City plan creates new bike and pedestrian paths in 2012

By Eileen Qian:

To ensure safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, the City of Palo Alto’s transportation division has created a Bicycle + Pedestrian Transportation Plan (BPTP). This plan aims to improve the quality and structure of current bike lanes and pedestrian paths in the hope that more people will switch to walking and biking as their main form of transportation. This will meet the requirements of state-leveled planning commissions that emphasize the decrease of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the promotion of healthier lifestyles.

One of the major improvements proposed is the integration of cycle tracks on local roads. These two-way cycle track will separate cars and bikes lanes, providing inexperienced bikers with a sense of security. Student drivers such as senior Brenda Cai believes that this will be beneficial. “I’ve observed numerous times that regardless of how close some drivers are to bikers, they would still honk and speed past them,” Cai said.

To help bikers who are uncomfortable with the current bike paths, BPBT also proposes to install wayfinding signs, which will guide bikers to their destination by marking the direction of local parks and bike trails. “For areas outside my comfort zone, like areas past

Alma towards the JLS direction, my sense of direction is uncertain,” junior Idean Keshmirian said. “Signs pointing to familiar, major streets or places like parks would be nice.”

To increase pedestrian comfort with walking, the plan also proposes to upgrade the currently narrow sidewalks so that they are at least six feet wide. According to the BPTP, it is inconvenient for people walking in opposite directions to pass each other comfortably with fewer than six feet of space between them. These improvements will only be implemented where car lanes are not significantly affected.

In addition to safety improvements, the Planning and Transportation Commission believes that the city should work towards being more environmentally conscious and promoting healthy lifestyles. According to the BPTP, the city has suitable conditions for both biking and walking as Palo Alto has a flat terrain and good weather.

If the improvements are ineffective in increasing biking and walking, BPTP suggests using direct methods to meet the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists. “One way to reduce the number of cars on the streets would be to close off parts of the roads for several hours on the weekends,” BPTP transportation engineer Rafael Fius said. “However, the community will decide what level of treament is acceptable to streets within their neighborhood.”

On Nov. 27, the City Council reviewed the BPTP,but requested more revisions to be made before final approval. The revised draft will be available by February 2012.