El Camino Bike Lanes Do NOT Make Sense.


Central Issue: bike lanes on El Camino do not make it safer so encouraging more bike riders is fundamentally a dangerous idea and creates moral and legal liabilities for Menlo Park.

NEWS UPDATE:  City Puts Brakes on Bike Lane Proposal.  (Daily Post – May 5, 2016) 

(The) Menlo Park City Council wants bike lanes throughout the city, but has voted against putting such lanes on El Camino Real. (Read More…)


= > Also View Will Menlo Park Ever Have A First-Class Bike Network?


As part of its on-going El Camino Corridor Study which started in early 2014 Menlo Park determined that bike lanes could be added to El Camino Real. This idea, initially proposed by the volunteer Bike Commission, has been supported by both the Transportation and Planning Commissions, a small group of community bike activists, and outside organizations including the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition. And in August 2015 the City Council expressed support for moving the project forward and directed the city transportation staff to study specific issues associated with a potential 2016-2017 field trial. City staff  estimates the field trial would cost between $300, 000 and $1,300,000.

Unfortunately, after two years of study ALL of the following important questions remain persuasively unanswered.

  • Is there a significant actual need for bicyclists to ride on El Camino Real given alternative bike routes – either planned or in-place?
  • Should Menlo Park encourage more bicyclists to ride on El Camino Real given the inherent personal safety issues associated with this commercial highway? Or, should the City encourage use of alternative s?
  • How would the presence of bike lanes and bicyclists impact the high volume of motorists who travel at much higher speeds and must cross paths with bicyclists at public drive ways, intersections and turn lanes? Impact on motorist safety, (in)convenience, and vehicle traffic flow?
  • How would the loss of over 150 parking spaces on El Camino impact existing small businesses? How will this situation change when several new commercial developments are completed on El Camino?

My Specific Recommendations:

At this point I strongly oppose the idea of Menlo Park investing in either a bike lane field trial on El Camino Real or a permanent installation because this project is not soundly justified and remains poorly understood.

  • The need for these SIGNIFICANT investments has NOT been CLEARLY and STRONGLY established. Bike-friendly communities do not make major investments without leveraging the expertise of professional bike network designers and planners who evaluate proposals with industry-standard network design metrics and methodologies. Menlo Park has NOT done this. I performed my own analysis using the most widely accepted methodology – “Low Stress Network Design and Connectivity” – and determined that less than 10% of the bike community would likely  perceive El Camino bike lanes as safe, convenient and comfortable  given existing alternatives and the new north-south bike segments recommended in the Menlo Park Specific Plan (2012). Only the most confident and courageous bicyclists will likely use them.
  • The negative impacts of bike lanes on other users of El Camino – motorists, pedestrians, retailers, public service providers and property owners – have not been adequately studied. Since NO other Peninsula city has committed to transforming their stretch of El Camino Real into a bike corridor, Menlo Park residents deserve to know why.
  • The City not yet garnered broad community support for El Camino bike lanes. Few residents understand the project, its status, its potential impacts, its costs and projected implementation timeframes. Plans for public hearings for the field trial have not been scheduled. I expect the majority of residents will oppose these bike lanes and hope this divisive project does not ultimately setback other attempts to make important improvements to our city bike network.
  • An east-west bike corridor that connects neighborhoods on both sides of El Camino and provides better access to Downtown is a far more important and a superior community investment.

El Camino Bike Lanes

The blue dash line shows existing bike lanes in Menlo Park, and the red line indicates where bike lanes on El Camino could run between Creek Drive and Encinal Avenue. Today Valparaiso and Glenwood Avenues are the only approaches to El Camino Real with bike lanes and they do not continue across the train tracks. The bike lanes on Ravenswood Avenue stop well-short of Alma Street, and bike riders must “share the road” on both Menlo and University Avenues.

ECR Bike Lanes

Current Situation

Menlo Park must now decide whether to fund a one-year field trial that would examine the desirability of bike lanes on El Camino. If deemed successful the City would still need to complete an environmental impact report and create a detailed implementation plan and budget. It is not clear if all the field trial funding has already been budgeted or what amount of additional funding will be required to complete a permanent implementation.

Proposal Highlights

– Adds bike lanes to the entire length of El Camino between Creek Drive and Encinal Street.

– Expected to appeal to less than 10% of bike community

– Impact on other users has not been assessed

– Eliminates about 160 street parking spaces

– Field trial cost estimate: $300,000 to $1,300,000.

– Total cost: TBD ($1,300,000+)

Recent Project Milestones

  • Public Works Department Report – October 25, 2015.  Reviewed progress on issues first raised by the City Council in August. View report.
  • Bike Commission Report – November 7, 2015. Proposed  “installation metrics” for the field trial. These are bike-centric trial design guidelines NOT project success criteria, View report.
  • Public Works Department Report. – November 9, 2015.  The consultant team has prepared estimates for the bike lane trial with a total cost of $300,000 – $1,300,000 depending on the elements chosen (lane striping, mountable separators, and green lane treatments).  Staff will consider comments on the trial metrics from the Bicycle and Transportation Commissions and prepare a report for the City Council to adopt the Corridor Study and select a preferred alternative to move into environmental review and design. It is anticipated that the next report to the City Council would occur in early 2016. View report.

Primary Concerns

  • There are EIGHTY public driveways and intersections on this 1.6 mile stretch of El Camino Real. This extremely large number of bike-vehicle conflict points on a heavily travelled commercial highway is inherently dangerous.

Bicyclist-Motorist Conflict Points – West Side of El Camino

Driveways and Intersections -WEST

 

Bicyclist-Motorist Conflict Points – East Side of El Camino

Driveways and Intesections -EAST

Bike-Motorist Conflict Points – Aerial View

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 4.17.32 PM

 

  • How does our City measure the success of a field trial? Of a permanent implementation? To date Menlo Park has NOT established clear and well-supported success criteria for the El Camino Bike lane trial, i.e., the specific thresholds for benefits and  negative impacts that will be used to determine whether it should proceed to a permanent solution. This approach would never be considered acceptable in the business world. Why so in Menlo Park government? The criteria should measure the impact of the trial bike lanes on all users: bicyclists, motorists, pedestrians, businesses, property owners and public service providers.
  • School-age children and young adults between the ages of 8 and 16 represent the largest existing and potential category of cyclists who would benefit from safe, comfortable and convenient city-wide access to popular destinations including schools, parks, businesses and Burgess recreational facilities. This group should be the primary beneficiary of new bike network improvements as greater bike access and connectivity would  reduce the number of daily parent-driven car trips. Will bike lanes on El Camino be suitable for most of these cyclists? I suspect the answer is No.
  • The Public Works Department estimates that the field trial will cost of $300,000 to $1,300,000* depending on design elements. The additional costs of a permanent implementation have NOT been estimated. Not clear that this investment is more important and timely than building an east-west bike corridor.
  • More than 150 street parking spaces will be eliminated on El Camino Real. Given the large-scale developments planned for El Camino Real can Menlo Park afford to give up this many parking spaces?

*Consultant cost estimate breakdown:

– Striping, Signing and Markings = $300,000
– Temporary Bike Lane Separator = $428,000
– Green Bike Lane Treatment = $599,000

My Analyses

  • In-depth analysis that explains why few residents would use El Camino Real bike lanes.
  • Myths, Misconceptions And Misinformation About El Camino Bike Facilities. Claimed benefits are largely unsupported by relevant facts and sound logic. And most are either false or largely false. View an assessment of each one.

Important Message To Menlo Park Residents

ALL residents would be significantly impacted by bike lanes on El Camino Real in Menlo Park so you need to fully understand what is currently being considered by our City Council and tell them what you think about this idea…now!  Otherwise, the city is heading for another divisive city-wide debate.

Each city has sought the advice of a well respected bike network design firm… EXCEPT Menlo Park.

Please get informed AND get involved!

Take our on-going survey and view the current survey results => about 90% of respondees OPPOSE bike lanes on El Camino.

Letter To The Menlo Park City Council

RE: Proposed El Camino Real Bike Lane Field Trial

(August 17, 2015) Download copy Your public review of the El Camino Real Corridor Study on August 25 is an especially important milestone for you and all Menlo Park residents as both the results of the feasibility phase and what future actions should be taken (and funded) will be considered. I believe the additional spending required to estimate potential bike usage, prepare an environmental report, and develop both plans and a budget for the implementation of one of the bike facility alternatives was included in an earlier budget and estimate that more than $200,000 remains unspent. I continue to oppose the addition of dedicated bike facilities on El Camino and propose the City shifts its attention to investing in solutions that address more critical problems in our community bike network, ones clearly identified in the city’s comprehensive bike plan (2004) and the Specific Plan (2012). These are the need for greater east-west connectivity and downtown access, rather than a north-south bike corridor of questionable value, appeal, and safety.

I have published research and analyses on the design of safe, convenient and low-stress bike networks (www.reimaginemenlopark.com) that support my position and have enclosed a proposal for an alternative solution that would benefit many more cyclists than bike facilities on El Camino, would benefit rather than penaiize drivers, could be implemented much sooner; depends less on Caltrans’ support, budgets and schedules; and would likely attract greater community support and less resistance. It is noteworthy that I have already performed the potential cyclist usage analysis that W-Trans would provide and determined that few adult cyclists would choose El Camino over less stressful alternatives, and it would remain unsuitable for elementary and middle school children, the largest group of bike riders.

The arguments offered in support of El Camino bike facilities remain extremely weak, and I encourage you to carefully evaluate the actual value and trade-offs that exist rather than rely on popular platitudes. Unsupported claims about significant increased bike usage, bike safety, reduced vehicle traffic, and less emissions are unacceptable substitutes for persuasive facts, reasonable assumptions and sound logic. Unfortunately, these essential elements of rational decision-making have been painfully absent in the workshops and planning sessions I have attended.

Although my prior attempts have been ignored I again invite you to discuss, at your convenience, all my findings and recommendations. I do appreciate your efforts to improve our city’s bike infrastructure.

my-signatures

Dana Hendrickson

Editor Re-Imagine Menlo Park

 My Recommendations RE: Field Trial

The City Council has instructed city staff to study a possible field trial of bike lanes on El Camino Real. The following is a list of important actions that should be completed BEFORE Menlo Park actually conducts one.

Download a copy

  • Determine the actual value (usage) of bike lanes for cyclists, especially for school age (children) – the largest group of cyclists. The evaluation should use industry best practices and be performed by an bike network design specialist. The value should be measured in terms of ABSOLUTE safety (not relative to existing conditions which are dangerous), RELATIVE safety and convenience versus existing and planned alternative routes, and RELATIVE comfort (rider stress levels)
  • Menlo Park needs to evaluate the value of El Camino Real bike lanes in the context of the existing city bike network and all the other recommendations proposed in its Specific Plan (2012). Ideally, it should update its Comprehensive Bike Development Plan (January 2005) the oldest of all Peninsula cities that share El Camino. Currently, El Camino bike lanes in Menlo Park are being considered in isolation rather than as part of our bike network system.
  • Menlo Park needs to understand the reasons why other Peninsula Cities have not already installed bike facilities on El Camino Real. And understand whether they have made firm commitments to do so.
  • Menlo Park needs to know whether a majority of residents – not simply avid bike riders – either want bike lanes on El Camino or actually oppose them. A field trial will be extremely controversial, think Measure M. The City should strive to avoid creating a divisive situation, by aggressively polling our citizens before, during and after any field trial.
  • Menlo Park needs to rigorously evaluate all the significant potential impacts – both positive and negative ones – that bike lanes could have on motorists, pedestrians, businesses, property owners and emergency service providers, e.g., fire and police departments, ambulances.
  • The success criteria for any field trial must consider all the users f El Camino Real, not just bicyclists and motorists.
  • Menlo Park needs to reassess its priorities and determine whether residents believe east-west bike connectivity and greater access to downtown Menlo Park is viewed as more or less important than El Camino Bike Lanes.
  • The addition of bike lanes will require the elimination of ALL the street parking spaces on El Camino – over 150 – before new planned developments are built on El Camino. The city needs to evaluate the loss of parking in the context of future not existing conditions.
  • The re-design of the Ravenswood intersection needs to accommodate the future addition of east-west bike lanes that would run on Menlo Avenue from University to El Camino, cross El Camino and continue on Ravenswood to Laurel Street.
  • Both the field trial and a permanent implementation of bike lanes are large city investments that would consume funds and staff resources, plus the attention of City Council members. The budget and staff impact of BOTH should be estimated BEFORE either project is undertaken. It does not make sense to conduct a field trial if the City cannot afford an actual implementation.

Learn More

=> Guest Opinion In The Almanac (August 19, 2015) – What It Takes To Make Menlo Park Truly Bike-Friendly Soon. Read now

=> Read a primer on designing safe, convenient and low-stress bike networks.

=> Read a detailed proposal for a superior alternative to bike lanes on El Camino Real.

=> Download a table that compares the pluses and minuses of bike lanes on El Camino and a superior alternative.

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