Schools

City mulls Almond Avenue bike lane changes

Wrong Way Cyclists” width=
Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Students bicycle against the flow of traffic near Los Altos High School. The city of Los Altos is reviewing options to improve bicycle safety along Almond Avenue.

When Los Altos High School students return to classes next fall, the road in front of their school may look a bit different. The city of Los Altos plans to resurface Almond Avenue over the summer and is reviewing options to improve bicycle infrastructure along the street, as well as other potential changes.

Assistant Principal Galen Rosenberg said school administrators have long been interested in seeing improvements along Almond.

“I was definitely pleased to see this idea because it seems like it would be a big step forward for bike and pedestrian safety,” Rosenberg said.

The city is considering two options for changing bike lanes on the west end of Almond, near the intersection with North San Antonio Road.

The first proposal would retain the current bike lanes on each side of the street and extend the westbound bike lane to the San Antonio intersection, which it currently doesn’t reach. The bike lane would run between the left- and right-turn lanes and there would be a bicycle box at the head of the traffic lanes so bicyclists could turn in front of the vehicle queue.

The second option would create a two-way “cycle track” on the north side of Almond from San Antonio to North Gordon Way, where the school’s eastern boundary lies. The cycle track would replace some street parking and allow bicyclists to travel in both directions on the side of the street the high school is on.

“The benefit of the two-way cycle track is that it puts all the bicycle traffic on the right side of the street, where the bikes need to be to very safely make a left turn into the school,” said Jaime Rodriguez, a consultant working with the city on the Almond Avenue project.

Currently, students biking toward the high school from San Antonio are supposed to bike on the opposite side of the street and make a left turn across two lanes of traffic into the school. According to Rosenberg, that often doesn’t happen.

“Almost all our kids bike the wrong way on Almond coming to school from San Antonio – many on the sidewalk,” he said. “The idea that they would bike on the righthand side like they’re supposed to and then make a left turn onto campus seems like a stretch.”

There isn’t signage or markings indicating that bicyclists turn left into the school. During school hours, Rosenberg said there is a lot of traffic coming in both directions, and it is “pretty scary” to make the turn.

“There’s no stop signs, there’s no lights, there’s no nothing. You’re just supposed to pull into traffic and make a left,” Rosenberg said. “I’m a bike commuter, I try to follow the rules as written. I wouldn’t do that.”

Rodriguez said he has received feedback, including from Rosenberg, that many students bike on the wrong side of the road to access the high school.

“What we did in the second option was we tried to formalize the behavior that bicyclists are already practicing in the street today,” Rodriguez said.

The city held a community open house Nov. 20 where members of the public could provide input on the proposed changes along Almond. According to Rodriguez, the assembled crowd was split roughly 50/50 between the two options: keeping separate bike lanes on each side of the street and the cycle track.

Installing the cycle track would have bigger impacts, Rodriguez said, including eliminating street parking along part of the north side of Almond. There would also no longer be a bike lane on the south side of the street between San Antonio and the high school.

El Monte intersection

The city is also reviewing options to change the opposite end of Almond Avenue, where it intersects with North El Monte Avenue. The plans for the intersection saw more consensus at the open house.

Although three options were brought forward, Rodriguez said approximately 70% of attendees supported the same plan, which calls for installing stop signs on El Monte, making the intersection an all-way stop. Currently, only traffic on Almond Avenue stops. The plan also would extend the eastbound bike lane to the intersection and put crosswalks across El Monte.

Of the other two options, one kept El Monte without a stop sign, while the other put a roundabout at the intersection.

The plan is for the Complete Streets Commission to review the entire Almond Avenue project at its Jan. 22 meeting, Rodriguez said. City staff will present a summary of the comments from the open house, as well as a proposed plan for the project.

If the commission approves it, the plan will advance to the city council, which Rodriguez expects will review it in February or March.

For more information on the project, visit losaltosca.gov/almondave.

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