Shared Streets Program

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In May 2020, the City of Palo Alto responded to the Coronavirus pandemic by providing easier access to recreational space while keeping the community safe. Shared Streets was a way to support physical activity by making more space to practice physical distancing while on local streets. 

The program will end on June 15, 2021, in alignment with the State of California’s removal of many COVID-19 restrictions. Masking in public will continue to be required as per State guidelines

What is a Shared Street?

The City of Palo Alto temporarily limited vehicle access to local traffic only on certain streets. This created more space for residents to walk, bike, and run while complying with physical distancing requirements. Low traffic allows people to enjoy the outdoors and feel more comfortable getting out for a walk, a bike ride, or some fresh air during this time.

The City of Palo Alto piloted the program on three streets: Ross Road, Park Boulevard, and Bryant Street, based on the existing bike routes, traffic volumes, thru- traffic movements, and high biking and walking areas. The City of Palo Alto does not support self-selected street closures. 

Local access is still allowed, which means people who live on the street or need to access a destination on the stretch of roadway for deliveries or other purposes are allowed access. Other non-local access is strongly discouraged; however, the City does not issue citations or formally close streets. The City provided signage at select intersections. At this time, there are no restrictions on cross streets.

People in cars are urged to go very slowly and use extreme caution in these high pedestrian areas.

Which Streets?

Signs designating local traffic only are sited on these road segments: 

  • Bryant Street: From Embarcadero Rd to Forest Ave (North of Bryant at Embarcadero/Bryant will be restricted for vehicles. Bike and Pedestrian access will remain open.)
  • Park Blvd: From Birch Street to Cambridge Ave
  • Ross Road: From Colorado Ave to Louis Road

On June 15, 2021, these street segments will revert to full access streets.

What is allowed on a Shared Street?

  • Using the street while walking and running to pass others when the sidewalk is occupied. People should maintain physical distancing and be mindful of vehicles and each other regardless of the mode of travel.
  • Emergency vehicles and people who live on the street are allowed access.
  • People carrying out essential business activities such as deliveries or take-out orders that start or end on the stretch are also allowed access to the roadway.
  • On-street parking regulations are unchanged.
  • Refuse collection and street sweeping activities still occur on these temporarily-restricted streets.

What is not allowed on a Shared Street?

  • Group gatherings
  • Picnicking
  • Sport activities
  • Set up of tables, chairs, play equipment, etc.

Program Feedback

The City used an online survey to gather resident feedback about the program which was generally positive. Ninety-eight respondents completed the survey in May through July of 2020. Survey highlights include:

  • 80% of the respondents had used one of the Shared Streets for walking or exercise 
  • 84% of respondents witnessed people using the roadway on Shared Streets to maintain physical distancing 
  • While 59% of respondents reported fewer cars on these street segments, 56% reported vehicle speeds remaining the same. Interestingly, 39% of respondents reported reduced vehicle speeds, while 5% reported higher vehicle speeds
  • 60% of respondents reported feeling more safe using the street for walking/exercise, and 49% reported that the neighborhood had become more inviting for walking/exercise

The Shared Streets program will end on June 15, 2021. 

If you have concerns or questions about the use of these roadways, you can contact the Office of Transportation (Transportation@CityofPaloAlto.org) or through PaloAlto311.