The San Mateo City Council has approved a controversial bike lanes project in the North Central neighborhood that will remove more than 200 street parking spaces, despite fierce pushback from many North Central residents.

“The way that this neighborhood is torn is a reflection of the fact that we have not brought the community with us in understanding the importance of the project and how it needs to be implemented,” Councilmember Joe Goethals said, who voted for the bike lanes.

The council voted 3-2 to approve the bicycle lanes at its Feb. 22 meeting, with Vice Mayor Diane Papan and Councilmember Amourence Lee dissenting. The city aims to complete the bike lanes portion in about two weeks. The reduced parking led to a significant outcry from North Central residents and a neighborhood campaign to stop the project, culminating in the council’s close vote but ultimate approval Tuesday.

Bicycle lanes will be added on East Poplar Avenue from El Camino Real to North Delaware Street, North Delaware Street from East Poplar Avenue to Indian Avenue, and Humboldt Street from Peninsula Avenue to Fifth Avenue. A bicycle boulevard would be added on Indian Avenue from Delaware Street to North Humboldt Street, Poplar Avenue from Delaware Street to Eldorado Street, and Eldorado Street from Poplar Avenue to Indian Avenue. However, a lack of street space means the city will remove 214 parking spaces to make way. Around 170 parking spaces will be eliminated on the west side of Humboldt Street from Peninsula Avenue to Fifth Avenue and 43 on the south side of Poplar Avenue from El Camino Real to Delaware Street.

Residents against the project noted losing parking would make it harder to park and have people visit. Others have noted the working class would be unfairly affected. Residents have asked for significant mitigation measures like parking permits and other options. James Sherman, the Woodlake Condominium Homeowners Association president in North Central, was against the project. He said it would lead to more parking issues on surrounding streets and cause problems for North Central residents who need to park.

“Many of the residents on this street are low income with a high density of occupants, and therefore many vehicles per household. Many of these occupants work in service industries, rideshare/delivery, child/elder care, construction and landscaping, and rely heavily on their vehicles for their livelihoods. The elimination of parking for these vehicles will be highly disruptive for the neighborhoods,” Sherman said.

Gloria Brown, a lifelong North Central resident, asked for a delay in bike lane approval due to concerns about parking should it be implemented.

“Go back to the drawing table for further discussions, so the bike lane issues are a win-win for everybody. I don’t see it being a win-win for everyone at this point,” she said.

The city’s desire to push forward is due to it being a high-priority project as part of its bicycle master plan, which calls for improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

The project is a key part of improving connectivity to the east side of San Mateo through a west-east connection. According to the city, it would also improve the city’s carbon footprint and work toward a future with less car dependency, a state priority. Bicyclists and pedestrians would also see improved safety, potentially reducing the risk and frequency of future collisions by removing bicyclists from shared lanes. Several serious crashes have happened on Poplar Avenue and Humboldt Street, and a bicyclist in 2021 was left in a coma after being hit by a driver south on North Humboldt Street who ran a stop sign. From 2017 to 2021, there were 11 bicycle-involved collisions on the project corridor and 30 in the neighborhood.

Jay Patel, who recently moved to the North Central neighborhood, supported the construction of the bike lanes. He noted it was dangerous for bicyclists on very narrow and hazardous streets like South Humboldt Street.

“There are some cars late at night which drive really fast and make me concerned about nonmotorists on the street. I don’t bike, nor do I have kids walking on the street, but this is the least we can do to make our communities safer and sustainable,” Patel said in a letter to the city.

San Mateo resident Maggie Trinh lives in the Sunnybrae neighborhood rides and daily through North Central with her kid on the back of the bike. She supported the project given the danger to bicyclists. She takes side streets to avoid dangerous conditions and wants to see more bike lanes all over North Central.

“They don’t know how to drive safely with bicycles around. There’s a lot of honking, there’s a lot of aggressive revving of the motors, and it’s terrifying,” Trinh said.


The council expressed initial support for the project in early October but asked for more community outreach and survey to educate residents before making a final decision. An October community meeting gave North Central residents a chance to air grievances. A city survey released in early February of 285 people found around 62% of North Central residents and half of North Central and adjacent residents did not support the project. However, around 54% of San Mateo residents and 57% of all respondents supported the project. Long-term North Central residents tended not to support the project, while newer residents tended to support it. Earlier in February, the Sustainability and Infrastructure Commission favored moving forward. The city noted the parking reduction on each street segment could be accommodated within two blocks.

The bike lanes portion is part of a larger infrastructure project of a 2020-21 Community Development Block Grant Project for around $1.6 million. The funds are from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and have a deadline for use, putting a timeline on approval. It covers 2.3 miles of street and includes pavement rehabilitation and installing curb ramps, class 2 bicycle lanes and bicycle boulevards, traffic striping, road signs and traffic signal video detection equipment. A contractor is working on resurfacing portions of the project corridor unrelated to the bike lanes.

Councilmember Eric Rodriguez and Mayor Rick Bonilla voted for the project. Rodriguez said it was fair to allocate a small percentage of streets for bicyclists but favored parking mitigation options, while Bonilla said public safety and fighting against climate change were his reasons.

“If we are unable to move forward with this first big step in implementing our bicycle master plan in an area where bike safety is the worst, our entire plan would be at risk and may never come to fruition,” Rodriguez said.

“We have to cut the cars down. We have to end the single-occupancy vehicle. We have to move to alternative modes,” Bonilla said.

Council concerns

Councilmember Amourence Lee supported bike lanes but didn’t support the project due to incomplete data about parking supply, limited analysis and input on design alternatives and a backward sequencing for implementation. She believed there were other alternatives if the city committed resources and further study for a neighborhood that deserved more investment and consideration.

“I wish I could support this project, but I can’t. It is divisive and a zero-sum solution,” Lee said. “From my perspective, this project is based on a flawed master planning process that didn’t have enough analysis about tradeoffs.”

She shared she had been hit by a car as a bicyclist while living in the Boston area. She now lives in the North Central neighborhood and only allows her kids to bicycle on the sidewalks instead of the streets because of the dangers.

“When we talk about safety. This is personal. These are my kids on the street. My kids have witnessed their friends get hit by a car right in front of us, and that was very traumatizing,” Lee said.

Deputy Mayor Diane Papan voted against and had reservations about approving the project without buy-in from the neighborhood.

“I love the idea of the bike lane. I’m having a hard time not voting yes right now, but I’m really concerned about this neighborhood not feeling heard, especially given the parking shortages that are there,” Papan said.

The council voted to mitigate the parking loss through additional parking enforcement, community outreach and mitigation options. The Public Works Department did not have an estimated timeline for parking mitigation options.

The city is examining parking in front of driveways, more red curbs to deter illegal parking, shared parking lots like at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center and a residential parking permit program.

People can go to for more information about the project.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102


Curtis Driscoll covers transportation and the cities of San Mateo, Foster City, Belmont and Half Moon Bay. See my other articles:

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(7) comments


There is a way to salvage some of the street parking and that is to take the planting strip along those routes

That would push the vehicle parking towards the sidewalk by taking the planting strip.

Where there are trees, power/lighting poles, etc. Leave them and no parking at those spots.

Those planting strips are about the same width as the bicycle lane.

Of course the not a 1:1, as there will be spots that can not accommodate this…trees, power/light poles, etc., but salvage some street parking spots.

While at this with the heavy equipment & crews, why not take care of the crumbling sidewalks in the area. A leveraged model and more so if there are grants to fix dangerous sidewalks

John Baker

Parking is a convenience, bike lanes can save lives and the climate. Thank you, San Mateo.

Terence Y

Hey residents in those neighborhoods, remember the – dare I say - treachery of the three council members who sold you out (Bonilla, Goethals, and Rodriguez – assuming the city of SM website is current). Make sure they’re either recalled or they don’t get re-elected, else you may get more of the same. It’s obvious they don’t care what any silly city survey says. Makes you wonder if they were just going through the motions. It looks like it may also be about spending “free” money before it’s lost, no matter how viable the project is. Also makes you wonder who is on the receiving end of this money? Campaign contributors? BTW, I like how Goethals appears to have already made up his mind and anyone not “with him” doesn’t understand why the project is needed. Perhaps, Mr. Goethals, the project is not wanted.


The city survey revealed that residents in adjoining neighborhoods, which includes neighborhoods in Councilmember Goethals' district, supported the project. Two blocks of the Humboldt bike lanes extend into CM Goethals' district, and the neighborhood association impacted by those lanes submitted a public comment in support of the project. As a resident of that district myself, I appreciate that CM Goethals represented his constituents' desires.

Terence Y

Actually, Seema, according to the article, only half of adjoining neighborhoods support the project so it appears 50% do not. I’m not sure they will appreciate Goethals representation of their desires. For people directly affected by these lanes, around 62% do not support them. It might be nice, as a DJ letter writer requested earlier this week, to actually provide survey data. Perhaps survey data is a moot point since three city council members don’t seem to care what data shows. Let’s see if predictions come to pass and adjoining neighborhoods have limited street parking.


Hi Terence,

I believe this article is referencing a stat shared in the staff presentation, which was that 50% of North Central AND adjacent neighborhoods support this project and the required parking removal. (

If you look at the survey results, you can filter by neighborhood, which reveals that 75.4% of residents who live in adjacent neighborhoods support the project and required parking removal:

Terence Y

Hi Seema - thank you for the link to the presentation and for clarifying the 50% statistic in the article. If we review the presentation, one can see that 50% of respondents ride bikes as their primary mode of transportation or recreationally. We don’t know if this cohort is representative of the bike riding percentage in San Mateo (do 50% of residents ride bikes as their primary mode of transportation or recreationally?). If not, survey results are potentially skewed in the “for” column.

One can also see that 82% of North Central residents who do not ride bikes are opposed and 43% of North Central residents who do ride bikes are also opposed. 90% of long-term North Central residents are opposed. So what can we conclude? Most North Central residents do not support the project, and rightly so, since they’ll be most affected. Assuming adjacent neighborhoods support the project, I’m assuming they won’t complain if street parking is troublesome. Well, almost 25% can complain, if your figures are accurate. Regardless, it sounds like the deed is done and we'll see intended and unintended consequences. Good luck North Central.

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