The Paly Voice

Less parking, more biking – a dangerous mix

Will Zhou, Author

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Due to the Caltrain crossing and traffic light, a large group of students will often aggregate in front of the Churchill and Castilleja intersection.“The second that a train passes by, all of the bikers rush towards the school entrance and block off a good portion of the road,” according to Palo Alto High School junior Spencer Yu. Photo by William Zhou.

Due to the Caltrain crossing and traffic light, a large group of students will often aggregate in front of the Churchill and Castilleja intersection.“The second that a train passes by, all of the bikers rush towards the school entrance and block off a good portion of the road,” according to Palo Alto High School junior Spencer Yu. Photo by William Zhou.

Attention is needed at the intersection of Churchill and Castilleja Avenue in light of two Palo Alto High School students getting hit by cars at the intersection last month as well as this past May.

“I was crossing the road when it [the accident on Sept. 12.] happened, so it was extra scary,” junior Tiffany Tsay said. “I didn’t notice at first until I heard like a thud and a car hit the kid, and the next thing I saw was this kid on the ground. It’s just surprising because you realize that that could happen to anyone of your friends and the chances of it happening are pretty high since a lot of people use that intersection.”

“The number of middle and high school students bicycling to school increased from 840 in 2002 to 3,010 in 2012, by a factor of 3.6,” a safe routes coordinator of the City of Palo Alto Kathy Durham said. “Part of that was an increase in the student population but most is due to the percentage of students biking to school -- from about 22 percent to 55 percent in middle schools and from 11 percent  to 40 percent in high schools.” Data courtesy of Sylvia Star-Lack, Safe Routes to School assistant coordinator.

“The number of middle and high school students bicycling to school increased from 840 in 2002 to 3,010 in 2012, by a factor of 3.6,” a safe routes coordinator of the City of Palo Alto Kathy Durham said. “Part of that was an increase in the student population but most is due to the percentage of students biking to school — from about 22 percent to 55 percent in middle schools and from 11 percent to 40 percent in high schools.” Data courtesy of Sylvia Star-Lack, Safe Routes to School assistant coordinator.

According to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson, on the way to school, students are biking against the traffic, and since cars can turn into the school from both sides of Churchill Avenue, it increases the chance of an accident.

“In general, it’s pretty dangerous because there’s a lot of traffic during, after, and before school hours,” Tsay said. “And it’s hard to keep track of pedestrians and bikers.”

A growing number of students combined with a shrinking number of parking spots may also contribute to the issue.

According to Berkson, there were about 1,600 students at Paly when he started working here but now there are around 1,960 students and 2,200 students are projected for the future.

The construction of the school’s new Performing Arts Center has taken up 107 parking spots from the Embarcadero Road lot. To compensate for the loss, students have also gained 27 spaces in the Churchill Avenue lot.

According to Berkson, the combined construction of both the Big Gym and the Performing Arts Center will cause a net loss of 112 parking spaces.

The limited parking may make drivers more reckless and pose a larger danger to bikers.

“I leave for school every morning at 7:30 a.m.,” senior Ellen Shuan said. “Yet I still have limited parking options. I think people are more competitive about parking now.”

According the Berkson, the Paly administration will bring the issue up at the City of Palo Alto’s Bicycle Committee meeting, which happens every second Thursday of the month, and advise both bikers and drivers to be focused and cautionary.

If students have any concerns about any events happening at Paly, they should contact the administration.

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