City passes bike path improvements

Changes prompted by multiple bike accidents involving students

Palo Alto City Council approved plans to improve bike routes around Palo Alto, including the Churchill bike route leading to Palo Alto High School, on Jan. 20.

According to a report put out by City Council, the improvements focus on increasing the safety precautions on Churchill Avenue. This area sees a large amount of bike traffic daily, the majority from Palo Alto High School students biking to school. The intersection of Churchill and Castilleja Avenues has been the site of multiple accidents involving Paly student cyclists getting hit by cars.

A major aspect of the changes is improving access to the bike path that runs parallel to Churchill Avenue. A ramp is to be constructed between the bike lane on Churchill Avenue and the path, allowing cyclists to transition onto the path and into the Paly driveway, avoiding the Churchill and Castilleja intersection completely.

The changes would create more no parking zones, according to the City Council report. Sections of Churchill Avenue and some side streets, including Castilleja Avenue, would restrict parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., respectively.

The proposal also includes placing a crossing guard at the Churchill and Castilleja Avenue intersection during peak school traffic hours. In addition, there would be raised crosswalks for pedestrians at this intersection.

Junior Michelle Slaughter anticipates the new additions will improve her bike route to school.

“It sounds like [the revisions] would be helpful,” Slaughter said.

However, Slaughter also brought up that there are other segments of the bike route that need more improvement.

“If anything, I would say they should improve the Churchill and Alma intersection,” Slaughter said.

The City Council also approved plans to improve the safety of bike routes to Henry M. Gunn High School, Terman Middle School and Juana Briones Elementary School. The improvements planned for these routes are similar to those proposed for the Paly route, with the major differences being the addition of speed tables and new road markings. However, the Paly route is expected to make progress more quickly than the other imrovements.

“Environmental review and final design of the Churchill project [are the next steps]… as well as installation of simpler improvements with independent utility,” according to the report.

Many of these improvements require further consultation with Palo Alto Unified School District, Caltrans and Stanford University. Further discussions will have to be held with these parties before the Churchill project construction can begin.