News

CHP finds cyclist at fault in Alpine Road fatal accident

The California Highway Patrol has reached a decision as to who was at fault in the Nov. 4 traffic accident at the Alpine Road/Interstate 280 interchange that resulted in the death of Los Altos Hills cyclist Lauren Perdriau Ward.

In the collision between Ms. Ward, 47, and a tractor-trailer truck driven by Gabriel Manzur Vera, 44, the CHP has concluded that the fault lay with Ms. Ward for having made "an unsafe turning movement," according to CHP Officer Art Montiel.

"For unknown reasons, the bicyclist turned right and basically fell into the pathway of the moving truck," Mr. Montiel said in a interview.

The conclusion is based on CHP interviews with Mr. Vera and an examination of the physical evidence, including Ms. Ward's wrecked bicycle, the marks on the left side of Mr. Vera's rig near the second axle, and the locations of the two vehicles when they came to rest, Mr. Montiel said.

For Mr. Vera, who drives for Monterey-based demolition contractor Randazzo Enterprises, this was the third fatal accident since 2003 in which he and his truck have been involved. In none of these incidents was he found to be at fault and there have been no consequences as to his right to continue driving, Mr. Montiel said.

"You can imagine how he feels," Mr. Montiel said. "He's not driving."

In December 2003, a woman died after her vehicle crossed the center line on Highway 1 near Moss Landing and collided head-on with Mr. Vera's truck, according to CHP Officer Robert Lehman.

In August 2007, a bicyclist died as a result of a collision with the right side of Mr. Vera's truck as it was making a turn at an intersection in the city of Santa Cruz. In this incident, a video originating either from a surveillance or street camera showed that Mr. Vera was not at fault, Mr. Montiel said.

The CHP keeps records for four years, so details of the 2003 incident on Highway 1 have been purged, Mr. Lehman said. That section of the highway is two lanes and runs through a marshy area without much shoulder, he added.

Asked to comment on the CHP's latest conclusion, bicycling advocate and Menlo Park resident Steve Schmidt noted that "in the absence of other witnesses, I guess they did the best they could."

There is a hint that another vehicle -- a "side zoomer," Mr. Schmidt said -- may have been trying to get around the truck and on to the freeway. Such a driver would have approached Ms. Ward from her left side and could have scared her such that she fell or turned into the truck. "We don't know," he added. "It's all speculation."

There is conceptual agreement among the stakeholders on a striping change at this intersection to improve safety for bicyclists, Mr. Schmidt said.

Among the alternatives expected to be presented early next year from the county Public Works Department, one option is likely to be a dedicated bike lane. This scenario would encourage splitting traffic headed onto the southbound freeway and traffic headed west into Ladera and Portola Valley, and direct bicyclists in between these two lanes via a clearly marked bike lane.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom Boeddiker
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

This tragic event stirs fear in all of us who enjoy biking in the Portola Valley, Woodside area. As a motorist, as well, I encourage all drivers to "Share the Road" and be respectful of bikers and bikes!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chrisco
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 21, 2010 at 6:11 pm

CHP, who spend 50 hours a week behind the windshield, has great sympathy for the driver. "You can imagine how he feels," Mr. Montiel said. "He's not driving."

This obviously colored their report.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hadley
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Dec 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Build an overpass for bicycles. Striping will not fix the problem which is bicycles moving through a complex set of car lanes. Should put an overpass at Page Mill as well. In both of these areas, you have cars entering at accelerated speeds which will never change.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Chrisco, I thought your post was thought-provoking. I took the quote about the truck driver differently. I assumed it was there to give readers a sense about him, that he didn't take this death lightly & I also figured more may have been said about him, but was edited as necessary for this article.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mary
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 21, 2010 at 10:31 pm

So who's going to pay for a bike overpass?
Sounds to me like bicyclist's need to pay for the following:
Safe riding course(every 2 years)
Bicycle rider's riding license( photo license) expires like a driver's license
Bicycle insurance
Bicycle toll roads to pay for your safety....
Bicycle license plate so irresponsible bicyclists can be reported, printed on their riding apparel.
And
Most of all, you can ride safe and driver's can drive safe while "SHARING THE ROAD"

Please, any and all bicycle riders, clubs, etc, COMMENT ON THIS IDEA!
Bring it on, we can finally get to the bottom of this bicycle vs automobile major issue!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kendra
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Mary
As a bicyclist you make complete sense.
We all have to pay for our hobbies!
How do we get this started?
I will be happy to get my friends to get a petition going!
KMC


 +   Like this comment
Posted by jackrabbit
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Dec 22, 2010 at 9:41 am

20 plus years ago, the Town of PV spent over a quarter of million dollars to put in a bike path along the southern side of Alpine Road including an "under 280" path. Why bike riders insist on riding on the roadway rather than a path that is a) safer; b) more picturesque and c) designed for its intended purpose is beyond imagination. Guess common sense is not appropriate or relevant when it comes to "my way or the highway" mentality.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sorry Not True
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Dec 22, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Sorry Jackrabbit, common sense is being played out when bikers don't take that "bike path". That is NOT a bike path, that is more of a running path that has a blind corner when you approach under 280, and then too low of an overhang. If it were truly a bike path, then bikes would take it, and not have to worry about falling into the creek or hitting a pedestrian. If PV had done it right, these obstacles would not be there. Furthermore, there needs to be more signage, and the path wider.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stan
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Dec 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm

The existing bike path on the south side of Alpine is definitely a less than optimal design. But let's get real. Most bicyclists won't even stop for the stop signs in either direction where the freeway off ramps intersect Alpine. To think that they would opt for safety instead of trying to assert rights to a part of the road is not realistic. Sanity needs to prevail and, as a former rider, I don't believe that putting a bike lane in the middle of the road at Alpine/280 meets the sanity criteria. Just as the existing lane at Page Mill/280 is a white knuckle ride for both cyclists and automobile drivers so too would be trying the same solution at Alpine/280.
I genuinely believe that MANDATING bicyclists use an improved version of the existing underpass is a solution that needs to be considered.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

How about this? Bicyclists as a group are/have been of a mind set that, because the law says that they have a de jure right to a shared roadway, they are/have been engaged in making that right de facto.

That's a steep climb and one that involves risks. Thus a mentality of risk-taking for the benefit of cyclists as a whole, creating a band of brothers (and sisters) asserting their rights -- by riding the white lines, taking lanes, riding in pelotons, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

If cyclists do have this larger agenda in mind, they might find reasons to oppose riders using the multi-use path on the side of Alpine Road. "The more cyclists on the road, the better" is how that logic works, because the more that cyclists put themselves in harm's way, the more that drivers will adjust to their presence.

Note that a sign in Ladera specifically includes bicycles with hikers and equestrians as the intended users of this multi-use path.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jackrabbit
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Dec 22, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Joe-
We're in agreement. Contrary to the comment by "from another community" who obviously doesn't know or care about the history of the multi-use path (i.e., bicycles included) path, the "Lance Wannabee" outfits say it all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2010 at 7:55 pm

Mary,
Would you apply your rules regarding licensing and insurance to 3rd graders biking to school? Have you thought about the consequences for those who cannot afford any transportation but bike, and for whom your requirements would be a sentence to joblessness? There have been some attempts made along the lines you suggest, but all have been dropped because they are huge money losers. Santa Clara County, San Jose and Palo Alto have all dropped their bike licensing programs in the last few years because they were costing too much money and providing no benefit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2010 at 8:34 pm

If a bike is a legitimate means of transportation on the highway (not that racing as do is legitimate) than they should have insurance, because they can cause bodily harm to pedestrians and animals and capital losses too. Third graders can be covered by their parents insurance, but all should have mandatory training in the law and traffic assessment. In fact I know of a community in which you can't take your bike to elementary school without attending mandatory training. The way I see some kids biking it's dangerous for them and for pedestrians. Some people may in fact not be able to afford insurance, but they shouldn't be biking without financial means of compensation for injuries they can inflict. It's called responsibility. Are you suggesting bikers need not be responsible for their own liability?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Unfortunately, the off-road path on the south side of Alpine is not a good option for most cyclists. It is narrow, bumpy, not well maintained and sharing it with hikers, dog walkers and horses is not a good combo. I have been distance riding in the bay area for 16 years, and the only time I have been injured (knock wood!) was while avoiding a child on a bike with training wheels coming towards me on the Los Gatos Creek Trail. The real answer is caution on the part of cyclists and drivers. We are all vehicles and none of us has special privilege. Too many drivers are rushing and distracted and too many cyclists are pushy.

The way I handle that intersection is a full stop at the sign, then I turn and try to make eye contact with any drivers alongside. When I pull away, I signal with my left hand that I will be moving towards the dividing line between the thru lane and the on ramp and I wave to say thanks to the drivers. They usually give me extra room and almost always wave back as they pass. Awareness and courtesy work, folks.

One suggestion for improving safety at that intersection might be to extend the white stripe that separates the on-ramp back to the intersection, and the addition of a green filled bike line along its outside. Then add a button activated, flashing warning sign at the stop sign that advises of cyclists in the thru lane ahead, similar to the one used at either end of the tunnel on Bunker Road in the Marin Headlands. There is plenty of room in the cross striped, non-traffic area before the sign for this. It would not be overly expensive and would help draw more attention to the mixed traffic situation.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 23, 2010 at 7:26 am

There are two problems.

1. People driving automobiles and trucks who are inconsiderate or intolerant of people riding bicycles.

2. Bicycle riders who think they can act with impunity against people driving cars and trucks.

Both are equally culpable, but the second group clearly pays a higher price for their actions.

As long as these two conditions exist - and I think they always will - we will experience tragic events such as these. I'm afraid that striping, barriers and education won't help much.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Dec 23, 2010 at 7:29 am

Only operators of motor vehicles are required to have insurance because their potential for destruction is so high. Non-motorized transportation users such as horses, dog sleds, skaters, scooter riders, pedestrians and bicyclists have no insurance requirement. Those without insurance are still required to be responsible for their actions, and there are plenty of laws to cover that. There is more to being responsible than having money. I agree that bike safety should be taught in schools, but with school finances the way they are today it is unlikely to happen.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Scott Lohmann
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Dec 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

There is actually a very good bike education program being taught annually at Oak Knoll Elementary School by PTO volunteers, and headed up by Maryann Levinson. Maryann is on the MP Bike Commission, along with myself and a few other very dedicated volunteers. The Bike Commission is looking to expand the program out to ALL schools within the city, so if anyone has any clout, or is interested in helping arrange this program in other schools, we'd be more than happy to arrange the program, and put it on the calendar. This has been part of the Bike Commission's goals the past couple of years, and continues to be a priority for us. I am not the Bike Commission Chair, the Chair is Greg Klingsporn, should you need a contact name.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dr H
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Jan 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm

I'm both a PV resident and a cyclist that commutes and rides for recreation on Alpine Rd.

Firstly, It was shocking and very sad to learn of this accident. Also surprising that there was apparently no other witness to the collision. The true sequence of events may never be known to us, thus making it difficult to know what actions to take to improve safety.

Secondly, I have very mixed feelings about some of the comments I have read here. The Portola Valley & Woodside area is immensely popular with recreational/sporting cyclists - to a far greater degree than anywhere I have ever lived. Along with this, it is immediately apparent that a very wide range of abilities and attitudes to road use & rules is apparent, on both sides, and instances of problems more frequent. On the one hand it is frustrating to residents to see laws disregarded - at times the area feels like a bicycle theme park. On the other, the riders do have a right to use the roads, and I know of few better or safer places in the world to ride a bicycle.

Regarding the The Alpine/280 intersection, a bike/multi user path is no solution and I, for one, would not use it. The present path is unaceptable to many cyclists (my opinion also) as mentioned above, and is on the wrong side of the road for West-bound bike traffic. Although I have experienced very little trouble, the present layout could perhaps be improved. However I fear some of the proposed changes made might result in something more like the Page mill or Sand Hill intersections with 280. Both locations are dreadful to negotiate in comparison to the present configuration at Alpine Rd.

In closing, I ask for tolerance on both sides. "Share the road" applies to everyone, and a little consideration costs nothing.

Dr H


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jan 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Dr. H - very well said. I would only add that if you are sharing the road with someone who, because of the size and construction of his vehicle, cannot see you then it is in your survival interest to move safely to a position where either you can be seen or you are no longer in the roadway. Having the right of way does not ensure your survival.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

WUE makes out-of-state tuition more affordable
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 2 comments | 2,668 views

Local picks on 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand list
By Elena Kadvany | 1 comment | 2,602 views

Ode to Brussels Sprout
By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 2,257 views

Charter School Proposal Steeped In Unintended Consequences
By Erin Glanville | 38 comments | 1,515 views

Measure M-- I am not drinking Greenheartís expensive potion
By Martin Lamarque | 4 comments | 229 views