They may be labeled “Suggested Routes to School,” but Los Altos resident Tamara Fagin doesn’t think they’re necessarily safe.
Fagin, mother of two school-aged children, hopes to make the routes – drawn up by the Los Altos Police Department and the city's traffic engineer – more bicycle friendly by proposing legislation for State Sen. Joe Simitian’s (D-Palo Alto) 10th annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest.
Her recommendation proposes outlawing parking or stopping in bike lanes within 250 feet of school entrances during the morning and afternoon traffic rush.
“The roads, and especially the so-called Suggested Routes to School … near our schools are unsafe for kids, parents and other residents of our communities,” she wrote in her application to Simitian’s office. “The roads are unsafe for bicycle riders, scooter riders, skaters, pedestrians of all ages (human and nonhuman (e.g., dogs!) and even drivers.”
The suggested routes aim to encourage cycling or walking to school by minimizing challenges for students, according to Bill Crook, Los Altos traffic commissioner.
Enforcing the law could prove difficult, Crook said, because most Los Altos School District campuses are in residential neighborhoods, and the Los Altos City Council has opposed parking restrictions in such areas in the past.
“The challenge is, in our quaint bedroom community, that parking in front of one’s home is close to being a God-given right,” he said, adding, “I commend (Fagin) for trying to make some improvements.”
Simitian’s office received approximately 430 “There Oughta Be a Law” applications by the Nov. 24 deadline. Simitian and his staff select two or three applicants each year to testify in Sacramento on behalf of their proposed laws.
Two local residents have won the contest. Dr. Jerome V. Blum of Los Altos won in 2008 for his bill that establishes outreach programs for veterans coping with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries. Lauren Ward of Los Altos Hills won in 2004 for her law that required adding a bittering agent to antifreeze to protect dogs and children from ingesting the poisonous liquid. Ward, an avid cyclist, died Nov. 4 in Portola Valley after her bike collided with a big rig.
Fagin’s proposal comes at a time when the city of Los Altos, the police department and residents are clamoring to solve what many perceive as a perpetual traffic jam near Blach School. Fagin’s children are students in the Los Altos School District.
Residents contend that the Miramonte Avenue and Covington Road intersection – one of the Suggested Routes to School – is unsafe due to the high volume of traffic during the morning rush. Behind Blach on Altamead Drive, the Los Altos Police Department installed “No Drop Off” signs to discourage parents from using the area.
The problem, according to Sgt. Matt Hartley of the Los Altos Police Department, is that alleviating traffic in one area merely pushes it to another.
A second public hearing on school traffic is scheduled 6 p.m. Jan. 4 at the Los Altos High School Eagle Theater, 201 Almond Ave.
*This version of the story corrects a previous error regarding the organizations that create Suggested Routes to School.