Bike Lane Gap in Menlo Park Bay Trail Route
On Tuesday evening the Menlo Park City Council approved the construction of a new streetscape for Haven Avenue that will bring wide sidewalks to the block nearest Marsh Road where there are none today — but also leave a gap in bike lanes at a key location along the popular San Francisco Bay Trail route. The formerly industrial-only area is expected to see heavier pedestrian and bicycle traffic after a total of 540 apartment units are completed at two new housing developments further west on Haven Avenue, where the city installed wide buffered bike lanes earlier this year.
But designers somehow weren’t able to find any space to install bike lanes nearest to Marsh Road, where the street is a massive 80 feet wide. City planners instead hope to lure bicyclists onto the new sidewalks with signs reading “Bicycles OK to Use Sidewalk” and direct bicycle traffic across the street on green stripes adjacent to the crosswalks called “crossbikes”.
“So the idea is that the cyclist is on the sidewalk with the walkers, it’s a shared use,” said Mayor Kirsten Keith at the meeting.
But cycling advocates are disappointed. “There is only a 4′ striped shoulder. This is despite the fact that the travel lanes are up to 23′ wide,” wrote Redwood City Complete Streets Advisory Committee Chair Matthew Self in an email to the Menlo Park City Council. “There is plenty of room for a 6′ bike lane on this section, and redirecting bikes onto the sidewalk is not an acceptable alternative. Cyclists will continue to use the roadway in the narrow 4′ striped shoulder.”
Where bike lanes will be added, they’ll only be five feet wide, around a 90-degree corner with travel lanes ranging in width from 12 to 15 feet. City staff declined to consider widening the bike lanes or adding a painted buffer, as suggested by City Council member Peter Ohtaki.
“The [travel] lanes are wide around the corner in order to provide adequate space for buses, trucks, and emergency vehicles,” said Assistant Public Works Director Nikki Nagaya.
While the major intersection at Haven Avenue and Marsh Road will see its three crosswalks restriped, no other improvements will be made. And designers chose standard crosswalks rather than high-visibility crosswalks. The intersection features very wide curb radii and long crossing distances for pedestrians. The east side of Marsh Road will remain without any crosswalk at all in order to maximize automobile volumes. Facebook employee Sam Felder died in April 2014 from injuries he suffered after being struck by a left-turning car while bicycling through the intersection on his way to work five months earlier.
“There are ways you can redesign this to make it safer,” said Sunnyvale resident Scott Lane. “Four and five foot wide bike lanes – that’s not acceptable.”
The nearby Marsh Road and Highway 101 interchange presents even greater hazards, including free-flowing traffic on-ramps that people walking and bicycling must cross. Menlo Park has no plans to fix the interchange’s safety hazards.