Almanac

News - June 8, 2011

Portola Valley mayor: Time to get serious about bike safety in town

by Dave Boyce

Among the significant topics scheduled for the June 8 Portola Valley Town Council meeting, Mayor Ted Driscoll has prepared a 1,000-word analysis on the issue of bicycle safety in town. Mr. Driscoll's object: to engage the council and the public in a discussion leading to a regular forum, perhaps a bicycle committee, for dealing with the issues.

The council meets at 7:30 p.m. in the Historic Schoolhouse at 765 Portola Road. The bicycle discussion is the first item on the regular agenda.

Other items: a review of the proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, and possible adoption of a new ordinance to regulate commercial activity on Town Center property.

Mr. Driscoll begins his paper by noting the international renown of the Alpine-and-Portola-Road loop, which was included in a bicycle touring guide he found in a London bookstore.

Go to tinyurl.com/Driscoll-bikes and turn to Page 28 to review the paper.

While bike traffic on this loop has risen significantly over the past decade and the demographic of the riders has changed, the roads are as they were, he said.

Case in point: No bike lanes. Both roads have fog lines to mark the edges of the traffic lanes, and the distances to the edge of the pavement are inconsistent, as is their potential to be dangerous to cyclists.

As Mr. Driscoll understands the law, he said, no vehicle can be required to travel to the right of a fog line, though bike traffic could have a mandate to be over there if there were designated bike lanes.

Many bicyclists are acutely aware of this distinction and take advantage of it, to the frustration of many motorists who think that the white line indicates a bike lane. In a situation in which motorists and cyclists collide, the cyclists always lose, and "the cyclist's loss is great," Mr. Driscoll added.

Also aware of the fog line niceties are deputies from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. Lacking the resources to address the nuances of this issue, they concentrate on ticketing cyclists who blow through major stop signs, Mr. Driscoll said.

The town has easements that "extend well beyond the current edge of pavement," he said; perhaps an incremental approach to widening the roads is what's called for.

All the parties need to meet and talk, Mr. Driscoll said. "The goal should be to reduce tensions with the cycling community and seek to maximize safety and minimize conflict."

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