Letter To The City Council And Bike, Transportation and Planning Commissions

Date: April 20, 2015

To: Menlo Park City Council Members

CC: Planning Commission, Transportation Commission, Bike Commission, Transportation Division

From: Dana Hendrickson, Editor, Re-Imagine Menlo Park

I cannot decide whether I am more disappointed, exasperated or distressed about how the city is handling the El Camino Corridor Study. After more than a year and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars it has so far failed to provide the essential information needed to make good decisions about the future use of El Camino Real by bicyclists, motorists, pedestrians and public safety vehicles, and I fear it was never required. Despite this major problem three city commissions are relying on their own limited knowledge and experiences and inadequate information to interpret the potential impact of several alternatives and make proposals about new bike facilities and vehicle lane configurations. Why have they been put into this unenviable position? And why hasn’t anyone including a well-paid consultant raised red flags well before now? It is clear the two most important considerations – safety and convenience – have NOT been adequately addressed yet apparently the city council plans to make important decisions soon. I recommend that it not make any final decisions about El Camino Real and instead focus on ensuring the best ones are made and clearly explained to all Menlo Park residents. That means everyone needs better information.

  • No one has determined there is actually a significant need for bike facilities on El Camino Real because no credible analysis has been done. What are we trying to accomplish? Who would benefit? How much of a difference would bike facilities really make? New bike facilities should be evaluated only within the context of our existing bike network, the 2005 Menlo Park Comprehensive Bike Development Plan (which may need updating), and other ideas identified in the Specific Plan.
  • No one has determined whether the safety associated with riding on El Camino would be even close to the safety associated with riding alternative routes because no one has done this analysis.
  • No one has determined the impact that more bicyclists riding on El Camino Real would have on the safety and convenience of motorists, pedestrians, and public service professionals because no one has done the analysis.
  • No one has shown how bike facilities on El Camino Real ranks in importance re: other improvements to bike safety and convenience. Do we not have a prioritized list of our best ideas? Metrics for measuring their value and drawbacks? Policies for balancing conflicting interests? How about the cost of implementing them? What about the timeframe? How is possible the City has a 10-year old Bike Transportation Plan that no one on the study team or commissions even references? Does it need updating?
  • With regards to the 3-lane alternative the city commissions and transportation division appear to have accepted the consultant’s counter-intuitive computer model projections with little skepticism and understanding of the uncertainty that surrounds probabilistic data? What are confidence levels in the expected values? Implications of the projections about traffic flows in nearby neighborhoods? Why does no one appear to see the value in acquiring actual field trial data?

So where do you go from here? The study has increased our knowledge but the necessary work is clearly not done. And If the City proceeds to make major changes to El Camino Real without having an excellent understanding of the likely outcomes it risks appearing irresponsible and possibly negligent when avoidable accidents occur. It’s not the time to assign blame; it’s time to get this work back on track before it’s too late I again invite you to contact me if you have questions. Like a growing number of residents I am eager to learn how you intend to proceed.

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