Following is a letter sent to Los Altos Public Works Dec. 4, 2012.
On rare occasions I ride a bicycle, and none too steadily when I do. A week ago I jumped on my wife’s bike to go from our home on Nancy Lane to Loyola Corners. When I got to the portion of the ride on Miramonte just south of Aura, I was extremely frightened and surprised at the danger to which I was exposed.
The bicycle lane there is 2 feet wide, with a berm on the right and a 10-foot traffic lane on the left. With my wheel in the middle of the bike lane, my shoulder is over the white stripe. With a 6-foot-wide car in the middle of that lane, that leaves 2 feet between me and a vehicle traveling 35 mph.
My tendency was to move to the right, and if I had hit the berm and sprawled to the left, it could have been all over. Please have a look at this and take whatever action you think is appropriate. This may be a Bicycle Friendly Community, but not on this part of Miramonte.
That was six years ago. Nothing has changed.
Kids bike home from Blach Intermediate School on this path. Trucks use the street, and trucks and cars have mirrors that extend out at least 6 inches, so the actual clearance, if a car stays in the center of its lane, is about 1 foot. Twenty-two states have a law that requires at least 3 feet clearance in passing bikes.
The response to my letter was a call from the traffic engineer. He spoke of a state law requiring that any modifications to bicycle lanes must comply with a standard, that such a standard would be difficult to attain, that maybe some kind of grant was needed, and so on. The clear message was that nothing would be done soon.
Two years ago this same letter was shown to the city engineer by the Town Crier. Part of her response was: “The space between the striping and the edge of the road is the shoulder, not a bike lane. It is too narrow at some locations and it is not maintained as a bike lane.” She said people are supposed to bike in the car lane, sharing it with motor vehicles. Who knew?
So where everybody pedals is not an “approved” bike lane. It is only an “actual” bike lane, and can’t be made safe.
A possible solution lies with the Blach PTA. If Public Works is precluded from acting, the PTA moms could rent a Bobcat with a blade and knock down the berm some Saturday morning. The Town Crier could photograph and report it, both as a statement of female empowerment and as a rare improvement to our community.
Jerry Clements is a Los Altos resident.