Menlo Park’s proposal for protected bike lanes on El Camino Real is meeting resistance from the top brass at the city’s Fire Protection District, who would rather see the road become wider and more dangerous.
In a recent letter to the Menlo Park City Council, Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman completely missed the point of installing protected bike lanes — to make making bicycling safer and more attractive. “I cannot recommend the use of El Camino Real in Menlo Park to bicyclists because it is a fairly dangerous route,” he wrote. “In my 35-year career, bicyclists almost always ‘lose’ when they are involved with an accident involving a vehicle, no matter who is at fault or to blame.”
Instead, Schapelhouman said it would be “interesting” to expand the street-level highway to six lanes and synchronize traffic signals to let drivers speed through downtown Menlo Park.
Three city advisory commissions have endorsed the conceptual plan to install bike lanes, either physically protected from motor traffic by curbs and landscaped traffic islands, or an alternative with just a painted buffer zone.
At an August 25 meeting, Menlo Park City Council members refrained from voting on those proposals but did say they favor a trial version of the protected bike lanes, which would replace 156 parking spaces along all 1.3 miles of El Camino Real within the city.
“Until we as a city envision transportation differently and implement actually very simple infrastructure… it’s just going to always be easier to jump in your car,” said Cindy Walton, vice chair of the Menlo Park Bicycle Commission, told the City Council. “We have to do things that are transformative in order to enable people to ride their bikes, or take buses, or walk.”