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Killed cyclist identified as Rodney Smith of Portola Valley

Original post made on May 25, 2007

Rodney Smith of Portola Valley -- who with his wife, Mary, was a major donor to the town's open-space preservation efforts -- was killed Friday morning while cycling on Sand Hill Road when he was struck by a car driven by an elderly Woodside man. Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (24)

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Posted by Sally
a resident of Professorville
on May 25, 2007 at 8:49 pm

Freeway interchanges are well known to be among the most dangerous areas for bicyclists. Car drivers are frequently speeding and distracted by on and off ramps. Why is there a bike lane on westbound Sand Hill Road and I-280, but no bike lane on eastbound Sand Hill Road (where this man was killed)? We need to provide safer bicycling facilities as well as proactively removing dangerous drivers from the road.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Woodside
on May 26, 2007 at 8:44 am

How about two cyclists hit on Sand Hill Road and three in the area all n the last year by drivers over the age of 70. Anyone besides me think this is a serious problem?


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Posted by AARP Man
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 26, 2007 at 10:59 am

Another tragedy involving an elderly driver. Sad.

1) There should be _mandatory_ physical testing, including response-time testing, for _every_ driver over 65, every two years until the age of 75. Thereafter, the test should be compelled every year. Two failures means loss of license. ONE retest permitted. NO appeals. NO exceptions.

Response time testing could be performed in a simulator, so that driver test personnel would not have to be deployed.

2) We need to seriously improve public transit, so that seniors and others do not have to depend on cars. I'm waiting to hear from our regional policy makers, including local policy-makers who sit on regional tranpsortation boards about what _serious_ efforts are being made to tackle the problem of lack of highly affordable, highly accessible, take-you-wherever-you-want-to-go-when-you-need-to-get-there public transport.

MANY places on earth have fantastic public transport. Why don't we?

If the current situation doesn't change, expect more of these tragic accidents around here, as the senior driver population is climbing fast.





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Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 26, 2007 at 1:22 pm

AAARP

No, VTA is cutting route 88 in Palo Alto, not extending it. Very poor thinking on their part since this area of Palo Alto is where a senior community is planned and town houses, also where seniors tend to live, are being built. These seniors will not have public transport available and will be forced to remain driving longer than perhaps they would otherwise.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2007 at 1:36 pm

Another problem in this particular area is that the speed limit is 55 mph. It is 40 on the east side of the freeway, and 40 on the west side of Whiskey Hill Road. Why is it 55 in between? With the number of bicyclists using that road, a speed limit of 55 is insane. If traffic were slowed to 35 or 40 it would be a lot easier for bicyclists to deal with the on-ramp and off-ramp. What jurisdiction is this area? The article says Menlo Park, but I think it is unincorporated San Mateo County. The relvevant agency should be lobbied to make some serious changes.


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Posted by Robbie
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 26, 2007 at 7:52 pm

The residents of Woodside and Portola Valley complain about the large groups of bicyclists, but I bet that if this guy had been riding with 49 other bicyclists who took over the road he would be alive today. Since he was a solo bicyclist with no witnesses to the event, the driver will probably get away with murder.

There is safety in numbers, even if it annoys some people.


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Posted by Old car driver
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 26, 2007 at 8:13 pm

Before we crucify the driver of the car and proclaim the bike rider a martyr shouldn't we wait for the results of the police investigation. Who knows the biker may have been one of those "the rules of the road do not apply to me" bikers.


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Posted by cc
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2007 at 10:07 pm

Elderly people are a driving hazard. My 90 year old great uncle should not be driving. Even if a biker rides alone or makes a not so wise action, they do not deserve to face a car! just like pedestrians, cars have to YIELD. Condolences to the family.


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Posted by ten18
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2007 at 11:24 pm

I'm with Old car driver. I see many, many bicyclists who seem to think they're above traffic laws and who take needless chances with cars. Right, wrong, or otherwise, the bicyclist will lose. And on a bicycle, you're completely vulnerable, so it probably doesn't pay to piss off a motorist. I don't know what happened in this case - it sounds like this poor person was in a particularly dangerous place. It's very sad, and it seems to be happening more often. I used to ride a lot, but I haven't in many years due to the increasing danger on the roads.


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Posted by trudy
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 27, 2007 at 11:23 am

We don't know who was responsible for this accident.

I was driving behind a bicyclist recently, and she suddenly turned directly into my path, at 90 degrees. If it had been other than a county road with a speed limit of 25 mph, and if my attention had wavered for an instant, this young woman would have been dead.

Why did she turn that suddenly? To get to a cross street. She was wearing earphones, so she probably had no idea there was a car behind her, and she didn't look.


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Posted by Karen
a resident of another community
on May 27, 2007 at 6:47 pm

I am haunted by this terrible accident because several weeks ago on a Sunday morning I was riding westbound on Sand Hill, and a blue sedan nearly sideswiped me in the bike lane and would have taken out anyone ahead of me as s/he then went fully into the bike lane. I wasn't able to get a license plate and hoped to find the car in Portola Valley, perhaps parked at one of the churches, but did not. I love cycling, but I am always reminded of how vulnerable we cyclists (or pedestrians) are on the road.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on May 28, 2007 at 5:13 pm

Trudy,
Your experience with a young woman wearing earphones has nothing to do with this case. The victim in this crash was an experienced and mature bicyclist, not the type to pull the maneuver you described. Many inexperienced bicyclists do not know how to make left turns properly and will do things such as you described. Experienced bicyclists who have developed good traffic cycling habits will not make mistakes like that. We don't know what really happened in this case, and probably never will. All we have to go by is the driver's description of the event, unless some other witnesses appear.


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Posted by John
a resident of Stanford
on May 28, 2007 at 7:09 pm

Sand Hill Road is the major bicycling route between the Stanford area and Portola Valley and Woodside. Unfortunately, the wide road invites reckless and careless driving. In recent years, several cyclists have been injured or killed by cars on this short stretch of road, including Mrs. MaryAnn Levenson, Miss Katherine Pope, and now Mr. Rodney Smith. This road is in serious need of traffic saftey improvements, including narrowing the car lanes, widening the bicycle lanes, and lowering the speed limit, and making the speed limit consistent for the entire length of the road.


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Posted by AARP Man
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 29, 2007 at 9:50 am

"Old Car Driver" What problem should anyone have with being tested for physical reaction competency whilst driving an automobile? I would gladly volunteer for such a test, and give up my driver's license if I failed to pass the test.

Driving - as taught, and stated in all state driver's manuals - is a privilege, not a right. If one does not have the measured ability to negotiate the roads in a safe way, one shuold not be permitted to drive.


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Posted by Old car driver
a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 29, 2007 at 9:55 am

I think you are confusing my remark with someone else's--I am just saying that before we bash the driver of the car, we need to wait for the results of the police investigation before we lay blame on the driver.
I made no mention of testing older drivers or anything else of that sort.
I think you are also making the assumption that the driver was to blame.


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Posted by Jan J.
a resident of Portola Valley
on May 29, 2007 at 3:46 pm

I'm extremely sad that this happened. Rodney Smith was an exceptional guy. It should not have happened. I'm a long-time cyclist and am constantly reminded by my husband NOT to ride close to the white line at the left of the bike lane. I checked out the scene of the accident on Sand Hill Road and when you are heading eastbound on Sand Hill, just as you crest the hill, the road veers to the right and the sun would be hitting you squarely in the face at 9:40am. My guess is that Rodney was riding safely inside the bike lane, but the driver of the car became suddenly blinded by the morning sun and drifted into the bike lane and collided with Rodney. You can easily identify where the point of impact was and where the car veered up onto the embankment. My sincere condolences to Mary and all of Rodney's friends and family.


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Posted by Friend of Driver
a resident of Mountain View
on May 29, 2007 at 11:34 pm

Does anyone know if Mr. Smith had a heart attack, stroke, aneurysm breach? Is an autopsy being done? My heart breaks for both families. Prayers.


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Posted by Richard
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2007 at 6:25 am

I went to look at the location, and I agree with Jan J, with a minor difference. First of all, the bike lane is full of gravel from the Horse Park, and the right part of it is unrideable, unless you like flat tires. As to the bend in the road, I saw many drivers crossing the line into the bike lane as the road curved to the right, and this was in the afternoon with no sun in their eyes. They are just traveling insanely fast and want to cut to the inside. Slower speeds and some kind of rumble strip would help keep them in their lane.


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Ohlone School
on May 30, 2007 at 11:44 am

If you are a cyclist, you know that what Richard says is spot on. Many drivers use the bicycle lane as their fast lane. While very few bike lanes have rumble strips because they are kind of a pain, special measures are in order here. Is is remarkable how fast a neighborhood can get traffic abatement treatments added to their local roads whereas this proven hazard is largely ignored.


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Posted by Rhondalee Rohleder
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2007 at 5:59 pm

It's rather distressing to see all the focus on the cause of this accident. I worked with this man -- the bicyclist, whose name is Rodney Smith -- for nearly 25 years. Our condolences should be going to his widow, Mary, not debating about what he did or did not do. What matters is his loss. I do agree with comments regarding the need for safe bike lanes.


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Posted by The508Seal
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 8, 2007 at 6:52 am

What is needed is continuous rumble strip running on the boundary between car & bike lane, made with a machine that gouges the roadway in a 12" wide swath. Highway 25 E of Gilroy has it. Also common on major highways to alert drifting drivers.

For every "old driver" on the road there are 2 drunks, 1 meth-head, and 10 "can't talk and drive at the same time" drivers.


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Posted by Thomas Bailey
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I live in Sunnyvale and have biked to San Francisco 18 times, to San Jose countless times, to Santa Cruz, San Leandro, Half Moon Bay, Sausalito, and Sunol once each, to Gilroy and Pacifica twice each, to Fremont several times, and plan to bike to Los Angeles later this year. In the 19 years I have been biking, I have been in three accidents, all minor. In one crash, a Federal Express van hit me, the driver got out and said "Oh Jesus Christ! Oh God! I could have killed you!", in all of the accidents I have been in, the drivers offered to take me to a nearby clinic.


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Posted by Thomas Bailey
a resident of another community
on Jan 5, 2008 at 2:14 pm

I live in Sunnyvale and have biked to San Francisco 18 times, to San Jose countless times, to Santa Cruz, San Leandro, Half Moon Bay, Sausalito, and Sunol once each, to Gilroy and Pacifica twice each, to Fremont several times, and plan to bike to Los Angeles later this year. In the 19 years I have been biking, I have been in three accidents, all minor. In one crash, a Federal Express van hit me, the driver got out and said "Oh Jesus Christ! Oh God! I could have killed you!", in all of the accidents I have been in, the drivers offered to take me to a nearby clinic.


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Posted by Joe Schmoe
a resident of Portola Valley
on Mar 1, 2008 at 5:20 pm

Large groups of bike riders that block the road are breaking the law. I suggest that all riders stay aware of this fact as PV and Woodside are pressing the local police to write a lot more citations against riders that violate the law. You might enjoy the ride, but if you break the law you won't enjoy the cost.


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