Redwood City Set to Approve 4-to-3 Lane Road Diet on Farm Hill Boulevard

Redwood City engineers have found adding white edge lines and sharrows to Farm Hill Boulevard in Summer 2013 hasn’t resulted in slower vehicle speeds or fewer collisions. Photo: Google Maps

After rejecting the idea as too ambitious in 2012, Redwood City transportation officials last week recommended a road diet on Farm Hill Boulevard as a one-year pilot project.

If the City Council approves the project on January 26, two miles of the street will get the road diet treatment in about six months.

Redwood City staff say going from four lanes to three “is one of the most effective engineering changes available to achieve the goals of enhancing safety and livability for residents, visitors, and commuters” in their report for Monday’s City Council meeting [PDF]. “It will reduce the existing, excess capacity during off-peak times which facilitates unsafe driving.”

City staff found that 60 to 90 percent of car drivers currently exceed the 35 mph speed limit on Farm Hill Boulevard, which crosses the southernmost extent of Redwood City from Alameda de las Pulgas to Highway 280 through neighborhoods of single-family homes. Speeding is the primary cause of more than 40 percent of crashes causing injury on the street, which occur roughly every other month on average.

“Farm Hill Boulevard is one area where the city is piloting a Complete Streets approach and has had a long history of community concerns,” wrote Redwood City spokesperson Meghan Horrigan in an email. “The city continues to receive complaints about safety and property damage due to speeding and reckless driving.”

Last May, two 19-year-olds seen speeding in a Mercedes on Farm Hill Boulevard crashed into a tree, sending them both to the hospital with serious injuries.

“The house at the corner of Glennan and Farm Hill has had cars ‘arrive’ several times and they now have large boulders on the corner to protect the house,” reported resident Rebecca Ratcliff. “Those boulders have been hit several times, including one last summer that woke the mother.” Ratcliff says she knows two families who moved away from Farm Hill due to the threat posed to their children by dangerous traffic.

The owners of this house at Farm Hill Boulevard and Glennan Drive installed boulders and a brick wall to keep car drivers from crashing into the lawn. Photo: Google Maps

“Farm Hill has become a safety hazard, part of that due to an outdated four-lane design,” said resident Jim Luna at the meeting. “We’re not only making it safer, but also making it healthier, for everybody.”

The new design, which calls for a travel lane in each direction, a center left-turn lane, and bike lanes on both sides of the street, would apply from Alameda de la Pulgas to just before Woodhill Drive, the main entrance to Canada College. Four lanes would be kept on sections of Farm Hill approaching Emerald Hill Road to avoid delaying traffic. The design was also “adjusted to minimize parking removal in front of residences.”

The re-design was initially proposed by Redwood City transportation planners in June 2012 but considered too ambitious by senior city officials and the City Council, who received complaints from some residents fearing it would cause traffic delays, even though the city’s traffic study showed that the longest possible delay for drivers at an intersection would be just 14 seconds.

Proposed Farm Hill Blvd Cross Sections
Cross-section designs proposed on different sections of Farm Hill Boulevard. Image: City of Redwood City

“Staff recommends that the City continue implementing the General Plan goals for safe streets on roadways with fewer issues of traffic volume and perception of radical change,” stated the October 2012 staff report [PDF] to City Council, which noted that safety improvements on other streets “less controversial and disruptive to residents” could be pursued instead.

At the time, the council directed city staff to pursue traffic safety projects on other streets and implement improvements to Farm Hill other than changing the number of lanes. In summer 2013, after the street was resurfaced, new sharrows, outside edge lines, yield markings at unsignalized intersections, and “a high-friction surface” at one particularly tight corner were installed. If the council had not intervened, the lane reduction and bike lanes would have been implemented at that time.

City engineers designed a similar four-to-three lane reduction for Brewster Avenue that was installed last summer, which they report “has been well received.” Additional pedestrian safety improvements are planned for Brewster in 2015. The Brewster Avenue road diet is the most recent in a series of such projects undertaken by Redwood City over the past 20 years, including Edgewood Road, Alameda de las Pulgas, Veterans Boulevard, Middlefield Road, Industrial Way, Winslow Street, and part of Jefferson Avenue. The city’s data for the most recent of these projects showed reductions in car crashes ranging from 30 to 77 percent after travel lanes were removed and bike lanes added.

If approved by the City Council on Monday, the four-to-three lane re-striping of Farm Hill Boulevard will be completed as a pilot project by July, followed by a one-year evaluation period in which city staff will collect data to determine if the changes should be made permanent. On Monday the Council will also consider creating a “Complete Streets Advisory Committee,” similar to the many Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees (BPAC) already established in neighboring cities.

  • lunartree

    For high traffic roads like this why don’t they protect the bike lane by putting it between the parking lane and the sidewalk?

  • SFnative74

    You could add a parking-protected cycletrack if you removed 2 lanes rather than just 1. Those types of bikeways require more space, otherwise you end up with a 5′ wide bikeway scrunched in between the sidewalk and the parked cars. You need space for car doors to open outside the path of cyclists.

  • Andy Chow

    There’s a portion of the road where there’s a steep incline. From 280, cars can go really fast because of the momentum going downhill. I think uphill portion should stay two lanes so that cars can pass trucks and buses that are going up the hill at a slower speed, but a single lane for downhill. I don’t know what’s the purpose of the bike lanes other than to occupy excess road space. The road is too steep and lacks destinations to attract usage (low density single family homes and a college up on a hill, and does not directly connect with Canada Road where it is used by recreational cyclists.

  • murphstahoe

    does not directly connect with Canada Road where it is used by recreational cyclists…

    It’s a trivial – and well worn – route through the college to Canada.

  • Bike sharrows are less than useless! Every near-miss I’ve ever had with a vehicle while biking has been right next to a bike sharrow. I really think they have the opposite effect. Bike sharrows classically condition drivers to constantly run over cyclists!

  • djconnel

    That’s not a good idea here. Descending cyclists are able to keep up with the pace of vehicle traffic (if it’s not speeding) and drivers exiting their vehicles would be at risk. Climbing cyclists are slow enough that they are easily passed in a timely fashion.

  • Cherokee Schill

    Two words: Door Zone.
    The project needs to be done and it needs to be done with pedestrian and cyclist safety as their first priority. The proposal as they have it, puts cyclists at risk. There isn’t a 3 foot space buffer between the cyclist and passing traffic. The lane does not have a buffer for driver drift. Such as the one where the Bishop killed the cyclist in the bike lane. Same type of road. The on street parking is welfare for cars and that needs to be moved or eliminated.
    I’d like to see a wider sidewalk, an 8 foot wide buffered lane on each side which filters into sharrows at intersections and puts cyclist in the field of vision of motorists. I would really be wary of anything with a door zone and no buffer.

  • Cherokee Schill

    That is because you are not supposed to ride next to the sharrow. You are supposed to place yourself directly on the sharrows. Motorists are lazy and won’t change lanes to pass if they think they have enough space to squeeze by you in the lane. Control your lane.

  • hopkins_kid

    next they should look at Hopkins ave, where people routinely do 45 down a 25

  • I always do ride directly over the bike sharrows because of the imaginary speed boost they provide, but drivers don’t pay any attention to bike sharrows at all. On the contrary, bike sharrows encourage drivers to be more aggressive towards cyclists. Every near-hit I’ve encountered with a car has been near a bicycle sharrow. They are absolutely a useless waste of paint, and do nothing to improve traffic safety. Signs would be more effective.

  • If combining vehicle traffic and bicycle traffic is such a brilliant idea, why has every country that has high bicycle traffic abandoned it? Bicycles driving right next to cars, trucks and buses is dangerous and stressful for everybody, because there is no margin for error. Biking is never going to grow if we keep prioritizing cars traffic. Cycling needs to be safe, and mixing it with traffic makes it an extreme sport; not a reasonably safe way for people to get around.

  • Affen_Theater

    For anyone who didn’t already know, Redwood City’s council unanimously approved the Farm Hill/Jefferson “road diet” as a 1-year pilot at its Monday night meeting.

    Here’s the story from the San Mateo Daily Journal.

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