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El Camino Real in Palo Alto to get designated bike lanes to increase safety

Major Palo Alto thoroughfare El Camino Real could get designated bike lanes
Major Palo Alto thoroughfare El Camino Real could get designated bike lanes 03:17

Efforts are underway to make El Camino Real in Palo Alto safer for cyclists, but there is some critique about the project and how it could come at the cost of businesses in the area. 

Reza Nasser is 16 and rides a bike as his main transportation around his Palo Alto neighborhood. But when it comes to the El Camino he avoids riding on the street.

"I do ride on the sidewalk, just because it feels more comfortable for me rather than on the street where cars are right there and it feels a bit dangerous definitely," Nasser said.

He's not alone.

Many of the people we saw riding bikes in the Barron Park section of the El Camino did so on the sidewalk. And that's because the busy road, which doubles as State Highway 82, has never had bike lanes.

But that's about to change.

"We're on the sidewalk now. We would add a bike lane 6 feet out. It would be a Qwik Curb with bollards and would be a designated place for the biker," said Ken Kershner with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition.

Kershner is one of the advocates working with the city of Palo Alto and CALTRANS to build the bike lanes into a major repaying project coming to the El Camino this fall.

The finished lanes would look something like bike lanes recently installed in San Jose.

"El Camino is in poor pavement condition. This is an opportunity to narrow the lanes, slow the speeds down, put in bike ways and remove parking, all of which will be transformational," Kershner said.

Bike advocates say removing street parking will increase side to side visibility for cars, bikes and pedestrians, making it safer when they cross the El Camino or turn onto it from side streets.

But some merchants say it will hurt their business.

"If they put the bike lane, they are not thinking about the cars that park in front of the store and buy and go. They are going to kill those," said Hassan Bord, who has owned the Barron Park Market for 43 years.

He said his customers rarely use a parking lot in the back, preferring to park on the street, just steps from the front door.

He worries what will happen if customers loose that convenience.

"Probably we will lose about 35 to 40 percent of our business," Bord said.

"Well, it is a loss and certainly some businesses will be impacted more than others. For each business there can be a mitigation plan, and we'd like to help with that," said Kershner. "Because biking is business friendly."

Many bike riders frequent the businesses on their rides.

And although final plans have yet to be approved, Nasser didn't have to think twice about what side he's on.

"Were standing right here in a parking lot, but I feel like the safety of the bikers is probably more important than the retail parking," he said.

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