Is Encouraging More Bike Ridership On El Camino Real A Good Idea?

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1 Is Encouraging More Bike Ridership On El Camino Real A Good Idea? In the above illustration there is a shared right turn lane on southbound El Camino Real at the intersection with Santa Cruz Avenue. Turning motorists must safely yield and merge their vehicles BEHIND bikes leaving the buffered bike lane; they must also cross the path of any bike rider going through the intersection. Following motorists have three options: slow down, stop or switch lanes. This situation also arises at public driveways but there will not be a marked turn lane. These are the spots where most bike-vehicle accidents and collisions occur, not on stretches of bike lanes in between them. Conclusion: Bike lanes and paths would create an illusion of safety because these would attract mostly less experienced riders poorly suited to riding on a dangerous busy highway that has a dozen intersections and sixty public driveways. So BOTH the overall accident rate and number of accidents would likely increase. Dana Hendrickson Re-Imagine Menlo Park Last Revision: April 23, 2015

2 CONTENTS What is the ECR Corridor Study? Who is performing the study? What is the general status of the study? What key decisions are being considered? Balancing Resident Interests Menlo Park Bike Network Popular Bike Routes page 6 Four design alternatives for ECR What potential tradeoffs are associated with the alternatives? Who stands to gain and lose the most from either bike lanes or bike paths? The Illusion of Safety page 10 Dangerous situations ECR Intersections & Public Driveways What are the major shortcomings of the study? Where does the City currently appear to stand on these decisions? How can residents ensure their interests and concerns are considered? My position and recommendations page 12 A Closer Look At The Study And Alternatives Current & Future Vehicle Traffic Current And Future Bike Traffic (2035) Comparison of Four Designs A Closer Look At Each Alternative Study Calendar Additional Information Sources Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

3 What is the ECR Corridor Study? The Menlo Park City Council initiated this study to determine how El Camino Real might be re-configured in ways that better serve the needs of its residents including motorists, bike riders, businesses, property owners and pedestrians. Who is performing the study? There are many contributors. The City Council provides top-down direction and makes the final decisions on what actions will be taken after the study is completed. The City Transportation Division is leading the effort within city staff. A traffic consultant (W-Tran) is assisting with designs and usage forecasts. The City Bike Commission is a volunteer team of cyclists who provide advice. Other volunteer commissions, e.g., transportation, planning, review study results and make recommendations What key decisions are being considered? Whether to make El Camino Real have three vehicle lanes in each direction. Today there are only two lanes north of Ravenswood. Whether to add either bike lanes or physically separated bike paths along El Camino Real from the City s southern boundary to Encinal Avenue. Whether to make improvements to the Ravenswood Avenue intersection that could reduce vehicle traffic congestion at commute times. What is the general status of the study? In June the City Council will review the conceptual analysis of each alternative and the recommendations of the bike, transportation, and planning commissions. It will then decide which projects will be studied in greater detail. This additional work will include environmental impact reports, detailed plans and cost estimates. Balancing Customer Interests Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

4 Each of the changes being considered for El Camino Real will significantly impact the safety and convenience of ALL Menlo Park residents. So optimal decisions can only be made after all significant trade-offs are identified, sized and evaluated and weighed in a fair and balanced manner. The following potential impact table identifies the primary groups who would be impacted if either bike lanes or bike paths were added to this highway.. BLANK SPACE Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

5 Menlo Park Bike Network A Review of The Menlo Park El Camino Corridor Study Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

6 Popular Bike Routes A Review of The Menlo Park El Camino Corridor Study Menlo Park offers bike riders safe and convenient ways to travel to and from destinations downtown and on El Camino Real through a comprehensive network of well marked bike lanes and bike routes plus quiet residential streets. Popular North-South routes on the east side of El Camino Real: Bike lanes on Alma Street from the Menlo Park-Palo Alto bike bridge to Ravenswood Avenue. Bike lanes on Laurel Street from Willow Road to Encinal Avenue Bike lanes on Middlefield Road from Palo Alto to Redwood City (Planned) Bike route on Alma Street to Oak Grove + Bike Connector across the GreenHeart property + Way to Encinal Avenue North-South routes on the west side of El Camino Real Bike Routes and shareways on University Avenue from Creek Drive to Valpariso Avenue Fremont Street between Middle Avenue and Santa Cruz Avenue Bike route on San Mateo Drive and Wallea Drive from Menlo Park-Stanford bike bridge to Valparaiso Avenue East-West routes on the east side between Middlefield Road and El Camino Real Bike lanes on Willow Road, Ravenswood Avenue and Encinal Avenue Bike routes on Oak Grove and Glenwood Bike route on Middle Avenue from Olive to University East-West routes on the west side between El Camino Real and Olive Street/Hillview Drive Bike route on Middle Street to University Drive Bike Lane on Santa Cruz Avenue from Orange Avenue to University Drive Valparaiso Avenue A Class II Bikeway (Bike Lane) provides a restricted right-of-way and is designated for the use of bicycles with a striped lane on a street or highway. Bicycle lanes are generally five (5) feet wide. Adjacent vehicle parking and vehicle/pedestrian crossflow are permitted. Class III Bikeway (Bike Route) provides for a right- of-way designated by signs or pavement markings for shared use with pedestrians or motor vehicles. Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

7 Four design alternatives for El Camino Real While the study has focused on three new designs for re-configuring El Camino Real the City could decide to leave it as is ; this is the no change alternative. Existing ECR Design (No Change) Alternative 1: Three vehicle lanes in each direction for the entire length of El Camino Alternative 2: Add Buffered Bike Lanes, three thru vehicle lanes at Ravenswood Avenue, two northbound vehicle lanes north of Santa Cruz Avenue Alternative 3: Add Separate Bike Paths, two thru vehicle lanes at Ravenswood Avenue, two northbound vehicle lanes north of Ravenswood Avenue What potential tradeoffs are associated with making improvements to the Ravenswood Avenue intersection? Potential Benefits: Reduce the congestion-related delays experienced by motorists traveling on El Camino Real, especially at commute times. Potential Drawbacks: The widening of the northbound lane of El Camino Real would require the removal of more than three large redwood trees in order to allow the sidewalk to be moved. What potential tradeoffs are associated with making El Camino Real three vehicle lanes in each direction? Potential Benefits: Reduced overall vehicle congestion on El Camino Real. Fewer vehicles on nearby neighborhood streets. Potential Drawbacks: The additional vehicle lanes north of Ravenswood would attract so many new motorists that no congestion relief would occur. (This is the consultants view based on computer modeling.) Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

8 What potential tradeoffs are associated with adding either bike lanes or physically separate bike paths along El Camino Real from the City s southern boundary to Encinal Avenue? Potential Benefits: More bike riders enjoy the convenience of traveling on El Camino Real. Potential Drawbacks: Bike lanes and paths would create the illusion of safety for bike riders, and as more bike riders used El Camino bike riders, motorists, and pedestrians would be exposed to more dangerous situations that result in collisions, accidents and road rage. There are about sixty places at driveways and intersections where bike riders would either merge or cross paths with motorists and pedestrians, and either bike lanes or physical separation would NOT protect them. What potential tradeoffs are associated with eliminating some street parking on El Camino Real? Potential Benefits None identified Potential Drawbacks Lack of convenient parking hurts both businesses and the customers who want to visit them. Who stands to gain and lose the most from either bike lanes or bike paths? Reconfiguring El Camino Real to add bike lanes would unevenly benefit and harm motorists, cyclists, bike riders, businesses, property owners and pedestrians based upon the distribution of impacts and how they are viewed. Potential Gainers Cyclists who have the experience, skills, and awareness to minimize dangerous encounters with motor vehicles that cross their paths at both street intersections and at mid-block public driveways AND who prize the possibility of shaving several minutes off travel times. Potential Losers Bike riders think school children and adults who are comfortable riding on residential streets but are ill-equipped to handle the demands and dangers of riding on El Camino. Ironically, the existence of either bike lanes or paths would encourage more to do so by creating the illusion of safety. Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

9 Motorists would frequently be exposed to a large number of potential bike collisions and accidents as they interact with more slowly moving bike riders. Motorists would also experience delays whenever they must wait for bikes either directly or are caught behind a turning vehicle. Pedestrians would be endangered by mixing with bike riders at busy intersections regardless of how crosswalks are marked. Inevitably, there would be confusion, angry exchanges and accidents. Everyone might be negatively impacted by longer response times for fire trucks, police cars and ambulances as emergency vehicles would need to avoid collisions and accidents with cyclists and bike riders. The Illusion of Safety The frequency of accidents between vehicles and bikes on a particular stretch of highway like El Camino Real is determined by many factors: the actions of individual motorists and bike riders, the amount of bike and vehicle traffic, the number of places where vehicle cross paths with bike riders at intersections and public driveways, the number of parking spaces where a motorist could either open a car door or pull out in front of a bike rider, and the existence of safety measures. It seems intuitively obvious that bike lanes and paths would make any road much safer but unfortunately that is not the case. For example, the bike lane alternative described in the El Camino Corridor Study would eliminate some street parking but increase daily bike usage north of Ravenswood from 132 to 475 riders. Since most of the additional riders would likely not be experienced cyclists, it is reasonable to expect that accident rates would increase. So if the bike lanes improved safety by 25% but the less experienced riders had twice the rate of accidents we end up with a higher over all accident rate. Experienced cyclists: Accident rate = X% Number of riders: 132 Inexperienced bike riders: Accident Rate = 2X%* Additional riders: 343 Net Accident rate: 132 (X%)/ (2X%)/475 = 1.72X So the accident rate for the mix of bike riders would increase by 72%. * This accident rate is provided simply to illustrate how a higher one impacts the overall accident rate. Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

10 A Review of The Menlo Park El Camino Corridor Study Dangerous Situations Even when safety measures like bike lanes are in place dangerous interactions frequently occur whenever motorists, bike riders and pedestrians must briefly share the same space in vehicle lanes, bike lanes and crosswalks. Also, these interactions can create inconvenience for all types of users. The following example provides insights into the wide variety of situations that will inevitably occur due to chance, distractions, poor judgment and unanticipated actions by any of them. Example Bike Lanes Interactions At Santa Cruz Intersection A motorist is driving southbound on El Camino and approaching the intersection at Santa Cruz Avenue where there exists a shared right turn lane. A little behind the driver two bike riders are travelling in the same direction in a bike lane at a slower speed and are separated from each other by about fifty feet. Situation 1: The traffic signal is green and both the motorist and bike riders intend to travel thru the intersection. Safe outcome. No inconvenience. Situation 2: The traffic signal is green and the motorist intends to make a right turn. The motorist patiently yields to both bike riders, merges into the shared vehicle lane and turns only after the bike riders have safely cleared. Safe outcome. Following motorists are delayed. Situation 3: The traffic signal is green and the motorist intends to make a right turn. The motorist either has not seen the bike riders or misjudges the situation and unsafely enters the shared vehicle lane either in front of them or into them. Bad outcome. Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

11 Situation 4: Similar to Situation 3 but the motorist makes a last minute decision to make a right turn, is travelling at a higher speed and turns unsafely in front of the bike riders. Bad outcome. Situation 5: Either the traffic light is yellow or the motorist thinks its about to change to yellow. The motorist tries to beat the signal, enters the turn lane unsafely as in Situation 4. Bad Outcome. Situation 6: The traffic signal is red and the situations are similar to Situations 1, 2 and 3. Safe outcome if the interaction is like Situations 1 & 2. Bad outcome if interaction is similar to Situation 3. Five Major Intersections, Eight Regular Intersections and Sixty Public Driveways El Camino Real has an unusually high density of spots where bikes and vehicles can cross paths on a regular basis: more than seventy in a little over a mile between Encinal Avenue and Creek Drive. Bike lanes provide no protection for either the bicyclist or motorists at these spots. Vehicles and bikes share a right hand turn lane at each major intersection. There are no merge lanes at standard intersections nor at public driveways where vehicles simply cross bike lanes to either enter or exit El Camino Real. To make a left hand turn on El Camino bicyclists must either cross multiple vehicle lanes and merge with vehicles in the left turn lane or go through an intersection, stop and wait for the east-west traffic signal to turn green and then cross El Camino Real. In the latter case, if the bicyclist encounters a red light when approaching the intersection a left hand turn would require two light changes. Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

12 Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

13 Public driveways on El Camino Real These access points can be more dangerous than intersections as there are no traffic signals and motorists and cyclists are often not as aware of each other. Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

14 What are the major shortcomings of the study? The actual NEED for bike lanes on El Camino Real has not been demonstrated. No analysis has been performed to compare the RELATIVE convenience of riding bikes between popular origins and destination using either El Camino Real or alternative safe routes. Bike lanes and paths and the removal of some on-street parking would create some incremental safety for bike riders and cyclists riding on El Camino Real However, the RELATIVE safety of bike riding on El Camino Real with these safety measures versus on other nearby streets including ones in the official Menlo Park Bike Network has NOT been evaluated. Bike riders in bike lanes could significantly compromise the safety and convenience of motorists at intersections and public driveways and paths but this issue has not been evaluated. Both Menlo Park and Palo Alto have relied on a bike network design expertise of Alta Design + Planning when they developed their bike network plans and priorities. Menlo Park has not sought their advice during this study. Vehicle traffic projections performed by the consultant indicate adding a third lane north of Ravenswood Avenue would not reduce congestion and neighborhood cut-thru traffic - counter-intuitive findings - but this claim is poorly explained. Clearly a range of possible outcomes is possible. What is the confidence level for this projection? Expected numbers are insufficient when dealing with probabilistic modeling. Where does the City currently appear to stand on these decisions? All commissions appear to support the improvement of the Ravenswood Intersection and the addition of bike lanes. A final proposal will be submitted to the City Council in May How can residents ensure their interests and concerns are considered? Sending an is most effective way to communicate your preferences and concerns to City Council members in writing. Residents should also attend the meeting when the City Council makes its decisions and if you are comfortable doing it, present your views. Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

15 My Current Position & Recommendations I strongly prefer NOT to encourage more bike usage of El Camino Real as I believe the benefit of making this highway marginally more convenient and safe for experienced cyclists is greatly outweighed by the dangers and inconvenience that would be experienced by bike riders, pedestrians and motorists. Therefore, I oppose both bike lanes and separate bike paths. I am not persuaded by the counter-intuitive study findings that indicate there would be no significant benefit from making El Camino Real three vehicle lanes in both directions for its entire length. I encourage the City Council to conduct a well-designed field trial that produces actual data before a final decision is made. I support the idea of improvements to the Ravenswood Intersection but it s unclear how the proposed changes would mesh with other changes being considered to improve the safety of this area that includes the train tracks and Alma Street intersection. Guest Viewpoint In The Almanac (April 15, 2015) My Letter to The Planning Commission And City Council (April 2, 2015) The Menlo Park Complete Street Policy Does NOT Require Bike Facilities on El Camino. (Published March 25, 2015) Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

16 El Camino Real Corridor Study: Let s Try Three Lanes Each Way And See How Well It Works. (Published March 16, 2015) The El Camino Real Corridor Study: Why Adding Bike Facilities On ECR Would Needlessly Jeopardize Cyclist, Driver And Pedestrian Safety. (Summary)(Published March 15, 2015) The El Camino Real Corridor Study: Your Voice Needs To Be Heard. (Published February 22/Updated March 9, 2015) The El Camino Real Corridor Study: How To Make Menlo Park More Bike Friendly (Analysis & Recommendations)(Published February 21, 2015) Recommended Additional Resources The El Camino Real Corridor Study website March 15, 2015 Study Report Menlo Park Comprehensive Bicycle Development Plan (2005) Menlo Park Bike Network (Specific Plan 2012) 2012 National Bike Safety Report City Of Palo Alto Bike + Pedestrian Transportation Plan Palo Alto Bike Network Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

17 A Closer Look At The Study And Alternatives Current Vehicle Traffic Future Vehicle Traffic per hour Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

18 Current Bike Usage A Review of The Menlo Park El Camino Corridor Study Table source: ECR Corridor Study 65% of cyclists are using the Palo Alto Avenue/Sand Hill Road/ECR = 256 cyclists 35% of cyclists are using FOUR Menlo Park ECR intersections = 136 cyclists. Are most riders simply crossing El Camino Real to reach their destinations? Future Bike Usage Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

19 Qwik Reference Comparison of Four Designs Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

20 Understanding Lane Charts When looking at the following charts imagine you have an aerial view of El Camino and you are traveling in the direction of the arrows. The horizontal lines just below street names represent intersections. Here are a few examples: Chart Existing ECR Design Traveling northbound on ECR and approaching Roble Avenue. o Three thru vehicle lanes o A left-turn vehicle lane Traveling northbound ECR and approaching Valparaiso/Glenwood Avenues o Two thru vehicle lanes o A left-turn vehicle lane o A right-turn vehicle lane Traveling southbound on ECR and approaching Ravenswood/Menlo Avenues o Two thru vehicle lanes o A left-turn vehicle lane Existing Design A Closer Look Alternative 1 - Three Vehicle Lanes A Closer Look Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

21 Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

22 Alternative 2 Buffered Bike Lanes Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

23 Alternative 3 Separate Bike Paths Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

24 Study Calendar Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

25 Complete Study (June 2015) Planning Commission Review (April 6, 2015) Transportation Division Report To Bike, Transportation and Planning Commissions (March 15, 2015) Second Online Resident Survey (February 19, 2015 thru March 13, 2015) Public Work Shop 3 Present Alternatives, Preliminary Analysis, Participants Rank Alternatives (February 19, 2015) Transportation Division Report To Bike And Transportation Commissions (November 12, 2014) Public Workshop 2 Summarize feedback from first online survey, identify best practices, and discuss design options (October 1, 2014) First Online Resident Survey Public Workshop 1 Identify Issues, suggest ideas for improving El Camino (April 30, 2014) Menlo Park Resources The El Camino Real Corridor Study website March 15, 2015 Study Report November 14, 2014 Study Report Menlo Park Comprehensive Bicycle Development Plan (2005) Menlo Park Bike Network (Specific Plan 2012) Additional Bike Network Resources 2012 National Bike Safety Report City Of Palo Alto Bike + Pedestrian Transportation Plan Palo Alto Bike Network Re-Imagine Menlo Park Updated: 23 April

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