News - April 16, 2008

Woodside struggles to find bike committee members

by Dave Boyce

It's easy to find bicyclists in Woodside. They're everywhere on the winding forested roads of this town that prizes its rural equestrian atmosphere and shares borders with two county parks and a state fish-and-game refuge.

What's not easy to find are residents willing to serve on the committee that advises the Town Council on issues such as bicycle safety, bicycle events and bicycle policies. Residents and cyclists, many of whom don't live in Woodside, have a history of contentious relations.

"We're having a very hard time recruiting new members," resident and Bicycle Committee chair Millo Fenzi told the council at its April 8 meeting, where he persuaded the council to reduce the committee's membership requirement to six from the current seven so as to make it easier to reach a quorum and conduct business.

In four of the committee's last 12 meetings, the Bicycle Committee could not assemble a quorum, Mr. Fenzi said.

Adding to the problem is a council habit of not responding to Bicycle Committee reports and proposals, he said.

His list of more-or-less unanswered proposals included safe bike routes to school and Barkley Fields, a map of potholes and other areas dangerous to cyclists, and a courtesy initiative that would encourage drivers, residents and cyclists to consider points of view other than their own.

Anne Kasten, of the Architectural and Site Review Board, urged the council to leave the membership requirement alone and raise community awareness instead. "I think there are people out there who would care," she said.

The council voted 5-0 in favor of the reduction, with Mayor Ron Romines and Councilman Dave Burow absent.

Unwelcoming community

Committee recruitment is being done in an atmosphere of hostility toward cyclists, Mr. Fenzi said, noting that at dinner parties, people step back from him when he mentions his involvement.

"I feel that vilification, (too)," said Councilwoman Deborah Gordon, the council's liaison to the Bicycle Committee for the past several years. She concurred with Mr. Fenzi's dinner-party recollections. "It is like you have some very catchy disease," she said.

One thorny issue is the "peloton" — the platoon of cyclists who tend to take over roadways in Woodside and Portola Valley on weekdays for the "noon ride."

If 50 cyclists violate a stop sign and a deputy wants to issue citations all around, it can't be done without the assistance of all the Sheriff's Office deputies and a truck to transport the impounded bikes, Mr. Fenzi said. "It's logistically impossible."

The best approach, he said, is getting to know the peloton's leaders and sometimes riding along.

With a smaller committee, the members could begin moving toward "a broader, more attractive charter," perhaps one that could also address pedestrian concerns, Mr. Fenzi said.

A new charter and more council attention could attract interest, he said, adding: "It's not a fun committee to be on. Things don't happen."

"Let's figure out a way to solve this problem," Councilman Peter Mason said before the vote. "I go to parties and that's all I hear about, is bikes."


Posted by c, a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Apr 16, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Bike riders cycling in packs should not be allowed in Woodside. I see bike road rage "everyday" in Woodside. Residents complain all the time and nothing is resolved. Cyclists have the legal power in Woodside, and Woodside resident's are very frustrated!

Posted by Menlo Park Resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 16, 2008 at 10:15 pm

One town's problem is another town's solution. We have a number of Bicycle Commission members and ex-members we would be delighted to re-locate to your neighborhood.

Posted by Citizen A, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 16, 2008 at 10:46 pm

I have a deal for you Menlo Park Resident. You keep your Bike Commission Members. And the bike rider packs there too. Let them bike in your area. Much safer for everyone. Just leave us alone here in Woodside.

Posted by John Donne, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 17, 2008 at 12:27 pm

No town is an island, Citizen A.

Posted by c, a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Apr 17, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Resident of Woodside, I agree with you - much safer to keep the bike rider packs in Menlo Park, and please leave us alone in Woodside.

Posted by cc, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 17, 2008 at 12:30 pm

Woodside is not the problem - bike rider packs and not obeying the law is :)

Posted by Citizen A, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 17, 2008 at 6:59 pm

John Donne - great. when the gangbangers from a town east of yours start cruising your neighborhood up and down the street to show off their bling and low cars, lets see if you feel the same way about "no town is an island.

Enjoy Menlo Park.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 17, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Bikes belong on bike paths. If they choose to endanger themselves by going on the road, then they should stay to the shoulder at ALL times. That goes for large groups too.

Posted by M, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 18, 2008 at 1:16 pm

So, the problem here really lies with both groups equally IMO:

The "Peloton" which is basically a mob on wheels, and often doesn't behave in accordance with traffic regulations and probably rightfully gets on every person's nerves who is not in the peloton at the time.


A lot of the others around who think that bikes have no place on the roads.

By way of disclosure, I'm a pretty avid biker--both road and mountain--and am sure that one or more of my points will be disagreeable to probably 80% of this crowd, but they are as follows:

1. Bikes need to be a part of our culture more, not less. Bikes being ridden in the road single file is completely legal. Within certain limits, municipalities should be taking efforts to encourage bike riding of all forms--recreational, commuting etc. Bikers on the road need to mind traffic regulations in order to get the respect they seek. Most bike riders do, but some do not.

2. Large organized rides, the noon ride included are another deal completely. I think the vehicle code should probably be amended to characterize group rides of 20 riders or more (or whatever) in a special category and specific rules should govern their behavior on the roadways. For example perhaps they should be forced to register such group rides and name a responsible individual should some behavior of the group break a law that could not be traced to an individual. This would encourage better self-regulation of the peloton, IMO. After all, in our cars we all have license plates which you can report to the CHP if you see someone driving drunk etc. This is just a thought and probably will anger many bikers here on the thread. But right now the mob mentality of some of the larger groups just isn't cool. So I'm sure some bikers will be flaming around this one.

But as a final word, those of you who bitterly campaign against bikers having a right to the roadway are so completely misguided, I don't know even where to start--so I won't. I think there are solutions to all of these problems if people are willing to behave and think reasonably.

There--I'm sure there's enough here to anger just about everyone, but I do think we need to move beyond some of the current ways of thinking about this problem.


Posted by Tom, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2008 at 2:07 pm

M, what is such a reasonable person such as yourself doing in a debate like this. I am not a bike fan, I do tend to believe that there are, unfortunately, more bikers that believe they're "entitled" to do whatever they want on the roads because they're environmentally clean or whatever other social value they apply to their lifestyle. Consequently, my normal reaction to bike issues is--ban em! You, however, make real sense -even to someone inclined to close his mind to solving the problems. A sincere thanks for your insight--btw, hope you are on PV's bike commission-if not, think about it.


Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2008 at 3:52 pm

M, I agree with you completely except for attempts to regulate groups of cyclists. The "noon ride" is not an organized ride. It is, in fact, very disorganized and is simply a collection of people who happen to be together at the same time, with no leader, no sponsor, etc. How could you regulate that without infringing on the basic constitutional right to assembly? How would you distinguish that from the groups of cars that happen to be bunched on the freeway at the same time? Woodside tried to requre permits for organized bike rides but found out that their ordinance was illegal. Many residents wanted it enforced anyway, so perhaps constitutional concerns and legality are less important than Woodside residents getting what they want.

Posted by M, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 18, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Donald, you bring up good points. It would indeed be difficult to implement some sort of regulation here. And the last thing anyone wants is another law regulating some otherwise harmless activity. But--your point about the noon ride being essentially a disorganized ride with no leader--is exactly my point as well. I haven't looked it up in a dictionary but my belief is that part of the definition of a mob is that it's sort of a headless, leaderless group of people. My big thing here is accountability--because it is easy to be anonymous (as I am here BTW)--in a large ride like this, it becomes easier psychologically to 'go with the group' and run stop signs, block the roadway, etc, particularly if there is no defined leader. Actually if I ever did the noon ride (which I haven't but have considered doing) I would be guilty of all the same stuff b/c my competitive instinct would probably overcome the utility I would see in trying to stop, yield, etc and go against the group. I'm not sure what the end solution here is, but I do think it involves some form of accountability for everyone--particularly for the large group rides. Drivers need to be accountable for driving out of control and/or hitting riders that are obeying the law. And large groups of riders have to avoid behaving in ways that will ultimately turn public opinion against them or breaking laws etc. The only way to create accountability is to remove some of the anonymity, IMO. (BTW, and off the topic this is a problem with the internet in general also). I am remaining anonymous b/c at this point in time I don't want to be blackballed...


Posted by Citizen A, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 18, 2008 at 9:32 pm

M of Portola Valley, I applaud you.

Posted by pv resident "2", a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 20, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Wouldn't it be nice if the bikers just disappeard to another city & let those of us in the country enjoy our roads,hiking & horse trails, peace & quiet?? Many (not all) litter,relieve themselves in broad view of passersby & even have the nerve to read the morning papers in driveways. Their manners seem to have been left behind when they put their spandex on !!

Posted by Bici Cletta, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Apr 21, 2008 at 10:52 am

PV resident "2":

I applaud your broad-minded community spirit! How big of you to want to shunt the problem off onto another town, rather than want the problem to be solved for everyone. It's attitudes like yours that make me so proud to be a member of this community!

Kudos to you, PV resident "2".

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 21, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Hey smart guy (bicicleta),

PVR2 make a good point and it is based on reality... bikers will never realize their place and will always be rude and act obnoxiously.

That isn't going to change. I believe PVR2's wish, while a good idea, is a sarcastic comment on how this problem will not end.

I wish we could put them elsewhere. I for one would like to enjoy winded roads and trails without the spandex brigade acting unjustifiably entitled.

Posted by murphstahoe, a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm

Cyclists. Feh. And don't get me started on the horse riders, they're even worse. I got manure on my windshield the other day. Woodside is for humans.

Posted by Citizen B, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 21, 2008 at 7:35 pm

Joanna, I don't buy your "bikers will always be rude" argument. Some people are rude whether they are in cars or on bikes, and I think you just notice them when they are on bikes. The others are polite and don't get your attention so you don't remember them. This is a well-known phenomenon that helps to reinforce pre-existing prejudices.

There is no reason to start restricting people's civil rights. We have plenty of laws on our books already that prohibit littering, public urination, trespassing and reckless driving. The sherrifs admit that they can't enforce the laws we have, so what good would it do to pass another law that they can't enforce? We in Woodside need to pay for more enforcement, for cyclists and car drivers, if we want people to respect the law.

Posted by Citizen A, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 22, 2008 at 6:29 pm

I agree with Citizen B 100%.

Posted by Roger, a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Apr 24, 2008 at 10:52 pm

The county sherrifs are a worthless bunch of hacks. I don't want to give them more money for them to spend on "massages". We need our own police force with our own cops, so we can tell them which laws to enforce and against who. We can give Woodside residents stickers to put on their bumpers so our cops can leave us alone and concentrate on the outsiders.

Posted by Citizen B, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Apr 25, 2008 at 7:07 am

Roger, I don't think we have enough money to fight the lawsuits that would result from your blatantly illegal recommendation to selectively enforce the law.

Posted by Long time Woodsider, a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on May 7, 2008 at 1:56 pm

If you really are a property owner in Woodside, then your taxes already go to the only Sherrifs for both Woodside and Portola Valley. Would you really be willing to pay for this new bicycle task force that you suggest? I also think that your use of 'a worthless bunch of hacks' is an unfair description.

Bulingame just started a volunteer job for radaring cars in areas where there are speeders. Maybe we could have volunteers stand at the stop signs like at Can~ada Road. Or maybe have volunteers at the top of Old Lahonda Rd where the sign suggests bikes do not ride down.... or Do not ride in the middle of Skyline Blvd unless you would like to be hit..hard..... just some ideas. This would be a gentle reminder to obey the street rules...

Also, what happened to the green and white signs that were up on Mnt Home telling the bikers to obey rules?? Why were they taken down? We could post signs that say-no peletons, or single file riding only...obey street laws....

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