News

Fire chief says response to fatal crash was delayed by traffic

CHP: Motorcylist was splitting lanes at high rate of speed

A collision on southbound U.S. 101 left a motorcyclist dead in Palo Alto on Tuesday evening after emergency crews headed to the crash were delayed by heavy traffic, said Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

The San Mateo County coroner's office identified the victim as Ronald Barbaran Garcia, 27, of Union City.

The crash was reported at 5:46 p.m. on southbound 101 just north of Embarcadero Road.

The CHP said the victim's death was reported to dispatchers just before 6 p.m.

The first firefighters arrived on scene at 5:56 p.m., Chief Schapelhouman said.

Traffic in the area was "terrible" and it had a definite effect on the ability of first responders to assist the victim, he said.

"We failed to be where we needed to be within a period of time," Schapelhouman said. "Whether that would have made a difference in this incident, I'm not sure."

Last week the district's Board of Directors adopted new standards establishing a goal of having the first firefighters on the scene of an incident within seven minutes of being reported to dispatch.

Firefighters were not able to meet that new standard when responding to Monday's fatal motorcycle crash, Chief Schapelhouman said.

Splitting lanes

According to the California Highway Patrol, the motorcyclist was riding a 2014 Yamaha south on 101 at a "high rate of speed," despite the heavy traffic.

He was splitting lanes when traffic suddenly came to a complete stop, according to the CHP. The motorcyclist then crashed into the rear end of a Ford and was thrown off the Yamaha, according to the CHP.

The driver of the Ford was not injured. She stayed at the scene to cooperate with the officers, police said.

— Palo Alto Online staff and Bay City News Service

Comments

21 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2015 at 10:55 am

really? is a registered user.

The Fire Department needs to accept that traffic is only getting worse, and proactively invest in motorcycle paramedic response teams, like they have in the UK and other more congested places.


9 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:12 am

What a shame, the fact he was operating his motorcycle in a unsafe manner was a contributing factor as well,
besides the major congestion ! Now raise your hand for bike lanes on ECR, to reduce emergency vehicle response
times as well. What is it going to cost, to put in bike lanes for few bike riders, how many 10's of thousands per bike !
If someone took the time to look, I will bet there are safer alternative routes available, what do you think ?


6 people like this
Posted by Westside Trucker
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:17 am

Dont blame the Fire Department. Why was this [word removed] driving his cycle at a " high rate of speed " and then splitting lanes in heavy traffic. Are lines painted on highways just for cars only? Why not let them use bike lanes also.


2 people like this
Posted by Jurisdiction
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:34 am

Is this area in Menlo Park Fire District's jurisdiction - it sounds like Palo Alto Fire Department's jurisdiction?
Which station was the Menlo Park Fire District Emergency Crew responding from? If the accident wasn't in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District jurisdictional area, did the Board of Directors really adopt a policy to be the first fire fighters on the scene of accidents in other jurisdictions?


3 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:08 pm

It's EPA almost all the way to Embarcadero. There's a station on the EPA side of University. However there is a PA fire station on Embarcadero at Newell.


11 people like this
Posted by Mark Toshland
a resident of Woodside: Mountain Home Road
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:39 pm

Every day that I drive Bayshore, I see unsafe motorcycle riders flying past all the cars at breathtaking speeds. Shocks me sometimes how fast they're doing - and I never see them until they are past me. I have to also say that there are some very good, safe motorcycle drivers out there everyday as well - they pass slowly and safely, even signaling a 'thanks' to those of us to pull to the side a bit to let them by. But the speeding ones - unsafe as can be - are there too. It is a wonder there aren't more fatalities.


8 people like this
Posted by bike lanes should help
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm

@Jurisdiction - the Menlo Park fire serves East Palo Alto and Atherton, and some parts of unincorporated San Mateo Co.

I believe bike lanes on El Camino should help fire trucks. First, there won't be parked cars along the sides of the road. Bicyclists will move way over when fire trucks come through, providing more space for cars in current lanes to pull over than is possible with parked cars now. Second, there could be fewer cars and more bicyclists. That's the whole idea, to get people out of cars.


Like this comment
Posted by simple
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:11 pm

If he's serious about improving emergency vehicle response time on El Camino Real, Chief Schapelhouman should be pushing for BRT lanes. Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Maybe this article should be re-titled with the obvious: "Traffic makes vehicle traffic move slower".

I was traveling north on 101 between Mountain View and Palo Alto after this accident had occurred. The commuter lanes were wide open, plenty of room to get to the scene from the opposite side of the freeway.


3 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:40 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

The motorcyclist caused his own death. Lane splitting, although legal, is never an excused to travel faster than the flow of traffic. I fell sorry for the family.

The nearest Fire Dept. responds to emergencies. It is safer for the first responders to travel with traffic not against traffic. They do the best they can, but people die regardless of the response time.


4 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:44 pm

[Part removed. ]

What I would like to know is: why is lane-splitting legal? Seems to me to be inherently dangerous, and should never be done by anyone -- ever.

Re: bike lanes on ECR: this is OT for this thread, but I am going to comment anyways -- because others have, and their comments have not been deleted as OT. It seems to me that allowing bicyclists to ride on ECR is also inherently dangerous, and should not be allowed. Don't bicyclists realize that they are much,much harder to see than cars and trucks? That ECR is a very dangerous road to ride on? I guess not. And it is wrong to think that any bike lane will ever be wide enough for any emergency response vehicle to use to pass traffic. It is also incorrect to say that -- even if bike lanes were wide enough -- that all bicyclists would move over to let emergency response vehicles pass.

I also disagree that bike lanes on ECR would be able to anything to notiiceably lessen traffic on ECR. That assumes that most drivers on ECR would be able to do what they need by riding a bicycle. Some people have much too far to drive to be able to use a bicycle. Others need to pick up kids. Others need to go grocery shopping. Others are simply not physically able to ride bicycles.. Yet others need to be and stay presentable at work -- which you cannot do after getting all sweaty riding a bicycle. Your clothes also will simply not stay neat if you wear them while riding a bicycle. And where will you be able to shower to get all that sweat off before entering your workplace?

Riding a bicycle is simply not at all practical for most people.

I am very sad that Menlo Park is going to put bike lanes on ECR, and I worry an lot about the safety of the bicyclists who will use those bike lanes -- as well as the hapless motorists who will inevitably get run into by bicyclists riding on a road they never should be on.


Like this comment
Posted by simple
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:50 pm

An earlier article accurately described the situation.

"The rider was ejected from the motorcycle and suffered fatal injuries. He was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel." Web Link


5 people like this
Posted by Safe driver
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:00 pm

I can't believe no one has mentioned that too many drivers fail to move out of the way of emergency vehicles. I cannot remember the last time I saw EVERYONE move out of the way of an emergency vehicle. I know it is made more difficult by heavy traffic, but perhaps a camera on the front of these vehicles and a simple click by one of the passengers marking the "failure to move" clip on the video in the emergency vehicle and we could put people on notice that the life or property waiting for help is more important than your momentary discomfort at moving out of the way.


3 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Lane splitting is only legal in Calif. I believe there was a recent adjustment to the law but it is still legal here.


5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:14 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire Dispatch logs shows that this 911 call came in at 5:47:58 PM. At that time of day it is almost impossible for any fire engine to respond to 101 from the west side of 101. As always the nearest available equipment, regardless of their jurisdiction, responds. In this case it was MPFPD's Engine 2 which is stationed in East Palo Alto and MPFPD's Engine 77 which is stationed in Belle Haven.

The 101 sound walls within MPFPD's jurisdiction have, as a requirement set by the Fire District, access doors that permit emergency responders to access 101 from streets adjacent to the sound walls. Those access doors do not exist in the Palo Alto portions of 101 where this incident occurred.


1 person likes this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:18 pm

really? is a registered user.

Peter: You're on the board. Please consider the use of a motorcycle or two. Willow road is only going to get worse.


9 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Please consider the use of a motorcycle or two"

I have raised that exact proposal, based on the Daytona Beach Motor Medic Model, at least six times in my 10 years on the Board. Red trucks are deeply engrained in the fire service's DNA. Just as red is the worst possible color for vehicle visibility at night and trucks are the least usable vehicle in traffic jams changing either requires a big cultural shift. That said I have request that this topic be on our next study session agenda.


Like this comment
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm

really? is a registered user.

Bravo! Think of how many motorcycles and paramedic salaries the cost of a new ladder truck could buy.....


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Think of how many motorcycles and paramedic salaries the cost of a new ladder truck could buy....."

None, as these two response modalities are not interchangeable. A motorcycle does nothing to help fight fires in tall buildings.

What fire services with motor medic programs do is "cross staff" where some of the crew assigned a a truck or engine are dispatched by motorcycle with the big rig following only when needed.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert D.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Robert D. is a registered user.

@Louise68 - The old saying of walk a mile in a person's shoes.... So before you comment, have you ever ridden a motorcycle on a Freeway? If not, frankly you are not in a position to comment, and I do not mean that to be harsh. I have operated a motorcycle for the last 35+ years. When done safely and properly this is not a dangerous act and is done all over the world. I have been to Asia and Europe where this is commonplace. If in fact he was speeding, then yes, this was a factor. We have no other evidence at this time to suggest anything but. So let us know, if you are a motorcycle rider, then by all means, i would consider your comments in-line


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:13 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Lane splitting by motorcycles is illegal in most US states with the sole exception being California,"

Wikipedia


2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Peter
What's the proven best color for the fire vehicles? iridescent yellow?


Like this comment
Posted by Robert D.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Robert D. is a registered user.

Not to stay on the subject on Lane Splitting, but just so we have facts:"The University of California at Berkeley published a report in May 2015 that concludes that motorcyclists who split lanes in heavy traffic are significantly less likely to be struck from behind by other motorists, are less likely to suffer head or torso injuries, and are less likely to sustain fatal injuries in a crash"


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Bright green, white and iridescent yellow are all quite visible both in daylight and at night.

"Proven" is a high standard - here is one study:

"Picture a fire truck and you are likely to see red — fire engine red. But when it comes to safety, human factors and ergonomics research paints a different picture. Much of what we know about human factors and ergonomics relies upon psychological studies of human visual and auditory perception. This research shows that because the color-transmitting cones in our eyes don't work well in the dark, some colors are easier for us to see at night. We are most sensitive to greenish-yellow colors under dim conditions, making lime shades easiest to see in low lighting. A 2009 study by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), also concluded that fluorescent colors, including yellow-green and orange, are easiest to spot in daylight."

"While the 2009 USFA study confirmed that fluorescent yellow-green and orange may increase vehicle visibility, the report also concluded that recognizing the vehicle was more important than paint color. Therefore, if people in a particular community don't associate the color lime with fire trucks, then yellow-green vehicles may not actually be as conspicuous as intended.
Furthermore, color is not the only important factor to consider when design vehicles to be conspicuous. Researchers have also found that retroreflective striping significantly increases a vehicle's nighttime visibility."

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2015 at 5:29 pm

Peter - do you know why there aren't access doors from the Palo Alto side? It seems like a pretty easy thing to construct.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"do you know why there aren't access doors from the Palo Alto side?"

Palo Alto did not ask CalTRANS to provide the,

"1102.8 Emergency Access Considerations in Noise Barrier Design
(1) General. In addition to access gates being constructed in noise barriers to satisfy the Department’s maintenance needs, they may also be constructed to provide a means to access the freeway in the event of a catastrophic event which makes the freeway impassable for emergency vehicles. These gates are not intended to be used as an alternate means of emergency access to adjacent neighborhoods. Access to those areas should be planned and provided from the local street system. Small openings may also be provided in the noise barrier which would allow a fire hose to be passed through it. Local emergency response agencies should be contacted early in the design process to determine the need for emergency access gates and fire hose openings."


Like this comment
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2015 at 6:23 pm

I believe the walls within Santa Clara County (Palo Alto) are significantly older, and may predate the reference cited above. At the time, (pre Loma Prieta) Caltrans did not widely support such openings.


Like this comment
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Well here's an unusual fire truck paint job, unfortunately it's more in line with an urban camouflage requirement.
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

MPFPD required CalTrans to install these access doors before there were any State regulations regarding these doors.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Actually fact checking myself I found that MPFPD and CalTRANS collaborated in the design and placement of these access doors. The installation of these access doors on 101 in the jurisdiction of MPFPD then became one of the first in the State and eventually led to the regulation which I cited above.


4 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:35 pm

Sad to hear about this death. It's a shame that lane splitting is legal in California. It's a ridiculous law and motorcyclists are rolling the dice when they fly down the road faster then the flow of traffic. California lawmakers need to make this illegal. You really have to wonder what they are thinking when they decide it's ok for motorcyclist to do this.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 24, 2015 at 9:51 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Further research shows that the access doors in the 101 sound walls within the jurisdiction of the MPFPD were the result of the Fire District reaching out to CalTrans after the 1989 earthquake. These sound walls then set the standard for the rest of the State.

The Fire District also worked with CalTrans to have removable barrier installed in the 101 median near the Willow Road overpass so that a surface level East-West connection could be made if the overpass became unusable.

Sadly few other fire jurisdictions have done the same.


Like this comment
Posted by Stopped traffic
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 24, 2015 at 10:13 am

The traffic on 101 may have been stopped because because of the fatal crash. Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Barry Gray
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 24, 2015 at 1:46 pm

Lane splitting was originally allowed because motorcycle engines were air-cooled and their engines tended to overheat and seize up if the air flow was stopped or was too intermittent, thus causing damage to the engine. I'm not aware that modern motorcycles have this issue at all: many are water-cooled (with a radiator, like a car) or they are air-cooled and are fine these days at all speeds - even stopped, which I assume is why the lane-splitting laws were changed in other states.

I completely agree that lane-splitting laws should be repealed. Yes, there may be some increased rear-end collision danger for motorcyclists but I imagine that the risk of that is much lower than the risks of splitting lanes, especially on freeways.


Like this comment
Posted by Carlos P. Gallion
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2015 at 7:58 pm

Peter's mention of a "Motor Medic" program shows the kind of creativity needed here. Fire departments' roles have really changed over the years. The typical model of a massive fire truck responding to medical and non-fire-based emergencies is out of sync with reality. We should think about things like: 1) unifying fire departments with police departments to more holistically address _emergencies_ 2) creating "microstations" on sites like city/county parks, so that non-engine emergency responders are closer to where they need to be 3) getting legislation to authorize emergency vehicles to have cameras that capture yielding violations and automatically levy hefty fines to drivers who don't move over, so that behaviors really change.

What else is an outside the box idea?


Like this comment
Posted by Steve Taffee
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2015 at 9:59 am

I agree with Peter Carpenter that the issue raised by Chief Schapelhouman, namely the delays in response time attributable to traffic congestion need to be addressed.

Traffic congestion, wherever it is located, is a complicated problem and will take years to address.

Many countries, including the U.S. (as Peter pointed out in his comments about Daytona Beach), have adopted the use of motorcycles to help paramedics get to victims faster than they can in conventional vehicles. They are dispatched in advance of the fire truck. No additional staffing is required as the riders are part of the normal medical response vehicle team.

There is, of course, increased risk for anyone who rides a motorcycle. This risk would be mitigated through training and the use of emergency lights and sirens to alert motorists of their presence. I'd like to see the Fire District consider a pilot project. They District may even be able to secure grant funding to help offset the expense of the equipment and training.

As most of you know, the vast majority of fire department responses are medical in nature. If the model proves to be effective in terms of response time, there could even be cost savings if it turns out that two paramedics with a full complement of equipment carried on the motorcycles are sufficient for certain emergencies.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:21 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are some pertinent articles:

Web Link

Web Link


Web Link

Strong citizen input would be helpful in getting such a program implemented here.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 10:29 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

P.S. If MPFPD decides to implement a Motor Medic program I will personally donate the first motorcycle.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

And Ray Mueller has also pledged $500 to support such a program.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: Peter Carpenter
Subject: There Ought to be a Law
Date: September 25, 2015 at 4:37:51 PM PDT
To: supervisor.simitian@bos.sccgov.org

Lane splitting by motorcycles and lane changing by all vehicles should be prohibited in highway construction zones.


2 people like this
Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Very generous offer Peter Carpenter, very generous


3 people like this
Posted by Hair splitter
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Sep 25, 2015 at 5:17 pm

I just got my M1 drivers license and took a safety course from a CHP approved vendor. Lane splitting in California is NOT legal, and yet, it is not illegal. The rule of thumb (what gets a motorcyclist a ticket for an unsafe act) is the following.

You use the median or right shoulder to pass a vehicle.
You perform the act when traffic is moving greater than 35 MPH.
You pass vehicles at a speed greater than 10 MPH faster than traffic is moving.

Therefore, if traffic is stopped, and you are splitting lanes faster than 10 MPH, you will get a ticket. Or traffic is crawling along at 10 MPH and you are splitting faster than 20 MPH, and so on.

Plus, you'll get yourself hurt, or in this sad case, killed. BTW - sound wall door have been a standard on sound wall construction since their inception in the mid 1980"s. There problem is, no one maintains them (the locks/hinges/debris) causes them to be undependable.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 25, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"BTW - sound wall door have been a standard on sound wall construction since their inception in the mid 1980"s"

Really? Then why do so few sound walls have access doors?

The fact is that access doors have NOT been the standard since the 1980's.


Like this comment
Posted by Barry Gray
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 25, 2015 at 5:48 pm

@Hair splitter

Yes, I remember that now, thank you for your clarification about the illegality of splitting lanes when the traffic is moving faster than 35MPH. However as you said, at any speed it is very dangerous and in fact, it's not necessary at all for motorcycles produced after about 1975 (which is an estimate from me based on my experience back in the day, your mileage may vary). And in case anyone's wondering, I never did it myself even when traffic was stopped. I just didn't see the need to take that kind of risk.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 25, 2015 at 6:29 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Lane splitting legal but not legal.

Law to formalize legalityis on hold: Web Link


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

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