Portola Valley: Rights, responsibilities and interests of cyclists are key in new committee
The question "What's in a name?" could not be more relevant in the matter of the Portola Valley Town Council's deciding recently, by a unanimous vote, to change the name of the all but moribund Traffic Committee to the Bicycle, Pedestrian & Traffic Committee.
"The interactions between bicycles and cars is really one of the more important issues in this town," Mayor Ted Driscoll said to open the discussion at the council's Sept. 14 meeting.
Indeed. To say that Alpine and Portola roads, the town's two arterials, are popular with cyclists is to significantly understate the situation. Cyclists in ones and twos are an ongoing presence, as is a knot, similar to a racing peloton, of anywhere from 30 to 100 cyclists speeding by at least once a day when the weather is good.
But incidents over the past few years, not to mention a scattering of cycling fatalities, tell a story.
• A water bottle, with water in it, thrown by a cyclist at an elderly pedestrian woman, hitting her in the face and leaving it black-and-blue;
• Sheriff's Office deputies camped out on weekends at a right-turn stop sign to ticket right-turning cyclists rolling through after a long uphill climb;
• A rock allegedly thrown by a cyclist at a boy walking his dog on the roadside — there are no bike lanes or sidewalks — and hitting him in the chest;
• Drivers who loom ominously behind pelotons traveling at maybe 30 mph in a 35 mph section and which acquire certain privileges to use an entire lane when bike lanes are absent;
• Two equestrians crossing Portola Road who became engulfed by a peloton that scared one horse into dumping a rider and both of them into galloping along with the cyclists, some of whom are alleged to have heard but ignored the remaining equestrian's plea to slow down.
Councilwoman Ann Wengert, a cyclist and veteran of crossing the United States by bike, reminded Mr. Driscoll of his suggestion made in June that the committee be renamed and that the new name start with the word "bicycle."
"My own views are that we should be moving that to the fore. I would hate to encumber a newly chartered committee," Ms. Wengert said. "We recognize that a lot of these issues being created right now are related to bicycles."
Councilwoman Maryann Derwin said she was fine with the name change provided the committee steers clear of advocacy.
Go to tinyurl.com/PV-apply to fill out an application and be considered for membership on the committee. The filing deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28. The first meeting is likely to be in early 2012.
Like the town's 16 other committees staffed by volunteers, this one will offer the Town Council advice on matters that come under the purview of its name.
As was done in 2010 with the Trails Committee, which had developed a reputation for not representing the interests of all trail users, the new Bicycle, Pedestrian & Traffic Committee membership will be based on applicant interviews by a council subcommittee with a mission of obtaining balanced representation.