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Fall leaves bicyclist with critical injuries

Original post made on Nov 6, 2012

A 21-year-old man toppled off his bike on Monday night, leaving him with life-threatening injuries, according to Menlo Park police.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, November 6, 2012, 9:42 AM

Comments (20)

Posted by a mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm

It's high time the city did something about making biking safer.
While it's really unfortunate that the biker was not wearing a helmet, I find it very hard to believe a 21 year old would fall off a bike without being hit! His arm or leg rather than his bike could have been hit.

Decision makers are too timid to make a safe way to get around town on a bike. Get with it.

Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Nov 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm

People fall off their bikes FAR more frequently than being hit by cars. Curbs, rocks, bumps, gravel...or just not paying attention are the usual culprits.

Let's not jump to the conclusion that some evil auto was the culprit.

Posted by Annabelle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Riding a bicycle without wearing a helmut is just plain dumb. Come on over to Stanford and you will see lots of people riding bikes on major roadways and not wearing a helmet.

Posted by a cyclist
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2012 at 12:29 pm

I'm having a hard time believing he wasn't hit by a car. You don't sustain life-threatening injuries from falling off a bike on normal terrain, even if you're not wearing a helmet (you could on a fast descent or by falling off a cliff, etc). As a major through road, El Camino needs bicycle lanes.

Posted by Mrs. B.
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Have any of you car-accusers ever ridden your bicycle in this area? I have (with a helmet, I add). The ground slopes up and down over the creek. On the sidewalk it is a narrow path between road signs and the bushes of the hotel parking lot. This guy was riding in the dark at night at 8:22 p.m.! He wasn't wearing a helmet. It is VERY easy for me to see how he could have crashed and called off his bicycle and had a life threatening injury. Stop whining about careless automobile drivers until you know the facts, folks.

Posted by Dana Hendrickson
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Since we do not know the specific nature of the injuries or accident it's rather pointless to guess what happened. I am a cyclist and have witnessed two accidents in the past year where cyclists with helmets fell from slow moving bikes (< 5 MPH) and suffered moderate injuries. Both cracked their helmets. Note: given a choice most knowledgeable riders would prefer to fall off a moving bike than one that has stopped suddenly. In the former case, you can actually roll through the fall with little more than "raspberries" and torn clothing.

One would be wise not to ride a bike along that stretch of El Camino - especially at night. I never ride on El Camino nor Alma at anytime of day; they are unsafe for cyclists. The Silicon Valley Bike Coalition and San Mateo County both distribute bike maps and neither recommends these routes.

Posted by a mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I was trying to make the point that we need safer bike paths. How, pray tell, is one supposed to bike from PA train station to Allied Arts or Safeway, for example, other than on a sidewalk or this exceedingly dangerous stretch of El Camino?
Staying on Alma to Ravenswood takes one to a horrendous intersection at El Camino and then the challenge of how to safely back track to Allied Arts or Safeway without having to bike on unsafe Menlo and then on University.
Now, the bike underpass is unlikely becuase the city is allowing the university to do what it wants without any chance of negotiation.

Posted by a cyclist
a resident of another community
on Nov 6, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Yes, Mrs. B, I have ridden my bike there. You note that the sidewalk has obstructions, which is true, but was he riding on the sidewalk? If he was, he shouldn't have been. Also, even if a car didn't hit him, if it came too close to him it could have caused him to crash anyway (which is why the recommended passing distance is 3 ft - too bad that law didn't get passed). In any case, the point is that the roads need to be safe for cyclists.

Dana - it's great that you can get where you're going without using El Camino or Alma, but how far out of your way do you have to go to do so? The next through roads on either side are usually Alameda or Middlefield, both of which are a significant distance from El Camino. In Palo Alto, Bryant is useful, but there is nothing like it in Menlo Park.

Posted by Scott McMahon
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 6, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I ride my bike all the time. I try to use it on errands and all kinds of trips around the city, and put thousands of miles on it every year. I sympathize with the victim in this incident, but I don't agree with "Cyclist" and "Mother" at all. It is not unusual for adults to fall off their bikes and injure themselves without any help from cars. It doesn't happen often, but I've gone down a few times all by myself. I was not injured seriously, but I wear a helmet. I've read about others who went down at low speed, or at a stop and suffered serious brain injury. You don't need to be moving fast, or go over a cliff. It's rare, but a bike can go out from under a rider surprisingly suddenly. A foot slips off a pedal, or gets stuck in one, or a front wheel slides out in gravel. Sometimes one goes down so fast that one doesn't even get a hand up to break the fall. And if one's head hits something hard (like the road surface,) from standing height, the injury can be very serious, even fatal.

Interesting that police did not find credible the witnesses who reported that a car was involved. Sounds like there's a story there, I think. I would love to learn more about what the witnesses reported and why those reports were dismissed. Unfortunately, the victim in this incident will probably never be able to tell anyone what happened, himself. In head injuries, there is often temporary memory loss. The memory of those minutes just before and after the accident never comes back. I wish him better luck and a full recovery.

As Dana says, much of El Camino Real isn't great for bicycling, but the stretch where this cyclist went down is especially poor for it. Right where this incident occurred, going north, a wide shoulder that works quite nicely for biking suddenly disappears (to make way for car parking spaces,) leaving bikes to merge with very fast moving traffic in order to share the right lane. Past the Big Five Store, the road widens again and there's more room for bikes. Unfortunately, it's kind of an unavoidable stretch of road if your destination is Safeway or any other of the businesses or neighborhoods in that area. I end having to ride it all the time. We could certainly improve bike safety in Menlo Park by putting a bike lane in between Sand Hill and Ravenswood at the expense of a few car parking spots between the Tesla dealership and the Big Five Store. I'd vote for that. Anyone want to give me an Amen?

Posted by a mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 7:38 am

I like Scott's idea. The area where the bridge crosses over the creek has to be fixed, too, though. Ideally there would be a 2-way path over the bridge so bikers can cross El Camino from Alma at that light, go over the bridge, and get into Allied Arts without having to go all the way to Cambridge or Middle.

Posted by Smart Bike Lanes
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Nov 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm

North-South Bike lanes would be great -- but not on El Camino. That road is meant for vehicular traffic. Let's learn from Palo Alto, where Bryant allows nearly unfettered bike access from north to south. It is a safer and easier ride than El Camino (less traffic and virtually no lights). We could run a bike lane across the bike bridge from PA to Alma, and then over to Laurel to get though MP. With hardly a light, it would probably be faster for cyclists than El Camino, and certainly much safer. It would also enable the City to focus on moving traffic better on El Camino. Even with the light at Santa Cruz fixed, the area is still terribly backed up during morning and evening rush hours. It is definitely not a place for bikes.

Posted by George
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Bike accidents are very serious under almost all circumstances. Bicyclists, Auto Drivers, and Public Works need to exercise extreme diligence to avoid them. Granted, Bicyclists and auto drivers can be discourteous to each other or violate rules of road and vehicle laws. Most were designed without bicycles in mind, although now bicycling is a favored mode of transportation. Observing such conditions or misconduct is not an excuse for failure to exercise extreme diligence to avoid them in other circumstances. To me this is so obvious, I do not understand the constant forums provided for bicyclists and auto drivers and public works to lambaste each other, rationalize failure to exercise such diligence, or blame the unfortunate when an accident occurs. Everyone must be overly careful with respects to bikes. Thanks, George

Posted by Scott McMahon
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Smart Bike Lanes,
I love the idea of a bike boulevard, like Palo Alto's. I sure hope that comes to pass.

I also still think that El Camino, in this one short area, needs a bike lane. Getting from the east side of the tracks to businesses like Safeway isn't easy without one. Cycling through Allied Arts is nice, but the blocks are really long. From Sand hill and El Camino, it's a mile to go out to University Ave and then back to El Camino and Safeway.

Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 10:22 pm

@a mother - the Arrillaga project does not preclude the bike-pedestrian bridge under the tracks. The El Camino Real/Downtown Specific Plan calls for it, and the development proposal is reported to be designed to allow for it. Unfortunately, if the project fits within the zoning base level the developer will not be obligated to help pay for it. But there is already some money from the Stanford Medical Center that can be used for it, and other grant sources that could be used as well.

@scott amen. The staff report for the ECR/Downtown plan recommended bike lanes on El Camino, with the potential for protected bike lanes in the long term as parcels are redeveloped so as not to need the onstreet parking. The city plans to do a study of ECR to decide among several possible options.

@smart bike lanes I think we need to have different types of bike facilities for different users and purposes. Unless and until there's a protected bike lane, small children, frail elderly and inexperienced riders should not ride on El Camino and should take streets with less traffic. The city should certainly improve those quieter routes. But El Camino has businesses on it - if you are going to one of those businesses by bike you need El Camino. And it is sometimes the most direct route - experienced cyclists will take the direct route, and it should be as safe as possible for those users.

Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm

I have gone everywhere on my bike since age 8 (w/o supervision) and have fallen off every decade or so, usually road hazard. Only hit once, that was by a car turning into a parking lot that I was riding past. There are and will be dozens of driveway openings on El Camino, both sides, through the length of town, and no bike lane will change the risk of crossing paths. Bikes need a route parallel to El Camino, not on it. Thats what Palo Alto has done and it works.

Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 7, 2012 at 11:54 pm

El Camino has lots of useful stores and businesses. How does one get to Staples? Safeway? The Starbucks? The fish store? Alma doesn't help.

Posted by a mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 8, 2012 at 9:05 am

Adina makes an important point about lack of accessibility from Alma to key businesses. I would add the entire Allied Arts neighborhood. Neither Alma nor the San Mateo bike bridges help much as there is no easy access to our homes. An underpass at Middle won't help us much, as we would have to either go to University on Middle or on El Camino to get home.

There should be a 2-way bike pedestrian path next to El Camino (west side). The city should work with Stanford and Palo Alto to add that to the car bridge. Some day it needs redone anyway.

Posted by I'm with Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 8, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Dedicated bike routes aren't meant to take you everywhere you want to go, like to the fish store, but should be able to get you safely across major sections of town. Just as in Palo Alto, cyclists use Bryant, and then cut over onto other roads to get to their final destinations. For this reason, there is no bike route up and down University or on El Camino. It is smart to encourage bike riding, but not smart to do so at the expense of cars and trucks on the already congested main thoroughfare through town. That would be a recipe for further gridlock, and increased hazards to cyclists.

Posted by a mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm

@ I'm with Henry;
There aren't routes that get bikers safely across or into major parts of Menlo Park. The Specific Plan falls quite short of accomplishing that. Even if there some day is a bike underpass at Middle, I'm terrified of having our kids attempt to cross El Camino there. We've had trouble in our car with distracted drivers from Safeway and the gas station. Even with an underpass, how do bikers get north and south within Menlo Park to where they can cross El Camino to get where they really want to go?
Maybe you two ought to put yourselves in the shoes or bike pedals of some of the rest of us who don't live or go where you do.

Posted by Adina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 12, 2012 at 11:22 am

"aren't meant to take you everywhere you want to go." - that is the heart of the matter. that is a big decision for the community, whether we want to make it safe for ordinary people, including kids, older people, and others who aren't athletes to walk and bike for everyday tasks. Or do we want to design our streets so that most people need to get into a car to travel a half-mile or a mile for an everyday neighborhood errand.

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