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Immediate Safety Actions - Traffic Calming

Satirical Solution

"Lets design an intersection that will add well over 5,500 lane changes a day, will install a road condition that causes motorists to be confused, distracted, run red lights, and use an undefined lane width between 13' and 20'. The design will install blind corners, reduce visibility for crosswalk usage, diminish safety for cyclists and pedestrians, and eliminate safe access to/from adjacent residential properties.”  

Okay, as harsh as that satirical solution sounds, it is the very configuration we have now.

 

 

Actions Needed for Safety and Calming

  • Correct chaotic/dangerous component of NB Santa Cruz at Y
  • Correct the traffic collision hazard with pedestrians in Crosswalk
  • Eliminating the condition that causes motorists to run red lights
  • Improve resident and parking safety with lane definition
  • Provide a calmer traffic flow for motorists and cyclists
  • Improve sidewalk safety and useablity (see notes on this page)
  • Addresses the serious issue of Y residents safely using their driveways

 

Help - Feedback

Please add your thinking using the Comments secton at the bottom of this page.   Your suggestions, questions, concerns, ideas, and constructive critique are all welcome.  

This page introduces several quick, low cost actions that can significantly improve safety and provide for calmer traffic flow.  These are listed here and detailed below.

  • Calm Northbound Santa Cruz Traffic at Y by eliminating the cause of the chaotic lane changing, motorist distraction, and confusion
  • Fix the serious Pedestrian/motorist conflict that exists at the Santa Cruz/Alameda intersection
  • Fix and eliminate the cause of the scores of red lights run each day
  • Address some quick - very low cost sidewalk improvements to improve accessability and safety
  • Fix the issue of missing lane definition lines on that 1,100' section of Santa Cruz
  • Significantly improve safety for residents on Santa Cruz and at the Y 
  • Crosswalk and Pedestrian Light at Palo Alto Way
  • Bus Stop Shelter at Palo Alto Way and Santa Cruz
  • Reduce Alameda Buisness District speed limit to 25 mph

All of these improvements are extremely low cost and can be done now and yield a much safer and calmer roadway and traffic flow.

A question: If there are safety issues we can easily fix now, should we fix them now or should we wait several years for a whole solution?

Current Chaotic Northbound Approach to Y Simple solution to calm traffic at Santa Cruz/Alameda Intersection Current Intersection at Santa Cruz/Alameda -- 5,500+ cars/day required to change lanes

There are several serious issues along the southern segment of Santa Cruz that fall into this category of being simple, quick, and low cost actions that could, if implemented now,  make a substantial improvement in safety for everyone and result in a much calmer traffic flow.

Issues:

  • Over 5,500 cars/day are forced to change lanes
  • Scores of cars run red lights each day   (Mar 7, almost 2 dozen in one hour!)
  • Pedestrians are given a walk signal while cars still need several seconds to clear intersection
  • Right (slow) lanes are not marked and left undefined - serious risk to parked cars and residents
  • Residents at the Y are at extreme risk when entering/exiting driveways
  • Pedestrians using long crosswalks are at risk due to blind corners and restricted visibility
  • NB Cyclists must cross chaotic lanes and fear distracted drivers
  • Sidewalk and Crosswalk force pedestrians to use roadway, just inches from full speed traffic

 


 

A simple solution requiring paint only

The goal is to have a calmer and safer traffic flow.  There are several actions that can get our community much closer to that goal immediately.  We still need solutons that address the long term situation, but these actions can achieve significant progress. Current Chaos at Santa Cruz/Alameda Intersection

We have a short section of Santa Cruz that has un-marked - un-defined lanes, lets mark them.  We are only talking that stretch of Santa Cruz between the Y and Sand Hill.  All other roadways in our area currently have the right (slow) lane properly marked:  Sand Hill, Alameda, the rest of Santa Cruz to downtown.   Only this section of Santa Cruz have these unfinished - unmarked lanes resulting in unsafe conditions for residents, parked cars, and cyclists;  additionally, this condition is unenforceable.

Rather than adding a short NB lane, lets just keep the two lanes we have and eliminate 97% of the lane switching chaos and removing the distraction that it causes motorists.  This eliminates the road configuration feature that is responsible for motorists running the red light, and with scores of red light running per day its a serious problem.  At the same time this change makes it orders of magnitude safer for the residents at the Y.

Cost?   Basically just paint.

Pedestrian safety Improvements

The current situation has some serious issues as it pertains to pedestrians and a good percentage of the people using this intersection are children and seniors.

  • Pedestrians are given a walk sign, even though cars still need several seconds to clear the intersection.
  • The north side corners are blind and limit visibility between traffic and pedestrians
  • Traffic stops right at the crosswalk, causing added visibility issue due to angle of crosswalk
  • A huge number of red light runners and distracted/confused motorists

Pedestrian at serious risk in crosswalk at "Y"Pedestrian at serious risk in crosswalk at "Y"Pedestrian at serious risk in crosswalk at "Y"

Especially in these last 2 photos, notice that the crosswalk light is on and directing pedestrians to cross, putting them in the middle of the lanes while cars are still clearing the intersection at full speed. 

 


 

Sidewalk Issues that can be fixed easily

Westside Sidewalk issue - btw Oak Hollow - Campo Bello

This is such a minor problem for that west side sidewalk between Oak Hollow and Campo Bello, but it needs to be fixed. The initial fix is to take a broom and shovel to clear and clean the sidewalk so that its full width can be used. It is currently over flowing with debris that reduces the width by 50% in places. While there may be a long term solution to keep debris off the sidewalk, we can at least have County maintain this sidewalk walk so it is usable.


 The sidewalks along Alameda are dangerous: Not just unsuable, but dangerous.  Since a full sidewalk solution appears to be years away, these dangerous conditions need to be addressed as soon as possible.

A sample of photos below provide a persepctive into the severe safety issues, for more details please see the Sidewalk Safety issues pages:  #11  and #12

 

Alameda Sidewalk Safety - Dangerous Alameda Sidewalk Safety - DangerousAlameda Sidewalk Safety - DangerousAlameda Sidewalk Safety - DangerousAlameda Sidewalk Safety - DangerousAlameda Sidewalk Safety - Dangerous Sidewalk at Y - DangerousAlameda Sidewalk Safety - Dangerous

 

Issue — Problems

Actions and Remedy steps

Pedestrian Signal - occurs before SB Santa Cruz cars have cleared south intersection and put pedestrians entering the crosswalk at risk

Southbound Santa Cruz traffic can take unto 4 seconds to clear the intersection. There needs to be an all red delay on the signals to allow the cars to exit the intersection before the pedestrian signal is given to children and other pedestrians to cross.

See photos 

Traffic Light Out - Traffic light on NW corner of Campo Bello has light out

Northbound Santa Cruz/Alameda traffic needs theTraffic lights to be maintained/fixed

Red Light Running - In 1 hour nearly 2 dozen red light runners (Mar 7 pm).  Northbound Santa Cruz traffic is the main culprit with red light running and it puts the residents along that Santa Cruz slip lane and pedestrians using the crosswalk at extreme risk. 

The main cause is that this light is unlike any other light in the area, it primarily stays green and motorists become accustomed to it being green and are conditioned not to stop.

The main fix for this, that would eliminate virtually all of the red light running, is to have this light behave like all other lights.  When Northbound traffic stops, this northbound lane stops also.  This provides the safety break needed by residents at the Y and for those residents further up Santa Cruz to have a break from the continuous flow.

See videos on Safety Page

Improve Sidewalk - Westside sidewalk between Oak Hollow/Campo Bello is in dire need of maintenance

This is a simple one for a quick fix.   Send a person there with shovel and broom to clean.    A more permanent and longer term fix could be planned, but for now this restores safety and accessibility.  Keep the sidewalks on routine maintenance.

see photos above

Paint the White Lane Marker - The only section of all the major roadways in West Menlo that does NOT have this slow lane definition line marked is the 1,100’ section of Santa Cruz between Sand Hill and Alamed/Santa Cruz Y intersection.

Painting this white line to define the right side of the slow lanes for this southern segment of Santa Cruz has significant benefits.  It helps motorists and cyclists to understand where the slow lane is.  Currently this lane ranges in perceived width from 13’ to over 20’. The downtown segment of Santa Cruz has a lane width ranging from 9.5’ to 10.5’ (sometimes less, sometimes more) and this is a good reference for the slow lane width.

Keeping traffic in the proper lane boundary will significantly improve safety for residents, parked cars, and cyclists, and will improve the safety of those exiting the the many driveways (including Menlo Commons).

Crosswalk Stop Limit lines - Certain crosswalks need but lack the stop limit line that is used throughout the rest of Santa Cruz Ave (that part going past Hillview to Downtown).  Not having stop limit lines puts pedestrians at undue extra risk.

Stop Limit Lines are those lines that create a buffer area before the actual crosswalk, so instead of cars stopping right at and on the crosswalk and therefore creating a major visibility problem and causing serious risk to pedestrians being hit by cars, the stop limit line keeps the cars back from the crosswalk allowing full visibility and an extra safety buffer between pedestrian and traffic.

Cost:   Paint, although some times there is a “Stop Here” sign recommended.

Speed Feedback signs - These provided all motorists with a reminder to keep their speed in check.  With our current extra wide roadway lanes, it is easy to exceed the speed limit.

These need to be installed and there should be two northbound signs,, one on  South Santa Cruz Ave segment and one on Alameda.   Same with the Southbound direction.   One on the North Santa Cruz segment should be in place do to all the complaints about speeders, especially before the problematic Sharon Rd/Oak Dell/Santa Cruz jog-intersection and crosswalk.

Eliminate Confusion, distraction and lane changing - On northbound Santa Cruz, just 100’ before the Y a lane is added.  Instead of just using the even flow of the current two lanes from Sand Hill to service the Alameda and North Santa Cruz traffic, this newly added lane creates confusing, distractions, and a extremely dangerous cycling situation.

By keeping the existing two lanes only and not adding a 3rd lane, traffic remains calm, and eliminates all of the requirement for over 5,500 lane changes per day.  Changing lanes is hectic and motorists get confused, often in the wrong lane and needing to change again.  Cyclists are pushed into the middle of the fray, as they too have to be changing lanes and occupy two lanes.

Keeping it simple, with just the two existing lanes from Sand Hill, calms the traffic flow, cyclists don’t have to change lanes, and its less confusing.  

Interestingly, during the busiest peak hour, because so many cars are changing lanes all over, the middle most lane is rarely used.  The flowing traffic uses the left most lane (fast lane) primarily for Alameda bound traffic, the right most newly added 3rd lane (is used for Santa Cruz) but the geometry of the lanes basically blocks the middle lane from much use.

Northbound traffic stop - The stop light at the Y would now affect all NB traffic, meaning that the light will turn red for about 13 and 22 seconds.  It will then remain green for nearly a minute at peak times and remain green for longer periods during the rest of the day and evening.

 

This remedies a very serious and dangerous problem for those residents that live at and near the "Y" intersection of Santa Cruz and Alameda.  They currently do not have a safe window to enter or exit their driveways and they only have a few seconds of visibility due to the curve.   This stop provides them with much safer access and provides a short but needed reprive for the residents further north on Santa Cruz ave.  A traffic break of 13 to 22 seconds allows those residents to also more safely use their properties.

The impact on motorists would be that they could potentially be slowed down or stopped briefly 1 out of 4 or 5 times on thier NB Santa Cruz route.  No major delay or impact for NB Alameda routes.

 

Pedestrian Activated Crosswalk Light - We have asked this for over a decade since our first fatality. All along the rest of Santa Cruz, there are now such activated Crosswalk Beaons that identify to all motorists that the crosswalk is in use. Palo Alto Way is a highly desired crosswalk and adding these Crosswalk Beacons or the recommended Hawk lights (as seen on El Camino in Atherton and Redwood City) are needed now.

 

This Pedestrian light would significantly improve safety at this crosswalk. Placement of these crosswalk lights at Palo Alto Way would not be impacted by long term changes to this portion of Santa Cruz, there will always be a need for this safety light signal that is only activated by pedestrians. 

This item is moderately more expensive, yet this is a standard feature on Santa Cruz Ave in the Menlo Park segment.  It is a "to do" item that, after over a decade of waiting, needs to be scheduled and installed as part of these near term action items.

 

Dangerous Alameda sidewalk Issues - These conditions along the roadway and pathway on Alameda continue to worsen. Reported back in August 2017, none of these dangerous conditions that could break a leg or ankle or worse have been addressed

 

These are dangerous conditions and put all people at risk. It is unacceptable to allow these conditions to remain, they need to at least have a temporary repair, especially if actual sidewalks are a year or 2 or 3 away.

These conditions are reported in the Safety Issues Report:  #11  and #12

 

Bus Shelter at Palo Alto Way-Santa Cruz - This southbound bus stop needs to have a shelter

There has been some work to define where the bus stop shelter would be placed and it appears there is room.   County and SamTrans need to finalize on this and schedule construction.

Speed Limits on Alameda - Business Dist - The speed limit is posted as 30 mph but that seems both unreasonable and unsafe

Business districts such as there should be 25 mph and there appears some code requirements to support this.   Making this business district 25mph would not only be a more reasonable speed limit, but also set the mindset of motorists to continue the 25 mph speed south into the Corriodor.  See VehCode 235.

 

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Comments

Thanks All for the thoughtful discourse on this topic.

From my many chances to observe and drive through this intersection, I have always been nervous about the NB Alameda folks being stopped at a red light and the right slip lane to Santa Cruz going full bore at excess of 35mph - that speed differential gives little time to react and has to have resulted in confusion or rear end accidents. Never mind how hard it is to see those traffic lights at sundown at certain times of the year.

I know I sound like an Old Guy, but I will not sit in the right NB Alameda lane at that red light for fear of being rear ended (especially when I am waiting at that light on my bicycle or motorcycle with no protective steel around me).

I bet we could set up a neighborhood wireless camera pointed at that intersection, and in a few days, record several near misses, run red lights, and possibly accidents that are minor in nature. The "incident count" here is likely to be very high (Molly will concur).

And this is a bit farther than the "inexpensive, initial traffic calming ideas" goal of this thread, but I wonder if that slip lane continues to be green arrow most of the time, some curbs to delineate the separate Y, almost like an offramp, would help to visual channel folks the right way as well as slow people down (traffic calming). I guess that is similar to Nate's suggestion (and I do like the default of red light, instead of green. However, back on the dedicated off ramp lane, I recognize that curbs cost more money than painted lines and traffic light programming times.

Thanks for the hard work !

I happened to be driving at ~3PM yesterday when road construction/closures resulted in a configuration very similar to the proposed changes. Shortly after turning left from Sand Hill, a lane closure in the far right lane required both lanes to merge into one lane. This had a very nice effect of slowing traffic to ~20 MPH until the 2nd lane was open.

The slip lane was partially coned off also — resulting in the sharper right turn of the proposal. The entire lane was not closed which caused one driver some confusion and an unsafe merge back into the turn lane. Speeds were initially reduced because of the sharper turn however I observed several cars immediately accelerate to 35 - 40ish MPH just after the turn. IMO the sharper turn is not enough without reduced and enforced speed limits!

If I were President for life, I’d like to see a pilot that requires NB SCA traffic to merge into a single lane and a right turn only lane that might be a bit longer than the current "slip lane.” The traffic signal at the Y would be reconfigured from the current nearly constant green (for the right turn) to constant red unless triggered. In addition, the periods of green free flow would be limited so the commuters on the Y can get out of their driveways without waiting forever.

Yesterday I saw a car run the red light at the Y going from Alameda towards Sand Hill. The reason: it was dark and the placement of the light is awkward in that the light that turns green for people coming from north Santa Cruz, could be mistaken for a green light for the south bound Alameda traffic. If the light could be slightly rotated, or partially shielded, so that it is not so easily visible by traffic heading south on Alameda it might help.