Meeting Thursday for Menlo Park bike lanes

Lady Fleur looks at a Menlo Park bike lane where parking is also allowed near a private school on Laurel Street at Oak Grove.

If Laurel Street in Menlo Park is 42 feet wide, how do you divide the roadway so everyone gets what they need? Or should some people’s needs get higher priority than others?

There’s a neighborhood meeting on Thursday, October 3 in Menlo Park where they’ll discuss prohibiting parking all day in the morning-only bike lane near Nativity School, a proposal that’s expected to be unpopular with the school’s parents and teachers.

Laurel is a block north of the Menlo Park Caltrain Station is runs parallel to El Camino Real. This is nominally a north-south street if you think of ECR and Middlefield as north-south boulevards in terms of their direction relative the Bay. In terms of compass direction these are east-west streets. If you live in the Bay Area you understand; if you don’t, you’re likely scratching your head wondering what’s wrong with us.



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Two public elementary schools, a high school, two private college campuses, and major employers such as the US Geological Survey and SRI International are all located within a mile of the private Nativity School. The location has an enviable Walkscore of 86. Because Nativity is located within an aging and shrinking Catholic parish, the small school actively recruits students from a broad geographic area, so everybody drives their children to this school.

Northbound Laurel has a bike lane in which parking is also permitted except for 7 AM to 9 AM, which is apparently school drop off time at the private school. Because the alternate parallel streets are Middlefield Road and El Camino Real, Laurel is kind of the only reasonable bike route for children biking to nearby Encinal Elementary School. The heavy drop off traffic on Laurel and Oak Grove and bike lane parking make things challenging for young children on bikes.

The Almanac also picked up the story, credulously accepting the traffic safety credentials of school principal Carol Trelut, who apparently buys into the car advertising myth that surface streets next to schools are for cars only.

Forcing cars off Laurel Street could create a safety hazard instead of solving one, Ms. Trelut said, in situations when Middlefield Road becomes closed to traffic — as it was on Friday, Sept. 27.

“It is the only thoroughfare off of Middlefield Road that you can get a clear shot through, so they have to keep it moving and they have to (be able to) pull out for emergency’s sake,” the principal said.

Ms. Trelut added that the parking spaces on Laurel Street are used by the parents of kindergarteners, who have to walk their children into the school.

Traffic studies Nativity School conducted found at most six to 10 bicyclists traveling along Laurel Street during pick-up and drop-off times, according to Ms. Trelut. “I just don’t understand why” anyone thinks eliminating the bike lane parking is necessary, she said. “Just leave the parking the way it is.”

The Almanac story says the complaint about bike lanes parking was made last year, so I hope there was some discussion about traffic management at the private school. The traffic challenges are greater for private schools because they typically draw their students from a much larger area than public schools, but I’m sure somebody with the traffic safety qualifications of Ms. Trelut can think of some innovative and effective solutions that can improve safety and throughput for her school drop off times.

The Almanac also mentions a problem with illegal parking by students of Menlo-Atherton High School, which is located at Middlefield and Ringwood. Student parking is limited to juniors and seniors at the public school that serves a diverse demographic, from what Forbes Magazine ranks as America’s 3rd Most Expensive ZIP code to the Belle Haven neighborhood located on the other side of Highway 101, where 15% of residents live below the poverty line.

The meeting takes place Thursday night, 6 to 9 PM in the gymnasium at the Nativity School. The school strongly opposes the proposal to remove parking from the bike lane, while local residents seem to be mildly in favor if they care about the issue at all.

3 Comments

  • Bike-Scoot
    October 2, 2013 - 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Has there been any effort to encourage carpooling to reduce traffic in front of the school? I see no mention of carpooling on the school website. What I see at my school are SUVs with up to 15 passenger seating, each dropping off a single kid. Almost like having a separate school bus for each kid.

    The school is not one of the participating schools for SchoolPool, the primary school carpooling program in the Bay Area.
    https://www.schoolpool.511.org/

    I don’t get the impression they support reducing traffic in front of the school.

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  • ca
    October 3, 2013 - 10:07 am | Permalink

    google streetview shows a vehicle parked in the bike lane, bike approaching with a large pickup truck right behind, perfect example of why there shouldn’t be parking in the bike lane.

    You can also see the driveway and turnout area available for parking, plus additional turnout area on Oak Grove.

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