The conversation I wish I had with a driver during recent ride

By Chris Hoeber

A recent experience did not go well. I am retelling it in the hope that it will help us all pause to reflect on what we can do to make the roads safer.

I was in Los Altos Hills on a long downhill where a bicycle can travel at about the same speed as a motor vehicle. I was familiar with the road and kept a sharp eye out around curves, paying particular attention to the shoulder where it was hard to see detail because of the mottled lighting.

Coming around a curve, I saw a driver at a T intersection on the left. He almost stopped but then took his foot off the brake and rolled forward. I thought he probably saw me, but when he started moving, I called out “Hey” as a rough equivalent to what I hoped was a friendly beep. He hit the brakes but again took his foot off and rolled forward. I called out “Hey” again because I didn’t know if he saw me. Sure enough, he did the same thing a third time.

We were closing in on each other and I was rapidly running out of options if he chose to pull out in front of me. I must not have been speeding, because after I rode through, he pulled in behind me, rapidly accelerated and passed me, yelling from his convertible in what sounded like an angry voice, “I saw you, what’s the problem?” I responded, “Yes, but I had no way of knowing that.” And because we were both yelling to be heard, things went downhill from there.

Why did I call out each time he moved forward? Because he was not driving predictably. My interpretation based on experience was indecision; I have experienced drivers in similar situations decide at the last minute, “I can beat that cyclist if I floor it,” and screech out in front of me. I only have to guess wrong once for a trip to the hospital.

By law, drivers do not have to stop when pulling out of a driveway – they must yield. Under California Vehicle Code 21804, drivers exiting an alley or driveway must yield to all traffic that is close enough to constitute an immediate hazard and continue to yield until they can safely proceed.

So the driver did not break this law. But I did not know what he was going to do when he rolled toward the road. This is the same argument that is used by drivers against the so-called Idaho stop sign for cyclists – if the cyclist does not come to a complete stop, a driver with the right-of-way at an intersection can misunderstand the cyclist’s intention. I have to acknowledge that, in the right circumstances, this argument is valid.

Tricky situation

In several of my columns, I have said cyclists must behave predictably. This rule applies to drivers also. The incident is an example of why simply not breaking the law may not be enough; that is only part of riding and driving safely.

I am sure the driver in this case did not know why I shouted a warning three times. I also do not think he realized he was rolling into the road. Because of the lighting, it was not possible for either of us to make eye contact, and I felt that I had to raise my voice to let him know I was there.

If I were talking to him now, I would tell him I was not angry, but that each time he started moving, I was scared. My wife said I could have tried “Hi” instead of “Hey,” and I’ll try that next time something like this happens. I have lived through similar experiences in which the driver pulled out and I had to make an emergency stop. This is tricky on a bike; if you haven’t practiced it, your weight will move forward when you slam on the brakes and you can easily flip over the handlebars. I’ve had other drivers yell out, “I know you saw me; why didn’t you stop?” or, “It’s not my fault; I didn’t see you.”

If you have any thoughts about how I or the driver could or should have handled it differently, I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, I hope we can all put ourselves in the other person’s position when we have an encounter like this on the road.

Chris Hoeber is a local resident, avid cyclist and founder of a cycling club. Email questions and comments to [email protected]

Cabin filters are more vital in new normal

By Matt Pataky

Since the shelter-in-place orders, we have worked diligently to keep our facility as clean as possible. We put floor mats, steering wheel covers and seat covers in cars. We clean contact points when we first get in and when we get out of the car after we are finished. We clean the office, pens, keys, door handles, etc.

The best way to maintain clean air in the car is to properly maintain the cabin filter, which is something we check as part of our vehicle inspections.

Cabin filters have been an integral part of a car’s climate control system for decades. In the late 1950s, an executive chauffeur named Hans Freudenberg noticed that every time he drove a client, his uniform got dirty. He started designing filters that would work in the car’s air ventilation system to stop dust and dirt from getting on his uniform. By 1989, Mercedes-Benz was making large orders with Freudenberg and most German car companies followed suit. Fast forward to 2000 and nearly every car company had cabin filters as a standard feature.

Cabin filters do a lot more than filter out sand, dust, organic matter and soot. The active carbon cabin filters can significantly remove gaseous particles such as nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrocarbons. The latest cabin filter technology has come a long way, and some manufacturers use HEPA technology. The makers of the Bosch cabin HEPA cabin filter that we use claim that they can provide filtration efficiency of 99.79% of allergens, pollen and dust at 0.3 microns. By using these types of cabin filters, we are doing our best to make sure you and your family are breathing the cleanest air.

Vehicle cabin filters also protect the air-conditioning system’s evaporator. When the AC is running, a large amount of condensation builds up on the evaporator core. Before cabin filters, the dust and dirt mixed with the condensation and created what I’d call a type of mud. This mud would build up at the bottom of the heater box and corrode the evaporator core. Prior to 2000, we had to replace evaporator cores all the time due to this type of corrosion. With the advancements of cabin filter technology, we almost never see evaporator core problems anymore.

Some cabin filters are difficult to replace and others are basic. Either way, we are amazed by how many incorrectly installed cabin filters we see. When a cabin filter is being installed, the technician (or car owner) must follow all steps and make sure the filter is not installed upside down. We pull a lot of cabin filters that have been stuffed into their slots and have become distorted. Once a filter gets distorted, it cannot prevent the dirt from getting into the heater box.

When it comes to car maintenance, the cabin filter usually gets shoved to the end of the priority list. But as we move into the new normal, it’s moving up.

Matt Pataky owns Sunnyvale Foreign Car Service,15 Pioneer Way, Mountain View. For more information, call 960-6988, email
[email protected] or visit

New Toyota Prius has a ‘glaring’ problem

Toyota Prius
Mike Hagerty/Special to the Town Crier
The latest Toyota Prius comes with a lot of standard equipment, including an 11.8-inch touchscreen that does a poor job reflecting the sun – no matter the direction.

By Mike Hagerty

Eight years ago, the Toyota Prius was on a roll. Upwards of 200,000 of them sold in 2012.

But last year? Just under 70,000. And that figure is for the “Prius family” that includes the Prius Prime and the now-discontinued Prius C. Oh, yeah – and that sales figure is off 20% from 2018.

What happened? Lots of things. The radical restyle for 2016 came as sales were beginning to cool off and – despite evidence that Prius buyers liked unusual styling, seeing it as a way of announcing to the planet that they were saving the planet – it would appear Toyota went a bridge too far.

Then there were the electrics – cars that needed no gas at all – such as the Chevy Bolt, the Kia Niro EV, the vastly improved second-generation Nissan Leaf and, of course, the Tesla.

And there were people who, come trade-in time, decided they wanted something bigger and nicer, and that fuel economy didn’t matter as much – people who bailed on hybrids and electric vehicles altogether.

But the Prius is still here. And though selling 70,000 of them in a year isn’t setting the world on fire, it’s not extinction, either. In comparison, Ford sold only 3,000 more Mustangs last year. There were several dozen other cars, including the BMW 3-Series and Lexus ES, that had lower sales than the Prius.

Under the hood, the Prius features a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and an electric motor. The combined output is 121 horsepower. There is no Ludicrous mode. Zero to 60 mph will take 10 seconds. Well, maybe 10.5. What you get in return for your patience is an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 54 mpg in the city, 50 on the highway. Your mileage may vary, but my experience is that I always hit the EPA number in a Prius. Can’t say that about every car.

Our tester was the 2020 Toyota Prius Limited. The base price of $32,375 gets you a lot of standard equipment, including Intelligent Park Assist, a premium audio system with navigation and an 11.8-inch touchscreen, a head-up display and wireless phone charging.

And before we go on, a word of warning about the 11.8-inch touchscreen. That word is “glare.” It doesn’t matter what direction the sun is, the glare and reflection on the monitor is a deal-killer. Unless it’s nighttime (when it still reflects any light out the passenger window or approaching from behind), you’ll be fighting reflections constantly.

As for extra-cost options, the tester came with a moonroof, upgraded 15-inch wheels, illuminated door sills and alloy wheel locks. As tested, with $955 handling fee, the bottom line on the window sticker read $34,586.

Regular On the Road readers know that we’re not in the practice of taking shots at cars. However, it is just hard to make a case for the 2020 Toyota Prius Limited. There are more fuel-efficient vehicles that are faster and better looking and, after tax credits, work out to about the same money.

That said, if anyone could develop a compelling next generation of the Prius, it’s Toyota. Until then, though ...

Overworked alternator gives BMW something to whine about

Let me start by thanking all my customers and readers. Because we are an essential business, we are fortunate enough to remain open during these trying times, and I’ve enjoyed engaging with customers who have come into the shop these past few weeks. 

A love for the Outback

Subaru Outback
Mike Hagerty/Special to the Town Crier
The 2020 Subaru Outback has several improvements over last year’s model, including a new engine and more cargo space.

Love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru, it appears.

The love owners have for the pioneering crossover earned it the IHS Markit (formerley Polk Automotive) Loyalty Award in its vehicle class – mid-size crossover utility – for four years in a row (2015-2018).

Poring over Jetta's pressure problem

Last month a customer brought in her 2011 Volkswagen Jetta SE with a 2.5-liter, five-cylinder engine. The customer said her check-engine light was on and she felt a rough idle on cold starts.

We connected the car to the Volkswagen factory tool (ODIS) and pulled two codes: P3078 (throttle control air flow at idle too low) and P0106 (manifold/barometric pressure sensor implausible signal). The codes led us to test the engine’s air intake system.

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