Hoover Elementary, our two kids cross Charleston every day to get to school, and I bike to work along Charleston most days. The issue that required fixing was drivers ignoring the speed limit, the safety of school kids, bicyclist and elderly pedestrians by driving 45+ MPH. Maybe drivers that speed past elementary schools at 50 MPH didn't think so, but Charleston was "very broken".

While living here, with cars regularly speeding through our school zone, I've have seen several close calls. The scariest I saw involved a kid just learning how to roller blade, didn't quite have the stopping part figured out, so skidded into the street and then tripped on the road at the intersection of Charleston and Carlson. At that same moment a red (jeep-style) SUV was speeding down Charleston at about 45 MPH, and seemed to be trying to beat the light. When this kid fell into his path, he came to a tire screeching halt, stopping in the middle of the intersection and about 5 feet from negligent manslaughter. I just stood there silent in shock having seen this near deadly accident, but was even more stunned when the driver of that car rather then ask if the kid was alright, got out of his car to yell and berate him for falling on to the street (ignoring the fact that his was speeding) and as soon as the kid was out of his path got back into his vechile, squealed his tires are was nearly pushing 50 MPH by the time he passed Hoover Elementary. It unfortunately is drivers like that and others that feel entitled to drive through school zones at 45 or 50 MPH that necessitate this change.

Speeding cars are the issue. A car driving at 45 MPH takes much longer to stop then one at 25 MPH. Any accident between a pedestrian/bicyclist and a car will be one-sided. Accidents at a slower speeds are survivable for pedestrians, while those at higher speeds are not. With all the school age kids here during commute hours we need the drivers to slow down.

All of the close calls that I've seen involved car speeding along Charleston. Rude drivers can complain about all they want about bicyclist, and pedestrians (sometimes with justification) but I've never once heard case where a bicyclist or pedestrian caused the death of a driver.

All this change does is restores some of the balance needed for safety by bicyclist, and kids going to school from impatient drivers hurrying to work.

Posted by Priscilla
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 22, 2006 at 9:59 am

Tuesday, August 22, 7:45 AM on East Charleston Road. Backed out of my driveway, traffic light at Fabian had stopped the traffic. Crossed Middlefield Road, merged into one lane with no delay. Stopped at Nelson traffic light, watched elementary children and their parents walking to Hoover School. Suggestion for our newspapers: take a picture of this and put it on your front page. Suggestion for tv weatherpersons: set up a camera and show this to your viewers. It’s a wonderful sight, much appreciated. Noticed an improvement at former problem site: parents leaving the driveway of the elementary school after dropping off their children. Because traffic is in one lane, cars have to wait before entering traffic instead of exiting the driveway at top speed. Noticed another improvement at former problem site: new right hand turn lane into the elementary school. Now traffic does not back up behind parents dropping off their children. Thank you for these improvements.

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 22, 2006 at 4:06 pm

Rich: Read my posts, I'm not arguing with anything you are saying actually -- I was pointing out that all the knee-jerk rejections of any innovations in regards to making bike lanes more equal were not supported by the research, in fact were based on a biased, outright wrong, or oversimplified take on the studies.

I WAS NOT ADVOCATING RIDING ON SIDEWALKS!!!! -- in fact, I debated including the next sentence from that paper as you did, but decided my post was already too long and just too beside the point. But I wholeheartedly agree with that point -- things are JUST NOT AS SIMPLE AS EVERYONE MAKES THEM OUT TO BE. NONE OF THE STUDIES ANYONE POINTED OUT EARLIER WERE APPLIED PROPERLY -- if applied properly to the situations I brought up, that is, making bike traffic more equal with car traffic (for example getting bike throughways away from regular hazards as are on sidewalks), the specifics support what I was saying.

If you read the paper I linked to on my previous post (or the original research) you would see not only that, but that there is a very good case to be made for giving bikes (and thus bike lanes) a more equal footing on the roads. I WAS NOT TRYING TO ARGUE FOR A SPECIFIC PLAN!!!!!!!!!!! (Argh, sometimes I wonder if people just don't have enough outlets to pick a fight these days...)

I was just pointing out that I THOUGHT from the flyers mailed about the intended improvements on Charleston that bikes/bike lanes were going to be given a more equal status with cars in order to improve safety. I have openly admitted (many times) that I was overly optimistic.

I make no apologies for advocating that we make Palo Alto a more bike friendly town, and that the status quo is never going to make this city as bike friendly as, say, any other town in the world that has a far greater level of biking. I, too, would answer a survey saying that I would bike more with safe paths, but I am not biking now because of dangerous experiences and because I do not perceive the transportation system we have now for bikes to be safe enough.

Now, last I looked, this thread was about the Charleston corrider, if anyone wants to have the kind of far more detailed (and hopefully more accurate) discussion regarding the best ways to make our city a more bike-friendly city, please start a new thread! I will join in if I see at least a few other open-minded, optimistic bike advocates. I'm sorry, but I'm just not going to waste any more time with anyone who is going to defend at all costs the current bike lanes as the best we can do.

Posted by Inga
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 22, 2006 at 8:25 pm

What a mess! Our city planning department is nuts if they think this is an improvement. If this becomes permanent, I will personally lead the RECALL drive for city council.

(I hope that nutcase Ladoris wasn't allowed to vote on it -- she lives in the neighborhood and it would constitute a conflict of interest IMHO.)

Posted by Gary Luk
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 22, 2006 at 10:36 pm

This is a disaster. I can't even go anywhere without gridlock. Now a slow car clogs up the roadways. Why dont they just leave it how it was and enact a 25 mph speedlimit during school ours and a 35 mph normally. That is what everyone needs

Posted by Moby
a resident of The Greenhouse
on Aug 22, 2006 at 10:39 pm

Gary Luk wrote "This is a disaster. I can't even go anywhere without gridlock."

You can avoid the gridlock by riding a bike.

Posted by Priscilla
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 23, 2006 at 9:30 am

7:14 AM, Wednesday, August 23, 2006. East Charleston Road. Backed out of my driveway; no traffic in sight. Drove one half block and quickly braked for bicyclist who shot out of neighborhood street on the other side of East Charleston Road, crossed four lanes and disappeared into my neighborhood. Between Middlefield Road and Hoover Elementary School saw elderly people walking from Piazza’s Grocery Store, newspaper in hand, perhaps back home. Saw joggers jogging. Although I was driving at the posted speed limit, driver behind me followed closely until I turned right on Alma Street. Painted white lines on the roadway causing no problems; some people causing problems.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 23, 2006 at 10:34 am

I drove the full corridor during the peak of the peak morning rush hour yesterday. I wanted to see the absolute worst case scenario. The only places where I encountered "gridlock" were segments where the lane configuration had not been changed.

For the most part, traffic moved close to the posted 25mph. I was very glad to see this positive change. Uncontrolled movements of cars around me (former random lane changing that was the cause of most vehicular collisions on Charleston) has been reduced. I like that. All in all, it looks good. I'm waiting to see the data on point-to-point travel times. That will tell us quite objectively how successful the trial is in this regard.

To AJ...Please remember that this is a paint trial, and the city is inviting comments and observations that may help them improve the project for the permanent installation. Share your comments with them via their web site at . They have been very responsive to comments submitted thus far. A discussion among residents is great, but it is important to share useful observations and ideas with staff so that they can take them into consideration as they develop recommendations for the next phase of the project.

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 23, 2006 at 3:25 pm

Thanks for the info and link to where to share comments about the changes. I think that's a great idea, doing a paint trial -- I didn't initially realize the new lines weren't more or less permanent. Do you know when the changes will be permanent?

Posted by Wayne Swan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 23, 2006 at 6:05 pm

The jury is still out on the Charleston Road striping. Wait and see what happens during the afternoon commute when Gunn HS is in session.
There were two lanes full of vehicles heading to 101. There is apt to be a long que waiating to go past the one lane portions. Will the comments be forwarded to Joe Kott, the city employee responsible?
Remember the study that was launched during the long review process for redevelopment of the Hyatt property. We can give him lot of credit for postponing review and approval of the proposed hotel redevelopment.

Posted by Wayne Swan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 23, 2006 at 6:15 pm

The jury is still out on the Charleston Road striping. Wait and see what happens during the afternoon commute when Gunn HS is in session.
There were two lanes full of vehicles heading to 101. There is apt to be a long que waiating to go past the one lane portions. Will the comments be forwarded to Joe Kott, the city employee responsible?
Remember the study that was launched during the long review process for redevelopment of the Hyatt property. We can give him lot of credit for postponing review and approval of the proposed hotel redevelopment.

Posted by Rich
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 23, 2006 at 7:38 pm

No need to wait -- the school year started at Gunn HS on Monday of this week. Today is Wednesday.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 23, 2006 at 8:16 pm

To AJ...It's hard to say when the changes will become permanent. This is phase one of a two-phase trial that will take place over two years. During the trial adjustments can be made to the striping plan. After that, the project will go through another approval process. After that, the city may pursue grant funding for a permanent installation. We have a long road ahead of us. However, it will be worth the wait and the work, I think.

The permanent installation will provide landscaped medians with pedestrian refuges and many other pedestrian/bike amenities that will further improve safety on the corridor. When it's done, we will have uninterrupted bike lanes from Fabian to Foothill, creating a vastly improved biking environment for everyone, including all of the children who attend the eleven elementary, middle and high schools on the corridor.

Let's not lose sight of why we did this. Have you noticed that vehicle speeds are closer to the posted limits? That's the improvement we needed most in the school zones...and cars are moving steadily through the segments that have been reduced. The Gunn turn lane is working exactly as we'd hoped.

If you are interested in joining a group of like-minded people who advocate for bike safety, I'd recommend League of American Bicyclists. Check out their web site. They have many local members who are doing great work in Palo Alto. Or...if you have children in Palo Alto schools, you might consider volunteering at your child's school as a PTA Traffic Safety Representative. I work on the City School Traffic Safety Committee as a PTA Representative. This committee brings together PAUSD, City Transportation Division staff, Palo Alto Police and the PTA to work on solutions to traffic safety problems that are related to school commute routes. It's very rewarding work...and a wonderful group of people.

There are many ways to effect positive change for bicyclists in our community. Connect and volunteer!

Posted by Voice of Reason
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 24, 2006 at 1:44 pm

Bottom Line: These new lanes are plain retarded. A Double double-yellow? Reducing the lanes from 4 to 2? An ambiguous middle turning lane that is for both East-bound and West-bound? Palo Alto residents are being, well, too "Palo Alto" here and not using that thing called common sense. The old lanes were fine...Let's wait and see when the first head-on accident happens in that middle lane to bring us back to our senses.

Posted by Gary Luk
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 24, 2006 at 5:57 pm

It is gridlock. Cars are moving so slow now. I feel sorry for the people who drive to highschool as it must be really backed up. Guess they can cut through the backroads in barron park. Maybe it will just take some getting used to, but if they are going to do this 1 laner instead of 2 each way, they should have at least planted some trees and landscaped it so it looked like a nice comforting drive. They have these huge wide spaces for no reason. The seperation between the 2 directions is nice, but this huge one is too big

Posted by BozoBuster
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 24, 2006 at 8:11 pm

Gary said: "It is gridlock. Cars are moving so slow now." What a nonsequitir. If cars are moving it isn't gridlock! He probaly means that he can't break the speed limit now.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 24, 2006 at 9:38 pm

Dear Mr. Luk,

The installation you see right now is a paint trial, intended to test the striping plan. It is not the permanent installation. The permanent installation would, just as you suggest it should, have landscaping in the median areas that are now marked by the double/double yellow lines. That is the plan.

If you are interested in learning more about the plan, you'll find information on the city's web site at .

The only areas where I have observed gridlock this week, even in peak traffic hours, are the segments that underwent no change.

As for the high school drivers...The new Gunn turn lane is working as planned, reducing the gridlock that existed before the Phase I trial was implemented.

Posted by mustafa
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 24, 2006 at 10:21 pm

Gary Luk wrote: "It is gridlock. Cars are moving so slow now. I feel sorry for the people who drive to highschool as it must be really backed up. Guess they can cut through the backroads in barron park."

Ah, there you go, Gary. Now THAT's the tried-and-true "Palo Alto way" to fight this thing... "My commute takes twice as long now, so I'm going to recommend that all the drivers go through Barron Park and LOWER THE PROPERTY VALUES THERE!! THAT'll show 'em!!"

Posted by What !!!
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2006 at 3:18 am

How did we get to this.
What a waste.
City of Palo Alto (Govt) SUCKS.

Posted by ZZ
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2006 at 3:22 am

My suggestion is that we paint this corridor with
zig zag lanes. Idiot Palo Atans deserve, Idiot City Govt.

Too much money. Go for the suckers.

Why waste time on this Charleston Crap, let us increase
the retirement benefits. SUCKERS !!! IDIOTS !!!

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 25, 2006 at 9:10 am

OK OK OK Is there anyone out there living in what used to be a nice quiet Barron Park street who would like to know what it is like outside their house now on a weekday morning now that school is back in. Can they reverse out of their driveways? Can they get out of their neighborhood streets without having to make a detour, do a u turn, or wait until the traffic lights 1/4 mile away turn red? If the traffic is moving so well and so slow, where is the through traffic going? I can't see that it has vanished off the face of the earth and if it isn't still going on Charleston then it has to be somewhere else? Come on, be honest, how many out there have found a short cut that they didn't use before because they are not able to used Charleston effectively?

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 25, 2006 at 9:40 am

Hi --
It was just so discouraging to see bike advocates reject offhand any thought of better possible solutions to make biking safer and more inviting locally, I couldn't help bringing this up.

A new friend who moved here over the summer happened to mention that in Minneapolis, the bike lanes are raised -- "just enough to keep the cars honest but not enough to present a road hazard." She says the bike lanes were also wider there. Apparently, she finds biking much more hazardous and nerve wracking with our bike lanes. (The family bikes to work here, but is biking here less than they would if the bike lanes were safer.)

So I found this quote from MN public radio in April 2006 (about Minneapolis becoming even more bike friendly like Munster, Germany):

"Minnesota and the Twin Cities are bicycling meccas. We consistently get high marks from cyclists around the country for our system of trails. " The bike lanes must be a significant positive factor, as apparently they have hills (and snow of course).

If they can do raised, wider bike lanes with snow, ice, and the need to clear it, then what are we whining about with street cleaning? Raising the lanes would minimize the dirt that collects in the lanes anyway.

Again, I'm not really here advocating this as the solution -- it might be, it might not -- but I am saying we can do better if we think about it! The knee-jerk arguments people brought up were misquotes and misapplications of the research -- if one looks at the research, this specific proposal, for example, eliminates most of the specific hazards identified in the research (it's still a bike lane/a roadway for bikes, not a sidewalk, and does not have any of the hazards on it that a normal sidewalk would, nor would it be situated where sidewalks are, i.e., driveways would not be the same risk as for sidewalks, it would be comparable to or reduced from the bike lanes we have).

And, it's an example of something we could do on the Charleston corridor to improve biking without dramatic expense or negatively impacting car traffic (anymore than the existing changes).

If you are a bike advocate, all I am asking is that you really think about the problem --think about this suggestion if it will get you started -- with an open mind first! I truly believe we can do better.

I have another question: is the city maxed out on city-owned property on the fringes of the road, or is there any possibility of making the sidewalks wider without narrowing the roadway? Walking up Arastradero to El Camino/Hobees yesterday was quite a chore, since we essentially had to go single file with school letting out, and sometimes walking in the gutter with young kids. Traffic still seems to go awfully fast along that segment of the corridor, though the road hasn't been altered yet. Walking would be an improvement over driving if it were possible to actually walk WITH someone along there, but one has to stay on one's toes, so to speak, given how narrow the sidewalk is. Next time I'm driving that route instead of walking -- are there planned improvements to look forward to to make walking a little easier?

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 25, 2006 at 11:14 am

No changes except capacity increases were made on Arastradero near Barron Park (That capacity increase would be the ADDITION of a fifth lane, a right turn lane, at Gunn HS). If anything, the Phase I trial has reduced congestion and the possibility that traffic at that end of the corridor might cut-through into the Barron Park neighborhood.

It sounds as though some people are frustrated with traffic between Alma and Donald. However, those back-ups existed before. The same number of lanes exist in that section. There has been no change in vehicular capacity that would affect throughput there. We really cannot blame the trial for that.

The study related to this trial will specifically look for diversion of traffic to neighborhood streets by analyzing turning movements at intersections. Counts were taken before the trial and they will be taken again during the trial. The city will look carefully at this data to see whether or not diversion onto neighborhood streets is occurring. Rather than assume this is happening, let's look at the data. That will tell us what is actually happening.

Our city is trying to solve a very complex set of problems. This is a high volume corridor that serves eleven schools and many other public facilities that are walking/biking destinations. It absolutely must be safe for bicyclists and pedestrians because it serves many children.

Drivers were habitually speeding in the school zones. 85th percentile speeds at the Nelson school crossing were 38mph (That means a very large number of drivers were going FASTER than 38mph). My husband was hit at that intersection by a red light runner with such force his body struck the windshield. The driver suddenly stopped and the car threw him to the pavement. Miraculously, he was not seriously hurt. Imagine if he had been a child. He's not the only one. I count among my personal friends and neighbors four people who have been struck by cars on Charleston. The crossing guard for Hoover Elementary School was also struck and hospitalized.

Those of us who use the corridor regularly as pedestrians and bicyclists understand that traffic was moving too fast. Drivers seemed oblivious to the presence of children and schools because the road looked like an expressway. They naturally responded to four open lanes by pressing on the gas pedal.

Yes. traffic is moving at safer speeds in the school zones (We wanted that.). However, a performance measure for the trial is that point-to-point travel times must remain the same. The city will be monitoring this and reporting their analysis as part of the trial evaluation.

Let's work with the city to fine tune the plan so that it works for everyone as well as it possibly can. We can best do this by being well informed about the plan and providing useful observations to the city. (See my previous notes which include the project web site address.)

I also would like to say that I regard name calling as neither helpful nor a very civil contribution to the dialogue. As a community, we can do better. It's is fine to disagree, but I would ask that we all kindly state our points with supporting facts in a civil manner.

Thank you.

Posted by Penny
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 25, 2006 at 12:58 pm

To AJ--

I hope you are submitting your comments to the city.

One of the city's constraints in developing the plan was that they had to work within the existing "footprint" of the corridor due to right of way limitations. As always, another big constraint was budget.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2006 at 1:15 pm

I like this project, I'd like to see it done on Middlefield and University Ave too.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2006 at 2:07 pm

Opps, sorry I meant embarcadro, not University.

Posted by Tammy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 25, 2006 at 3:39 pm

I really appreciate the addition of a bike lane on Charleston east of Middlefield. It makes an area where I was VERY uncomfortable riding my bicycle seem safer and more accessible to me.

I feel a bit sorry that Charleston Avenue residents have to change their driving patterns to leave and return to their homes. However, if having cars pass by their front doors at a slower speed makes up for the inconvenience (which it definitely would for me), then I assume they'll feel it's worthwhile. Same idea regarding the double-double yellow lines... if planting strips are built in their stead, then these people who are inconvenienced should at least have an upgraded view out their front windows to help compensate. Good to hear that at least one impacted resident is glad for the change!

Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 25, 2006 at 10:49 pm

>>I feel a bit sorry that Charleston Avenue residents have to change
>> their driving patterns to leave and return to their homes.

As one the residents that live on Charleston, our family is happy with the change. We cannot make a left turn into our drive-way from Charleston anymore. But this inconvenience is more that made up with a safer configuration for our kids going to school and bicycling in the area.

Previously backing out of our driveway could be frustrating. A bend in the road about 5 houses down prevents us from seeing on coming traffic beyond it. Even if the road was perfectly clear as far as we can see, often a car speeding at 45 MPH would fly around the corner and be right on our bumper before we could completely back out and shift into drive. What would make this even more frustrating is several times a week one of these speeders would honk at us for backing out of our drive-way. They were not even visible when we started, they were speeding, and it was impossible back out any faster. We have both a 25 MPH speed limit and a "school zone" signs right in front of our house.
But these signs were invisible to many drivers. It was like trying to back out of your driveway on to highway 101, the speed some of these cars would go.

I have not backed out of the drive-way enough with the new configuration to say definitely that is longer a problem. But, with traffic going closer to 25 MPH we should now have enough time to back out on to Charleston without worrying about getting rear-ended at 45 MPH.

Posted by York
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2006 at 12:44 am

I would love to see speed cameras installed on Charleston, and all the way throgh the Charlston-Arastradero corridor. Immediate, and consistent enforcement of dangerous, speeding scofflaws will work. Additionally, our city will raise much-needed revenue.

Posted by Priscilla
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 28, 2006 at 10:27 am

Improved safety on East Charleston Road. I live on East Charleston Road. Before the new lanes were marked, I could back out of my driveway to go toward Middlefield Road or to San Antonio Road. Now I back out of my driveway and circle the block to go to San Antonio Road. Last Saturday I drove around my block, turned right on Louis Road and stopped at the stop sign on East Charleston Road. There is now a separate, safe turn lane from Louis Road left onto East Charleston Road. Also, it is much easier to track on-coming traffic driving in the new single lane. Thank you for the big improvement at this intersection.

Posted by michael
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2006 at 4:50 pm

Waste of words and time and money. It's a disaster between Alma and Middlefield. No one knows what to do about the double yellow area ... especially if you are trying to turn into your driveway heading west. And at the light at Middlefield, the area is both a right and left shared turn area and in a few feet a dedicated left turn lane with a dedicated light signal. Keep the paramedics at the corner for quick response. Once again an example of the goodie goodies and PC's in Palo Alto screwing things up with "good intentions"... or should I say self-interest?
Spend the time and money on important things like education and the homeless, and better teen activities ... and less effort on leaf blowers and lane changes.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 28, 2006 at 4:55 pm

Back into your driveway, then you drive forward into traffic. I saw a car turntable in Sunset years ago. Perhaps the city could buy one for every residence along Charleston.

Posted by Alan
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 28, 2006 at 10:13 pm

>>Back into your driveway, then you drive forward into traffic. I saw
>>a car turntable in Sunset years ago. Perhaps the city could buy
>>one for every residence along Charleston.

#1) Backing into my driveway I cannot see pedestrians on the sidewalk as easily. Especially someone 4 years old riding her bike like our daughter. The view out the mirror backing up is limited.

#2) The same type people that honked at you for backing OUT of your driveway would honk at you for backing INTO your driveway, when you need to stop and put it into reverse.

Posted by Priscilla
a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 30, 2006 at 11:04 am

I live on East Charleston Road, drive to work everyday and sometimes leave my house at the time the children are getting in line for the bus, riding bicycles, walking with parents to school. I'm wondering if enrollment is up in the 11 schools along the Charleston/Arastradero school commute corridor. I'm seeing more children this year (I've lived in this house since 1992), but the getting to school and work process seems more orderly, calmer and safer with the new lane configurations. The slowing of the traffic has made a big difference, of course, but so has the impossibility of constant lane changing.

Posted by Walter E. Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 30, 2006 at 8:09 pm

Alan, If I said it was midnight you would swear it was noon. You need to learn how to discuss an idea without trying to kill the opposition.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2006 at 12:10 am

Wednesday night, approx 9PM. A blue Honda ran a red light, FULL SPEED, heading westbound on Charleston at Wilkie (another driver in the other lane DID come to a stop). I was heading south on Wilkie and was just entering the intersection on my bike as the light turned green. Another cyclist was just about to enter the intersection from the other direction, after having stopped at her red light.

If a cyclist had been heading northbound and went into the intersection at full speed as the Wilkie light turned green (which would have been his/her right of way), we'd be reading about another cyclist death on the front page of tomorrow's Daily News.


Posted by Arash Keshmirian
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Sep 1, 2006 at 5:30 pm

Charleston is now a terrible mess, I don't see what the point of this 'improvement' really was. Getting to 101 from Arastradero is now quite a terrible experience.

Posted by vivian
a resident of Meadow Park
on Sep 7, 2006 at 1:17 pm

Although I am not a full time resident of Palo Alto, I do own property on East Charleston Road. On my return to the area recently, I was very pleased with the changes on my section of the street. It no longer feels or sounds like a mini-freeway outside my window, and traffic appears to be more in compliance with the posted speed limit. I do not feel at all sorry for those who are compelled to speed to get where they have to be; leave a few minutes earlier.

Posted by Josh Moore
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2006 at 1:02 pm

I commute from Wilkie by bike and El Camino by car accross Foothill expressway. By car I feel the changes are unnoticable, but by bike, it seems they have not addressed the one really scary part - crossing El Camino. The bike lanes still disappear as you roll through the interesection, and with cars speeding past, it can be challenging and surely irritating to the drivers to take a lane.

There is also not enough guidance for cars heading east on Charleston up to the Miranda Foothill crossing. It should be more clear where to be if you want to turn right onto Foothill.

I also find the timing of the lights turning left from southbound Foothill onto Charleston poor. Often, the light at Miranda turns red too fast to make it through the interesction. The hoop at the left from Foothill also does not register my bike.

Posted by Rick
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 4, 2006 at 1:52 pm

I like the new configuration, and think I will like it better when it is finished. The traffic seems more relaxed and I can maneuver through the area (on bike) more easily than before. With real, landscaped medians and changes at Alma and El Camino the corridor will be much better, aesthetically, and a more bike friendly way to get around.

Posted by Jg
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 4, 2006 at 2:10 pm

I like it fine. I hope a solution can be found for
the section btw Fabian and San Antonio, and for making
the intersection at El Camino better.

Posted by Larry Chinn
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 4, 2006 at 2:11 pm

I live on Charleston between Middlefield and San Antonio. I walk, bike and drive down Charleston and like the improvements for all modes in terms of efficiency, congestion and safety. I think all users need to just calm down, be respectful, share the public right of way safely and everything works just fine.

Posted by Maya Perelman
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2006 at 7:16 pm

I bike down Charleston to get to school every day and I definitely appreciate the bike lane!

But the light for pedestrians (which I use to turn onto Fabian Wy--where my school is--since I'm have to cross in a direction opposite traffic) stopped working, making it really dangerous to cross!

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2006 at 9:03 pm

To Josh, Maya and anyone who finds a particular intersection or other location hazardous when biking in Palo Alto:

What you are reporting are not problems with the Charleston/Arastradero trial project but with the operation of equipment that was already in place before the trial started.

While it's fine to share your safety concerns on this forum, I urge you to go through the proper channels to be sure that city staff know of your concerns.

To report problems with traffic signals -- timing, function or loop detectors, use this form:
Web Link

If the equipment is functioning but the design of an intersection is wrong, then submit a bicycle improvement request:
Web Link

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