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201 El Camino Real development and bike safety

From: domainremoved <Tim>
Date: Thu, 21 Mar 2019 12:37:44 -0700

City Council and Planning Commission members,

I’m writing about the proposed 201 El Camino Real development. I was able to speak with the developers a couple weeks ago and I see a follow-up email today on this from one of our highly engaged community members.

My wife and I have lived in Menlo Park for 8 years now on Partridge Ave. and have two young children (one in Oak Knoll and the other entering soon). We appreciate living here because we can bike and walk to so many great family activities and because of the safe neighborhood feel (with great tree lined streets). So, that’s the perspective I’m writing from.

Our city has a long term plan (and a new El Camino / Downtown plan in review) that is meant to encourage a level of urbanization. Agree or disagree with this plan, I don’t think stopping this development to defend a neighborhood institution with "a friendly wait staff" is fair to developers and landlords who are trying to do business within the guidelines of this plan. That said, I do think we should be considerate of how this (and all) development can take place in a way that continues to allow for other goals in the plan, particularly safe neighborhoods, easily accessible by biking or walking.

Alto Lane runs behind the proposed 201 El Camino project. This (plus the informal parking lot connector behind the old Oasis) is an importaint connector route for cyclists (and walkers) that runs from Safeway to the creek with the only major interruption being the gas and service stations on Partridge. This Alto Ln. route gives cyclists a way to ride from Middle to San Hill / Alma (Palo Alto) without going on El Camino. Even with recent efforts in the Specific Plan, it will likely be many years (if at all) before we build a safe, separated bike lane on El Camino that families would feel comfortable using with small children. In the meantime, Alto Ln. is that safe, separated “bike route”.

The 201 El Camino building, as currently planned, eliminates this informal “bike route”. I’d like to respectfully ask the council to consider this informal Alto Ln. “bike route” in the approval for building on 201 El Camino. I spoke with the developers about this "bike route” and they said their building would maintain bike and walking thru access with an outdoor courtyard. However, their published plans show Alto Ln. behind their building as an underground parking entrance.

I understand that not all modes of transportation will benefit with development (and I understand why we often prioritize cars and car parking in town - more people use cars than walk or bike). But in this case, the alternative of biking on El Camino is highly dangerous for riders and will put slow bikes on an already traffic stressed stretch of road. (The danger comes from a high bike / car speed differential and unpredictable vehicle movement on this stretch of El Camino. Bikes entering and leaving the road to ride around 201 El Camino will create unpredictable bike movement. And cars merging to make turns for Alto and Sand Hill means unpredictable car movement here.) Instead of forcing bike traffic onto El Camino here, please consider maintaining Alto Ln. for the informal safe “bike route” it’s used for.

If Alto Ln. is removed, the sidewalk becomes the next best option for riding. Likely a wider sidewalk will be built anyway, ideally this will be wide enough for bikes (including bikes with kid trailers). This alternative is much better than bike riding on El Camino, but also more dangerous than using the current Alto Ln. informal “bike route.” It's more dangerous than the current Alto Ln. because it puts cyclists closer to El Camino while riding on/off the sidewalk. Cyclists with ride on/off the curb at Cambridge (on a green El Camino light) coming from or making the quick S-turn to get back onto Alto Ln. between the test prep center and Mathnasium. This transition will mean cyclists enter/exit Cambridge just next to El Camino (rather that a building length away from El Camino on Alto). This dramatically cuts the time riders have to react to cars turning right onto Cambridge (and the time turning cars have to react to cyclists).

Thank you for considering this “bike route" aspect of Alto Ln. for the 201 El Camino project. I’m sure there’s a great solution that allows for this development and maintains this (informal) safe, separated "bike route."

And a big thank you for all your continued efforts to make Menlo Park a safe place to bike (and walk).

Please reach out if I can be of help.

Tim Gernitis

766 Partridge Ave.
Menlo Park
917 880 6444
Received on Thu Mar 21 2019 - 12:33:27 PDT

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