Woman on bike killed by big-rig near Portola Valley


A woman riding a bicycle was struck and killed by a big-rig near Portola Valley Thursday afternoon (Nov. 4), a California Highway Patrol officer said.

The accident was reported at 3:39 p.m. on Alpine Road near the on-ramp to northbound Interstate 280.

Initial reports indicated the bicyclist had been hit by an 18-wheeler and was underneath the big-rig. The San Mateo County coroner's office was called to the scene.

CHP Officer Art Montiel said the bicyclist appears to be a woman in her 40s or early 50s. As of about 5:30 p.m., a small stretch of westbound Alpine Road remained closed, Montiel said.

The CHP is interviewing the big-rig's driver, and is seeking witnesses to the accident. Anyone with information is encouraged to call (650) 369-6261 and ask to speak to Officer Keith Nielsen.

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Like this comment
Posted by gina alexander
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Nov 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm

hey if bicyclists insist on riding on the right hand side of alpine road driving past the
280 on ramps they more or less are asking for a death sentence. I am sorry this woman was
killed but it was an accident waiting to happen. Surprised it hasn't happened sooner.

Like this comment
Posted by mark hoag
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm

It is truly a sad day in our community when responsible cyclists are somehow "asking for a death sentence". What sort of a society have we become where the sense of entitlement to pilot a car or truck outweighs the life of someone doing what they love. It appears we seem to have forgotten that driving is a privilege that includes an enormous set of responsibilities most importantly a respect for fellow human beings. This type of incident simply underlines the immediacy of organizations working for cyclists' advocacy. My heart truly goes out to this woman and her extended family as well as the loss to the cycling community.

Like this comment
Posted by Sally from Los Altos
a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2010 at 8:17 pm

I too am a cyclist and ride often on Alpine Road. Cyclist have as much right to enjoy the roads as cars do. I am so very sorry for this woman and her family. Since the accident is under investigation, I can't place any blame here. From the individual in the "Menlo Park Neighborhood", from your comments, I feel their is an underlying resentment to cyclists in general. Cyclists, as often as cars do make mistakes, but that shouldn't make anyone callous. Unfortunately, people driving in cars have a lot more control and should be that much more careful.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave Ross
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Nov 4, 2010 at 8:30 pm

My wife and I ride through that intersection a few times each week. The resentment factor among drivers can be very high there and it is often expressed by dangerous driving, aimed at cyclists. I have been screamed at (and swerved at) by people telling me that bikes don't belong on roads more times than I care to count, by people who may be otherwise rational and considerate.

The California Vehicle Code treats bicycles as vehicles. Cyclists are as entitled to use the roads as drivers are. As a cyclist I am very aware of the size difference and practice "defensive riding" in places like Alpine/280. But there is only so much one can do, and drivers must pay attention and not take out their frustrations on cyclists. Is life really so hard when you're in a car?

Like this comment
Posted by CC
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Nov 4, 2010 at 9:20 pm

We have lived in our neighborhood in Woodside for 20 years and the amount of bicyclists and motor vehicle traffic has increased dramatically during that time.There are perhaps a thousand bicyclists or more a day, and many more on weekends, on the Alpine/Portola Road loop. In addition, there are thousands of cars and large trucks, too, on these narrow roads that allow speeds up to 50 miles an hour (the stretch from Whiskey Hill to 280.) It is time to consider a lower speed limit throughout the entire Alpine/Portola Road loop, perhaps 35 miles per hour. Exact numbers of accidents involving bicyclists need to be published yearly so people choosing this sport can assess the risk involved. I personally will not let my teenage children ride their bicycles on our busy roads, as I do not consider them safe at this time. I am sorry to hear of the death of another cyclist, but I do not believe the roads are safe, given the amount of traffic and allowable speed limits.

Like this comment
Posted by A cyclist and driver
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm

As intersections with 280 go, the Alpine one seems safer than, say, the Sand Hill or Page Mill ones (which also see a lot of bike traffic). I am so sad for everyone involved: the woman, her family and friends, and the driver of the truck.

Fellow cyclists and drivers, please be as aware as you can of your surroundings. Remember, drivers, that the vehicle you are piloting can easily kill someone. Signal your turns, get off your phone, and remember to check sideview mirrors before making lateral movements. Cyclists, remember how vulnerable you are and ride defensively (which includes taking out the headphones, signaling your turns, and stopping at signs/lights).

We should all be grateful to be alive today, and work harder tomorrow at protecting each other from such horrible experiences.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 4, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Dave Ross states:"The California Vehicle Code treats bicycles as vehicles. Cyclists are as entitled to use the roads as drivers are. "

Perhaps the time has come to realize that cars and trucks are not compatible with bicycles and that, in the event of a crash, the cyclists will always lose, perhaps even paying with their lives (as in this case). Why not build dedicated bike paths and then prohibit bicycles from sharing the road with cars and trucks whenever there is a dedicated bike path - as there is along Alpine Road?

Like this comment
Posted by David Roise (not the same as Dave Ross...)
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 4, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Until we decide to design separated bicycle facilities with the same engineering standards used to build our other roads, to maintain such separated bikeways with smooth surfaces that are free of potholes, gravel, oil, broken glass, and other debris, and to prevent those separated bikeways from ever being used by a pedestrian, a jogger, a roller-skater, a horse, a parked car, or anything other than a bicycle, there is no way we should even think about Peter Carpenter's suggestion of prohibiting bicycles from our roads. Even then, separating bikes and cars couldn't prevent the most common bicycle crashes, which result from people simply falling off their bikes, with no cars involved. We also couldn't eliminate the other major danger for bicycles--intersections--unless we could magically design the separated bikeways from ever crossing each other or another roadway.

What happened on Alpine Road is a tragic event, but this event doesn't mean that bicycling is an inherently dangerous activity or that it can't be done safely on roads that are shared with cars. In fact, bicycle safety statistics have actually improved in San Francisco recently, despite an enoromous increase in bicycling in the city. The improved safety has probably resulted to some extent from more and better-designed bike facilities, but it has also resulted from better education and awareness among both bicyclists and car drivers. Here on the Peninsula, bicyclists and car drivers alike need to do a better job of respecting the rules of the road--and one another.

In my opinion, it is shameful for anyone to use today's tragedy to call for the segregation of our shared roads. "Separate but equal" didn't work so well in the schools, and it's not likely to work very well on our roads either.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 5, 2010 at 6:20 am

David Roise states:""Separate but equal" didn't work so well in the schools, and it's not likely to work very well on our roads either. "

Separate by equal didn't work in schools because all children are fundamentally the same. Trucks and cars are fundamentally different in size, weight, visibility and vulnerability than bicycles.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 5, 2010 at 7:24 am

There's sure a lot of jumping to conclusions here. This accident is still under investigation. We don't even know who's at fault.

Like this comment
Posted by commuter
a resident of Laurel School
on Nov 5, 2010 at 8:42 am

Can we wait until the details of the accident are actually known before we pass judgement on bicyclists, drivers, intersections, the current administration, biorythms or anything else.

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

When I come to a section of road I have to cross and by doing so enter the path of cars and trucks on their way to a freeway, I try to get off and walk with my bike to the narrowest part of the road where there is good line of sight and cross on foot.

I know that is an implicit admission that I am behaving as if I'm not an equal partner on the road. Fine. I give up that right for those few minutes. It saves me the stress of having to assert my rights in a dangerous situation. It also gives me a chance to ponder things; that's always valuable.

Is asserting one's rights as a cyclist in a situation like this worth the risk? I don't think so. It's not going to teach anybody anything about proper driving behavior because driving a vehicle is such a complicated, ego-driven, psychological contest. A cyclist may come away with a moral victory, but it will be a pyrrhic one if there's a collision involved.

Like this comment
Posted by Another cyclist & driver
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Nov 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Rather than create a cars versus bikes debate, or trying to place blame in this tragic accident, let's focus our energy to finding solutions that prevent a future accident. As some have said, drivers and cyclists all need to be more aware and sensitive to each other. Couldn't agree more. But the simple fact is the Alpine West to 280 intersection is very dangerous for cyclists. The pileup at the stop sign causes a lot of maneuvering for position by cars trying to get ahead faster. The worst offenders start in the left lane and after passing through the three-way stop, they cut over quickly to the right to get to the 280 South on-ramp. The next worse offense is when the opposite occurs and people from the right lane zoom ahead to go straight on Alpine rather than go to the 280 South on-ramp. These two scenarios create a very dangerous situation for cyclists. Remember that cyclists traveling West on Alpine must navigate past the 280 North on-ramp traffic, stop at the three-way stop at the far right, and make their way past the 280 South on-ramp -- plus get past the two 280 off-ramp lanes (I find this area scary as an experienced cyclist and often wonder how inexperienced riders manage it).

Most drivers are good citizens and use the implicit left lane goes straight and right lane goes to the on-ramp model when traveling West on Alpine. I suggest we ask San Mateo County to create lane striping and arrows that support this model, as well as create a true bike line similar to the Page Mill/280 intersection. With regard to the latter, I am not suggesting cyclists be forced all the way to the left as they are at Page Mill. But a true bike lane painted on the road to help remind drivers they should be on the look-out for cyclists would be a huge improvement. Likewise, that bike lane will help direct cyclists to where they should best pass through that area.

Everyone please be safe out there. Drivers, remember that cyclists do share the road with you. Cyclists, please follow the rules of the road.

Like this comment
Posted by Karole
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Nov 5, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Bicycle vs a two ton + vehicle, now let's think about using common sense.
Heavy traffic areas, where is the Joy in riding a bike? The Fresh air, , [portion removed].
Life is too short NOT to walk your bike where there is a potential for disaster.
EVERYONE is going too FAST, why, where is the
jJoy in stress, the middle finger, and the elevated blood pressure?
Stop the insanity, quit showing the youth what a life of he'll is like.
SLOW DOWN, enjoy the beautiful area we live in, open spaces, horses,,friends,family and a very comfortable life style.
Smile, it is addictive, we all have so much, think next time you are running late!
We all have a conscious, Use it carefully, you may not have a second chance.....

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