Update: Cyclist dies after colliding with big rig


Accident investigators with the California Highway Patrol are puzzled over how Los Altos Hills resident and bicyclist Lauren Perdriau Ward, 47, happened to collide with the side of a big rig yesterday, Nov. 4, at about 3:40 p.m. on Alpine Road near the interchange with Interstate 280.

Ms. Ward, who had been riding a pink Trek bicycle, died of major head trauma after colliding with the left side of the truck's cab, Redwood City CHP Officer Art Montiel said in a phone interview. A bicycle helmet was found at the scene.

Ms. Ward had been dragged under the truck and was found under the trailer near its right rear wheels, Mr. Montiel said.

The rig has 26 wheels, 10 for the truck and 16 for the trailer, which was carrying a forklift, Mr. Montiel said. The rig had been heading west from a job site near Sand Hill and Alpine roads, he said.

Both Ms. Ward and the truck had been traveling westbound on the brief straight section of roadway just west of the stop sign at the northbound entrance to I-280.

The truck had been headed to the southbound entry ramp of the freeway, Mr. Montiel said. "For unknown reasons, the two collided," he said. "We're looking for witnesses. We can't seem to put two and two together to make it obvious what happened."

There are three lanes of traffic on Alpine Road as it approaches the southbound ramp: a left and middle lane that merge as they head straight into Ladera and Portola Valley, and the right lane that curves on to the freeway.

As they ride into Ladera, bicyclists traveling west on the right edge of Alpine Road have to negotiate a crossing of the freeway entry lane so as to get to the middle lane and continue west.

It's possible, Mr. Montiel said, that Ms. Ward had crossed the freeway entry lane behind the truck and was beside it on the right edge of the middle lane when she was forced into the truck's side by another vehicle coming up behind her in the middle lane.

The impact point was on the side; the front of the truck was not damaged, Mr. Montiel said.

"Why was she that close?" he wondered. "I'm hoping somebody will call in."

Tests of the truck driver for impairment came up negative, Mr. Montiel said.

The I-280 entry and exit ramps were closed for three hours.

Ms. Ward, a trained nurse, won state Sen. Joe Simitian's "There Oughta Be a Law" contest after suggesting a bill to add a bittering agent to antifreeze so that children and animals would not be accidentally poisoned. The law was passed in 2002 and was introduced as a federal bill by Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-New York) in 2004.

Investigators are asking for witnesses to come forward. Anyone with information is asked to call Officer K. Nielsen at 650-369-6261.

Sue Dremann of Embarcadero Media contributed

to this report.

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Like this comment
Posted by Kathy
a resident of another community
on Nov 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Bike riding has just gotten to dangerous because of all the traffic. The poor truck driver probably never saw her. What a sad story.

Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Why does the article state that the cyclist collided with the big rig? If no one knows what happened, isn't it possible that the big rig collided with the cyclist?

Like this comment
Posted by David Boyce
Almanac staff writer
on Nov 5, 2010 at 1:39 pm

David Boyce is a registered user.

Actually, the word "collided" does not assign blame. That's why we use it.

Like this comment
Posted by anon
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Nov 5, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I drove by the scene of the accident yesterday about 20 minutes after it happened. It is so sad. This article has been the most helpful that I have read so far at explaining what could have possibly happened. Thank you.

Like this comment
Posted by Scott
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Nov 5, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Note to drivers: please be careful out there, treat cyclists as fragile, vulnerable moms, dads, kids, husbands, and wives. At the end of the day, we're all struggling with an outdated road system that was designed for cars and negotiating the resulting difficulties of car-bike interactions, while trying to be healthy, trying to feel good and have fun. Everyone has to be safe out there, but drivers absolutely have the burden of safeguarding the lives of vulnerable cyclists no matter what the cyclist is doing (and pedestrians). No one should have to live out their lives knowing that they destroyed a family.

Like this comment
Posted by cyclist with a car (sounds like quack(
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on Nov 5, 2010 at 4:30 pm

This accident was tragic. My sympathies go to Ms. Ward's family. I also have sympathy for the big-rig driver, for his trauma.

There is an off-road, now-pedestrian path on Alpine Road, with crosswalks. When it was newly-constructed, it was a bike path which I used. Pedestrians felt threatened by cyclists, so cyclists were sent to the streets. The use of the crosswalks east of 280 does allow safer crossing for all non-motor vehicles.

Scott's comments above don't address any need for responsible cycling behavior. Cyclists want to "feel good", "have fun" and "be healthy"? What no peds, drivers, or couch-potatoes want that too? He doesn't indicate any need for cyclists to observe stop signs (yeah, I get momentum, but that is neither a lawful nor sensible excuse), riding single file in bike lanes, as law requires (do you really have to ride 2-4 abreast? You're talking, right?) or showing courtesy to other riders outside your own group. Another courtesy might be to pull over to the side of the road to allow cars to pass when there are more than 5 of them stuck behind the cyclist.

Certain routes & intersection types will always be more hazardous than others. Watchfulness & common sense are needed by all road users. Drivers do need to be particularly careful around cyclists and cyclists need to be particularly careful around multi-axle vehicles. Cyclists need to pick the safest routes for recreational riding.

This is a tragedy that I wish had been avoided. And I am offended by Scott's comments which say clearly that cyclists should get to have fun but implies that their safety is solely the duty of drivers.

Like this comment
Posted by confused
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Nov 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm

This is just terrible all the way around!

Was the truck already in the turn lane for the highway entrance?

If they are certain that the driver was heading straight then I get the questions.

If the driver was merging to the right, and the bicyclist was merging to the left or already in the proper place to continue straight, then anyone should see why this particular section of Alpine should be avoided by bicyclists unless they are traveling in a large enough group that they can be seen.

As an adult, I'd rather ride that section on the path on the far side away from traffic. It's NOT a safe place for bikes. If that displeases you as a bicyclist, then you live in a dream world. Cars will miss you and you will be hit. Travel the loop the other way around! (Then there are the dangers on the Sand Hill portions....)

Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Take it easy, man (cyclist with a car). We don't know any of the facts in this case.

Like this comment
Posted by RiderInMenlo
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 6, 2010 at 6:29 pm

So sorry and best to the family and friends of Ms Ward. I have to say however, all too often I see bicyclist riding side by side, far outside of the bike lanes and at times seem to make every effort to obstruct traffic, or blow through intersections, cutting across (stopped) cars, completely ignoring red lights or other traffic signs/signals. I see this happen by all types of riders, the casual riders and those too in full racing garb.

We all have to assume responsibility and bicyclist please, pay attention and abide by the traffic rules, as should all vehicle drivers.

Safety to all.

A Rider

Like this comment
Posted by Bikingfelix
a resident of another community
on Nov 10, 2010 at 12:36 pm

Could it be that the truck driver swerved out to the left before entering the on-ramp? Many trucks with a trailer do that maneuver before taking a turn. Riding that route fairly frequently I know that bicyclists need to nearly ride the white line to avoid vehicles on the left and ride side. It is definitely a rather unsafe situation. The law should really be adjusted to provide better protection of the most vulnerable road users, as they already are in Europe where there are more bikes but less deadly accidents.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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