A plan to expand Palo Alto’s pedestrian and bicycle network remains on hold despite overall positive reception by the City Council and community members. The City Council voted Nov. 7 to send the Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan back to city staff for further revisions. The last plan addressing bicycle transportation in the city was in 2003. Community members responded with excitement to the newest initiative when its sponsors released an initial draft in July.
The City of Palo Alto Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan would repair bike paths around the city and create bike boulevards, new lanes to clear congestion with pedestrians. The plan also lays out details for making intersections, curbs, sidewalks and parking spaces more biker-friendly.
“Palo Alto has invested a lot of time and effort in biking,” said Palo Alto Councilman Greg Schmid. “I think our bike usage both for pleasure trips and for getting to work has increased dramatically over the last 10 years, and the bike plan helps set up a network of pathways.”
Schmid said he believes that the community widely supports the new bike initiative and is proud of the collaborative effort it involved. According to Schmid, revisions to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan should include a more comprehensive summary and inclusion of several small changes that the City Council brought forward in discussion.
“It came to us a few weeks ago,” said Councilwoman Gail Price. “We felt that there needed to be a little more discussion of some of the more innovative recommendations, recognizing that [for] some of the proposals there needs to be… precautionary language or some caveats that indicate… additional work is needed on some of these areas.”
As Price understands it, she said, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan needs “slight refinements and enhancements.” The fine-tuning required is mainly a result of concerns raised at the public hearing on Nov. 7.
“The big obstacle is making sure that we have funding that can pay for some of our more ambitious activities,” Schmid said. “Part of the funding has to come from our own sources, but we also want to make sure that we’re well placed to go for… regional, state and national funding alternatives.”
Schmid noted that Stanford has made significant effort in providing alternatives to driving. Palo Alto will face the challenge of integrating its changes with the bike paths on Stanford’s campus, but Schmid said he looks forward to the collaborative effort.
“The other part of an ambitious plan like this is the question of being able to secure resources and funding in order to implement all of the items in this plan,” Price said. She added that the developer agreement of the Stanford Hospital expansion may be a possible source for some funds for the initiative.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan would prove financially taxing to the city, calling for $642,720 per typical mile of Class 1 Shared Use Path, $42,600 per mile of Class 2 Bike Lanes and $115,100 per mile of Enhanced Bike Lanes, among other expenditures.
The report for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan assesses each facet of its proposal against the 2003 plan’s criteria of “safety, connectivity and special circumstances,” as well as the “five I’s evaluation framework” of “integration, inclusion, innovation, investment and institutional partnerships.” If the plan passes after revisions, the city will make gradual changes based on which initiatives are understood to be the most necessary based on these criteria.
“I would hope that the community would be supportive of our effort as a city to find funding for some of these recommendations,” Price said. “And also in an ideal situation it would be nice to see more individuals walking and biking and taking advantage of the resources that we have and the ones that are to come.”
Palo Alto Planning Director Curtis Williams said he believes city staff will likely bring a revised version of the plan before the City Council by February.