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Please Move Ahead with an ECR Bike Lane Pilot to Protect the Several Hundred People Already Bicycling on this Important Thoroughfare.

From: domainremoved <Diane>
Date: Wed, 4 May 2016 00:26:11 +0000

Dear Mayor Cline, City Council Members and Staff,
I’m writing with strong support for the tremendous progress this year on planning and improvements to bicycle infrastructure in Menlo Park, which benefits everyone living, working and visiting this City. Menlo Spark is an independent nonprofit organization working with businesses, residents and government partners to achieve a climate neutral Menlo Park within ten years. We consider safe bike routes to be key infrastructure that can provide good alternatives to driving, make the City more vibrant and welcoming, and help achieve our climate goals.
It is wonderful to see the city move forward with the Oak Grove Bicycle Boulevard, which will create a safe route to several area schools. Thank you for working with local schools, businesses and the Bicycle Commission to make this important route a reality. And thank you for working with Facebook and others to advance additional high-priority bike routes, including Chilco Street.
However, please don’t let one of the most important bike routes on El Camino Real fall by the wayside. Adding safe bike lanes along this key route, ECR, will reduce traffic congestion and the pollution that comes with it, and create a more pleasant and safer experience for people who are walking and biking. The safe bike lanes will also give a boost to local businesses, making it easier to visit local shops and run errands downtown.
Although some residents are voicing concern about the bike lanes potentially worsening traffic, city staff and consultants have done a thorough analysis showing that is not the case, due to “induced demand” (a well-studied concept that added car lanes quickly fill up creating even more congestion). One suggestion: Because traffic is a major concern, could the city hire another consultant to peer review the transportation modeling? This could help reassure everyone that adding a third vehicle lane on ECR is counter-productive. And this could be achieved in the same time that design consultants create potential options of specifically what the safer bike lanes and pedestrian crossings will look like and send these out for bids. Please do not let unfounded fears stop a great project.
Also, it seems lost in the discussion of bike lanes on ECR that several hundred people already bicycle on ECR each day at serious risk of collisions. County health data shows that this area has one of the highest collision rates in the region, creating an urgency to move ahead with safety improvements. Please move forward as quickly as possible with the planned bicycle route pilot and pedestrian safety upgrades for the El Camino Real corridor, by selecting the protected bike lane alternative.
As staff coordinate with Atherton and Palo Alto to improve bicycle route connectivity and safety, Menlo Park should continue to move the project forward collaboratively but without being delayed by our neighbors. Please vote to move ahead as quickly as possible with the El Camino bike lane pilot, creating a bike-friendly, vibrant downtown that serves everyone. Below is the information we provided last August for the Study Session on the El Camino Real re-design; the points remain salient to this project.
Thank you for your hard work and attention to these important bicycle route improvements. Menlo Park will be so much better off for your efforts to improve mobility.
Diane Bailey, Executive Director
Menlo Spark

 Background Information
Menlo Park has made good progress in considering complete streets that serve all residents including more bike lanes and sidewalks. We recommend that the City begin a pilot of safe bike lanes along El Camino Real, so that the street can better serve the interests of all residents and visitors to the City with a modern, diverse transportation network. A well designed pilot would guarantee safety and service with the following conditions:
• Putting safety first by using modern designs that have been shown to avoid collisions.[1]
• Allowing modifications to test different designs over the course of the pilot, which should be no less than one year, before breaking or pouring any concrete. During this time, data on traffic volumes and speed, accidents or near-accidents, and pedestrian and bike counts should be taken to evaluate the project.
• Providing thresholds to abandon the pilot in the event of serious problems:
? If major safety issues emerge. For example, after a reasonable driver adjustment period, if there is a serious collision, this should trigger a staff evaluation with potential to stop the pilot.
? If major traffic delays occur. For example, if vehicle delay times increase over a certain designated percentage (measured consistently against a baseline).

• Allowing City Council to be briefed on the pilot after a year and including a public hearing on whether to make the lanes permanent based on data regarding safety, pedestrian and bike usage, and traffic impacts.

Currently, El Camino Real mainly supports motorized vehicles: cars, trucks and buses, which contribute greatly to the City’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and cause congestion and pollution.[2] This Corridor Redesign presents an opportunity to serve the three quarters of people surveyed who said that they would consider cycling rather than driving for trips and errands along the corridor if bicycling conditions improved.[3] Piloting safe bike lanes on El Camino will encourage safe bicycling along this corridor, and inspire healthier, cleaner transportation, including the following benefits:

· Boosting Local Businesses: Studies have shown a significant increase in business along major roads after bike lanes are added.[4]

· Creating Appealing & Safe Alternatives: Adding the bike lanes to El Camino will include more landscaping and pedestrian safety improvements that will create a livelier and more pleasant downtown. Since most trips on El Camino aren’t for commutes, allowing people to bike for short trips could greatly alleviate traffic.

· Serving all Residents: Survey data shows that the most desired changes to El Camino are the addition of bike lanes and improvements to pedestrian safety.[5] Reflecting these priorities, the Bicycle, Transportation and Planning Commissions all recommend that the City move forward with safe bike lanes on El Camino.

· Reducing Through-Traffic: If Menlo Park adds protected bike lanes on El Camino, other cities including Atherton are likely to follow suit, providing a direct and safe route from Redwood City to Palo Alto that will get more commuters out of cars, potentially reducing hundreds of tons of GHG emissions.[6]

· Advancing Climate and Sustainability Goals: Safe Bike Routes allow more people to use alternatives to cars, reducing carbon pollution and increasing heart healthy activities.[7]

As the city looks to solve congestion on busy roadways, many people have called for more capacity to reduce traffic delays. However, adding another lane to El Camino Real now will not only continue to exclude bicyclists from this important route, but also fail to improve traffic flow. As shown in the comprehensive study by W-trans, adding an additional lane will significantly increase car volumes (45% north of Ravenswood Avenue) and increase travel times on average, at even greater rates than options that include bike lanes.[8] Further, other streets, such as Middlefield Ave., will also see increased traffic under the Alternative (1) that would add an additional vehicle lane to El Camino. These projections, while counterintuitive, are in line with the well-established concept of “induced demand,” which explains why building or expanding roads tends to also increase the number of cars, so that no benefit is realized.[9] On highways and regional connectors across the country in cities of all sizes, the evidence is clear that larger roads mean more cars, but rarely faster travel.
Adding bike lanes to El Camino could produce substantial economic benefits for Menlo Park. People who ride their bikes to stores spend more than those who drive or take transit, and streets with bike lanes attract new businesses and higher home prices.[10] Part of this is due to the casual pace and accessibility of bikes: a bicyclist will notice stores and signs more than someone cruising by in traffic at 35 miles per hour, and can more easily stop and visit the store. A large fraction of residents use El Camino Real for regular errands and shopping, so creating a bike route directly to these destinations will allow residents to make these short trips comfortably without a car.[11] Attracting bicyclists to Menlo Park’s central corridor by adding protected bike lanes will help to create a more vibrant business community and make El Camino Real a more attractive, family-friendly environment.
Because of its current auto-centric design, there are concerns that bikes would not be safe on El Camino, and that alternate routes would be preferable. While worries about safety are important, these concerns are misplaced: El Camino bike paths can be both safer and more convenient than relying on parallel routes. Due to the irregular street grid and obstacles like train tracks, the only north-south alternatives found by the Transportation program require a much longer ride or winding through developments on the other side of the Caltrain tracks.[12] To incentivize bicycling as a daily activity and access to businesses, bike paths should be direct and visible, not roundabout and obscure.
Bike lanes on busy roads can be very safe if they are built with modern design standards that protect bicyclists while minimizing their impact on drivers. Protected bike lanes, an increasingly popular type of bike infrastructure, are appearing in cities across the Bay Area and the country, and they are incredibly successful at preventing collisions. Studies have found them to reduce collisions by up to 90%, which is much safer than traditional bike lanes.[13] Furthermore, intersections and turnouts in protected lanes are also incredibly safe. A comprehensive study of protected bike lanes in the U.S. found that out of over 12,500 intersection crossings, there were zero injuries, and only six incidences of “minor conflicts.”[14] As a result of increased safety, protected bike lanes draw much higher ridership. The same multi-city study showed an average ridership increase of 75% within one year of installing a protected bike lane.
Given the current lack of complete routes in Menlo Park and the numerous businesses and attractions along the boulevard, protected bike lanes would provide a safe solution to a major gap in Menlo Park’s transportation network. As communities up and down the Peninsula begin to re-evaluate their transportation systems and redesign the role of El Camino Real,[15] Menlo Park has an opportunity to show leadership by installing protected bike lanes along our segment of this central boulevard. Because of the many different interests at stake and the lasting importance of this project, we propose that the City implement a trial of the bike lanes, as described above, in order to gather data on usage, safety, and traffic impacts for one year, with triggers for removal if traffic worsens significantly or if there are major safety hazards.[16]


[1] The NACTO Urban Bikeway Design<http://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/> Guide<http://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/> offers a list of bikeway designs to maximize safety for all users in different circumstances.

[2] The El Camino Real Corridor Study<http://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/6925>, as presented to the Transportation, Bicycle, and Planning Commissions, shows up to 2,000 cars per hour near the El Camino Real/Middle Ave. intersection, as opposed to a maximum of 28 pedestrians per hour and 17 bicycles per hour at the same intersection.

[3] According to the El Camino Real Corridor Study online survey<http://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/5651> conducted between June and September 2014.

[4] https://bikeeastbay.org/people-mean-business; http://bikeleague.org/reports

[5] Based on an online survey done by the City in Summer 2014, 72% of participants wanted “inclusion of bike lanes on El Camino Real,” and 65% of the respondents said that the redesign should focus on bikes, pedestrians, and transit rather than cars. Source: Final Study, http://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/7805

[6] Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition notes the significance of this project with a call for letters: http://bikesiliconvalley.org/2015/05/bikes-lanes-on-el-camino-in-menlo-park/ We estimate that a doubling of bike trips replacing car trips on El Camino between Redwood City and Palo Alto could reduce roughly 380 tons of CO2 emissions per year.

[7] The American Public Health Association notes that walking and bicycling for daily transportation can improve mental health, reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and save significant money. https://www.apha.org/~/media/files/pdf/topics/transport/apha_active_transportation_fact_sheet_2010.ashx

[8] El Camino Real Corridor Study<http://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/7805>. Prepared for the City of Menlo Park by W-Trans.

[9] A 20-year study<http://www.nber.org/papers/w15376> from the National Bureau of Economic Research of all US city-level traffic finds that “extension of most major roads is met with a proportional increase in traffic,” which they call the “fundamental law of road congestion.” In fact, despite great increases in lane-kilometers in all types of roads, travel times have also increased.

[10] Green, Josh. “Bike Lanes and Higher Property Values: Is there a Correlation?<http://atlanta.curbed.com/archives/2013/08/08/bike-lanes-property-values-is-there-a-correlation.php>” Curbed Atlanta. Vox Media, 8 August 2013.

[11] 76% of respondents to the El Camino Real Corridor Study online survey<http://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/5651> use the road for shopping, and 69% patronize local businesses on the road.

[12] El Camino Real Corridor Study – Potential Parallel Bike Route Options<http://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/Home/View/6623>

[13] A study from the University of British Columbia<http://cyclingincities.spph.ubc.ca/injuries/the-bice-study/> found that protected bike lanes reduce accidents by 90%, while traditional bike lanes reduce injuries by approximately 50%.

[14] A summary of the study’s findings, and some guidelines for designing protected intersections, can be found here.<http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/essentially-everyone-who-sees-protected-bike-lanes-agrees-that-they-are-saf> The complete study from Portland State University can be found here.<http://ppms.otrec.us/media/project_files/NITC-RR-583_ProtectedLanes_FinalReportb.pdf>

[15] Sunnyvale recently added bike lanes to a section of El Camino Real<http://www.mercurynews.com/sunnyvale/ci_23731934/sunnyvale-grant-money-funds-bike-lanes-portion-el> in their city, and Mountain View has planned bike lanes (with the possibility of protected bike lanes) as part of their El Camino Real Precise Plan<http://www.mountainview.gov/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?BlobID=15251>. Furthermore, Atherton has put their redesign of El Camino Real on hold<http://www.almanacnews.com/news/2015/02/19/atherton-puts-study-of-el-camino-lane-reduction-on-hold> to integrate their plans to Menlo Park’s decision.
[16] Note that protected bike lanes have been successfully piloted on busy roads in many cities. See for example: Kalamazoo, MI<http://swmichigan.secondwavemedia.com/features/Bicyclists-give-the-pop-up-bike-lane-a-trial-0625.aspx>, San Diego<http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/video-from-san-diego-shows-off-great-ideas-for-pop-up-protected-bike-lanes>, Boise, ID<http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/09/23/3390444/solution-near-on-downtown-boise.html>, Vancouver, BC<http://www.citylab.com/politics/2014/12/after-a-series-of-failures-how-vancouver-finally-built-a-controversial-bike-lane/383272/>, and Oakland<https://bikeeastbay.org/campaigns/telegraph>.
Received on Tue May 03 2016 - 17:32:17 PDT

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