Bird Droppings

If you’ve been downtown today (Friday, July 15, 2022), you couldn’t have helped but notice the newest addition to our sidewalks:

Yes, the scooters have arrived. Back in September, the Redwood City Council held one of its study sessions on shared micromobility services (scooters and e-bikes, most commonly). Then, in October, it adopted an ordinance altering Redwood City’s Municipal Code to enable shared micromobility service providers to apply for a permit to operate within the city. Today, those ordinance changes were made concrete in the form of dozens and dozens of Bird scooters being deposited throughout downtown. The above picture shows just one such cluster (“flock”?) of Bird scooters near the city’s Caltrain station, but you’ll find them on a variety of street corners throughout Redwood City’s downtown (and possibly elsewhere).

As someone who has never actually tried one, I do plan to rent and ride one in the next couple of weeks just so I can get the rider’s perspective. But I was recently in Washington, D.C., where e-bikes and scooters are quite prevalent, and I have to say that from the perspective of a non-rider, I’m not a huge fan.

Each scooter has a sticker that clearly says “no riding on sidewalks” — along with, in much smaller print, “18+ years old,” “no double riding,” “wear a helmet,” and “follow state and local laws.” Based on what I saw in D.C., except for the last one (which I couldn’t fairly judge, since I don’t know the local laws of Washington D.C.), countless people were breaking each of the other rules. Although I’d like to think that things will go better here, based on what I saw this morning, we’re not off to a good start. In the space of about two minutes, as I was taking these photographs, I first saw someone go whizzing along the northbound Caltrain platform on a Bird scooter, after which someone zipped by on the sidewalk, coming within inches of my face. Naturally, neither rider was wearing a helmet. To their credit, they did appear to be over 18, and I didn’t (yet) see any double-riding. However, I can almost bet that I’ll see both of those rules being broken the next time I’m walking downtown. My primary concern, though, is the rule about sidewalks: it is illegal to ride these things (or bikes) on the sidewalk in Redwood City. They are allowed in the bike lanes, though.

The scooters, which appear to have been dropped off shortly before I arrived (at 9 a.m.), were neatly arranged and seemed well-positioned as to not impede those of us who walk around downtown. I’ll be curious to see how things look after people have started riding them, though. For the moment I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that people will, as directed by the Bird website, park their scooters “neatly in a designated parking area—and make sure to keep access ways clear.” But then again, I remember going through Los Angeles and seeing scooters left in all kinds of crazy places, including on people’s front lawns, in bushes, in doorways of local businesses, and of course laying across the sidewalk in such a way as to impede anyone walking by. So I’m not holding my breath.

When the Council studied the ordinance, they also considered a number of administrative regulations, including:

  • setting minimum and maximum fleet sizes
  • requiring permitted shared micromobility operators to rebalance and redistribute their fleet on a regular basis both to ensure availability and to remove them from areas where they are not authorized to operate
  • equipping the devices with Geofencing technology to send notifications to riders and to prevent the devices from entering defined permanent or short-term boundaries, such as Courthouse Square on event days

Although I’m not sure that they put all of those regulations in place, hopefully, things will go well here in Redwood City. I truly wish Bird (and any other micromobility providers that may elect to do business here) success. They certainly were popular back in D.C.

Without a scooter to ride, this week I took a long (11+ mile) walk through Redwood City to see what’s what. Passing by Woodside Plaza, I was delighted to see clear evidence that the future home of Ralph’s Vacuum & Sewing Center really is finally showing real signs of activity. Then, I stopped for a moment to watch the construction activity on the new office building being constructed at 1390 Woodside Road:

With most of the glass in, the building is really starting to take shape. As a reminder, all of the office space in this building will be located on the second floor. Except for a small lobby that will exist primarily to provide access to the building’s elevator and main stairwell, plus a couple of enclosed utility spaces, the ground floor otherwise will consist entirely of a parking garage that will use car stackers to fit 31 cars beneath the building (along with another 17 cars in a surface lot next to the building).

Heading down Woodside Road, I took a bit of time to study the ten-unit condominium building nearing completion at 910 Woodside Road. This one:

The shape of this building interests me. If we ever get any rain agin, I can picture it pouring down those two slanted roofs into that center section (I don’t think that there are gutters along the lower edges of those two roof sections). The architect surely considered the volume of water that will cascade down into that center cut-out, and presumably specified an appropriate amount of drainage there. I’d sure like to see it in operation, though….

One inevitability that the architect had to deal with — and may have limited success in doing so — is the proximity of the building you see to the right (which is a dental office). On the left side the building steps up in such a way as to provide a fair amount of separation between this new building and the multi-story apartment building that stands on that side. But the first two condominiums along the right side of this building look directly at a two story block wall that comprises the side of the dental office; although the front unit also has views onto Woodside Road, the unit farther back seems to primarily look at that wall.

Here’s a closer look at the space between the two buildings on that side:

Fortunately, the dental office doesn’t extend the entire depth of the property; behind it is a parking lot onto which the three condominiums further back look.

When complete, if the 910 Woodside Road building has an open house, I’m going to try to pay them a visit just so I can see what the views look like from inside those first two units on the right side.

Along El Camino Real, I once again spent some time watching the activity on the massive ELCO Yards project. On the day I was there, there was a long line of dump trucks entering the parcel where Towne Ford used to have its sales and service center, pausing briefly to get loaded (a process that took only a few minutes), and then driving off to dump their load somewhere. Then the next truck moved into position and accepted its load, after which it moved off. As quickly as loaded trucks left the property, empty ones arrived and got in line. I found the whole process mesmerizing to watch:

On the neighboring property, where Hopkins Acura used to do business (along with Towne Ford, Hopkins Acura now can be found at Redwood City’s Boardwalk Auto Mall east of Highway 101), a bunch of excavators were busily digging up the block:

For the moment, the excavators on that parcel were simply making large piles; I didn’t see any of that dirt being carted off when I was there. At some point, though, I’m sure it’ll go away, since both parcels will be dug out for subterranean parking garages. In case you don’t have a set of plans sitting in front of you, as I do, the Hopkins Acura parcel will host a seven-story residential building with some amount of ground-floor retail, atop a two-story underground garage. The Towne Ford Parcel, on the other hand, is getting a four-story commercial building (largely, offices) with ground floor retail (which may well be an entertainment venue, such as a roller rink) and a childcare center, atop a three-story underground garage.

I next wandered up El Camino Real to check on the progress of the six-story affordable apartment building being constructed as part of the ELCO Yards project. Although there is little new to report on that building at the moment, I did notice one interesting thing. Affixed to the side of the next-door Record Man building was this sign:

On a previous visit I had noticed that the second story of the Record man building, which had been damaged in a fire some months ago, had been repaired. I’m now guessing that the repairs were carried out by Greystar, who currently has their construction office (for the 1304 El Camino Real project, at any rate) located up the outside stairs:

Everyone directly affected should be well aware by now, but work on the Hopkins Avenue Traffic Calming project begins in earnest this Monday, July 18 (a small crew has been out surveying the street for the last week or two). If you don’t live in the area, but use Hopkins Avenue as a way to get from one part of the city to another (or as a way to pass through Redwood City), keep an eye out for construction activity and perhaps consider an alternate route at least for the duration of this project, which is expected to last through the end of the year at least. There will be lane closures, with flaggers to allow travel through the zones of active work. As someone who does live in the area, I was pleased to read, in the letter from O’Grady Paving, Inc. (the project contractor), that “although you may be slightly inconvenienced during the construction period, residents and businesses will be provided access to and from their property when required.” Of course, this being a repaving project (along with construction of new center islands, new storm drainage, and new pedestrian ramps at corners), there will be times when cars simply have to avoid certain parts of the road; some inconvenience is simply inevitable. But the result should be worth it.

Redwood City’s latest “ENews” weekly newsletter (which is worth subscribing to, if you don’t already receive it) has a couple of interesting things worth noting:

  • Pub in the Park is this Saturday, July 16, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Red Morton Park This week’s music is “high octane” bluegrass. There apparently will be four breweries and one cider works, plus four food trucks. Bring your camp chair, and prepare to enjoy what should be a delightful, sunny day.
  • Starting Monday, July 18 through Friday, August 12, Redwood City will be accepting nomination papers from those interested in running for one of three City Council openings. Due to the fact that we now elect our council through by-district elections, current candidates must live in either district 2 (largely, the Centennial and Downtown neighborhoods, along with part of Mt. Carmel), district 5 (the Palm, Redwood Oaks, Redwood Village, and part of the Friendly Acres neighborhoods, it appears), and district 6 (Woodside Plaza, Roosevelt, Central, and parts of Eagle Hill and Mt. Carmel, I think) — check the City Council Election District Map for the precise boundaries. Apparently, there are no incumbents in any of those districts, so the field is wide open. For the record, the three councilmembers that will be going off the council at the end of the current term are Diane Howard, Giselle Hale (our current mayor) and Diana Reddy (our current vice-mayor). For more information, including links to where you need to apply, visit the Municipal Election Information web page.
  • The San Francisco Bay Water Emergency Transportation Authority is in the process of “developing a shared vision of the San Francisco Bay Area ferry system.” Currently, they are running a quick “priorities” poll to get our opinions on the Bay Area’s ferry system. Given that Redwood City may eventually become part of that system, interested folks living here (or anywhere in the Bay Area) should consider taking the poll and/or reading about where the Authority thinks it might be heading by the year 2050.

For those of you living in San Carlos, their newsletter notes that the date to apply to serve on one of the city’s commissions is rapidly approaching: the deadline is next Friday, July 22 at 4 p.m. For information on which commissions are seeking new members, and for a link to the application by which San Carlos residents can apply, visit that city’s Call For Commission Applications web page.

16 thoughts on “Bird Droppings

  1. Loaner helmets for scooters ..
    People with head injuries..
    Suck up. City. Resources ambulance
    Fire dept .. police .. hurt people ..
    Do not make best workers..:
    So everyone needs a helmet..
    Otherwise. Their Donner cycle s ..
    They are Un licensed and Not insured ?

  2. Scooters are becoming a big thing. In Chicago, they’ve just started painting the bike lanes GREEN where the stop lights are, so we stay attentive to the bikers. It’s good, but it sure is tricky being a driver with bikes/scooters around. They are often hidden. One minute we look, we can turn, but suddenly a biker appears. Our heart skips a few beats and we are thankful we didn’t have a collision.

  3. Already saw an apparently abandoned Bird scooter leaning against a fence on Inner Circle.
    We can hope someone took it back later…

  4. “My primary concern, though, is the rule about sidewalks: it is illegal to ride these things (or bikes) on the sidewalk in Redwood City. They are allowed in the bike lanes, though.”
    RWC is lacking bike lanes so where are scooters supposed to go to be safe? With the cars along El Camino or Jefferson?

  5. As a former skater, I’m curious about your parenthetical “. . . such as a roller rink . . .” Is there any particular insight into this possibility or is just inspired by the proximity to the former rink a few hundred yards away?

    • No, that’s a real possibility (at least it was). During the project approval process the developer not only mentioned it as a possible use, I believe they redesigned that space to be either mostly or entirely clear of supports so as to enable that kind of use (and the space is, I seem to recall, even larger than the Redwood Roller Rink’s). Finally, the developer mentioned having some contacts with one or more roller rink operators. Whether all of that actually results in us getting a roller rink there is anyone’s guess, but it is much more than just wishful thinking on my part…

      • Just went by to take photos, and then took a look at the building permits. It isn’t very exciting, I’m afraid. This will be a bus parking lot for Meta/Facebook. On the plus side, some or all of the buses will apparently be electric; the lot will have chargers for those buses.

    • Agreed. I own a bike helmet, and will use that when I give these things a try, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be in the minority. Unfortunately, helmets, like heads, come in different sizes; renting them would be difficult. Which surely explains why I see so many people riding without them.

    • I highly recommend wearing a helmet. You can pick up a helmet for less than $50 at Sportsbasement. They don’t call them brain buckets for nothing.

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