Potential layout for North Middlefield. Note: Sidewalks were approved for 12′, not 13′.

Last Thursday, March 23, the North Fair Oaks Community Council voted to approve the following components for Middlefield Road between Pacific and 5th Avenues:

  • Buffered bike lanes
  • 35-foot tree spacing on each block
  • Bulb-outs (extended sidewalks) at all intersections
  • 12-foot wide sidewalks

This vote comes after years of work from the community, San Mateo County, North Fair Oaks Forward, and SVBC staff and advocates. Most recently, SVBC worked with Siena Youth Center’s biking club, Bulldog Riders to enhance youth and community participation in the process.

Back in 2014, SVBC was involved in the beginning of the Middlefield Road redesign. Our work and outreach was successful in getting bike lanes included in the plan (along with wider sidewalks, a road diet, and street trees) that was approved by North Fair Oaks Community Council and the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in October 2014. Since then, the County convened a Middlefield Road Steering Committee to help determine the details and implementation of the final plan. In November 2016, the Steering Committee voted to have buffered bike lanes on Middlefield (see a nice timeline on the project site).

Last fall, SVBC met with the Youth Program Director for Siena Youth Center, Rafael Avendano; the Advocacy Class Team Leader, Susana Vasquez (a high school senior); and the students. Bulldog Riders is made up of mostly middle school aged students from North Fair Oaks. They mountain bike, road bike, and advocate for changes in their community through their Advocacy Class. We learned from them that they use Middlefield to go to church, the doctor, and to get ice cream and tacos. Their parents also use it to get to work. They sometimes walk and sometimes ride bikes on the sidewalks or their parents drive because “it’s kinda dangerous.” The students had a variety of suggestions to improve Middlefield Road: more lighting, bus stops with benches and shade, wayfinding for parks and bike routes, crosswalks, and signage in Spanish.

Early this year, the County issued a survey to homeowners in North Fair Oaks to get their input on trees, bulb-outs, and sidewalks. Working with the Bulldog Riders, we decided that this would be a great opportunity for youth involvement and input into the process. The Advocacy Class Team Leader, Susana, and I worked together to create a survey based on the County survey and had the students take it and circulate it to their friends.

The survey was a huge success! It generated 53 responses in less than two weeks. Over 86% of respondents were 18 years or younger and over one third were 12 or 13 years old. Eighty percent of respondents support buffered bike lanes and 92% support green bike lanes. The survey-takers also answered questions about the number and spacing of trees and the amount of bulb-outs, the results of which aligned pretty closely with the results from the formal survey.

We shared these results with County staff and the North Fair Oaks Community Council, as well as Supervisor Warren Slocum. At the Community Council meeting last week, County staff presented the Steering Committee discussions, the survey results, and their recommendations. County staff and the Supervisor also mentioned the youth survey. The Bulldog Riders students each prepared a short speech for public comment on why they were excited for bike lanes on Middlefield and other changes they would like to see.

County staff and the Community Council loved hearing directly from the youth. In particular, they are interested in making the buffered bike lanes on this road green to highlight visibility. This will be decided upon in the upcoming design phase. There was also concern from Council that the bike lanes connect on either side of this segment of Middlefield, which is something the County will be looking at. Many of the students were nervous to speak in front of a large group of adults but it is great practice for a lifetime of advocacy!

There were also public comments from participants in the Middlefield Steering Committee. The community is concerned about rising housing costs in the neighborhood and the potential for street improvements to increase or accelerate displacement. There were also discussions on how to provide for parking when some spots will be removed in the change from diagonal to parallel parking. The County worked on some plans for mitigation including outreach to ensure people know that Middlefield still open to business; phasing of the project so the entire street isn’t accessible; and a pilot program to help support merchants along Middlefield Road.

There is still work to be done to ensure that the buffered bike lanes are nice and wide and that green pavement is included in the plan, as well as ensuring connections to the existing bike network. We are so grateful to Supervisor Warren Slocum, San Mateo County staff, and the North Fair Oaks Community Council for their years of work on these plans and commitment to public outreach. We are also so lucky to have been able to work with the Bulldog Riders and hope to continue our partnership in the future.