In an astounding turnaround from their recent timidity in pursuing bold street safety projects, all six attending Redwood City City Council members voiced unflinching support on December 4 for replacing all the on-street parallel car parking on El Camino Real – about 270 spaces – with protected bike lanes. Council member Shelly Masur recused herself from the meeting due to personal real estate interests near El Camino Real, although the recusal was not required under the California Fair Political Practices Commission.
Installing bike lines is one of many improvements the city’s El Camino Real Corridor Plan envisions, along with widening sidewalks, planting street trees, installing street lighting and pocket parks, developing more housing, and doing away with the city’s unsuccessful live/work zoning designation. Consulting firm Dyett & Bhatia wrote the plan with input from the public and city advisory groups at 17 public meetings since January 2016.
Public support for installing protected bike lanes on El Camino Real has been overwhelmingly positive at those meetings, and both the project’s seven-member volunteer Citizens Advisory Group and the city’s Planning Commission voiced unanimous support for the bike lanes.
“They’re absolutely integral to safe street design,” said resident Eva Markiewicz at the December 4 meeting. “Creating protected bike lanes is really the only way we are going to achieve Vision Zero. We need to make it safer for bikers of all ability levels.”
“El Camino is currently unsafe and unattractive for bicycling, but people are riding on it anyway because it goes where people want to be,” said Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) Deputy Director Colin Heyne. “Let’s support that vision where people can walk bike and drive safety instead of wasting valuable street space on storing vehicles.”
“I’d like to feel safe bicycling on El Camino Real,” said resident Bob Page. “Redwood City is really in a position where it can show regional leadership by installing protected bike lanes.”
“I’m pleading with you for protected bike lanes,” said resident Isabella Chu.
All 11 members of the public who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the bike lanes. No one spoke against the proposal. And the City Council gushed over the prospect of hosting the Peninsula’s first European-style separated bike lanes on El Camino Real.
“Not only do they protect bicyclists, they protect drivers,” said City Council member John Seybert. “I think they will move traffic faster and more efficiently.”
“We’ve been talking about the Grand Boulevard [Initiative] for years and years,” said City Council member Alicia Aguirre. “We are leaders in the region and I’d like to see us to do this ASAP.”
“I am a strong supporter of the protected bike lanes,” said Mayor Ian Bain, who described his observations of bicycle infrastructure in travels to Europe and China. “It’s amazing when you really give people the opportunity to ride bicycles, they don’t want to drive.”
The El Camino Real Corridor Plan also makes recommendations for improving the street for pedestrians, bus passengers, and motorists, and addresses affordable housing and childcare facilities. It envisions wider sidewalks, safer crossings, better bus shelters, and improved traffic signal timing. The plan recommends more and denser housing along El Camino Real, where residents can take advantage of nearby transit and retail without driving.
City council members called for affordable housing units to be included on-site in future developments rather than the payment of in-lieu fees by developers in exchange for being allowed to build taller and denser buildings. Council members also stressed that the vehicle parking capacity lost on El Camino Real be replaced off-street where possible.
Neighboring Atherton and Menlo Park have also studied and considered installing protected bike lanes on their segments of El Camino Real, but rejected those proposals in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Traffic safety advocates are cautiously optimistic for Redwood City, although the new Corridor Plan only sets a vision for El Camino Real.
Next Redwood City transportation staff will move ahead with contracting a new design for the short segment from Maple Street to Charter Street, work that was already funded by a grant the city received from Caltrans in June 2016. Staff will seek grant funding for construction of that segment, and for the re-design of the remaining two miles of El Camino Real through the city.
What do YOU think? Contact Redwood City Senior Planner Lindy Chan (650-780-7237, firstname.lastname@example.org) to submit comments.