Published Wednesday, November 10, 2010, by the Palo Alto Daily Post
Scene of tragedy telling
Officials visit spot where cyclist died
By Jamie Morrow
Daily Post Associate Editor
As county officials and bicycle safety advocates met yesterday on Alpine Road at
the I-280 underpass where a bicyclist was killed by a big rig last week, several
bicyclists rode by.
No two of them went through the interchange the same way. And that perhaps
illustrates the problem that may have led to last week's tragic death. Bikers
don't know where to go as they move through the intersection.
"It's my opinion that the cues and striping there right now are inadequate to
protect cyclists," said former Menlo Park mayor Steve Schmidt, who sits on San
Mateo County's City/County Association of Governments' bicycle and pedestrian
committee. Schmidt organized the meeting after Lauren Perdriau Ward of Los Altos
Hills, an experienced cyclist, lost her life at the intersection on Thursday.
The bike lane on Alpine Road trails off before the interchange into what Schmidt
calls a "free-for-all." County road operations manager Diana Shu, associate
civil engineer Robin Dusaint and the four cycling activists observed several
bicyclists passing through the interchange, noting one who hugged the sidewalk
along Alpine Road, one who took up a whole vehicle lane, one who straddled the
line between the two vehicle lanes and another who kept to the right of the
rightmost through-traffic vehicle lane.
"Now he has to merge through that freeway-bound traffic," Shu observed of the
cyclist hugging the sidewalk, who didn't initially want to merge into through
traffic. "Now he's trapped."
That cyclist had to cut over quickly to avoid being swept into southbound I-280.
The cyclists agreed that their aim is to make bicycle behavior more predictable
to motorists and to make it obvious to cyclists where they ought to be. Bob
Cronin noted that the new bike lanes may be put through interchanges, which has
been done at Sand Hill Road. Cronin, Schmidt, Mike Harding, and John Langbein
also discussed several pavement-striping methods that could direct bicyclists
where to go and show cars where to expect them.
Langbein said he rode in the area frequently before he broke his hip after being
hit by a vehicle at Santa Cruz Avenue and Alameda de las Pulgas 12 weeks ago.
Shu said the county had already been in the process of looking at the safety of
the intersection before Ward died.
She noted that the right of way belongs to the state, and said the county would
study the interchange and make recommendations to Caltrans. At that point, she
said, Caltrans would send its own engineers to look over the area.
As the group was clustered together talking, a woman bicycled up. She was on her
way to put some flowers near the spot where Ward, whom she knew, had died.
"She was so nice," said the cyclist, her voice breaking.