Firefighters say response to fatal crash in Palo Alto was delayed by traffic | News | Palo Alto Online |


Firefighters say response to fatal crash in Palo Alto was delayed by traffic

Collision reported on southbound Highway 101 just north of Embarcadero Road

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A collision on southbound U.S. Highway 101 left a motorcyclist dead in Palo Alto this evening after emergency crews headed to the crash were delayed by heavy traffic, firefighters said.

The crash was reported at 5:46 p.m. on southbound Highway 101 just north of Embarcadero Road. According to the California Highway Patrol, them motorcyclist was riding a 2014 Yamaha south on 101 at a "high rate of speed," despite the heavy traffic.

He was splitting lanes when traffic suddenly came to a complete stop, according to the CHP. The motorcyclist then crashed into the rear end of a Ford and was thrown off the Yamaha, according to the CHP. The driver of the Ford was not injured. She stayed at the scene to cooperate with the officers, police said. The motorcyclist, a 27-year-old Fremont resident, was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders.

The CHP said the victim's death was reported to dispatchers just before 6 p.m.

The first firefighters arrived on scene at 5:56 p.m., according to Menlo Park Fire Protection District Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman.

Traffic in the area was "terrible," Schapelhouman said, and it had a definite effect on the ability of first responders to assist the victim.

"We failed to be where we needed to be within a period of time," Schapelhouman said. "Whether that would have made a difference in this incident, I'm not sure."

Last week the district's board of directors adopted new standards establishing a goal of having the first firefighters on the scene of an incident within seven minutes of being reported to dispatch.

Firefighters were not able to meet that new standard when responding to tonight's fatal motorcycle crash, Schapelhouman said.

The CHP issued a Sig-alert for southbound Highway 101 at 6:06 p.m.

— Palo Alto Online staff and Bay City News Service

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3 people like this
Posted by vini
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:09 pm

another 101 tragedy...what a dismal state of affairs that the EMS couldn't reach a poor victim on time to assist and save a life. A vicious cycle of sad affairs on this freeway. we need more help

6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Traffic at 101 and Embarcadero has become disastrous. The daily eastbound backup at rush hour now extends from East Bayshore over 101 and nearly to St Francis. The city needs to quickly investigate the situation and take immediate steps to address the problem before more lives are lost.

14 people like this
Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:18 pm

The construction in that area is a disaster from a safety standpoint.

12 people like this
Posted by Just Passing Through
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:22 pm

Traffic is indeed terrible.

However, in addition to traffic, I have noticed in recent years that many drivers do not bother to pull over to let emergency vehicles pass them by, any more, even though the sirens are clearly audible. It always shocks me. I guess it goes along with the general ignorance or disregard for driving rules.

19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:28 pm

Traffic on this part of 101 due to the bridge work is a disaster and those of us who have been stuck in it know it. This sad event proves that the lane shifting and reduction are dangerous in more ways that one. It is very sad that the emergency vehicles couldn't get through and I am afraid to say that it doesn't surprise me due to the fact that the lanes are narrow and there probably isn't any place for vehicles to move to allow the emergency vehicles through.

The fact that this work is going to last a couple of years is horrendous.

On top of that, I am wondering whether the lane configuration, reduction and shifting had anything to do with the cause of the accident. Once again, that would not surprise me.

Get this mess fixed asap. Use 24 hour work crews, 7 day a week work crews. Get this work done as a top priority and get 101 back to being functional in Palo Alto.

2 people like this
Posted by nok
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 22, 2015 at 9:55 pm

Lately, that site is growing bigger and wider everyday and drivers need to make a quick 45 degree turn in order to exit the EM exit.

4 people like this
Posted by Howard
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 22, 2015 at 11:02 pm

[Post removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 22, 2015 at 11:58 pm

Perhaps people shouldn't be speeding during heavy traffic and in a construction zone. It puts many at risk, and in this case, the driver died as a result of his bad decision. It's a true tragedy. I'm also relieved that no one else was killed. I'm so sorry for his family and other loved ones.

9 people like this
Posted by Horrible tragedy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:18 am

Condolances to the friends and family of the deceased.

In this instance, I don't think the firefighters could have made a difference and the motorcyclist probably was killed instantly. Please make lane splitting illegal if traffic is moving at more than 10 mph (as it was in this case).

The construction zone not only creates a hazard in and of itself, but it also impedes emergency access since there is no shoulder for cars to pull off and let emergency responders pass.

13 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 4:13 am

Almost every time I go on 101 I see people hotdogging it and it makes
me both angry and sad because occasionally something bad like this is
going to happen.

The other day I saw two cars driving south on 101 weaving between the
traffic and taking off, cutting in and out between people, not a cop in sight
and this went in until they were out of sight.

There are the people who instead of just changing to the exit land have to
speed up and cut in front of the further car us before the off-ramp so they
can feel like they are getting the better of traffic, when honestly most of them
don't save a microsecond and put their lives and other's in jeopardy.

Our roadways are crowded and hard enough to navigate these days, so I
sure wish the police and courts would be more active in removing people
from the ranks of drivers. There are now alternatives they can use to get
around without risking everyone's lives.

I think it would much better if they would lower the penalties for infractions
to like $20 for the first infraction, $40 for the next, $80 for the next and go
up to some point where rather than sting people economically they just
removed them from the roadways. Besides, a fine does not hit everyone
equally ... rich people don't care about fines and it can really hurt poor
people. It is not like there is any consistency in the policing of driving

I think they should get rid of lane splitting. The idea of a motorcycle
coming out of nowhere and cutting between me and the care next to me
is bad enough, except some of them are extremely loud and jarring and
startle and vibrate everyone's car they pass. It is just a way for some
people to express hostility and superiority ... and really, driving should be
about getting somewhere not some kind of social self-expression.

7 people like this
Posted by Safety First
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 7:27 am

Although traffic in Palo Alto proper is way worse IMO than anytime in 30 years I have lived or worked here, I have to say generally the traffic on 101 is still better than in the ''80s especially between PA and Svl. The one spot much worse is 101 north, surprisingly, beyond the bridge onramps (even those were worse in the ''80s).

So sorry for this tragedy. I hope people for at least one moment appreciate the necessity of planning for safety under worst conditions, not best.

30 people like this
Posted by Neither the First nor Last
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 8:10 am

This is not the first time a death occurred because paramedics could not get to the scene in time.

Silicon Valley traffic is literally killing people, and yet the developers propose to cause more of it.

As a result, people are so focused on getting to work or back home on time that they won't pull over for ambulances and fire trucks--for fear of losing their place in traffic!

Let the developers and big companies build where there is room and infrastructure to support it (to say nothing of housing costs).

Over-development is deadly!

1 person likes this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 9:05 am

"This is not the first time a death occurred because paramedics could not get to the scene in time."

How did you come to that conclusion? I believe they were delayed getting to someone that was already gone. Sad event, but they we can't save people from themselves.

1 person likes this
Posted by Horrible tragedy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 9:19 am

Neither, I don't believe the paramedics could have saved the motorcyclist even if they had been right there at the time of the accident.

I really hope people would not give so much priority to their own time that they would not pull over for emergency vehicles. You're not suggesting that was the case here? I don't believe that to be true, at least not at the scene on SB101. There was debris across 3 lanes of traffic, people out of their cars, and nowhere to pull over.

In my opinion, this particular accident likely was caused by the motorcyclist's reckless driving, not by traffic congestion.

That doesn't diminish the importance of using caution, driving safely, providing safe roads, and cooperating with emergency responders.

6 people like this
Posted by Horrible tragedy
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 23, 2015 at 9:54 am

I hope it is ok to excerpt this other article, which provides additional comments from Chief Schapelhouman.

Web Link

“The [Fire] Captain didn’t feel, in this case, a faster response time would have changed the outcome but obviously our ability to get there sooner rather than later can, and has, made a difference on other incidents,” Schapelhouman noted.

. . . .

Sympathizing with other motorists on Highway 101 who “could hear our sirens and knew that we were coming,” Schapelhouman acknowledged that it took longer for fire crews to reach the victim than anticipated -- or desired.

“That’s tough on the average person, especially when someone is lying lifeless on the ground,” he said. “Most people don’t like feeling helpless like that, it’s nothing anyone ever forgets because a human life was hanging in the balance, and that’s as real as it gets.”

Schapelhouman said that roadwork on southbound Highway 101 at San Francisquito Creek, which has resulted in narrower lanes and the omission of the road's shoulder, has created an obstacle for fire crews because motorists have nowhere to go even when they try to move out of engines’ way.

16 people like this
Posted by Kevin Ohlson
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2015 at 10:58 am

I think the point of the article is that public safety teams are re-evaluating how to respond to incidents on 101, especially when there is heavy traffic. And while it was unknown for this case, response time can, and does, make a difference.

14 people like this
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:14 am

I was on the ramp from Embarcadero to Northbound 101 when one of the fire trucks was trying to get on the highway. Not only was the heavy traffic an issue, but the ramp really isn't wide enough for the cars to pull over and the firetruck to get by when the ramp is full of cars. We pulled totally off the ramp into the dirt for the truck to fit. Perhaps the ramps could be wider or have wide, flat shoulders.

21 people like this
Posted by Neither the First nor Last
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Something similar happened when my step-father suffered a stroke two years ago: the ambulance got to his home. soon enough, but could not get to the hospital in time due to heavy traffic at 4:00 pm.

More recently, an ambulance and fire engine could not get through Willow Rd traffic in the late afternoon.... Also more recently, my son's best friend's grandfather died because an ambulance could not get to his house in time due to heavy traffic near the Apple compound in Cupertino in the late afternoon.

There are certainly more cases that haven't made the papers; at least not the Daily Post or Weekly.

4 people like this
Posted by Don't Understand
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 23, 2015 at 9:45 pm

I don't understand why a simple system used in Europe cant be used here as well? When a first responder nears heavy traffic or standing traffic, the cars on the left merge way left, the cars on the right merge way right and EMS passes in the middle without much delay. They call it "Rettungsgasse" "Emergency-Lane". I think stiff fines are needed to get people to follow the rules, as usual. But it sure beats standing in traffic. Here is a link to a youtube filmed in the cabin of Austrian EMS:
<Web Link;

6 people like this
Posted by Tell It Like It Is
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 23, 2015 at 10:16 pm

I hope people will start leaving their cars at home and start riding bicycles, taking public transit like trains, buses, BART, and airplanes to get where they need to go. The days when everybody in the bay area can just hop solo into their personal car to drive themselves to work are coming to an end. It's just too crowded on the roads now and, like rats in a cage, drivers of cars and motorcycles are becoming more and more aggressive and unpredictable in their behavior.

25 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:43 pm

We live near 101, between OrEx and Embarcadero. Traffic definitely has gotten insane with drivers cutting through residential streets and cutting through our city via OrEx and Embarcadero. Riding a bicycle is not safe. Hurried drivers will cut off law-abiding cyclists. Drivers consistently run red lights at Louis Rd. and Greer Road on OrEx and Embarcadero. Red-light cameras should be installed. There is a definite increase in traffic this school year, and I'm guessing most of the drivers do not live in Palo Alto.

8 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2015 at 11:49 am

I will admit that I have had to resort to neighborhood cut-throughs since the creek construction project has started. Since they have taken away the on-ramp/exit lane on 101N between Embarcadero and University, the off-ramp for Oregon/Embarcadero from 101N has devolved into a near-gridlock scenario during the evening commute.

Normally I would take the exit and then go on the Embarcadero West (third ramp) loop to travel home. Now it can take approximately 10 minutes of sitting in line due to the back up of cars coming from Oregon and Embarcadero wanting to get on 101N. So as a result, I exit to Oregon Expressway and then travel on Greer to Embarcadero. I apologize to those who live on Greer - but this is what I'm going to do until they fix it.

5 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 24, 2015 at 2:01 pm

@Crescent Park Dad: Okay, we'll let you slide :) I've seen that back-up and your route makes sense. I have to admit that I cut through Old PA to drive to Paly and wish I didn't have to, but Embarcadero is nuts. I guess my biggest gripe is that there is too much non-resident traffic. But in my frustration, I remind myself to be grateful that I live here while others still have an hour or more drive to reach home. Back in the 80s, Embarcadero had very few cars on it, so few that there was no traffic signal outside of T&C/Paly and crossing by foot from Paly to T&C was easy.

2 people like this
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2015 at 5:56 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Palo Alto Native - they're not cutting through, they are driving on roads, which is what roads are for. It doesn't matter where the drivers live.

CPD - apologizing for using the roads to get where you're going isn't necessary.

There are two worrying issues here:

1. People aren't pulling over for emergency vehicles they way that they're supposed to and the way that they used to. When they do, many don't pull long enough, either. I've been astonished at how bad it's gotten.

2. Heavy traffic also makes it harder for people to safely pull over, when they actually do so, especially in a construction zone. And there are a LOT of construction zones on the Peninsula these days.

12 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2015 at 6:51 pm

I think we're all trying to be considerate of our neighbors as much as we can. The point is that we'd rather use arterial roads to get across town (e.g., Embarcadero) instead of zig-zagging through neighborhoods.

6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 24, 2015 at 8:11 pm

Agree with Crescent Park Dad that we'd prefer not to bother residential neighborhoods. It's the same courtesy as not parking your car in front of a neighbor's house - it's legally a city street and we have a right to park anywhere, but it's more polite to park your car in front of your own house. To those who cannot understand that, maybe their mother didn't teach them manners. Proper etiquette is nearly extinct.

Part of the reason driving is so bad these days is that driver's ed is online now (and ineffective). We grew up attending drivers ed after school at Paly, watching the traffic movies and listening to lectures so we were very well-prepared to begin driving.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2015 at 8:22 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

No, really, "we" wouldn't. Whichever way is the safest, most efficient route is the one to take. Otherwise, what is the purpose of the roads? For children to play on? For public works crews to constantly fix? A space kitty cats and crows to bask in the sun or kids on razor scooters to have all to themselves?

I'm astonished that someone on a main thoroughfare like Greer thinks this way.

4 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Native
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 24, 2015 at 8:32 pm

@Hmmm: I live near Greer Road, not on Greer Road. And yes, the purpose of residential neighborhoods is for children to play in the neighborhood. At least in a nice family city like Palo Alto. I sure do appreciate the nice manners of the residents of Palo Alto.

Anyone notice that Palo Alto drivers don't impatiently honk their horns?

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Palo Alto Native - so you think that the *streets* are for children to play on? You ignored my specific question, which is why I'm asking.

I also learned driver's ed in Palo Alto, and there was nothing in the curriculum about the rudeness of cut through traffic. Is that what you learned? Currently, people don't just learn to drive online, and I suspect you know that. Driving lessons are required.

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