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Safe Routes to Laurel - Comments for City Council Meeting Tonight (8/23)

From: domainremoved <Jennifer>
Date: Tue, 23 Aug 2016 15:28:05 -0700

August 23, 2016

Dear City Council Members,

My name is Jen Wolosin and I am writing to urge the City Council to adopt
the Transportation Commission and Bicycle Commission's recommendations to
direct City Staff to conduct a Laurel Safe Routes to School study. While
Staff Report 16-147-CC suggests waiting for the 2017 Council goal
setting/work plan, I would like the City to begin the 18-month study right
away. Upper Laurel is set to open on October 17, 2016. Planning for the new
Laurel campus began in 2014, with the passage of Measure A. We have already
lost 2 years of planning and with traffic in our neighborhoods only getting
worse, we can not wait any longer.

As you may know, I was called to action in July upon reading the
Transportation Department Staff Report 16-008-TC that outlined
recommendations for the streets directly surrounding Upper Laurel. Given
that so many Laurel students would be having to cross Willow Road to attend
the new campus, and that biking and walking were strongly being encouraged
by the school, I found the limited to scope of the staff recommendations
alarming. After attending the Transportation Commission meeting on July
13th and expressing my concerns, I took it upon myself to write the Laurel
Mom Plan, which then became the Laurel Connector Bike Plan.

The original Laurel Connector Bike Plan (Dated July 21st) was my attempt to
dream up the optimal route that would allow the safest passage for children
traveling from Upper Laurel to the San Mateo County Line on Coleman Ave.
The plan did not take into consideration the needs of neighbors and instead
was written solely to maximize safety for kids. While an online petition I
created on Change.org received 96 supporters, many in the community voiced
concerns with the one-sided nature of my recommendations. I also learned
that at least some of those who signed the petition may not have thought
through the black and white nature of the proposed changes. The biggest
concern regarding the original plan had to do with 24/7 No Parking along
Gilbert in order to accommodate buffered bike lanes. After listening to and
meeting with neighbors, including the businesses along Menalto at Gilbert,
I realized that I would need to revise my original plan to better balance
the needs of neighbors with those of kids on bikes.

The REVISED Laurel Connector Bike Plan (Updated July 27th), in my opinion,
incorporated the feedback I had received from community members as to
parking needs, while still maintaining enough safety measure to ensure that
children could bike safely to school. Also, whereas the original plan was
black and white in nature and black and white in terms of how feedback
could be collected, the REVISED plan was more flexible and open. Instead of
calling for parking restrictions on many streets, the REVISED plan
presented trade-offs and various options. I also created a Survey Monkey
survey that allowed for neighbors to provide feedback on different parts of
the plan and to share their opinions, whether they were in favor or against.

Because this issue is of great importance to me (I have an 8-year old
daughter that will attend 3rd grade at Upper Laurel and a 6-year old that
will be in 1st grade at Lower Laurel, and I am very concerned about traffic
safety in our area), I have gone to great lengths to get neighbors to pay
attention to this issue in our community. I have not only put myself into
the limelight on NextDoor (which is a bit scary), but I have also held
meetings with neighbors, businesses, Bicycle Commissioners, Transportation
Department staff, Menlo Park City School District staff and others. I have
led a group of stakeholders, including Justin Murphy, Menlo Park Public
Works Director, on a bike ride along the proposed REVISED Laurel Connector
Bike Route, attended a National Night Out event on Menalto and Gilbert and
personally mailed over 370 letters to every resident along the route, which
included the REVISED plan and link to the survey. I have spent my summer
trying to make our streets safer, to the great annoyance of my family, all
with the hope that tonight, you will understand the importance of taking
action on making our streets safer.

I am no longer advocating for the REVISED Laurel Connector Bike Plan. My
plan was a wish list, an amateur's stab at what it would take to get a mom
to send her kid to school safely on a bike. As I’ve mentioned before, I am
not a transportation engineer and there are processes set up to make
changes in our city. I have learned that making transportation enhancements
is not an easy thing to do...since what is an “enhancement” to many, can be
seen as a “detriment” to others. The results of the Survey Monkey survey
clearly show that to be the case (Please note that the numbers below are as
8/20/16, with 102 responses. Today, 8/23/16 there are 127 responses, but I
haven’t yet had a chance to tabulate the new results...I will update as
soon as possible.):


   -

   Approximately ⅔ of MP Resident not along the proposed route supported
   the plan.
   -

   Approximately ¾ of MP Resident along route did not support any
   restricted parking.
   -

   About half of MP Residents along route supported other aspects of the
   plan.
   -

   The biggest resident concerns included restricted parking, additional
   stop signs, lowering speed limits, the route not being direct enough and
   the fact that the streets were safe enough “as-is”.


As you know as City Council members, reaching consensus is difficult...but
I would argue not impossible. On Saturday I met at Cafe Zoe with a handful
of residents that live along Gilbert and in the Willows that were concerned
about and extremely opposed to the REVISED Laurel Connector Bike Plan.
While we did not agree on everything, I am hopeful that over time, we could
find common ground. These neighbors, many of whom have been living in the
Willows for more than 30 years, also enlightened me on past traffic calming
efforts aimed to improve speeding, congestion and safety in the
neighborhood. Most of these past initiatives failed due to lack of
consensus. We must try again and we must try harder. I am not only here to
urge City Council to prioritize Safe Routes, I am also here to urge my
neighbors to work together to find ways to help each other. It’s easy to be
cynical. It’s harder to rise above it and seek out creative solutions. We
are smart people. We can do this.

I have learned over the past month that this is a challenging, complex and
emotionally charged issue. I have also learned that it will take efforts
from three main groups of stakeholders to make Safe Routes a reality;
residents, the Menlo Park City School District and the City of Menlo Park:


   1.

   Residents - I have already mentioned that my hope is that residents can
   work together to find common ground.
   2.

   Menlo Park City School District - Looking at the 5 S’s of Safe Routes
   (Education, Encouragement, Evaluation, Enforcement and Engineering), it
   will be important for Laurel and the MPCSD to do everything they can with
   Education and Encouragement.
   1.

      Education - In addition to Bike Rodeos that take place in the 4th
      Grade, I would recommend that if Laurel indeed wants kids to
bike to school
      (and given that they are installing bike racks at Upper Laurel to
      accommodate 150 bikes, that can be safely assumed), then they should
      prioritize bicycle education among students, starting at the beginning of
      3rd grade. Parents also should be reminded about bike safety and
that bikes
      are vehicles and need to follow the rules of the road (stop at
stop signs,
      signal, when to “share” the road, etc.). I would also suggest that Laurel
      hire an organization like KidPower (https://www.kidpower.org/) to
      teach students and/or parents about Stranger Safety and how to
help parents
      identify when their child is ready to travel to school alone or with a
      friend.
      2.

      Encouragement - Laurel needs to encourage families to walk, bike,
      take the bus and carpool. It is suggested that leaders at Laurel
reach out
      to GAIS (the former occupants of the O’Connor site) to learn
best practices
      on traffic flow and carpool encouragement. From everything I’ve
heard, they
      were great neighbors. Laurel can also organize biking and walking school
      buses for families.

In addition to education and encouragement, there are two other issues that
the Menlo Park City School District must address; crossing guards and
busing:

   -

   Laurel is considering having up to 2 crossing guards. One at
   Elliott/O’Connor and one at the school entrance. While the school district
   supports the expansion of City wide efforts to place crossing guards at
   critical intersections, after speaking with staff Transportation
   Department, it has become clear that the City doesn’t provide crossing
   guards for any of the 4 public school districts that fall within its
   jurisdiction. It is unacceptable that the school district can point to the
   City, and the City can point to the school district, and in the meantime,
   kids are left to cross Willow Road on their own. Since the Menlo Park City
   School District already has a crossing guard program set up, it is clear
   that the school district must step up to provide additional crossing guards
   at this time.
   -

   When the Menlo Park City School District decided to have “One Laurel”
   that was comprised of a K-2 at one campus (Lower Laurel) and a 3-5 at
   another campus (Upper Laurel), assurances were made that there would be
   connectivity between the two campuses to ease families’ burdens of having
   kids at different campuses. Sadly, due to a lack of resources, it doesn’t
   appear that this original promise is being kept. In some situations,
   families are being told that at best, they will need to wait one hour for
   children to be bused between the two campuses. On Thursdays, there will be
   no busing available for kids needing to travel from Upper Laurel to Lower
   Laurel to meet up with siblings. The Menlo Park City School District must
   dedicate more resources towards busing, especially given the limited number
   of parking spots available to parents at Upper Laurel (approximately 20)
   and the lack of Safe Routes planning.

I plan to present these concerns at the next Menlo Park City School
District School School Board meeting, and I urge my fellow residents and
the City Council to join me in pushing the School Board for these measures.
If the District can’t fund these items, then the MPAEF and/or Laurel PTO
needs to get involved.

   1.

   The City of Menlo Park - Last but not least is what the City Council can
   do about Safe Routes. Again, looking at the 5 E’s of Safe Routes, the City
   must own Evaluation, Enforcement and Engineering.
   1.

      Evaluation - As stated at the beginning, the City Council must direct
      City Staff to study Safe Routes to Laurel as soon as possible.
      2.

      Enforcement - The Menlo Park Police Department must do everything
      they can to enforce existing speed limits (25 mph) and traffic
laws. It is
      reported that many cars and bikes run through stop signs and
this is a huge
      safety issue for not only kids on bikes but everyone traveling
through our
      neighborhoods. Another idea to slow down traffic would be to get
neighbors
      and Laurel parents to put “PACE Car” magnets on their cars and
to commit to
      driving the speed limit. It’s a way for residents, school
families and law
      enforcement to work together.
      3.

      Engineering
      1.

         18 months - Assuming that a Safe Routes study is started right
         away, it is the hope that engineering enhancements can be
implemented in
         less than 2 years (as stated, this is already later than it
should be given
         that Measure A was passed in 2014). Whether aspects of the
REVISED Laurel
         Connector Bike Plan are ultimately adopted or enhancements
that come from
         the Safe Routes study are implemented, engineering is
necessary to truly
         make biking to Laurel safe for kids. As mentioned, at this
point, I will
         leave it up to transportation professionals to determine
which combination
         of measures should be implemented.
         2.

         Short term - Yesterday (July 22nd), I had the pleasure of meeting
         with Transportation Manager, Nikki Nagaya and others on her
staff, to go
         over a non-controversial (hopefully!) list of short term
enhancements that
         should be considered right away, before school opens on
October 17th if
         possible. These include things like light-up crosswalks,
fixing painting on
         the ground, striping on Gilbert to narrow the line of sight, and
         additional signage. In addition, while there is a warrant
process in place
         for new stop signs, I would strongly encourage the City to
look into adding
         a stop sign on Coleman Avenue at Santa Monica as soon as
possible. Please
         don’t wait two years for this.

While I realize that I have potentially added a lot to the City’s plate
(and I know you have a lot going on), there’s one more thing I’d like you
to consider. As City Council members, please come out into our community,
talk to neighbors, get neighbors to talk to each other and do what you can
to engage residents in any process that takes place. Face to face meetings,
rather than posts on NextDoor, are a much more personal and effective way
for our community to communicate with each other. Please lead us… you are
our elected leaders.

To close, thank you for your attention and for your consideration. I am
proud to live in Menlo Park and I plan to live here for a very long time.
Please help make this community the best it can be.

Sincerely,

Jen Wolosin

2 Alder Place, MP
Received on Tue Aug 23 2016 - 15:34:19 PDT

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