Almanac

News - June 19, 2013

Woodside seeks better handling of huge bike tours

by Dave Boyce

Woodside Town Council members are upset about how deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office handled — or did not handle — a June 9 bike tour when hundreds of cyclists passed through town and reportedly jammed the intersection of Woodside and Canada roads for hours.

Woodside is frequently inundated by masses of bicyclists, and while the town cannot stop tours from passing through, it can set conditions. Town Councilman Peter Mason suggested that tours of a certain size, perhaps 1,000 riders or more, be required to pay for officers to direct traffic. Mr. Mason asked Town Manager Kevin Bryant to work on the issue.

Noontime traffic downtown on June 9 "was just a zoo," Mr. Mason said at the council's June 11 meeting. The event was a "Tour de Cure" fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. Contingents of the 1,500 participating cyclists left periodically from their Palo Alto starting point, said Richard Alejandro, the executive director of a local ADA chapter.

Three council members happened by — Mr. Mason, Dave Tanner and Deborah Gordon — and described masses of westbound cyclists negotiating the intersection, and stop-and-go traffic on Woodside Road backed up past Interstate 280.

Two council members said they saw deputies in front of Roberts Market observing, not directing, traffic. "It was really obvious that somebody was not doing their jobs there," Mr. Tanner said. In an interview, he said the intersection was jammed at 10:30 a.m., at noon and at 3 p.m. He saw the deputies observing on the afternoon occasions, he said.

The Sheriff's Office hadn't known of the event "until our personnel were inundated with bicyclists," Deputy Rebecca Rosenblatt said via email. Deputies "spent almost half their shift handling traffic violations and accidents" and responded to five tour-related collisions that involved trips to the hospital, she said. "Those same deputies were the ones who were momentarily observing the flow of bicycle traffic from their position at Roberts Market, having just conducted intermittent traffic enforcement," including issuing some 200 warnings to cyclists for minor traffic violations, Ms. Rosenblatt said.

Mr. Mason's recollection echoed Mr. Tanner's. Three deputies "were standing there observing instead of standing out in the intersection waving people through," he said. Cyclists ignored the stop sign and weaved all over the road, he said. "They didn't know how to behave."

Ms. Gordon said she saw unsafe U-turns happening all along Woodside Road. Why weren't deputies directing traffic, she asked.

As a result of what the deputies saw, Ms. Rosenblatt said, "they contacted race officials to request race personnel and volunteers be sent to the area to assist with traffic, and immediately after were dispatched to assist the CHP with closing down traffic in the Ladera area of Alpine Road for a major-injury accident." (A bicyclist collided with a car around 11:50 a.m. on Alpine Road.)

Mr. Alejandro of the ADA said tour organizers talked with the Sheriff's Office about this tour. "It's possible that the person you talked to was not aware (of this advance notice)," he said.

Cyclists are told to ride single file and obey traffic regulations, he said, adding: "Some riders have attitudes." The ADA will be engaging with Woodside officials, he said, because the concerns of Woodside residents are "very important."

If Highway 92 is closed on a hot day, Woodside feels the brunt of traffic to the beach, Ms. Gordon said. "It would be good for the town and the Sheriff's Office to be more (involved)."

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