Town Square

Post a New Topic

Woodside: Cyclist seeks to heal rifts with drivers

Original post made on Jun 5, 2008

It's so easy to elicit sighs of exasperation from officials in towns such as Woodside and Portola Valley and the law enforcement officers who patrol there. Ask them to solve just one of the following issues:

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 4, 2008, 12:00 AM

Comments (22)

Posted by Sue
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Jun 5, 2008 at 9:15 pm

The cynic in me says, "Oh, sure... what a waste of money." The idealist -- and the frustrated driver -- in me says, we really need to try this, or anything within reason, to stop the dangerous and ugly road conflicts that exist now. Will it work? Perhaps the best we can hope for is that it will lessen the problem. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Jun 6, 2008 at 9:41 am

OK, I would get one of the wristbands since I am a cyclist who stops at stop signs already. What is the corresponding item for car drivers who wish to indicate that they are willing to respect the safety and rights of bicyclists? How about an "Honor the space" bumper sticker that declares that a driver will not pass closer than 3 feet to a bicyclist under any circumstances?

Posted by Brian
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Jun 6, 2008 at 10:13 am

This sounds like a great program. But I think we do need to have a conversation about the rules we're expecting the pelotons to follow. For instance, as a practical matter, does anyone want each of the cyclists a peloton of 50 stopping and waiting his turn at a stop sign? I'm sure the drivers waiting in line behind the cyclists wouldn't. To keep traffic flowing and everyone safe it seems best to have the entire peloton stop, then proceed as a group.

Posted by P. Ed Estrian
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jun 9, 2008 at 1:38 pm

A peleton is like a school of fish -- it makes it difficult to apply the usual rules of the road. I don't think peletons are addressed in the CA vehicle code, but maybe they should be. If everyone knew what the rules were, there'd be less rage and more understanding.

Posted by mom
a resident of another community
on Jun 10, 2008 at 9:01 am

Brian - Yes, I really do expect cyclists to stop at stop signs. A large group can stop at once and go at once - but they should stop.

To P.Ed. Estrian - the rules are that cyclists obey the same laws as cars. If I'm traveling with 10 other cars it does not mean we can ignore traffic laws because there are a lot of us.

Respect works two ways, if cyclists want cars to respect their space then they should respect the rules of the road.

Posted by dan
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 10, 2008 at 5:18 pm

no. large groups of cyclists should still stop and go one bicycle at a time and moreover should also be on the rightmost bike shoulder at stop signs so they do not affect the car traffic behind them. everything should be done to discourage peletons from forming. stop riding bicycles in the mountains!!!

Posted by tom
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2008 at 8:15 am

Great dialog--here are a couple of thoughts about the subject relative to the CA Vehicle Code. Its my understanding that the code generally requires bicyclists to follow the same rules as drivers of motor vehicles. Where there are differences between being in control of a motorized vehicle vs a non-motorized one, such as right of way, those differences are covered. The code prohibits following too closely (tailgating). It also prohibits sharing the same lane-side by side with another vehicle-while passing or moving. I think I just described a peleton. So, if I'm right, then a strict application of the code would require bicycles to maintain a proper distance from one another (i.e. 1 bike length for each 10 mph) and to refrain from side by side driving in the bike lane. When stop signs/lights are encountered, each bike stops within its lane, just like motor vehicles.

Posted by Brian
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens
on Jun 11, 2008 at 10:12 am

FWIW, the tailgating section of the California Vehicle Code (21703) pertains to "motor vehicles" and presumably not bicycles. The Code does have specific provisions that pertain to operating bicycles, however. There are a bunch listed here:

Web Link

Note, in particular:

1) The code has separate rules for traveling in and moving from bike lanes. One of the most important (that I as a cyclist use frequently) is to take the entire lane when making a left-hand turn. Making a left turn from a bike lane on the far right-hand side of the road is just asking for trouble. Here in Woodside we have bike lanes on just a few roads; many of the roads don't even have center lines!

2) The code says "ride as close as practicable" to the right-hand side of the road, but makes exceptions to the rule for obstacles such as parked vehicles and other bicycles. Thought it may not be courteous or safe, this provision alone seems enough to allow multiple riders abreast.

3) The code also says these rules apply when operating a bicycle "at less than the normal speed of traffic" which means that when a cyclist is moving at the same (or faster) speed as traffic then she's allowed to take the lane (and presumably, then, operate with the same rules as other vehicles.)

Of course, all of these are subject to interpretation, and the real "law" is how they've been applied over the years. Anyone know?

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Please please please...

1) no biking in the mountains
2) never veer into or ride in the car lanes... ever
3) obey traffic signs and rules


Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2008 at 9:00 pm

Joanna requests "no biking in the mountains". This is totally unreasonable and absolutely will not happen. How about requesting car drivers to drive in the mountains as if there is a bicyclist around every turn? If you know that there are bicyclists on the road on which you are driving, you are legally required to drive at a speed that is safe for those traffic conditions. Too many people live in a state of denial, "surprised" over and over again when they encounter bicyclists. Expect bicyclists and drive accordingly. That is what the law requires, and if you do that we will all be a lot safer.

Posted by Anne
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2008 at 9:49 am

Dan and Joanna want "no biking in the mountains," because... well, why, exactly? Because they can't drive safely in the mountains? If they can't drive safely in the mountains, then they should stop driving, or get some instruction. Or just slow down.

Because they wish cyclists wouldn't delay them? I, too, wish traffic never delayed me. I wish I was the only one to use the roads. (While I'm at it, I wish for a pony.) But in the real world, everyone gets to use the public roads and we all have to share.

Posted by Anne
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2008 at 9:53 am

And while I'm at it, Joanna exhibits a lamentable lack of understanding of the law. She says that cyclists should never ride in the traffic lane. But this is completely incorrect.

Cyclists should be in the traffic lane:

When passing another cyclist

When the shoulder is too narrow to ride on safely, or there is no shoulder

When the cyclist is at an intersection preparing to make a left turn

When the cyclist is at an intersection, passing on the left side of a right-turning motorist

When the cyclist is going at the speed of the rest of the traffic (which might happen in traffic jams, or when a skilled descender is going down a mountain)

Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 13, 2008 at 5:42 pm

1) you and I both know I'm not talking about passing, or riding if the bike lane is unsafe. I'm talking about blatant disregard for anyone's safety by unashamedely riding in the auto lane. Don't overanalyze it.

1) the mountain roads were meant for and designed for automobiles. Two of them. One in each direction. There is NO room for an auto and a bike. Double true when there are curves. If you can prove otherwise then you have something worth hearing.
2) I follow the speed limit as a lot of other people up there do (not all). Obeying the speed limit or common sense have NOTHING to do with what I am talking about. Try again next time.

My requests above are pretty reasonable. If we all look out for our own safety, then this would not be an issue. Bikers wouldn't drive as if they have death wishes and automobile drivers would obey the speed limits and all of that jazz.

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2008 at 8:51 am

Section 22350 of the California Vehicle Code, known as the basic speed law, states: "No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property." The posted speed limit may be too fast to be safe, depending on traffic conditions such as the known or anticipated presence of bicyclists.
You repeat the fallacy that roads are designed for cars. Laws and policies at all levels of government make it clear that public roads are built for use by all, regardless of their mode of transport (including horses in Woodside). Caltrans Deputy Directve DD-64 (from 2001) states "The Department fully considers the needs of non-motorized travelers (including pedestrians, bicyclists and persons with disabilities) in all programming, planning, maintenance, construction, operations and project development activites and products.....Ensures that the transportation system is maintained and operated in a safe and efficient manner with the recognition that non-motorized travel is a vital element of the transportation system." These polcies are the result of Federal policies and have flowed down to the state and local level.
California Streets and Highways Code Section 885.2 (f) says "The bicycle is a legitimate transportation mode on public
roads and highways."

Furthermore, many mountain roads (Old La Honda, Tunitas Creek) do NOT have room for two cars to pass, but they do have room for two bikes to pass in opposite directions. Your logic would imply that cars should not use those roads. In fact, we can all use them if we drive carefully enough to react to whatever we see in front of us when we round the bend. That means we look out for the safety of others in addition to our own safety.

Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2008 at 11:42 am

Donald makes a good point that is often overlooked. The law requires users of the road to behave in a way that protects the safety of everyone, not just themselves, even if the other people are breaking the law. For example, if a pedestrian is jaywalking a driver still needs to slow or stop as needed to avoid them. The basic speed law says that the safe speed is zero if there is a pedestrian in the road in front of you, regardless of whether the pedestrian is obeying the law or not. Similarly, it is illegal to pass a bicyclist in a way that endangers the bicyclist, even if you think the bicyclist is riding illegally (e.g. in the middle of a lane).

Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of Portola Valley: Brookside Park
on Jun 14, 2008 at 3:57 pm

1. Obey the California Vehicle Code
2. Allow Peletons practice time - but have a flashing light vehicle ahead of them and if they want to go through stop signs then they must get volunteers or the police to stop traffic - else they must obey Stop Signs.
3. How about adopting the UK rules - where bikes must have an audible signal like a bell or horn and must have both rear and front lights at night.
4. I'd like to see police cite people for biking through stop signs, turning without signaling, exceeding the speed limit, riding without lights, biking on the wrong side of the road - and bring them in front of the traffic court - when I was at college students were often brought in front of the magistrates. You don't need a driving license to cite someone - just their name and address - if they give a fake one cite them for that too!

Posted by Anne
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2008 at 4:29 pm


I'm all in favor of adopting the UK laws. In the UK, it's legal for bikes to ride two abreast.

As to requiring lights on bikes, a front light is required in the US for bikes ridden at night, as is a rear reflector or rear light. Bicyclists who ride at night without lights are foolishly endangering themselves and others, and should be cited.

While I'm fulminating here, while I'm sure you Woodside drivers here don't do this yourselves, could you please tell your driving friends *not to pass bikes on blind downhill curves by crossing the center line*? I can't tell you how many idiots I've seen do this in Woodside. What is going to happen to the driver who crosses the yellow line on a curve and encounters another idiot going the opposite way doing the same thing? A headon crash, that's what-- unless the drivers swerve to hit the cyclists instead.

Posted by Gillian
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jun 14, 2008 at 4:42 pm

Cyclists on Portola Road seem to think that the rules of the road do not apply to them -- simply because they are pedaling. They should realize that the rules of the road DO apply to them, as they do for motorists. That means stopping at stop signs, yielding to traffic, staying within their lane, etc.

Posted by Donald
a resident of another community
on Jun 14, 2008 at 10:00 pm

There is a reason (although not a good one, in my opinion) that peace officers don't often cite bicyclists. It is not very much different from the reason that they don't often cite car drivers for rolling through stop signs, failing to use turn signals, blocking crosswalks and exceeding the speed limits. The reason is that they just don't think it is that important. Most of them want to catch "real crooks" and traffic enforcement is the bottom of the barrel for them. They will respond to political pressure with spot enforcement, but that is not the same as fair and uniform enforcement across the board. In their defense, they are badly outnumbered by the lawbreakers. It is not physically possible for them to cite every violation by bicyclists or drivers, so they must set a threshold below which they ignore violations.

Posted by Doug Consiglio
a resident of Woodside: Kings Mountain/Skyline
on Jun 17, 2008 at 10:05 am

This is a very heated topic indeed. Instead of over analyzing the written laws, perhaps we all should take a step back and try to all be more freindly and all get along all things considered.

When I see a huge peleton on the road, I think, wow, isn't that cool! 50 to 100 men and women out there excersizing, not polluting or emitting carbon dioxide from their exhaust pipes. Using the very roads that their tax dollars pay for. A peleton of 100 riders takes up way less space than 100 cars, that is for sure. And if The peleton stops at a stops sign, and then proceeds to go through all at once, then the 100 riders can be through an intersection in 15 seconds or so. Far less than 100 cars I am quite sure. If you watch a peleton moving through the neighbourhood, it actually is a thing of beauty, flowing and moving almost like a living thing.

I had two clients who would get 'stuck' behind the peleoton moving through Woodside Tuesdsay or Thursday moring. Once client would complain if he got caught behind it, causing him to loose 'time' and slow his day down (how much I wonder? 1 or 2 minutes?, that peleton moves pretty quick). The second client would love it when he got 'stuck' behind it. He would tell me that it was so awesome to see so many people out there early in the morning excersizing in the great outdoors. Which one you think had the healthier attitide when they arrived at work?

I think a lot of the problem is time. A person is in thier car and they get behind a cyclist or a bunch of cyclists and this will cost them time. Why are we all in such a hurry? Slow down for the man or woman or group of people who are choosing not to use their cars, suvs or other motorized vehicles out there. Give them a freindly wave instead of getting mad and maybe you will lower your own blood pressure.

Cyclists should obey the laws. Stop at stop signs, don't speed etc. They don't have to go single file, and if there is no bike lane they can ride in the middle of the road. If 5 or more vehicles are lined up behind them, they have to pull over to let the cars by. My brother is a CHP officer. He hates cyclists. He can't cite them for riding in the road especially if there is no bike lane. But instead of analyzing laws, can we instead take a deep breath, slow down and just relax? We live in the most beautiful part of the country. People want to ride their bikes. Embrace it, if you don't want to take part in it, respect what they are doing, which is using thier own body power to transport themselves over public roads.

Europe has a lot better attitude about cyclists. They don't look at them as a pain on the roads. If a driver in France or Italy or Spain passes a cyclists going up a narrow mountain road, they are much more likely to lean out the window and shout encouragement to the cyclist than to get mad at them. Healthier for both parties it would seem to me.

Don't you agree?

Posted by murphstahoe
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2008 at 1:42 pm

I think we should cite cyclists who safely slowroll stop signs the same day we start using breathalyzers on every driver walking out of Buck's or Woodside Bakery after a few glasses of Chardonnay. Woodside just lost a young man this week - it was drinking and driving, not "the crazy cyclists" that killed him.

Posted by Cyclone
a resident of another community
on Jun 15, 2009 at 10:53 pm

An earlier posting said "If I'm traveling with 10 other cars it does not mean we can ignore traffic laws because there are a lot of us."

All I can say here - rent a bus, and if it's only for the sake of the environment.

Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.


Post a comment

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

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Almanac Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Peruvian restaurant Lima Ruby debuts in downtown Palo Alto
By The Peninsula Foodist | 1 comment | 3,386 views

What Do You Get Out of Being Stubborn?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,853 views

My recommendations for Palo Alto City Council
By Diana Diamond | 6 comments | 1,319 views