Last month I addressed the need for safe pedestrian and cycling routes through Los Altos that ensure connectivity between where people live and where people want to go. I ran out of space and promised to address north Los Altos and the portion of Los Altos on the hill side of Foothill Expressway this month.
The obvious route through north Los Altos is Los Altos Avenue, which unfortunately is the only north-south continuous route between San Antonio and Arastradero roads. I have used Los Altos Avenue to commute and have received feedback from at least one resident who does not feel safe on it because of the combination of high-speed traffic, pedestrians, baby carriages, dogs, cyclists, unmarked shoulders, parked cars and no sidewalks. There is no obvious solution, but I will try to address ways to tackle the problem.
Toward the hills, the main problems are difficulty crossing Foothill and the winding roads with no shoulders. Except for through routes on El Monte and Magdalena roads, nonmotorists using these streets are likely to be residents, and I believe the focus for north-south commuters should be on keeping and making Foothill safe and not encouraging cyclists to use the frontage roads.
I recently had the pleasure of team-teaching safe-cycling classes for middle schoolers and parents in Palo Alto and Cupertino. These classes have been impacted by COVID restrictions, but the structure was changed to ensure social distancing except between child and parent, and they went smoothly. The modified structure might actually be better because it allowed more interaction at the family level. (If interested, Google “Wheel Kids” and review the program opportunities.)
The Palo Alto class featured the new Ross Road Bicycle Boulevard. Not without controversy, Palo Alto has created a second bike boulevard on Ross to complement the Bryant Avenue crosstown route. The idea is to have safe routes for children that do not require crossing Middlefield Road.
The idea of a bike boulevard is to prioritize cycling over cars on select routes. Ross features speed bumps with cutouts in the center of each lane for bikes (the spacing between traffic lanes also allows an emergency vehicle to use the cutouts while traveling down the centerline). The number of stop signs is minimized and traffic-calming measures are used at high-volume locations (the Palo Alto YMCA on Ross, for example). Local residents can use the road, but through traffic is discouraged (on Bryant by pedestrian bike-only intersections).
Are these routes perfect? No. Do these routes receive unanimous approval from local residents? No. However, they do provide a safe and inviting route for cyclists – and pedestrians – and I believe they create an environment that enables kids to safely spread their wings and become confident, competent and independent explorers as they grow. The key to their utility is providing routes for people to get where they want to go. Remember that any bike route is only as safe as its most dangerous link.
The difference between Los Altos and Palo Alto is that Palo Alto has a grid of parallel streets; if cars are discouraged on one through route, they can be accommodated by a parallel street. Los Altos has a web of dead-end streets and a small number of through roads. These through roads were not designed to accommodate today’s commuter traffic and a mixture of cyclists and pedestrians of varying capabilities.
I see two possibilities for Los Altos. The first is the creation of parallel multiuse paths on through routes such as Los Altos Avenue, Springer and Miramonte roads and Cuesta Drive. The second is the creation of through routes on less-traveled side roads, even though they would require a few turns.
Just a hypothetical example to illustrate the concept: Covington Road, Campbell Avenue, Cuesta Drive, South Clark Avenue, Camellia Way and Marilyn Drive would take you most of the way from downtown to the vicinity of Graham Middle School.
I’d love to see these concepts debated so as to contribute to a livable future in our small part of the world.
See the above photo of a crosswalk at Loyola Corners for my nomination as most dangerous pedestrian crosswalk ever. Is this the world’s most dangerous marked crosswalk?