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Planned bike lane on California Avenue hits dead end

Original post made on May 17, 2022

While California Avenue will remain a pedestrian promenade for the foreseeable future, Palo Alto officials narrowly rejected on Monday a proposal to create a dedicated bike lane in the middle of the commercial street.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, May 17, 2022, 12:35 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by Keri
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 17, 2022 at 1:39 am

Keri is a registered user.

This vote shows that we really need to elect city leaders who understand the benefits of biking for all citizens, whether they bike, walk, or drive. Fewer cars on our streets are a good thing for everyone in Palo Alto. Requiring that bikes travel down the center of a non-motorized road in a demarcated emergency lane as a designated bike path protects everyone, pedestrians and bikes alike. A designated bike path signals to everyone that this is where bikes belong, where bikes must travel, and where pedestrians should look carefully before safely crossing. Suggesting bikes use Cambridge or Sherman, both of which allow street parking, require multiple stops, and do not have bike lanes, is misguided. Do we want everyone who visits Cal Ave to drive a car? Do we want our youth to bike on their own, or do we want their parents driving them everywhere? A city the size of Palo Alto, with our weather, is ideal for biking. Let's get this right while we still can.


Posted by SR
a resident of Community Center
on May 17, 2022 at 6:44 am

SR is a registered user.

Council got this mostly right.

Let's stop talking about bikes and cars as if they were autonomous. It's "People walking", "People biking" and "People driving".

Two businesses with products that are not very amenable to "People biking": Mollie Stones and Vin Vino want the street configured so "People driving" have good access. Restaurants like Zareens, that rely on office workers who were probably "People driving" when they came to work and will be "People driving" when they go home, feel differently.

For those of us who live in town, do we feel safe as "People walking" or "People biking" through the tunnel after dinner in the dark?


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2022 at 7:25 am

Bystander is a registered user.

What bike riders forget is that they can often get off their bike an push it down the street! Sometimes it is safer for everyone if they push their bike in a tunnel, through an intersection, or an area that is busy with pedestrians.

The beauty of bikes is that they offer the rider a choice of how to navigate a certain area. They can ride and be classed as a vehicle following the rules of the road, or they can push the bike and be a pedestrian.


Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2022 at 10:13 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

On California Avenue, there are very generously wide existing sidewalks. There presently is no street space designed for bikes, though many people use Cal Ave as the most direct route to bike commute between the train station and jobs at Stanford Research Park. These people will continue to bike through there and use the local businesses with or without thoughtfully designed facilities. Good grief. Businesses, these people on bikes ARE your customers. Please make sure the designs work for all.

Cal Ave. businesses, create a prominent wayfinding kiosk to help people who visit Cal Ave find your shops and parking. It's not 1950 any more.

Mollie Stone's, I am your customer. I usually bike there because I live about three miles away. Bicyclists will continue to bike through there, as they do now. Design for it. For your customers who drive, provide better navigation information to the new routes. Make a route/parking map, and share it with them via your web site and your advertising inserts. For your customers who bike, you have provided very nice bike parking. Thank you.

Cormack, Filseth and DuBois terms end this year. None of them is running. That's three of seven seats to fill. Let's look for candidates who understand multi-modal transportation. We need to lift up transportation projects and programs that were workhorses and got cut or reduced. We need functional local public transit, projects and programs that make biking and walking safe and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities--or we will be increasingly snarled up in auto congestion. Our health (and our planet's health) will suffer from the sedentary inactivity of planting our inactive bums in a car all of the time. Walking and biking are HEALTHY activities that keep our hearts, lungs, muscles and bones strong and vital, especially for seniors like me. Our current City Manager, an old-school transportation guy, is the wrong person to lead on this.

Vote for change.


Posted by Observer
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 17, 2022 at 11:19 am

Observer is a registered user.

Developing a dedicated bike path on one or both sides of a street parallel to California Ave. could be a much better and much safer option for cyclists and pedestrians as well. If the bicyclists want to shop/eat on Cal. Ave., they can dismount and walk their cycles on that street. If they just want a route to/through the business district from the train to other destinations, that would only require a one-block diversion.


Posted by dlundell
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2022 at 11:43 am

dlundell is a registered user.

In the proposal that was (thankfully) voted down, the *only* thing allowed on California Ave would be bikes. No pedestrians. The majority of people we’ve talked to are in favor of keeping the street a pedestrian promenade. Is it really a huge hardship for bikers to park their bikes and walk to their destination restaurant or store?

Also, a 2-way bike thoroughfare with multiple pedestrian crosswalks would be asking for collisions. Very few bikers stop at stop signs (which is against the law). They’re hardly going to pay attention to multiple crosswalks.

If California Ave is to be closed to cars, it should be open to pedestrians.


Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of JLS Middle School
on May 17, 2022 at 11:54 am

MyFeelz is a registered user.

And once again, no consideration for those who are differently-abled. I didn't get the survey and I am apparently the only person in Palo Alto who cannot traverse Cal Ave due to the inaccessibility I face on a daily basis. And before you start banging your drums about I should get a bike (lol) the fact that I cannot isn't the only thing that makes Cal Ave inaccessible to many disabled folks. It used to be a public street, paid for by everyone's taxes. Now, the city wants to circumvent the intention of that public street that used to be accessible to EVERYONE, and turn it into an exclusive enclave only accessible to those who are supremely able. The retail establishments along the way will eventually close, but by then Cal Ave will be known as "Food Court On The Street" or something similarly catchy. The City is misguided in their appropriation of a public street and I think soon they will learn the consequences of their actions.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on May 17, 2022 at 11:57 am

eileen is a registered user.

By having a two way bike lane, you are defeating the whole purpose of a pedestrian friendly walking street!! People come down to walking streets for all sorts of reasons, not only to eat or shop! How about gathering spots with shady trees and benches in the middle of the street? Or is there a master plan to open the street to cars again in the future??


Posted by funky
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2022 at 12:10 pm

funky is a registered user.

It really doesn't matter if there is a bike path or not. Bike riders will ride their bike wherever they want. I've seen bike riders riding bikes on the sidewalks and down the middle of the close portion the CA Ave. There are clearly signs telling bike riders to walk their bikes through this area. The biggest problem is the underpass under Alma. There are two signs on each entrance telling bike riders to dismount when there are pedestrians present. If you take a look at the picture above, you will see pedestrians walking and a bike rider towards them... a clear violation. There are also painted bike lanes for bikes that they city has provided on the east side of the tunnel, but the bike rider insist of using the sidewalk, instead of the bike lane. A clear violation of state law. I have complained to numerous people in city hall (including the police) about the situation over the last 7+ years. They have taken no action. I'm really happy to see so many people riding their bikes. but it is irritating to see the lack of concern of the safety of pedestrians. (BTW... This appears to be only a problem in Palo Alto, as I see bike riders in Mountain View and Menlo Park being more polite.)


Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 17, 2022 at 1:10 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

The bikers can walk their bikes where CA Ave is closed or, like cars, pedal on the other streets. Put a cop on the street and ticket those people if they don't behave. Good grief, no wonder very little gets down in Palo Alto.


Posted by SRB
a resident of Mountain View
on May 17, 2022 at 1:54 pm

SRB is a registered user.

Nobody in their right mind would propose bike lanes through Stanford Mall's pedestrian areas....it would ruin everyone's "promenade" experience. Same should go for Cal Avenue or Castro in Mountain View.

Cities should have more promenades/outdoors plazas and more bike lanes....just not both at the same place.


Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 17, 2022 at 2:10 pm

M is a registered user.

What seems to be missed is that California Avenue is a bike lane end to end, before and after the shopping district. Its not just a "destination" for those of us who commute daily on our bikes. More importantly, gutting a link in this long-standing bike route at its most dangerous point -- the crossing at El Camino -- is reckless. Telling people to just take unprotected streets and find their way across El Camino instead shows how little some Council members think of bike commuters.

Having been knocked down three times on supposed protected streets with bike lanes in Palo Alto, I would have hoped the Council would have voted to require some bike corridor past the shopping district, rather then just disparage bike riders and them the to find their own path.


Posted by Ferdinand
a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2022 at 2:16 pm

Ferdinand is a registered user.

I appreciate our city council debating the pros/cons of a Cal Ave bike lane and am glad there is some disagreement on it. As someone who cycles almost everywhere for errands, exercise, work, and pleasure I love being able to cycle right up to the door of my destination. However, if our goal is to design a pedestrian-safe boulevard, we need to consider a variety of designs that handle the complexities when peds and bikes intersect. Regardless of law, my personal “vehicle operation philosophy” dictates that the burden falls on whomever can do the greatest harm, so cyclists bear the greatest burden when intersecting with peds and animals, and cars bear the greater burden when mixing with bikes, peds, and animals.

Here are 2 scenarios I could envision and enjoy—haven’t thought through all the problems:
- developing the alleys behind Cal Ave: smooth the pavements, add beautiful greenery/planters, some murals, little pockets for parking, easy back door access to stores, and thoughtful entries up to Cal Ave with a small bike parking area similar to the ones outside Izzy’s and Country Sun (perhaps one near Kali Kitchen side and one near Zareens?); these could introduce new little cultures for shoppers. Possibly add a yield sign for bikes entering these alleys if helpful.
- bike lane on Cal Ave: alternate eating areas (some on R side of street some on L) to allow greater space between the tables and the bike lane; make the past slightly winding to prevent a cycling speed zone; include fences/physical barriers so unsuspecting peds don’t get flattened!
Also agree with "Green Gables," have a transition period with some police reminders to change habits.


Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 17, 2022 at 2:27 pm

staying home is a registered user.

Not sure why we can't build on the current traffic pattern for bicycling andput the emphasis on Stanford Ave. Cal Ave on the north east side of El Camino is a shopping/eating destination with lots of cross walks and pedestrian traffic. Cal Ave on outh west side of El Camino is mostly residential and dead ends before connecting to any other location. It's not a thoroughfare. Whereas Stanford Ave connects to Juniper Serra, passes Nixon elementary, and has Peers Park and the dish at either end. It is also a good route into Stanford campus via Bowdoin and Escandido

agreeing with the comments above, putting a traffic lane for bikes down the middle of a pedestrian area is asking for trouble.


Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2022 at 3:51 pm

Evergreen Park Observer is a registered user.

Thank goodness this was defeated. There is barely any room to walk down the street as it is. The Council has allowed restaurants to take over not just the parking space areas, but almost all of the street. The farmers' market on Sunday is now an obstacle course, and I noticed fewer merchants there all the time. You cannot walk down the sidewalks -- that's where you have to dodge waiters trying to serve the customers on the street. I agree that if you are walking down the street, you cannot see the merchants on either side. But, no one seems concerned about those people anyway. If they did, they would open the street back to cars as has been done in Menlo Park and Los Altos. Goodbye, Mollie Stone (inronically, the neighbors will just have to drive to the grocery store with it gone), Cobblery, Leaf and Petal, the optical place, etc. I will miss them as they add a lot of character and vitality to the street. I don't know when the Council will realize that a lot of the most vocal supporters of a closed California Ave are not Palo Alto residents. You can automatically send an email to the Council just by scanning a QR code on restaurant windows or menus.


Posted by Evergreen Park Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2022 at 3:55 pm

Evergreen Park Observer is a registered user.

Dear Staying Home (who apparently lives in peaceful Crescent Park),
If you would like to send floods of bicyclists down Stanford (along with the heavy traffic from Stanford University), I suggest that we divert hordes of bicyclists down your street and see what the experience is like. Stanford Ave is a residential street, too, with people who live there. Some bicyclists -- just like many car drivers -- do not stop for pedestrians, stop signs, or other mere mortals that are not as noble as they think they are. My daughter was hit by a bicyclist, and my husband and I have had to jump back from neighborhood crosswalks to avoid a speeding bicyclist who had no intention of stopping. Stop signs? Forget it -- those are too much trouble for the uber-fit and healthy bicyclists.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2022 at 4:01 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

There is a certain arrogance when drivers expect to be able to drive right up to where they are going and expect to be able to park outside. There is a similar type of arrogance when bike riders also expect to be able to ride their bikes right up to where they are going and expect to park their bike outside.

Unless a particular business is a drive thru, there is an arrogance of expectation that anyone should not have to walk the last few yards to their destination. Yes of course handicap parking should be the nearest to the door, but even those parking spots should not trump pedestrian access.

It bothers me when pedestrians are considered last in the car v bike discussions. Pedestrians are all of us when we are not in our cars or on our bikes. Additionally, they may be people with walking frames, parents with toddlers, pregnant women, deaf or blind, or a host of others.

Mixing bikes with pedestrians is as wrong as mixing bikes with cars, or cars with pedestrians. Many of those who ride bikes ride at speeds faster than the average toddler who is trying to escape or a senior citizen with hearing problems. I think bikes should be encouraged to slow down and even dismount on pedestrian areas. Shouting they are passing is not the same as being courteous to other users who may not hear their shout.

I am very pleased there will not be anything to encourage them on the middle of Cal Ave. I am not a bike hater any more than I am a car hater. But I do think there are places where bikes are not welcome.


Posted by Joe
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 17, 2022 at 4:34 pm

Joe is a registered user.

I'd like to know more about the proposed diversion the council reportedly wants to add through Cambridge or Sherman. Cal Ave is one of the main bike routes in the area, connecting the Caltrain station, Caltrain/Alma underpass, and the Park bike boulevard to College Terrace, the Stanford Research Park, and numerous places in between, through one of the only (relatively) safe crossings of El Camino. It's continued to serve that purpose even while closed to cars. So the council is talking about substantially rerouting existing bike traffic in a way it hasn't done previously. What's the plan?

Cambridge has painted parking slots and a turn lane but no bike lane; will the El Camino crossing be redesigned with a dedicated bike waiting area, a button to trigger the signal, sensors? Sherman doesn't even have a crossing at El Camino; is the city planning to add a new light there, or an underpass, or what? Or are they going to keep the main bike traffic crossing El Camino at the Cal Ave intersection (which needs a redesign regardless of all this) but then divert it immediately to the side streets through the alleys behind Citibank and TechCU? Do these changes to the El Camino intersections require coordination with some higher-up agency like Caltrans since it's a State Route? What's the plan?


Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on May 17, 2022 at 7:40 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I LOVE the photo that accompanies this story. The tunnels is, ostensibly, a WALK YOUR BIKE zone. The cyclists are ON their bikes. This resonated b/c the last time I walked through that tunnel I nearly got smacked from behind by two spandex-clad guys on slick bikes. I didn't get hit because I stepped aside.

Since Palo Alto pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers have not yet figured out how to share the road I think CC made a good decision last night.


Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2022 at 2:51 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

For the record, the cyclist in the photo actually IS walking his bike. While his butt is still on the seat neither foot is on a pedal: one is planted on the ground, the other foot is just lifting off.

It seems to me that as Kerri first suggested, an emergency lane down the center of Cal Ave would be prudent, as it is currently impossible to send an ambulance or fire truck though the area which is closed to cars. This emergency lane would be a natural safe location for bikes, and their speed can be regulated and enforced with a posted speed limit, like 10 mph.

Currently while there are signs at either end to "Please Walk Your Bike", this is not a legally binding restriction, and many cyclists ignore it. I ignore it, but I ride carefully and at a slower speed, being watchful for pedestrians of all ages and abilities who may appear suddenly from behind one of the dining tents. The current meander of tents and barriers is less safe than a straight clear path because there are places you can't see if there's a pedestrian or bike around the corner.

As several people noted, Sherman does not even cross ECR. Cambridge does and has a traffic signal, but then it is obstructed at the next block up. California Ave serves multiple destinations and connections both east and west, in addition to the shops and restaurants within the area closed to cars.

Expecting bicyclists to walk their bikes through there or detour 2 blocks (to Cambridge and back) is not realistic. You may wish they would but they just aren't going to do it. I suspect that changing the law to require cyclists to walk their bikes in the road would be legally difficult as long as the road is still technically a road and not a permanent plaza, but that setting a reasonable speed limit would be more feasible.

I am a lifetime Palo Alto resident and cyclist, who frequently supports the locally-owned businesses of California Ave.

Given people do bike on Cal Ave, care should be taken to make it safe for all modes.


Posted by funky
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 18, 2022 at 9:38 am

funky is a registered user.

Cedric de La Beaujardiere... the signs tell the bicycle riders to DISMOUNT their bikes. The city even put a picture showing the rider off their bike and the bike being walked on the signs. The bike rider in the picture above has not dismounted. The city passed this law back in March of 2018. As for your comment... "Currently while there are signs at either end to "Please Walk Your Bike", this is not a legally binding restriction, and many cyclists ignore it. " This kind of attitude is what frustrates so many of people. I ride a bike and I follow the signs and laws. I wish other bike riders would follow signs and laws. We are all sharing the road, and the laws and signs take into account everyone's safety. We all have a responsibility of following the signs and laws.


Posted by staying home
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 18, 2022 at 9:57 am

staying home is a registered user.

@Evergreen Park Observer: As you shared, Stanford Ave is already a heavily used bike route. Creating lanes there would improve safety. And just to give you another thing to be upset about, bicycles can treat stop signs as a yield if there are no vehicles/pedestrians nearby. That doesn't excuse a bicyclist nearly hitting you though.


Posted by dlundell
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 18, 2022 at 11:06 am

dlundell is a registered user.

funky wrote:

"And just to give you another thing to be upset about, bicycles can treat stop signs as a yield if there are no vehicles/pedestrians nearby."

No they cannot. The bill to make this legal was vetoed by Gavin Newsom.

Web Link

And Cesric wrote:

"his emergency lane would be a natural safe location for bikes, and their speed can be regulated and enforced with a posted speed limit, like 10 mph."

And:

"Currently while there are signs at either end to "Please Walk Your Bike", this is not a legally binding restriction"

Approximately zero cyclists currently walk their bikes on California Ave. And very few would obey a speed limit sign.


Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on May 18, 2022 at 9:58 pm

Rose is a registered user.

I'm not sure anyone mentioned climate change. We are trying to encourage residents to ride their bikes to reduce traffic and emissions. Cal Ave has been one of the few east/west through streets for bikes and pedestrians. There aren't any safe alternatives for bikes traveling east or west through the El Camino and Cal Ave intersection. How would a biker safely get to Cambridge or Sherman? It just doesn't work unless there is a major overhaul. It's lovely to have outdoor dining but you've ruined an east/west bike and pedestrian throughway and that's not good for Caltrain either.


Posted by mjh
a resident of College Terrace
on May 21, 2022 at 12:46 pm

mjh is a registered user.

If part of Cal Ave is to become pedestrian only, then time to remove the parking on Cambridge to provide a dedicated striped bike route in both directions and slow the timing of the traffic lights at both Cal Ave and Cambridge to allow more time for for people crossing El Camino at Cambridge. Whether by car, bike, or foot.

The Cambridge El Camino interesection has long been dangerous with cars that get through a green light on Cal Ave gunning to make the Cambridge light even after it has turned red, as well as cars making a right from Cambridge onto El Camino not noticing people on bikes.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 21, 2022 at 4:01 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

As an aside, how about now is the time to reopen the tunnel under El Camino nearby.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2022 at 8:56 am

eileen is a registered user.

The middle of California Avenue can be shared by both walking pedestrians and bikes like any other walking street. I have been all over the world and this is how it is done.

A walking street is open in the center for pedestrians, benches, strollers, and bikes, and wide enough for service vehicles.

Restaurants have their tables right outside their entrance. There is no need for a sidewalk because the sidewalk is in the middle of the street!


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