Viewpoint - December 7, 2011

Guest opinion: Alpine Road trail would do more harm than good

by Rob Decker

I am a cyclist and hiker, a former executive responsible for risk management at a company that builds roads, sidewalks, and bicycle facilities, and past president of the Ladera Community Association. After studying the proposed Lower Alpine Trail from the perspective of a cyclist, risk manager, and community advocate I must urge the Board of Supervisors to say "NO" to Stanford's offer of $10 million to expand the modest footpath along Alpine Road.

The previous two times this issue was before the supervisors they unanimously rejected it. Why? Because they understood that the proposed sidewalk expansion would endanger those who might use it, particularly where it crosses the Interstate 280 off-ramps and at Stanford Weekend Acres.

This was a wise decision. Research evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that inexperienced bicyclists and young people experience greater risk of accident and injury when riding on two-way bike/pedestrian trails that cross driveways, roads, and freeway off-ramps, especially if traveling in the opposite direction to auto travel.

From Bikeway Planning and Design, CA Highway Design Manual:

"For children cycling, risk of colliding with a motor vehicle is almost three times higher at intersections with a bike path than at road-only intersections. Risk was highest when traffic signals were present."

"The most dangerous bicycle facility is a path beside the roadway ... it presents the dangers of riding on sidewalks: a potential crash scene at every road crossing and at every driveway."

Former Menlo Park Mayor and cyclist Steve Schmidt said: "The County of San Mateo has already established a strong commitment to bicycle safety by marking bike lanes on Alpine Road. Not only would the Lower Alpine Trail be redundant with this effort, the trail would ironically diminish safety by combining a multi-use path with two freeway off-ramps, five road crossings and multiple private driveways."

Alan Wachtel, consultant to the Berkeley, San Francisco, and Palo Alto bicycle plans, and chair of the CA Bicycle Advisory Committee, stated: "Bike paths immediately adjacent to roadways create serious wrong-way travel and intersection conflicts that decrease safety, rather than promoting it. ... By building this facility, Stanford and the County run the risk of creating a dangerous situation, especially for children and inexperienced cyclists, that is far worse than the status quo."

It would be irrational and dangerous to spend $10 million on a facility that would be more dangerous than what now exists. On Dec. 13 the Board of Supervisors should reject Stanford's offer.

Rob Decker is a cyclist who lives in Ladera.


Posted by Joe Hedges, a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Dec 8, 2011 at 2:33 am

Riding a bicycle on the shoulder of Alpine Road is like a game of roulette, you just never know when a car will land on you.

On the morning of Wednesday Dec 7, 2011, the pole that holds the Bicycle Lane sign on Alpine Rd at Stowe Lane was vertical. Wednesday evening it was horizontal with bits of a vehicle strewn about. Had a bicycle been in the bike lane when this happened, the bicyclist would have been seriously injured or killed. Rob, I ride a bicycle past that pole 6 times a week. In light of this and the bicycle death that occurred on Alpine Road recently, help me to understand how riding on Alpine Road provides a safer alternative to the trail.

I have been riding on the existing trail for 8 months and have not found it to contain the dangers that you suggest in your Guest Opinion. Except for the fact that the trail itself is in horrible condition, I find it to be much less dangerous than the road. Help me to understand how $10M worth of repairs to an existing trail will make it more dangerous.

It is ironic that the vehicle which ventured into the bicycle lane just happened to take out the Bicycle Lane sign. How many more times do events like this have to happen before the dangers specific to riding a bicycle on Alpine Road are addressed? How many more deaths?

San Mateo County is $50,000,000.00 over budget. The money to fix the trail is not even in the budget. The $10,000,000.00 does not come out of your or my taxes, it comes from Stanford. I don't understand why you would support turning away money that provides the potential to make my Alpine Road bicycle commute safer.

I urge you to reconsider your position and support fixing the existing Alpine trail in order to provide an alternative to riding a bicycle on the shoulder of Alpine Road. As a non-serious (silly?)biker, I would appreciate having a choice and, if I ride the trail, serious bikers can play roulette on the road without having to pass slow, non-serious bicyclists like me.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 8, 2011 at 6:39 am

If Stanford's $10 million is used to improve the trail there is nothing to preclude individuals, including Rob, from continuing to ride in the roadway. The great thing is that cyclist will then have the choice of a dramatically better trail or the roadway - pay Stanford's money and take your choice.

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