Guest opinion: Alpine Road trail would do more harm than good
I am a cyclist and hiker, a former executive responsible for risk management at a company that builds roads, sidewalks, and bicycle facilities, and past president of the Ladera Community Association. After studying the proposed Lower Alpine Trail from the perspective of a cyclist, risk manager, and community advocate I must urge the Board of Supervisors to say "NO" to Stanford's offer of $10 million to expand the modest footpath along Alpine Road.
The previous two times this issue was before the supervisors they unanimously rejected it. Why? Because they understood that the proposed sidewalk expansion would endanger those who might use it, particularly where it crosses the Interstate 280 off-ramps and at Stanford Weekend Acres.
This was a wise decision. Research evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that inexperienced bicyclists and young people experience greater risk of accident and injury when riding on two-way bike/pedestrian trails that cross driveways, roads, and freeway off-ramps, especially if traveling in the opposite direction to auto travel.
From Bikeway Planning and Design, CA Highway Design Manual:
"For children cycling, risk of colliding with a motor vehicle is almost three times higher at intersections with a bike path than at road-only intersections. Risk was highest when traffic signals were present."
"The most dangerous bicycle facility is a path beside the roadway ... it presents the dangers of riding on sidewalks: a potential crash scene at every road crossing and at every driveway."
Former Menlo Park Mayor and cyclist Steve Schmidt said: "The County of San Mateo has already established a strong commitment to bicycle safety by marking bike lanes on Alpine Road. Not only would the Lower Alpine Trail be redundant with this effort, the trail would ironically diminish safety by combining a multi-use path with two freeway off-ramps, five road crossings and multiple private driveways."
Alan Wachtel, consultant to the Berkeley, San Francisco, and Palo Alto bicycle plans, and chair of the CA Bicycle Advisory Committee, stated: "Bike paths immediately adjacent to roadways create serious wrong-way travel and intersection conflicts that decrease safety, rather than promoting it. ... By building this facility, Stanford and the County run the risk of creating a dangerous situation, especially for children and inexperienced cyclists, that is far worse than the status quo."
It would be irrational and dangerous to spend $10 million on a facility that would be more dangerous than what now exists. On Dec. 13 the Board of Supervisors should reject Stanford's offer.
Rob Decker is a cyclist who lives in Ladera.