Last month I wrote about some of my worst encounters with motor vehicles and other cyclists on the road.
My intent was to remind drivers and riders that they may not always be right, and even if they are, they should think twice about using a car or bike as a means of intimidation. Intentionally scaring a cyclist or a pedestrian might provide a moment’s satisfaction, but it also can cause a serious accident you will have to live with.
The examples I gave of people who wanted to punish others for violating what they thought was the law or the rules of the road are the exceptions, not the rule. And since I started riding in Los Altos in 1972, my perception is that the exceptions have become significantly less frequent despite an increase in traffic. I think that is because more people are riding, running or walking along the road, and even if you, as a driver, are not a cyclist, someone you know and love probably is.
Woodside’s Old La Honda Road, probably the most popular local mountain climb, may be the best example of this. It is narrow and twisty, and it poses difficulties for a car to safely pass a cyclist. Years ago, local residents resented this, and threatening cyclists was considered good sport. But it’s been years since I have been harassed, and I think that it is because half the residents are also cyclists.
However, something happened recently that I want to share. As I approached the intersection with Page Mill Road on Junipero Serra Boulevard (the continuation of Foothill Expressway), I slowed for the traffic backed up in both the through and right-turn lanes, carefully leaving room on my right for anyone who wanted to pass me to turn right. A truck driver behind me blasted his horn, swerved around me with 6 inches to spare and then cut back in front of me. It gained him nothing; the cars in front of him were still waiting at the light. I pulled alongside him and said, “Why did you do that?” His response was that he wanted to teach me a lesson; I had no right to be there because it wasn’t a bike lane.
I don’t know whether the best response to that is, “Yes, it is a bike lane and there is a (hard to read) sign right at the entrance to the right-turn pocket lane,” or, “Whether it is or not is irrelevant, because bicycles share the road with you anyway – and almost a million cyclists navigate this intersection each year.”
I believe this incident would not have happened if the intersection in question had better lane markings. Basically, where the pocket lane begins, the stripe delineating the bike lane disappears, and through cyclists and drivers are left to negotiate their own routes as they cross each other’s paths. Not a big deal if there are only a few cars on the road, but a mess when traffic backs up well past the pocket lane opening and cars randomly position themselves left and right in their lane.
A clear green lane through the conflict zone would significantly simplify the necessary negotiation for drivers and cyclists. Good examples of how this signage can improve roadways include the intersections of Alpine Road and Interstate 280, the bridge on Sand Hill Road over 280 and the intersection of Page Mill and 280.
Alpine and Sand Hill have been completed in recent years, and the work on Page Mill has just begun (though I do not know the final configuration of Page Mill). All of these changes occurred because of dialogue among cyclists, motorists and traffic agencies.