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By Paul Bendix

About this blog: A 32-year resident of Menlo Park, I regularly make my way around downtown in a wheelchair. This gives me an unusual perspective on a town in which I have spent almost half of my life. I was educated at UC Berkeley, and permanentl...  (More)

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Bike Perils

Uploaded: Nov 20, 2013
In recent months my wife and I have seen two bicycle accidents kill or injure people close to us. Monday's collision on Marsh Road involved our next-door neighbor. How can this be happening? Isn't there some way to prevent these accidents?

Bicyclists bring a passion to their commute. With zero carbon footprint and minimal road use, they offer a bold alternative. Bicyclists also face a bold challenge. They are exposed to the vagaries of traffic, unprotected by bumpers or airbags. Their commute demands high alertness.

It also demands cooperation from motorists. When cars and bikes mix "we're all in this together."

Still, it's a perilous journey. I get a sense of this riding a wheelchair downtown. Is the stop sign on Menlo Avenue really optional?

Those of us on the Caltrain Advisory Committee regularly hear from bicyclists. Bike commuters want a place on the road...and on the train. They want a piece of the future. They are the future. Spend five minutes in Holland, and you'll get the idea.

If the regional nonprofit TransForm can find Safe Routes to Schools in troubled Oakland, surely we can find safe routes to work in Menlo Park. Meanwhile, we pray for our neighbor.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Yes, the city can and should do more to make our streets safer for bicycling. The city pushed Facebook so hard to reduce the number of car commuters, but did the city do anything to make the bike routes to Facebook safe enough? News reports say that Facebook paid the city millions of dollars for traffic safety improvements; where did the money go?

However, today's collision between 2 cars near the same location where the bicyclist was hit shows that car commuting isn't necessarily any safer than bicycle commuting. And wasn't it just last a year or so ago that a family of pedestrians was also hit near here with one poor girl killed?

The common denominator in all these incidents is cars. When drivers are too distracted or too aggressive or too careless, everyone is a potential victim.

Posted by menloshopper, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown,
on Nov 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

A publicized and updated summary, perhaps going back several years, counting and describing accidents year to date and before in our community might get people's attention. We have become psychically numbed.

Posted by Louise68, a resident of Menlo Park: other,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:11 am

Paul -- I am so sorry for your dear neighbor. I hope they recover quickly.

Bicycling anywhere motor vehicles are is inherently dangerous. A person on a bicycle has absolutely no protection whatsoever when he/she is hit by a motor vehicle. And nowadays many drivers are very distracted when driving, as too many of them are using electronic gadgets.

I worry a lot about the safety of those precious children when they are sharing the road with motor vehicles. Sad to say, our infrastructure simply was not designed to safely accommodate both motor vehicles and bicycles. I have seen lines painted on roads here in Menlo Park to designate "Safe Routes" to school. There is simply no way a line painted on pavement can ever protect a bicyclist from a motor vehicle.

I am greatly in favor of bringing back school buses -- operated by highly trained and well-paid drivers, with the latest safety devices to protect our children.

Bicycling is only for physically fit younger folks, in good weather, for relatively short trips, and will never work for those who are infirm, or who have to long commutes or who need to go shopping on their way home, or who need to be out in bad weather -- or after dark.

Does anyone seriously expect most commuters -- who drive at least 30 miles or more to work one way -- to stop driving and use only bicycles to get to and from work?

A much better solution is much more public transit of all sorts: trains, buses, shuttle buses and taxis, as well as ferryboats. (Isn\\\'t the San Francisco Bay the most underused transit corridor in the whole Bay Area?)

And -- speaking of Facebook -- isn\\\'t it true that only 7% of their employees bicycle to and from work? Why not try to help everyone -- not only FaceBook employees -- get to and from work in a safe, practical, reliable, not too expensive way than by driving alone in their personal cars?

Posted by resident, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Nov 21, 2013 at 11:38 am

I disagree with Louise68. The city and and should do more to make bicycle commuting safer. Busses and trains cannot provide door-to-door transportation for everyone in this city without a tremendous cost. The city needs to work both into its transportation network. And many long distance commuters use both trains and bicycles to get to work, taking their bicycle on Caltrain or picking up a bike-share at the Palo Alto Caltrain station.

Saying that bicycling can never be made safe is the same as saying that pedestrians will never be safe in this city. Pedestrians are hit by cars far more often than bicyclists are, but every time a pedestrian gets hit, people call for the city to make the streets safer for pedestrians. The city needs to work harder to make our streets safer for both bicyclists and pedestrians.

The location where the bicyclist was hit this week is a known danger area (where the bike path to Facebook ends and dumps bicyclists on to the highway). The city knows where these danger areas are and needs to work harder to fix them.

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community,
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm

There is a lot that can be done if there is serious will to do it. Since 2000 the number of bike trips in New York City has tripled while the risk to bicyclists has declined by 72%. If they can make that kind of progress there, I am sure we can do better here.

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