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Palo Alto's school-biking program hits speed bump

Original post made on Apr 26, 2023

After more than 20 years of steady growth, Palo Alto has seen a recent reduction in the number of students biking to campus. Now, city and school officials are looking to restore momentum to the Safe Routes to School program.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 26, 2023, 2:47 PM

Comments (12)

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Apr 26, 2023 at 5:32 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

Here's an idea: cut the top city salaried do-nothing's in half, and use the savings to buy bikes for kids.

It's the right thing to do.

Supporting shaming kids into riding bikes to school will NEVER work. But, uhhh, way to go, Lauing.

"What can we do to educate drivers to slow down and follow the rules of the road?" Lythcott-Haims asked. "These are children, for goodness sake, just trying to get to school."

Now we are blaming poor driving as the reasoning behind why kids don't bike to school?

I walked to school uphill both ways. Bikes are not the only method of travel. We need more $tudies. $pend more, to find the $olution.

Posted by Talltree
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Apr 26, 2023 at 6:19 pm

Talltree is a registered user.

Many factors may have caused a decline

1) bigger backpacks. Kids need to carry computers to school.
2) after-school programs and commitments which kids need to go to right after school which may or may not be within the city or bikeable.
3)later release time at secondary schools which is not only exhausting but also dangerous for kids during fall and winter.
3) bike thefts

If the goal is to reduce cars, bikes cannot be the only option. The city should have options like the current Link transportation to take kids back and forth. Public transport has to be improved by running buses that service the school community from all over town.

Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2023 at 10:36 pm

Palo Alto native is a registered user.

Get the Churchill grade separation DONE!! It will make it much faster and convenient for bike riders to arrive and leave Paly safely. Currently it is NOT safe to cross at Churchill. Any parent who has a child with mental/emotional struggles knows about the high rate of suicides here. If car driving students have a 55 minute increase in time to get to school, they will probably choose to bike, thus saving time.

Posted by localmom46
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 27, 2023 at 6:36 am

localmom46 is a registered user.

I definitely think that the later release times are definitely a huge factor for high schoolers. In addition, bus routes have been greatly reduced. When my oldest started at Gunn, there were several VTA busses at different times. Now it’s on in the morning and one in the afternoon. If your schedule doesn’t match those busses, you can’t take them.

Posted by Richard
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2023 at 11:16 am

Richard is a registered user.

I agree with most of the comments regarding possible reasons for a decline in bike riding to school. I am an avid cyclist and as a 75 year old adult I follow the adage "never trust a car driver (to stop, heed lights or that they see you etc)". However kids who don't drive or are new to driving do not appreciate the risks cars impose, usually inadvertently. There is one area where the city could help in this regard: ticket those drivers who run red lights. This is especially important on Middlefield Road, Embarcadero and Oregon Expressway that some kids have to cross. Are we waiting for someone to be killed? Also kids have to be educated as to how to enter an intersection where there is not a stop sign for traffic on the street they are entering. I live near the bike boulevard, Bryant Street, a major route to PALY. Cars share the road on Bryant where there are no stop signs; yet I have seen kids simply ride into Bryant from a crossing street without so much as looking to see if a car is coming. There I have observed some near misses. In fact I once saw a kid looking at his phone enter an intersection and actually hit the side of car that was driving through the intersection.

Another area of concern is the construction that will be starting at Castilleja, which fronts on streets that lead kids to PALY. How will this be patrolled and controlled to avoid mishaps with cyclists and heavy equipment going in and out of the site?

On another note, there has been a notable increase in young riders on E bikes. Often these are going 20mph, faster than most recreational or commuter cyclists ride. These kids clearly have no idea of how to drive a fast moving vehicle in a road. It is amazing to me that some sort of license is not required to ride an e-bike.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2023 at 11:59 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

During the pandemic, we lost years of in-school bike/pedestrian safety education and the fun encouragement programs that kids and families love. City staff worked hard with PAUSD and PTAs to pivot and move bike/pedestrian safety programming online (and they did a pretty great job with that task), but (let's face it) online learning is not great for most young kids. We entirely lost the on-bike, in-school bike handling components of the programming during the pandemic. In addition, we lost encouragement events while kids were isolated at home. No bike rodeos then, sadly.

Safe Routes to School is one a powerful partnership of the PAUSD, the City of Palo Alto and PTAs, leveraging the people-power of PTA and student volunteers. Many thousands of PAUSD students bike to school each day. (Drivers, are you paying attention?) Most of these young riders are pretty skilled, especially if you compare them to kids in other communities (and some drivers). My observation would be they are more skilled than most adult bicyclists in this community. (Sadly, kids who go to private schools, where this kind of safety education generally is not offered, often do not learn these skills, among other opportunities they miss that PAUSD offers.) SRTS is re-introducing fun events and education programs now that young people are back in school. I predict they will shift back to bikes--because it's FUN and, frankly, it's FASTER for a lot of around-town trips, especially school commutes. It's a great way to stay fit and healthy, spend time with friends enroute to school, and it is GREAT for our planet.

Parents, you can help with these fun events and learn along with your kids! Go to Palo Alto Council of PTAs web page to learn how and to connect with parent volunteers.

I hope the City and PAUSD will help put some extra Ooompf into the program as we rebuild. Palo Alto is place where pedal-powered transportation really works for people of all ages and abilities.

Posted by M
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2023 at 12:38 pm

M is a registered user.

Palo Alto City Council has several strong advocates for bikes, not just for students going to school but as an alternative means of transportation. But, they are a minority, and recent decisions by the Council such as eliminating the long-standing bike commuting route through California Avenue is a good example. Moreover, Palo Alto was one of the first cities in California to move against the recently OnmiBike Bill (AB 1909), passed by the California Legislature to make the use of eBikes, as a primary mode of transportation, safer and to discourage the closing of bikeways through parks. This was portrayed was as a move to protect wildlife on trails, which was never at issue, but rather to block ebikes from the the several service roads that are part of regional bike commuting corridors. AB 1909 was passed to expand the use of micro-mobility and make it safer, and it is ironic that one of the first cities in the state to go the other direction was Palo Alto.

Posted by Resident11
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 27, 2023 at 4:34 pm

Resident11 is a registered user.

"block ebikes from the several service roads that are part of regional bike commuting corridors"

I bike a lot around here and this claim mystifies me. Can you identify the regional bike commuting corridors where Palo Alto blocks e-bikes? I find great routes in every direction from the city. What am I missing?

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2023 at 6:41 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Here is a thought: Highest paid city “do nothings” who collect good pensions, get full CoVID pay, sick pay, vacation pay, all paid holidays — pledge their earnings to enhance bicycle, train, bus, ped miles for the program longevity. For every 1/4 mile they walk/ride .50 — for every mile they bus, train to work .25 cents . Councilman Lauing. There is over the top competition between peers at our school already ten times over. What we need is leadership from the top tier. Example and role modeling from grown. Ups After all Paly students pinned up thier college rejection letters. A sort way to show solidarity to hard work and loss. Mr. Kline scolded the students who took the initiative to “fail forward”. He removed the letters and replaced them w the traditional competitive, higher success acceptance letters to Yale, Harvard, Brown, UC Berkeley, UCLA. BTW the college rejection letters posted was sanctioned by the AS student body and the social justice club. It was also making lighter the immense pressure and load our children are burdened w under the umbrella of the tech mister we’ve incubated and created — a “Frankenshtern”as Mel Brooks coined. By high school, there is a social cavern between those who ride a good quality Trek bike and those who are proved a 1000-3000 bike. What happened to the Embarcadero Dutch Crossing plan? What about much dire needed at the deadly crossing at Cal Ave & ECR. That tragic night March 6th marked a grim milestone. Cusp of daylight savings, cold, Hours before Statewide CoVID lockdown, distraction and really bad 22 VTA bus stop at a bad intersection. I am very very very sorry the SRTS is being deprived it’s due. Especially in light of climate change. Perhaps HOH powered PA parents are digging the 1o minutes in the am and pm drive to and from school is a safer bet for their families survival than the planet’s — and w added traffic, they get a few more seconds with their child before hitting the hamster wheel of money & successful startup real estate dividends.

Posted by Jenny
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2023 at 6:49 pm

Jenny is a registered user.

Agree with Richard that red-light runners should be ticketed but it won't necessarily make it safer for bicyclists. I see red-light runners on Embarcadero and Oregon Expressway often and they drive through a light that is already red, not just turning from yellow to red.

As a parent of Paly graduates, I can tell you what the issue is: Students are being hit by cars! I know countless students who have been hit and hurt. One could be the most cautious bike rider yet be hit by some reckless, hurried commuter cutting through our city, doing a California stop at a stop sign or turning in front of a bike. BTW, where the green bike lane breaks is where the car turning right is supposed to enter the bike lane, not drive up to the corner and turning right at the corner. I never allowed my children to ride their bikes because of the dangers, they took the free shuttle on Embarcadero Rd. (which was erroneously discontinued) or they drove themselves to school. Alma/Churchill is very dangerous, especially on the route home where cars on Churchill are turning right and can cut off bikers. Otherwise, bikes have to sit in the middle of Churchill amongst cars, waiting for the light to change! The whole thing is ludicrous! When they work on the train tracks there, driving on Embarcadero Rd. will be like the commute on Charleston Rd. to Gunn High, nicknamed "The One Hour Mile." Fortunately, Castilleja has different school hours. The other issue is stolen bikes from Greene and Paly and all around town; non-residents come to Palo Alto and steal bikes. PAUSD should plan for school buses for the safety of our children instead of giving themselves more raises for the already $170K teacher salaries. But alas, it's not all about the students although we wish it were.

Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 27, 2023 at 11:05 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

SRTS is one city service that deserves is a solid place in action. Not played or stayed yet a real time action oriented city staff who serve the larger community. Of any city staffed department who serves our taxes, Tbilisi department is the gold standard.,In real time! Always available and a tune to the needs of our bi-PDI also community, young and old. The Pandemic has caused a disruption in data. Yet do not forget this children that also ride bikes to and from after school activities or a high school job . Not only safe routes to school but everywhere within our borders outside school hours.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 1, 2023 at 4:09 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

When we look carefully at traffic data on school routes, we quickly see that car trips on most school routes fall off soon after bell time--even though about half of PAUSD kids walk or bike to school. Parents who drive their kids to school or who give kids a car to drive to school contribute to risk for foot-powered kids on the same routes. This is a safety problem we parents can solve.

Bicycling is a great way for kids to start their day with invigorating exercise. Studies show that kids who start their day with exercise perform better in school. As they practice safety skills, they can learn to be more independent of mom and dad for transportation.--Isn't capability and independence the end game we are shooting for? This is good for their mental and physical health...and our planet.

Kids who are strapped passively in the back seat of a car miss a lot of traffic safety skill building. These essential life skills require regular supervised practice to become"hard-wired" so kids will habitually do the right thing on the street. They get that practice when we parents walk or bike with them. Walking or biking together to elementary school is a great way to connect with your child, their friends and their friends parents--and build community connections that will help you throughout your child's academic and social life in PAUSD. Those friendships were valuable to me as a parent as my kids got older. Parents share information and help each other.

School buses? The State of California has cut most funding for them. Few California districts have them any more for any but kids who are federally mandated for busing or kids in rural districts who are traveling really long distances. Most kids in Palo Alto bike or walk less than two or three miles of flat terrain to get to school. That is a VERY bikable commute for most able-bodied kids. Biking builds confidence, friendships, safety skills, strong, healthy bodies and brains, and NO carbon emissions.

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