Deborah Johnson, the 51-year-old Palo Alto woman who was hospitalized Sunday, July 22, after falling off her bike that afternoon on Sand Hill Road, died Tuesday, July 24, according to the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office.
In response to recent serious bike accidents along the 55 mph portion of Sand Hill Road between Interstate 280 and Whiskey Hill Road, the county is planning steps to make that part of the road safer.
Johnson was wearing a helmet and riding with friends when she fell and hit her head just west of Branner Drive in Menlo Park while the group was heading east on Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park police said.
Police are investigating the incident. The Santa Clara County Coroner's Office will not release information about the cause of Johnson's death until after an autopsy, a spokeswoman said.
A recent repainting of the bicycle-lane stripes is part of an effort to make the road safer, according to Lisa Ekers, road operations manager with the San Mateo County Public Works Department, which maintains the 55-mph stretch of Sand Hill Road.
More signs are coming, along with new paint for the lettering and images inside the bike lanes on the pavement, she said.
Public Works is collaborating with the California Highway Patrol and the Sheriff's Office, which are working with the traffic court, Ekers said.
"The county is open to and is looking into adjusting the speed limit," she said. "The difficulty is having something that is enforceable in court."
Speed limits are governed by a state law that determines a legal limit as the speed of 85 percent of the traffic, she said. A driver can successfully fight a speeding ticket if the limit runs afoul of the 85th percentile rule.
While a road's "natural" limit is affected by its physical characteristics -- the number of curves, driveways and side streets, for example -- heavy bicycle use may also be a factor, Ekers said.
The 55-mph section of Sand Hill Road "has a pretty good opportunity" for a lower limit, she said, given the high volume of cyclists and the "blatant disregard" for lane lines that some drivers have shown.
The process of change is "frustratingly slow," she added. "Some of the road's users, especially the bicyclists, will probably be frustrated by the pace."
Asked if the county is looking at pavement elements such as chevrons that would vibrate wheels and deliver a warning to motorists and cyclists when they cross the bike-lane stripe, Ekers was skeptical.
"The reality is that no amount of noise or paint is going to keep some drivers in their lane. They just want to go faster," she said.