El Camino bike lanes approved; parking spaces eliminated

The lane closest to the sidewalk will become a bike lane as a result of a vote by the Los Altos City Council. Google photo.

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.

‘Transformative changes’

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.


  1. If Palo Alto fails to act, it will have passed up the rare chance at a major infrastructure improvement at no cost to city taxpayers. For the next 30 years, El Camino Real bike lanes will dead-end at the city limits, proclaiming Palo Alto as a community that prioritizes free motor vehicle storage over the safety and convenience of all road users — including 13-year-olds who can’t drive. Please don’t miss this opportunity.

  2. Dear Palo Alto, I really hope you’ll put in bike lanes along El Camino. You don’t even need to spend your own money as Caltrans will do it for you. If you miss this opportunity it will tarnish your previously stellar bicycle reputation. And Ellen Fletcher would be so ashamed of her home town if this bike lane opportunity were missed.

  3. Removing the parking spaces will be a disaster. Cars will have to park in businesses which will be a huge mess and for what? For bike lanes people hardly use? Makes no sense whatsoever. No serious person would think “removing bike lanes will encourage people to bike more”. Wishful thinking. Pave the roads but leave the parking spaces. People can bike on the sidewalk. I and many have done it throughout the years no problem.

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