El Camino parking stays…for now

Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto City Council tonight (April 1) stopped short of getting rid of parking on El Camino Real, but only so that Caltrans will make its planned bike lanes safer.

If Caltrans redesigns the bike lanes, council members signaled they would then vote to remove parking throughout Palo Alto as part of a repaving project.

Voting to remove parking now would take away the city’s leverage, Mayor Greer Stone said.
Council also wants to do more outreach to businesses that would lose parking and RV dwellers who would be displaced.

Council members Vicki Veenker, Greg Tanaka and Julie Lythcott-Haims were ready to get rid of parking tonight but were outvoted 4-3.

“We’re going to do a concentrated effort to resolve as many of these issues as we can, so we can then move forward with the paving with a better, safer bike program at the time,” Councilman Pat Burt said.

Caltrans has been pushing the city to get rid of parking in favor of bike lanes as part of a repaving project throughout Mountain View and Los Altos too.

Repaving could happen in Palo Alto as soon as June or July after the city replaces a sewer pipe, Caltrans Division Chief Nick Saleh said.

The goal is to finish the entire repaving project early next year, Saleh said. Caltrans will come back in a couple months with changes to the bike lanes, Saleh said.

Caltrans has already decided to ban right turns at red lights on El Camino in response to feedback from the city, according to a Caltrans presentation.

Caltrans will also add more paint and signs at intersections, Saleh said.

Burt said he was worried about creating a false sense of security attracting more cyclists to El Camino.

The biggest safety problem is cyclists crossing the road, not riding along it, Burt said.

Caltrans data showed that 79% of crashes involving bikes on El Camino are at intersections.

“Bike lanes are not necessarily improvements. They can in fact increase risk,” Burt said.

The council chambers were packed with cycling advocates, including about 40 who spoke in favor of bike lanes.

“It’s a very colorful group of commenters in all of your visible clothing, so that is fun and appreciated,” Veenker said.

Veenker led the push for bike lanes, because she said she wanted Palo Alto to welcome cyclists from Menlo Park and Mountain View.

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition is pushing for a complete bike route throughout the Peninsula.

“We don’t want to be the gap in the smile, where there’s a missing tooth,” Veenker said.

Tanaka asked if anyone else on council has biked on El Camino, and a couple of council members raised their hands.

Councilwoman Lydia Kou said she hasn’t because she had a concussion. Other people have health issues and need to drive, she said.

Lythcott-Haims said she might “take the plunge” on a bike if El Camino felt safer.

A committee of two council members will work with VTA, biking advocates and the Chamber of Commerce on the plans.

The Barron Park Market, Cardinal Bike Wash, Radhika Beauty Salon, Roy’s Cleaners and Stanford Coin Wash don’t have on-site parking to make up for the loss, according to a report by Chief Transportation Official Philip Kamhi said in a report to council.

The road badly needs repair — potholes have popped tires, damaged suspensions and sent motorcyclists skidding across the pavement, according to insurance claims filed with various government agencies.

Kou and Tanaka said it’s one of the top issues they hear about from residents.

“El Camino is in awful, awful shape with all the potholes,” Kou said.


  1. This is a much better direction (careful and informed) than Veenker wanting to go along with Caltrans. Thank you Pat Burt, Lydia Kou and others who were smarter. Safety first and concern for displacement of RV dwellers and the many smalll businesses on El Camino.
    One thing – getting rid of right turns makes sense for safety, but it’s going to seriously increase back ups going onto El Camino, coming out of the neighborhoods. How will this work?

  2. Mayor Stone, how does “reaching out” give a small business parking? Sending a city planner to a business is a frightening experience, you wonder what he will find and whether you’re woke enough to not get shut down on the spot. But how can that conversation between a city worker and a business owner change anything if council has already decided to rip out your customer parking.

  3. So very tired of those voting to destroy established businesses and letting Caltrans stall on repaving ECR that’s been destroying our cars for years. Shameful panderers wo’ll be the first to raise utility rates to make up for the last sales tax revenues.

    As for the nonsense about visibility, has putting oollards at every Middlefield intersection that prevent through traffic from bypassing turning traffic made things safer? Of course not! Accidents and road rage keep increasing and Middlefield remaibs one of the most dangerous roads in the city.

    The lack of common sense and pandering to another bunch of fanatic lobbyists is disgusting and — as the Sundance owner notes about the the likely destruction of his business — an existential crisis.

  4. PS: Too bad no one had the brains to put the bike lanes on the other side where the bikes would be safer and the businesses could survive but that’s too sensible.

  5. Council signed the death warrant for several independent businesses. This will be far worse than what they did to Cal Ave. Hope voters hold Greer Stone and Pat Burt responsible for this in the election.

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