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New planning efforts target Palo Alto's most dangerous roads

Original post made on Jul 19, 2023

As part of a new "Safe Streets for All" plan, Palo Alto is preparing to identify and improve the city's most dangerous corridors. County data suggests Crescent Drive, Middlefield Road and El Camino Real could get special attention.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, July 19, 2023, 9:37 AM

Comments (27)

Posted by Presto
a resident of University South
on Jul 19, 2023 at 10:22 am

Presto is a registered user.

Why isn't the crescent, Hamilton, Southwood intersection a roundabout?

Posted by scott
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 19, 2023 at 10:29 am

scott is a registered user.

The city needs to be more proactive about San Antonio/Charleston. If we're relying on collision data to inform safety improvements, it will be only after a lot of housing has gone in South of San Antonio, so the "data points" will surely include actual kids getting maimed on their way to school.

The city has already committed to allowing thousands of apartments there. It shouldn't wait until after kids are getting hurt to start thinking about safety.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 19, 2023 at 10:35 am

Online Name is a registered user.

You don't need an expensive study to realize that PA has created "demolition derbies" all over town with the constant lane changes, the odd "road furniture" and the narrowing / elimination of traffic lanes.

Of particular brilliance is putting bus stops 3 car lengths away from the Embarcadero Rd on Middlefield so traffic backs up INTO the intersection AND the bollards at every intersection prevent cars from going around the backups.

Of course Oregon and Middlefield are problematic because the bollards in front of Jordan prevent cars from bypassing other cars trying to turn left onto N. Cal Ave so cars get stuck in the middle of the Oregon / Middlefield intersection.

I've complained about both for way too long and watched our highly paid "leaders" and former Mayor Fine claim it's the other guys' fault and never acknowledging they created these problems while costing us a fortune in road furniture,bollards and useless consultants who can tell us we''re wrong when we alert them to obvious problems.

Extra credit to our 2 former traffic czars Mr. Rodriquez and Mr. Mello for their fail;ed community outreach, their skewed traffic studies and then THEIR outrage when they get caught trying to sneak through more nonsense while taking almost a decade to fix a hugely problematic traffic light.

And bonus point to the former city manager for awarding a multi-million $$$$ traffic light timing contract to the guy who couldn't fix that one light.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 19, 2023 at 11:13 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

People have turned Middlefield and Alma into major commute time thoroughfares because El Camino is so horrible to drive on. Who would take a bike on the road? It is dangerous to your car so not a place for bikes. I do not understand why El Camino is totally ruined - and more so in PA than San Mateo County. However that is the road that is designated for major hotels, shopping centers, Medical facilities, and large condo projects. That is the one place that should be totally clear as to purpose - busses and cars to expedite traffic through the city. When visitors to the city come here that is the one road they recognize to navigate their transitions through their visit. That is the one road that shows up on maps that are telling people where to go. The safety of that road is attributed to it's total disrepair. It is no place for people in bike lanes.

Where is the City Manager in all of this discussion? He is responsible for the business base of the city. The business base designates where major facilities who pay major income for the city are situated. If you confound hotels, restaurants. medical centers with confusing road impediments they will go somewhere else. How much of the city income comes from the different locations in the city.

Are you all forgetting that we now have a Bay Trail that totally encompasses the cities surrounding us. There is a bike bridge off the Bayshore East that is closer to the Embarcadero Road that is more heavily used then the one that is close to San Antonio. Also one that goes into the EPA Home Depot.
Charleston has been totally changed so you have a cross city connection in the south side. The people on bikes should not expect that the city is totally rewritten as to the purpose of the various locations to suit their individual desires. Common sense should prevail here.

Posted by AllenPod
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 19, 2023 at 11:36 am

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The absence of a decent E-W route results in the overloaded connections to US 101.
University Av from Crescent to 101 should be widened, and traffic split into 2 one-way corridors, eventually Lytton and Hamilton.
Any changes in routing to reduce congestion and pollution will cause push-back from homeowners along the affected streets. However, the entire community would benefit.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 19, 2023 at 11:56 am

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"The absence of a decent E-W route results in the overloaded connections to US 101."

Just wait and see what 5 years of constriction at Casti and Embarcadero will do to those connections.

Bonus points for closing Churchill at the same time.

Do our "planners" and "leaders" ever communicate with each other? Are they deluded enough to think that fewer than 4 cars back up at the Middlefield/Embarcadero light, esp. now that they've eliminated the dedicated right turn lane from Middlefield S onto Embarcadero W?

Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 19, 2023 at 12:05 pm

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The Newell Road and Seale Avenue intersection is also dangerous. There is a lot of bicycle traffic as students ride to and from Greene Middle School. There is a stop sign at Seale. There is not one at Newell.

Posted by CC
a resident of University South
on Jul 19, 2023 at 12:22 pm

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I think they’ve missed quite a few.

Lincoln and Middlefield
Channing and Cowper
Homer and Cowper

Just to name a few.

Posted by jguislin
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2023 at 12:37 pm

jguislin is a registered user.

The city should not need the VTA to tell them where the traffic problems are. Residents have lobbied for years for fixes to the locations listed in this piece as well as other locations. The city should establish a resident-led task force to identify and prioritize the road sections to be addressed. The other priority for the city should be to find a way to get better data. Neighbors who worked on the North Middlefield redesign studied accident data from the SWITRS (statewide integrated traffic reporting system), the most used data source for California traffic accidents. They found that 3/4 of all accidents go unreported and hence uncounted. Residents can provide much more complete data reporting than the state's current system.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 19, 2023 at 12:47 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

@jguislin, excellent points. Why trust an organization that puts a bus stop 2 car lengths from a major interection (Middlefield and San Antonio W) and can't / won't repave El Camino in a reasonable time frame??

Just do a search here on "Middlefield" and look at all the articles on misguided policies: lane reductions to slow traffic aka create traffic jams, having to redo the configuration of traffic islands and the classic Web Link Middlefield A Roadway Odyssey Palo Alto Style.

Just to name a few.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2023 at 1:16 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Just as an observation, the Middlefield/Loma Verde intersection is much less dangerous since the fire closing the 4 businesses. No more double parking (or cop cars or fire dept trucks) while drivers go in for coffee and no more pedestrians running out with coffee cups to catch the light. Also no back ups as cars try to get into Philz parking lot.

(Yes I know someone is counting the number of times I mention this fire, but it is relevant).

Posted by Some Random Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2023 at 2:02 pm

Some Random Resident is a registered user.

@jguislin - Re: "They found that 3/4 of all accidents go unreported and hence uncounted. Residents can provide much more complete data reporting than the state's current system."

Unofficial data is seldom likely to drive the desired changes. *Reporting* all the accidents when they happen is the way to get the data into the official record thereby making it available to all the interested parties.

Posted by Some Random Resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2023 at 2:14 pm

Some Random Resident is a registered user.

The 5-way intersection at Hamilton/Center/Southwood looks like a roundabout -- but it is not signed that way. It should be, which would give everyone the hint they need in order to make their turns correctly. All-way stops are NOT going to improve the confusion once people get into the intersection.

Posted by Mondoman
a resident of Green Acres
on Jul 19, 2023 at 6:22 pm

Mondoman is a registered user.

Re: "Normand suggested that the bigger problem is the city's tendency to "squeeze" cars and cyclists together by installing bulb-outs and narrowing the roads."

It's not just a tendency, it's a deliberate policy to make drivers feel unsafe so they hopefully slow down. You can see how poorly that's worked on Arastradero, where most of "traffic calming" islands and bulging curb sections have black scuff marks or even concrete broken away from cars repeatedly running into them.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 20, 2023 at 10:33 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

3AM - I get it. El Camino has been deliberately left in disrepair to create safety problems that a "consultant" will fix with bicycle paths. When you pay a consultant you tell them what the result is suppose to be. The disrepair on El Camino makes no sense. When you cross over to Meno Park the road is okay.

Who is in on this? The City Manager? Berman? Simitian? Who interacts with Caltran to talk them into this?

The credit union left to go to Los Altos. Who else has left? The Fish Market. What about the major builds that are going to take place at Fry's and the other side of the street with the major hotel - Creekside?

The major additions to our Housing plan are going on here on El Camino. This bicycle action is disrupting the whole development plans for the city and affects our tax base. If you repave the street and put busses there for commuters you have solved your problem. You will also help the hotels which are starting to look shabby. The tourist that come here for the SU games and business are not riding bicycles. El Camino is a major highway whose job is to facilitate business and move people. Cars and busses.

For all of those people who complain because they can't get to Happy Donuts - maybe Happy can move to a shopping center. I am sure that they can use more business.

Posted by Robert Neff
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2023 at 10:50 am

Robert Neff is a registered user.

It is Eric Nordman. Thanks for the article.

Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jul 20, 2023 at 12:18 pm

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Thanks, Robert. Sorry for the error, which has been corrected.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2023 at 12:32 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

A few observations:
- I agree with a poster above that remaking El Camino Real to squeeze in bikes seems to be a really risky thing to do. I would repave El Camino Real (which it needs ASAP) with full acknowledgment it’s a major inter city throughfare for motor vehicles, including busses.
It should not be reformatted for bikes; this is a sheer fantasy that bikes will rule the peninsula.
Squeezing vehicular traffic down to fewer lanes to “punish” drivers is illogical and misguided. I certainly hope our local politicians who know better will stop the state’s foolish plan for bikes there.

Note: I have nothing against bikes; I’m just practical and realistic and want safety for all as well as certain major direct routes for motor vehicles.

- It takes too long to drive through Embarcadero/Middlefield. This is a major route into Palo Alto. It ought to work efficiently as one.

Pretending or wishing everyone to be on bikes on this narrow major oldtime thoroughfare (Embarcadero Rd) with narrow sidewalks is unworkable.
I both drive this major route and walk on the sidewalks along it.

- The dry, unsightly brush/weeds at 101/Embarcadero (on all sides of this major intersection) should be fully removed and cleaned.
This would improve sight lines of drivers exiting the freeway, reduce fire risk, so please, politicians, arrange to regularly remove unsightly trash and weeds and make a nice gateway entrance into Palo Alto.

Is this SO difficult to do? What on earth do visitors to Stanford think as they exit here amid dry weeds to go up to Stanford!?

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2023 at 3:10 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Alma should be made into a continuation of Central Expressway and the intersection with Sand Hill should be improved. This would efficiently move a lot of the through traffic off Middlefield and El Camino which would also help non-through traffic move efficiently.

Trouble is, nobody seems to want traffic to move efficiently. Instead, any way of snarling up traffic seems to be the goal.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 21, 2023 at 8:29 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

On the 7PM NBC news last night was a rep from Caltrans who provided a presentation on how many people have been killed by city on El Camino. At 11PM the focus was on Atherton with film on the shabby treatment of the street - no sidewalks, no protection to walkers, few stop signs. Interview with the Mayor of Atherton. ECR in Atherton is Dogpatch. That is San Mateo county. Menlo Park is okay as to number of street signs and paving. The presenter is on a crusade.

Questions are who in Santa Clara County is responsible for roads. How is comparison made by city as to active business base of entities on the street. Our city has a major sports arena, medical center, shopping centers, hotels, condos, small businesses. Comparisons by city needs to be questioned.

Posted by Eric
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 25, 2023 at 2:20 pm

Eric is a registered user.

How did the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission and VTA decide which intersections were the most dangerous? If it was purely the statistics regarding how many accidents happened at those locations, then they are going to have a difficult time reducing the numbers without a known cause.

On Meadow/Alma I would say driving behavior is the primary cause of accidents and not the streets themselves. I regularly hear the same vehicle racing up and down the street - sometimes its a car and other times it's a motorcycle. I have also seen drivers that are so impatient to make the light, that they are willing to stop on the train tracks.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 26, 2023 at 7:31 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Yes, the current configuration of the intersection of Alma, ECR and Sand Hill has to be amongst the top ten that should not have been agreed to; I recall Menlo Park didn’t want Palo Alto traffic. .

…Well, struggling through ECR in Menlo Park IS certainly slow and dreadful - so I’m discouraged from visiting and spending $ in Menlo Park - but I really think the above three streets should align for common sense and smooth movement of vehicle and bike traffic in the region. There is only so much hatred of vehicles (by some local politicians) that we can allow….sheesh.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 29, 2023 at 6:20 pm

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Robert Neff, who also serves on PABAC, said he believes the city can do more to guide people to safe routes. "I think that besides going through and figuring out what is the most dangerous place to be on a bike and how to fix it, I think we can do better on wayfinding and helping people figure out where the good routes are and making it something more obvious around the city," Neff said.

Very well said. Palo Alto has many wonderful north/south bike routes. East/west connectivity is lacking for bicycles--especially south of Oregon Expressway. On my bike, I generally choose quieter routes to get to El Camino destinations. (Park Blvd is a favorite for me.), and then I use a quiet neighborhood street to cut over to the El Camino block of my destination. I'm a pretty skilled and careful bicyclist, and I find the state highway to be an awful place to ride. I don't think bike lanes--even protected bike lanes-- will fix that. Aside from the lack of bike facilities, the sheer volume of motor vehicle traffic with its noise, fumes, and associated risks makes it thoroughly unpleasant. I'm not sure bike lanes will entice me to ride there for any distance. Improved bike boulevards in that area (parallel to El Camino and connecting to it) would be great!

I join Eric Nordman in his curiosity about the causes of the crashes at these locations. What were road users doing when these injury collisions occurred? That matters. Were they crossing the highway? Making a turn? Taking a lane? Overtaken going straight? Broadsided while riding straight at a cross street? Bike lanes may help, but understanding the problems usually enables better problem-solving. What conditions and behaviors caused these crashes? Knowing that will help us solve the specific problems that are leading to injuries and deaths.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 1, 2023 at 10:15 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

ECR has planters in the middle at some locations. Also cement dividers. All put there to keep everyone on their side of the streets with cut-ins for turn lanes. You all keep trying to manipulate what has already been put there. What we need to manipulate now is getting the street repaved so everyone will be safer.

My car says it does not want to go down that street because it's tires and understructure have already racked up repair costs. My car hates that street. However in San Mateo County the road is paved. San Mateo County is okay. Sants Clara County not okay. How can that be?

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 8, 2023 at 11:53 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

More on this topic from the PASC meeting 08/07 - discussion of the addition to the PA Commons Retirement home next to the Goodwill Store on El Camino Way. One of our two new PA members suggested that Commons provide bike racks so the seniors can go biking. Very busy here promoting biking as a way to navigate the city. Note - the seniors here are transported by busses to their activities.

Note that the driveway for the Commons is directly next to the Goodwill driveway to their parking lot. Goodwill is busy all day and night when open. The entry and exit to their parking lot is chaotic. El Camino way is a street used to move off El Camino to the lower residential cross streets and is always busy - also narrow one lanes each way.

So why would any one let seniors go biking in the most chaotic set of driveways? Commons could be sued for negligence.

It was noted that the people who work at the Commons use public transit to get there due to limited parking. That is public transit on ECR.

Each PASC member is using their favorite activism topic to insert into the planning for the city - whether it makes sense or not. We are getting the member's agendas now. Pay attention to what activities they are pushing. And just say NO.

Posted by Frank Jessup
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2023 at 9:46 am

Frank Jessup is a registered user.

Slowing down the speeds to 25mph would allow for better reaction & response time on the part of drivers and provide added safety for bicyclists and pedestrians.

And for those who decry this suggestion as too slow & impractical, just leave earlier & don't be in such a hurry to get to wherever you are headed.

Posted by Beth Martin-Kool
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 24, 2023 at 10:48 am

Beth Martin-Kool is a registered user.

The construction of the Blake Wilbur Drive extension from Welch Road to Sandhill, across from Stanford Cancer Center is extremely dangerous for pedestrians. Ambulance and car traffic have greatly increased due to the ER at Welch and Pasteur Drives. The median strips are an ambulance obstacle: ambulances are now using the wrong lane in order to bypass traffic due to the high median.

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