Bike Lane FAIL: Old School ‘Rithmetic in Menlo Park

01 Oct

Johnny and Jenny need a 5 foot bike lane to ride their bikes to school. Sam needs 7 feet to park his small car plus a 5 foot buffer to unload his son for school drop-off. Melissa needs a 5 foot lane to ride her bike to work. Teacher Jessica needs 7 feet to park her SUV during school hours. Wilbur needs 10 feet to park his RV on the street all day, every day. And car traffic needs 12 foot travel lanes in each direction.

If Laurel Street in Menlo Park is 42 feet wide, how do you divide the roadway so everyone gets what they need? Or should some people’s needs get higher priority than others?

Bike Commute Kids

The northbound bike lane on Laurel Street is filled with kids and parents on their way to school every morning.

There’s a neighborhood meeting on Thursday, October 3 in Menlo Park where they’ll discuss prohibiting parking all day in the morning-only bike lane near Nativity School, a proposal that’s expected to be unpopular with the school’s parents and teachers. If you think safe bike travel is more important than parking, please speak up at this event or contact Jesse Quirion at (650) 330‐6744 or jtquirion at

Location: Laurel Street at Oak Grove, Menlo Park, California, USA.


Posted by on October 1, 2013 in Bike Lane FAIL


8 responses to “Bike Lane FAIL: Old School ‘Rithmetic in Menlo Park

  1. MV

    October 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I can’t forget the interesting exchange I had with the City of Burlingame, who were insisting on putting in 5′ bike lanes on a 42′ – 44′ wide street with parking on both sides. One bike lane would have been on a very steep decline (Hillside Dr) and would have been right next to a narrow 7′ parking lane. But I was told not to worry because it meets ‘minimum requirements’ and ‘we had already gotten the grant so it would be bad form not to paint them.’ Clearly the designer hadn’t ridden the street at all. I asked that they just consider sharrows instead or if they really had to, paint a bike lane on the uphill and sharrows on the downhill. Still waiting to find out what they decided to do. I find my math skills become very heightened when I’m behind handlebars and not so good when I’ve been behind a steering wheel for too long.

    • ladyfleur

      October 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      This must have been the part of Hillside toward the bottom where it straightens out. Looking at the street, it’s crazy that they prioritized car parking over wider bike lanes. There’s clearly little demand for the parking. On a hill like that, a wider uphill bike lane and downhill sharrows make more sense to me.

      I don’t know who at AASHTO decided a 5 ft bike lane next to parked cars was reasonable. It’s clearly in the door zone and in many places riding outside the bike lane is illegal.

  2. Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)

    October 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

    FHWA specifies requirements for roads that are part of the National Highway System, which Laurel Street is not. If Menlo Park code specifies 12 feet for their local streets (and many local codes do follow the lead of the national highway requirements), then Menlo Park code needs to change. For Laurel, 10 feet lanes are likely plenty wide.

    Is parking on one side an option? If it is, perhaps a compromise solution like this can be arrived at. That Streetmix layout says 56 feet ROW, but I added in space for the existing sidewalk and grassy buffer.

    • ladyfleur

      October 2, 2013 at 10:01 am

      I actually don’t know the numbers Menlo Park is using. I guessed. I’m guessing Laurel is considered a collector which the FHWA guidelines say is 10-12 feet per travel lane. I didn’t measure the lanes but I think they’re 11 feet.

      Parking on one side is definitely the best option and they’re halfway there. The residents along Laurel and the people who park for the school just don’t want to give up their parking spots. The section of Laurel between Oak Grove and Ravenswood (photos 1,4,5,6) was just repaved and restriped per photo 4 so I doubt anything will change there.

      Photo 5 shows the street post-paving, pre-restriping. You can see how they screwed up and made the parking too narrow. Why? Inside sources tell me it was because the road crew was trying to give more space to the travel lane to make it a standard 12 feet. In photo 4 you can see the remnants of the temporary parking lane line and the permanent one.

  3. Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)

    October 2, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Almanac picked up the story:

    The reporter apparently talked to several parents opposed to parking removal, failed to quote any cyclists who bike on Laurel. Reporter also credulously accepts school principal Carol Trelut’s qualifications in traffic safety, too.

    • ladyfleur

      October 2, 2013 at 10:06 am

      “‘We need a common-sense solution that makes the safety of Nativity School’s children a priority,’ one mother, Erin Glanville, said.” Uh, what about the safety of children at Encinal School?

      Crazy article overall. If Menlo-Atherton school people are using their parking lot so they don’t have space, then kick the M-A students/staff/parents out, don’t take up the street.

      The road closure on Middlefield angle is silly too. Isn’t it easier for cars to use Laurel when there’s only bike traffic in the right lane vs parked cars with doors opening and kids getting out?

      I also love the photos in their article. Makes it really clear how parking cars in a bike lane makes it close to useless and a real hazard to the riders.

  4. Richard Masoner (@cyclelicious)

    October 2, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I can’t find a street design guide for the city of Menlo Park, but San Mateo County public space design standards are here. 10 feet for local streets, 7 feet for street parking. Plenty of room for parking on one side of the street with room to spare to avoid the door zone.


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