May 06

What’s a traffic garden?

Posted on May 6, 2021 at 12:11 pm by Clay Curtin

“Safety village,” “traffic playground” or “traffic park” are other names given to traffic gardens. A traffic garden is a space designed with small-scaled streets network and traffic features such as traffic lights, stop signs, bike paths, etc. They create a safe environment free of motor vehicles and with real lifelike streets for children to practice their walking and rolling skills and learn about road safety. They are great assets in providing standardized and realistic bike and pedestrian education. 

Some traffic gardens are designed to be temporary installations in parking lots or playgrounds and some are permanent structures with asphalt streets and concrete curbs–some are literally miniature towns with small buildings! Traffic gardens can also include a classroom, a bike shed, restrooms and a picnic area. Traffic gardens can be used by families during weekends or during school field trips to teach pedestrian and bicycle safety, bike skills and bike maintenance. 

Traffic gardens exist throughout the world, mostly in Europe and North America. The concept was particularly popular in Denmark and Netherlands in the 1950s to provide hand-on bicycle training to children. Within the last decade, traffic gardens gained in popularity in the United States, mostly concentrated in Ohio and on the East Coast. About 250 permanent traffic gardens have been identified around the world.

More locally, the idea was first brought by Brigid Roberts, a Menlo Park resident and Chair of Parents for Safe Routes, whose son learned to ride a bike at a traffic garden in Germany. During the last few months, the idea to develop a traffic garden in Silicon Valley has moved forward thanks to the Cupertino Safe Routes to School program, along with other regional partners such as the Menlo Park Safe Routes to School program, the Cities of San Jose, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto, Palo Alto Safe Routes to School program, Parents for Safe Routes, San Mateo County Office of Education, Santa Clara County Office of Education, Santa Clara County Public Health Department, the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition and Safe Kids Santa Clara/San Mateo.

Complete this brief survey to let us know you would like to see a traffic garden built here in the Silicon Valley.

To know more about traffic gardens:
May 06

15 mph speed zones coming soon to Menlo Park schools

Posted on May 6, 2021 at 12:08 pm by Clay Curtin

Menlo Park is reducing the speed limit to 15 mph in school zones citywide. Streets within a 500-foot radius of a school will now have 15 mph school zones. As part of this effort, crews will install new 15 mph signs during the month of May. 

A speed limit reduction near schools will improve student safety and raise awareness among drivers. Speed directly affects crash severity and is often the likely cause of a crash. Just a 5 or 10 mph difference in speed can greatly affect vehicle-stopping distance and reduce injury severity in the chance that pedestrians are struck by a car. The National Association of City Transportation Officials recommends lowering the speed limits for areas near children at play and 20 mph zones to reduce speeds for local roads and urban areas.

The 15 mph zone sign installations will begin near Hillview Middle School and Belle Haven Elementary School. Overall, 15 schools and preschools in Menlo Park will benefit from the speed limit reduction: 
  • Belle Haven Elementary School
  • Encinal Elementary School
  • Hillview Middle School
  • La Entrada Middle School
  • Laurel School Upper Campus
  • Littlest Angels Preschool
  • Menlo-Atherton Cooperative Nursery School
  • Menlo-Atherton High School
  • Nativity School
  • Menlo Children’s Center
  • Menlo School
  • Oak Knoll Elementary
  • Roberts School
  • Sacred Heart Schools
  • St. Raymond’s School
As part of Bike Month celebrations, we invite the community look for the new 15 mph signs and to take a picture or selfie. Please send your photos to Menlo Park Safe Routes to School.

May 06

A few days left for public feedback on bike and pedestrian safety near schools

Posted on May 6, 2021 at 12:07 pm by Clay Curtin

The Safe Routes to School program is collecting data on infrastructures near the schools through a survey and community meetings. The survey includes a public input map where participants are able to locate and report issues from five different categories:
  • Sidewalks
  • Street crossings and intersections
  • Comfort
  • Driver behavior
  • Safety
Participants are also able to submit a picture with their comments. The survey will stay open until May 10.   

The second phase of the project includes community meetings to discuss concerns, survey key findings and potential solutions. The project intends to gather data and observations from parents, school staff and students on transportation at school hours and see if improvements can be made through current and future projects (e.g., Transportation Master Plan) or maintenance. 

The public input map and the community meetings are preliminary steps to walk audits that would be conducted at Menlo Park public schools, as proposed (but not funded) by the Transportation Master Plan. 

What is a walk audit? A walk audit is an assessment of traffic safety, walkability and infrastructures. During a school walk audit, a group of stakeholders (e.g., parents, school administration, elected official, city staff and students) is convened on the school campus during drop off and pick up hours to make observations. The observation is generally followed by a discussion to identify potential solutions. The data collected are analyzed by engineers who will then make recommendations and develop an improvement plan for the school site. The improvement plan includes countermeasures such as the creation of school loading zones, speed bumps, speed feedback signs, street lane striping, crossing guards, curb extension/bulb outs, high-visibility crosswalks, raised crosswalks or rectangular rapid flash beacon crossing signals.

Please take five minutes to complete the survey and help share the word!

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