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Why are there no sidewalks in Atherton/Menlo Park?

Public Domain
The historic Carriage House and Water Tower in Holbrook-Palmer Park, Atherton, California.

Listener Anna Kuwar wanted to know: Why are there no sidewalks in Atherton/Menlo Park?

You may not know Atherton. Well, it’s a little, six-square-mile, rural town near Palo Alto. Less than 7,000 people live there.

I’m driving around there with Anna. We have to swerve the car around a bicyclist and people walking their dogs. Since there are no sidewalks, if you’re not driving carefully, it’d be easy to hit a mom pushing her child in a stroller. Anna used to bike this route to get to work.

The area includes parts of Menlo Park. And in my attempt to find out why it doesn’t have sidewalks, I talked to Robert Ovario, Director of Atherton’s Public Works Department. He told me a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan was adopted back in 2015, and that the town has been working to implement improvements as resources have allowed. It’s put in some Class Three bike routes. That means the town has stenciled pictures of bikes on some of the road lanes.

He also made it clear that the town prioritizes the preservation of its roadways as scenic routes. So don’t expect any big changes soon, Anna.