View from the Bike Lane

For over 50 years, I’ve been a recreational cyclist. Growing up in Menlo Park, my buddy Jim Bill and I would bike up to San Francisco along El Camino Real, including a side trip to Coyote Point. Some days we’d spent most of the daylight hours riding.

A year ago, I moved back to Menlo Park and discovered the many great cycling opportunities in the area. My usual routine is to ride three times a week, logging somewhere between 40 and 100 miles total.

Along the way, I’ve noticed some questionable behavior by the various people sharing the roads and pathways. The most noticeable: Stop signs are not “suggestions,” although they may appear to be given the number of cyclists I’ve seen ignoring them.

Earlier this Spring, a cyclist was killed while riding in a Double Century ride (200 miles) near Davis, California. According to the report, at around 5:30 am, the rider failed to stop at a stop sign and rode into the path of a large truck.

Just last week, I witnessed a near-miss repeat of that incident. A cyclist failed to stop at the intersection of Elena and Valparaiso. There is a stop sign on Elena, but instead of stopping — or even slowing down — the cyclist turned left right in front of oncoming car, which narrowly avoided hitting him.

I will admit that I may have “rolled” a few stop signs while riding, but given the number of cars on the road and the statistics regarding bicycling fatalities I am much more safety conscious now. I generally try to stop, put one foot down, make eye contact with drivers when applicable, and proceed.

Statistics back up my observations. Richard Hall reported on California Highway Patrol data for the years 2011-2012 in a piece he wrote for Planning For Reality. One highlight: Cyclists were at fault in stop sign violations leading to a bicycle versus car collision 61% of the time. Hall writes:

“California appears to have a significant issue with bicycles not stopping at stop signs or red lights — with this leading to collisions often, most unfortunately, causing the injury and in rarer cases the death of the rider and not the driver. Of the 17 red light violation deaths, 9 were where the cyclist was at fault; of the 9 stop sign violation deaths 8 were where the cyclist was at fault.”

So please, Menlo Park cyclists, remember: Stop signs are not suggestions!

From time to time, Menlo Park resident Dennis Nugent will be contributing his thoughts about cycling on InMenlo.