Daily Archives: March 25, 2015

The Menlo Park “Complete Street” Policy Does NOT Require Bike Facilities on El Camino.

Original Comment

By Tunbridge Wells, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park, in The Almanac.  (March 24, 2015)

“What both Dana Hendrickson and Peter Carpenter are overlooking is that Menlo Park has adopted a Complete Streets policy:  Web Link and that Caltrans is also supportive of Complete Streets on its facilities:  Web Link El Camino Real, in its current state, serves only automobile traffic well. It is an important connector that despite being used by pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users, it does not do well by them. That needs to change. Despite their protests to the contrary, studies show that adding traffic lanes does not fix congestion, it just makes more of the same. Studies also show that adding bicycle infrastructure enhances safety not just for people on bikes, but pedestrians and also reduces collisions between cars. Roads are for people. El Camino Real existed before cars did.”

My Response

Mr. Wells, I have read the Complete Streets Policy adopted by the City of Menlo Park and do not interpret it to mean that El Camino Real must or should be included in our city bike network. Perhaps, we need an official interpretation from the City


“Complete Streets Serving All Users. City of Menlo Park expresses its commitment to creating and maintaining Complete Streets that provide safe, comfortable, and convenient travel along and across streets (including streets, roads, highways, bridges, and other portions of the transportation system) through a comprehensive, integrated transportation NETWORK that serves all categories of users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, persons with disabilities, motorists, movers of commercial goods, users and operators of public transportation, seniors, children, youth, and families, emergency vehicles and freight.”

The policy focus is on a safe and convenient NETWORK for users. This does not mean that every street either should or must become a “complete street”. Nor does it imply that every street could become a complete street. It also seems to say that whenever either new street construction or major physical modifications are planned on an existing one “multi-modal usage” must be CONSIDERED but not required.

“As feasible, the City of Menlo Park should incorporate Complete Streets infrastructure into existing streets to improve the safety and convenience of users and to create employment, with the particular goal of creating a connected network of facilities accommodating each category of users, and increasing connectivity across jurisdictional boundaries and for existing and anticipated future areas of travel origination or destination.”

Please note the term “feasible”. I believe we can create a safer yet still acceptably convenient bike NETWORK without including El Camino Real. 

Bike/car accidents are rare on El Camino today because so few riders risk riding on it. I can imagine the public outcry if young or inexperienced riders were encouraged to do so by new bike facilities and one or two accidents cause major injuries to cyclists or pedestrians. There would likely be a call for the complete separation of cars and bikes. Does that sound familiar?

El Camino Real is THE main VEHICLE ARTERY in Menlo Park and our city should be focused on making it handle vehicles better in order to reduce existing and future congestion. I highly recommend that we not try to re-purpose it for greater cyclist usage. I would much prefer the explore expanding it to three lanes in both directions its entire length. Unlike Palo Alto we do not have additional major north-south arteries like Foothill expressway and Alma Street. Let’s implement a well-designed trial and see if additional lanes north of Ravenswood Avenue would provide significant benefits. Cars are NOT going away; let’s encourage them to stay on our arteries and collectors.

Almanac Post – March 23, 2015

I am an experienced cyclist who frequently rides 40 to 60 miles a week and would not ride on El Camino regardless of the type of bike facilities.  Nor would I recommend that inexperienced cyclists ride on this highway. The significant additional risk versus other available bike routes is simply too high.

Much of the discussion about the El Camino Real Corridor Study has centered on the needs of cyclists who maintain that ADDING bike facilities to this highway and REDUCING the number of vehicle lanes to two in each direction would make bike riding more convenient, Unfortunately, this is too narrow a view. Instead, our residents and City Council should consider the interests and well being of cyclists, drivers and pedestrians. Any major changes to El Camino Real will entail compromises, all SIGNIFICANT trade-offs warrant consideration, and personal safety is THE critical criteria. Our decisions also need to be well informed and well reasoned.

There about 60 spots on El Camino where cars would cross paths with cyclists riding in either bike lanes or bike paths and cars can be traveling fast when they exit the highway. This is a dangerous situation for both drivers and cyclists, and the latter bears the greater risk of personal injury. When either a driver or cyclist is not cautious or is distracted the risk of an accident or collision climbs dramatically.

If bike facilities were added to El Camino cyclists and pedestrians would mix at busy intersections; this is a dangerous situation for both EVEN IF separate crossing lanes are marked. Human behavior = cannot count on compliance and good judgment.

If bike riding on El Camino were a good idea Palo Alto would already provide this capacity. Both Palo Alto and Menlo Park have relied on the same “bike plan” consultant (Alta Planning + Design) and they have NOT recommended including El Camino Real in the two bike networks as a high priority.

Reducing the vehicle lanes on El Camino to accommodate bike facilities will likely increase congestion and generate more cut-through traffic in adjacent neighborhoods like Allied Arts. Today there are about 45,000 daily vehicle trips on El Camino between Sand Hill Road and Ravenswood Avenue. Where will these vehicles go if lane capacity is reduced by 33%? No one really knows. But the negative impact could be large and the risk high.

Finally, while I have heard a great deal about the general issue of cyclist inconvenience I have not heard any actual examples of routes that would be significantly more convenient if El Camino was included.  Menlo Park has a fine existing bike network, and many ways to make it even more convenient and safer without encouraging cyclists to ride on El Camino have already been identified.

Making bike riding a LITTLE more convenient for some cyclists who wish to travel between certain points in Menlo Park does NOT justify exposing all riders to GREATER danger and SIGNIFICANTLY penalizing drivers and our neighborhoods.