This way for bike signage reflectivity clue

NewBikeSignsRushing home, at my customary 22 mph, to water the aging Cocker Spaniel — my mother’s euphemism for letting the dog out to make water, I stopped for a moment to shoot the new signage at Bryant and Everett, along the Ellen Fletcher Bicycle Boulevard in Palo Alto.

After parking the car — the gardener was in the driveway — closer to Poe, a half-block up, I took a closer look at our new little (metallic, reflective, bureaucratic, semiotic) babies, delaying checking on the aging but still loveable pet just long enough to for her to test me, or so it appears —

file photo of the Cocker

file photo of the Cocker

she was still sleeping by the door. I meant to only plug in the battery-dead laptop, but it sucked me in for about 10 minutes before poochie’s bad dream awakened me from my spell.


Any hoo, I found time in my busy afternoon to suss through the search-engine long enough to ask and hopefully direct these quick three (actually seven) questions (to a website run by either the City or a vendor called Alta) and post in kind:

Three quick questions:
1) how much did we spend on the study (i.e. to Alta)?
2) how much is the total budget for the bicycle improvements, according to this site or report or initiative?
2.a does that include the $10 million bike bridge over 101 that County is paying for?
3. I notice some new signage (blue not white, lowercase, more reflective, conforming, with a bike logo) on Bryant near our home — how many of these are there? a. what is the total cost for this exact type of signage? b. what is the total cost of signage, or as percentage of the total in 2), above? c) how much per sign, i.e. like the one I photographed at NE corner of Poe/Bryant?

Mark Weiss
(650) 305-XXXX

ok, I admit that is actually 7 questions — could not find answers in your 128 page document…

edit to add, a few minutes later, an hour all-in, and I really should be doing my workout and still bothers me to think I might have saved poor aging ward from her embarrassment if I and not she had just “let it go”: Palo Alto Weekly had this on-point from two years ago, by G. Sheyner.

By my quick reckoning (distinct from, for example, reflection) the chief difference in the signage is that it is reflective and incorporates the bike logo, as you approach Bryant, and apparently have no clue. I also notice the sign is blue not white, is “upstyle” but not all-caps, indicates “street” as opposed to “avenue” and points in the direction of ascending numbers, if that matters. Ok, but at what cost?

Seems to me there is a dissonance between the fact that we like to bike to work and we are part of this work culture that is so obsessive about outcomes. But of course I am also curious about the bureaucratic response to this and its effect on the semiotics. (My hypothesis, albeit cynical and only semi-informed, is that somehow the obsessive work culture undermines “we the people” from self-governing to our highest standards; that is, there are factors that seem to obscure our ability to be more bike-friendly — but I am willing to hear the counter-arguments and admit where I am clueless; like truing a wheel, our process can be improved).

I have a mental list of people I know who track this more closely.

See also, the improvements at Stanford Avenue and El Camino. (I went to a party for, and recall we spend $1 million or so to improve the crosswalks and what-not; one friend, SR, felt it was well-worth-it in terms of safe-to-school, i.e near or towards Escondido from Evergreen Park area.

The difference between this and reporting (and recall I went thru training program at Times Tribune in 1984) is that I am putting online the first three (seven) questions that pop up in my notebook.

coda: a couple weeks ago, I drove, as typical, from Palo Alto North towards Downtown per se, and when I got to the light at Lytton, a guy in bike get-up passes me on right and stops in front of me, but then turns around and glares at me and I think I can hear him thinking “you dirty rat”. What I assume happened is that, Joe Biker He, was either drafting me or riding in my blind spot on the right for a spell, completely unobserved, and maybe as I veered right to give room for an oncoming bike — a mom, or a lady on a commute bike — maybe he had to correct to avoid me. I think he was of the mind that cars should stay off Bryant even around downtown. I am sure I was going a bike-speed — my usual 22 mph hereabouts. I am thinking, if I get his drift, that he should take the middle of the road, in this case behind me directly, rather than pass me on the right, even if he can.  One point is that Bike Boulevards, in this case Bryant, probably work better outside of Downtown, and maybe two, it is more geared for a commuter than a racer. Three, and this is my bad in this case, it is hard to communicate your point if one or both is behind a wind-shield. And, finally, not sure how these new signs help in this case, but I feel him. Lo siento.

edit to add, a few minutes later: Actually, GS has two stories on this, one from July, 2011, I linked above and a second from July, 2012, that I found from link from Alta site. Alta is a bike-advocacy consulting group with offices in Portland, Berkeley and about 10 other places, and about 100 staff. Again, not to be too cynical, but there is a distinction between what is good for an abstract like “bicycling” — for instance, good for environment, good for our health — and the real world, what we get, institutions that feed off other institutions — to what extent does the bike lobby have its own agenda, or has been compromised, for example, hypothetically, by the Reflective-Sign-Mongers (friends of the Ten-Million-Dollar-Bike Bridge-Backers)? Also, in glancing at the comments feed of the second cite from the Weekly, I think it is Doug Moran who uses the term “spandex bikers” which is the shibboleth for people like the Joe Biker He, I described. I bike mostly as a commuter — although I am self-employed — and wear mostly cotton shorts not spandex.

edit to add, the next morning: I ran into my friend B.K. an avidly self-powered Palo Altan, and asked him if he had noticed the new signs on the Bryant Street Bike Boulevard. He said no, but that he had noticed that the awkward bike lane on Park, over Oregon, between Sheridan and the AOL Complex on Page Mill, had been improved some with a green painting fill-in. On his suggestion, I circled Ventura neighborhood via Park and side-streets to find that the Bike-friendly sections of Park now featured these same style of new signage, the blue reflective signs with the bike logo — I counted six of them, up past Gryphon and one block into the residential section, or 3300 Park, but no further. Similarly, after posting above last night, I drove — : ( — Bryant from Embarcadero to the creek and counted a total of 17 of the new signs, including two each at Lytton and Uni.

Pedaling on, up this hill of information, I found this comment by City consultant Jaime Rodriguez, posted on Quora, from October, 2011:

Great responses so far.  Any Bike Boulevard prioritizes bicycle use on a corridor over vehicles through traffic calming measures as noted by other responders.  In Palo Alto, we will begin branding of bike boulevards through new signage and roadway markings treatments as well as aggressively expanding our bicycle boulevard network. New purple brand signs will be installed at each intersection and gateway signs at major intersections.  The City’s first green bicycle lanes will be installed on Channing Avenue between Newell Avenue and Lincoln Avenue. A similar concept for Bike Boulevards will be used called Super Sharrows.  Please be sure to check out the City’s DRAFT Bicycle & Pedestrian Transportation Plan 2011 at:

A “sharrows” is a symbol that tells motorists to share the road with bikes. (“share” plus “arrow” as in merge, I guess) BK made a morbid joke about their utility.

The Barron Park neighborhood website covers this topic, including a post from my former neighbor Art Liberman, who I think of as an avid runner, and also a leader in terms of the discussion of the risk of toxics exposure from nearby BPI; in Barron Park, they are inputting to leadership’s treatment of proposed expansion of the bike plan to include Matadero connecting to Margarita — sounds iffy, due to its narrowness; it travels along the creek and has no bike lane per se.

As B.K. and I finished our discussion of the topic, I turned around to notice our current mayor Greg Scharff meeting with the Weekly’s Gennady Sheyner but held back from approachig them with this topic.

I also found coverage in the recent couple of years from Patch and Bay Citizen.

To oversimplify my point, or my question: once we have established, forty years ago, Bryant Street as a “Bike Boulevard” meaning bikes sharing the road with cars, and removing stop signs for bikes, while adding some obstacles for cars, how does signage per se augment that, and at what cost?

There’s also a somewhat recent document apropos of using county funds to create a Palo Alto w. Stanford Bay to Skyline bike path that quotes from the 128 page Palo Alto bike plan but is itself only 10 pages. And a 6-page one.

There is also a Palo Alto Bicycle Advisory Committee (PABAC), chaired by Robert Neff and Eric Nordman that met last night at Cubberley as I was writing this.

About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
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