BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
In a sharply divided meeting, Los Altos City Council voted to eliminate street parking on El Camino Real in favor of bike lanes throughout the city.
The three council members in favor of the bike lanes said they had a “moral imperative” to improve safety after a 13-year-old boy was struck and killed by a dump truck at El Camino Real and Grant Road in Mountain View last week.
The two council members against the change said adding bike lanes would only create a “delusion of safety.” People aren’t going to stop driving, and the loss of 248 parking spaces will push cars into neighborhoods, Mayor Anita Enander said at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We will be having wars like Palo Alto has over neighborhood parking permit systems, and that is not a solution,” she said.
Caltrans is scheduled to repave El Camino through Palo Alto, Los Altos and Mountain View in Summer 2023, and city councils can tell Caltrans if they want to add bike lanes and get rid of on-street parking.
Mountain View City Council voted to convert parking to bike lanes in September. Palo Alto City Council hasn’t talked about the idea, and the current plans are to only repave and re-stripe the pavement.
It’s not just the road that’s changing: Many businesses along El Camino are being replaced housing, and cities are trying to figure out how to best accommodate this growing use.
Marisa Lee, the transportation services manager for Los Altos, said the road repaving is a rare opportunity to make “transformative changes.” El Camino is repaved every 30 or so years, and Caltrans is paying for the entire project.
Dozens of young residents spoke in favor of the project too, saying El Camino is a dangerous yet unavoidable road for many bikers. A safer road would attract more cyclists, they said.
Some residents and couple of businesses said the lack of parking would harm them and make it harder for disabled people to get around.
Many of the speakers brought up the death of Andre Retana, who died on his bike on March 17. (Retana’s legal name was George Oseida.) Retana was killed on his way to Graham Middle School by a dump truck in a crosswalk across Grant Road at El Camino.
“It is a sad example of what will happen if we don’t make El Camino safer for cyclists,” Councilwoman Neysa Fligor said.
Do bike lanes lead to biking?
Enander also called it a “fantasy” that a bike lane would make more people ride bikes. Bike sales have not grown along with the population, and people aren’t going to stop driving for at least 20 years, she said.
As more housing is built on El Camino, there will be more driveways, deliveries and traffic. Cars will still need to turn right into the bike lane, Enander said.
Councilwoman Lynette Lee Eng, the other council member against the bike lane, said the timing of a traffic study during the pandemic last year led to a misleading study. The traffic study showed most of the parking spaces were used less than half of the time, but Lee Eng said the data is “erroneous” because businesses were closed and offices were unoccupied. The traffic study should be redone and analyze the impact of future development, she said.