News

CHP: Motorcyclist splitting lanes on Highway 101 when fatal crash occurred

Victim identified as 27-year-old Union City man

A motorcyclist killed Tuesday in a crash on U.S. Highway 101 in Palo Alto appears to have been splitting lanes at a high rate of speed when the crash occurred, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The San Mateo County coroner's office identified the victim as Ronald Barbaran Garcia, 27, of Union City.

The CHP responded at 5:46 p.m. to a call of a motorcyclist down on the highway just north of Embarcadero Road.

According to California Highway Patrol Officer Art Montiel, Garcia was on a 2014 Yamaha motorcycle speeding south on the freeway during heavy traffic and was splitting between the two far left lanes.

He struck the rear of a 2015 Ford when traffic came to a stop and was ejected from his motorcycle, according to Montiel.

The driver of the Ford, a 36-year-old Milpitas woman, was not injured. She stayed at the scene to cooperate with the officers, police said. The motorcyclist 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 collision remains under investigation, but it does not appear alcohol or drugs played a factor in the crash, according to the CHP.

Tuesday evening's traffic was "terrible" and prevented first responders from reaching the scene sooner, Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman said.

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 they responded to Tuesday's fatal crash, Schapelhouman said.

Anyone who witnessed the crash is asked to call CHP Officer Bobby Grewal at 650-369-6261.

— Bay City News Service and Palo Alto Online staff

Comments

33 people like this
Posted by wise but old
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:43 am

I cannot believe that there is consideration of lane splitting becoming legal. Motorcyclists are at such a disadvantage already. As a careful driver I cannot possibly see someone on a motor bike who is speeding and weaving coming up quickly. In rush hour traffic you are really concentrating on the red lights ahead. I feel sorry for the person he hit, she will feel bad about this for the rest of her life, and she did nothing wrong.


21 people like this
Posted by Floyd
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:47 am

Lane splitting is endemic. It's getting worse in downtown. Bicyclists are even doing it in downtown traffic as well with total disregard for their own safety. It's become scary driving in downtown with all of this and the continuing construction blockage.


11 people like this
Posted by KT
a resident of Stanford
on Sep 23, 2015 at 11:58 am

This is so sad. I'm from the east coast (where this is unheard of) so imagine my surprise when I first encountered a lane splitter. I rolled my window down and asked him if he was insane! His reply was that the police and DMV actually encourage lane splitting. I always keep my eyes peeled for all cyclists. It is a dangerous world on our roads these days. So tragic.


10 people like this
Posted by excelongt
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:25 pm

This will get the attention of state legislators, forcing them to make lane splitting illegal in California. That would be a shame. As a motorcyclist, there are proven increases in safety to the motorcyclist when lane-splitting responsibly.


10 people like this
Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Lane-splitting is so common for many years that many people already accept is as being legal and bad practice. It should be illegal if it can be enforced, as this is not about the skills of the cyclist but rather the nature of lanes (intended for sequential use, not "split") and how cyclists of all varieties are simply more difficult to see. It doesn't help that some cyclists, albeit a minority percentage of the whole, break traffic speed and lane-changing laws with habitual regularity as their "rides" are often more agile than cars or trucks.


48 people like this
Posted by Unsafe, period
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:38 pm

I have ridden motorcycles for more than half my life. I used to think lane splitting was safe--until about twenty years ago.

What changed my mind was when, in slow and heavy traffic on northbound 101, a slow-moving driver opened his door to dump out his ashtray just as I was approaching on his left. I had to stop so fast to keep from slamming into or taking off this guy's car door that I locked up my rear wheel and fell into the car on MY left.

Since that accident ( the driver of the car I fell into got the license plate of the driver who open ended his car door), I have ridden directly behind the car in front of me. Lane splitting an put a motorcycle rider in a driver's blind spot--especially dangerous since bikes are a visibility issue anyway.

Just because lane splitting is legal does not at all mean it is a good idea.


4 people like this
Posted by Me
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:45 pm

Glad the woman was safe. Godspeed recovery lady!


8 people like this
Posted by Motorcyclist
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:49 pm

As with everything, there is a right/safe way to lane split and more than one wrong way. The CA CHP posted (then was forced to remove) an excellent guideline for lane splitting. See here Web Link and here Web Link.

As with automobiles that are speeding or driving recklessly, so too can motorcyclists drive dangerously. And sometimes they pay the ultimate price. Please do not judge all motorcyclists by the few who are irresponsible (loud exhaust pipes being another category).

Thanks for your consideration.
A motorcycle rider.


13 people like this
Posted by excelongt
a resident of Ventura
on Sep 23, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Lane-splitting is NOT illegal in california..and it needs to stay that way. I just wish more motorcyclists abided by the guidelines:

A rider can not exceed 50 mph and may not go faster than 15 mph above the speed of traffic.


19 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:10 pm

What lane splitters cannot qualify and therefore cannot guard against is how unnerving it can be to suddenly be sharing road space with a fast-moving (and sometimes very noisy) motorcycle. I dread when this happens and marvel that fatalities aren't more common. This is a sad story all the way around.


13 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Sep 23, 2015 at 1:50 pm

Wow, I always thought it was illegal. It should be illegal because it traumatizes the drivers who witness the fatality too.


8 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire Dispatch logs shows that this 911 call came in at 5:47:58 PM. At that time of day it is almost impossible for any fire engine to respond to 101 from the west side of 101. As always the nearest available equipment, regardless of their jurisdiction, responds. In this case it was MPFPD's Engine 2 which is stationed in East Palo Alto and MPFPD's Engine 77 which is stationed in Belle Haven.

The 101 sound walls within MPFPD's jurisdiction have, as a requirement set by the Fire District, access doors that permit emergency responders to access 101 from streets adjacent to the sound walls. Those access doors do not exist in the Palo Alto portions of 101 where this incident occurred.


2 people like this
Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:18 pm

[Portion removed.] This where Caltrans has narrowed the lanes for their 3 year bridge maintenance project. That is why the traffic is so bad too.


18 people like this
Posted by Atom
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2015 at 2:41 pm

Everyone please remember that lane sharing is legal and this poor person made a bad decision to split in an unsafe manner. We never remember the cool calm riders, we always remember the ones that abuse this privilege just as this gentleman did.

Lane sharing is pretty safe when done properly and until you actually lane share, you will never know what its like. Be safe out there!


1 person likes this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

I think lane splitting should be illegal and I don't hold rider responsible for all the problems, its very easy for a driver to not see a bike fast enough and cause an accident. Are there any statistics out there for deaths or accidents related directly to lane splitting?


19 people like this
Posted by Tell It Like It Is
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 23, 2015 at 7:50 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 are becoming more and more aggressive and unpredictable in their behavior.

Regarding motorcycles, car drivers (even the minority of car drivers that are not distracted by their phones, iPads, iPods, kids in the back seat, GPS's, makeup, shaving, eating, etc.), don't "see" motorcycles. It is a dangerous choice of conveyance no matter where the motorcycle rider places themselves. Lane splitting (within the law and guidelines) is by far, the safest way to do ride a motorcycle in traffic. The most dangerous place to be from my experience, is in the middle of the lane with a car in front and one behind. When the brake lights ahead of me come on, you need to head straight for the lane splitting position before you get sandwiched by the car driver behind you (who will say they never saw you).


25 people like this
Posted by Another Motorcyclist
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 24, 2015 at 9:46 am

I don't live in the area anymore but I have done motorcycle commutes many times on 101. I don't split lanes if I am not in a hurry and people have been bemused seeing me sit in traffic. Although I have split lanes when the traffic is absolutely stopped and that too at around 10-20mph, I think it's a fairly dangerous thing to do because most car drivers do not know about us until it is too close or too late. It is really unfortunate that so many motorcyclists abuse the law and drive too fast and unsafely. As motorcyclists we must remember that we can only lose in any collision and we must be extra cautious in traffic. It is already bad enough we have texters, distracted drivers, bad drivers and tailgaters to deal with. This is so sad all around: for the family that lost a young man, for the woman who has to overcome the mental trauma of being part of this death and for the rest of us who have to continue to commute and hope not to be a part of something like this in the future.


11 people like this
Posted by observer
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Sep 24, 2015 at 10:08 am

This young man made a bad decision with speed, true. Please don't put all the blame on motorcyclists w/ lane splitting. As a driver, I see plenty of impatient motorists quick-change lanes without signalling to jump into open spots, especially during heavy traffic hours. Distracted driving, esp the large number of people I see illegally talking on their phones and those texting, is a danger as well. Motorcyclists are at a disadvantage during a collision with a car. Lane splitting is currently legal in CA, and encouraged by CA DMV. Poor car drivers are just as responsible for collisions as motorcyclists in this state.


8 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2015 at 11:38 am

For those who say lane splitting is a safe activity...then why is it that only California allows this to happen? Even New Hampshire (Live Free or Die), where they still don't have a motorcycle helmet law, doesn't allow lane splitting.


16 people like this
Posted by Another rider
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 24, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Lane splitting is legal and common in nearly every country in Europe and Asia. The ban in most US states is the exception, not the rule.

Done at a reasonable speed and with sound judgement it can be safe, helping riders avoid getting rear ended and reducing congestion on our crowded freeways.

If car drivers are surprised by this they should be more observant and aware of their surroundings. Stay in your lane, signal when you change lanes, check your mirrors/turn your head before changing lanes, and drive predictably and lane sharing will have no impact on your drive whatsoever.

That said, even legal activities can be done unsafely, and this rider wasn't exercising this privilege responsibly..which is how most accidents happen (excessive speed, distraction, alcohol...all abuses of the driving privilege).

Let's not overreact, this is a tragedy but not an endemic problem.


10 people like this
Posted by Johnny
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Everyone wants to blame lane splitting but the bridge construction plus the carpool lane has crushed rush hour traffic into three lanes. I question the management of these highways. This 2 year lane closure is devastating for traffic, even the firefighters couldn't meet their own standards. At least get rid of the HOV lane. It often moves fast while the rest of traffic is idle, which is dangerous when cars try to move to the left. I suspect this is how he was hit.


8 people like this
Posted by Tell It Like It Is
a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 24, 2015 at 3:11 pm

@Johnny

read the article(s).
He wasn't "hit".


Like this comment
Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 24, 2015 at 3:20 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2015 at 5:04 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Johnny - the fire dept missed their objective by just a few minutes, and it was most likely already too late. I am surprised that in a construction zone in heavy traffic that they arrived as quickly as they did.

The construction won't last two years, it goes for months at a time, then stops, then will start again.

The lane-splitting allowed him to speed, which was illegal and dangerous. And as Tell It says, he wasn't hit. He actually rear-ended a car and fell off his bike and died. He, by himself, was in the wrong, or so it currently seems.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Peter - in your opinion, what will it take for Palo Alto to add some doors along the sound walls? It seems it could come in handy for all sorts of emergencies, including flooding.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 24, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Being late is never acceptable to a firefighter.

And they are not sitting their calmly when their engine is blocked by traffic from reaching an incident.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 24, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Peter - in your opinion, what will it take for Palo Alto to add some doors along the sound walls?"

Given that the sound walls are already built CalTRANS would probably look to the city to foot the entire bill.

I suspect it would take 3-4 years for this to get through the City's approval and budgeting process.

Here is the CalTRANS regulation:
"1102.8 Emergency Access Considerations in Noise Barrier Design
(1) General. In addition to access gates being constructed in noise barriers to satisfy the Department's maintenance needs, they may also be constructed to provide a means to access the freeway in the event of a catastrophic event which makes the freeway impassable for emergency vehicles. These gates are not intended to be used as an alternate means of emergency access to adjacent neighborhoods. Access to those areas should be planned and provided from the local street system. Small openings may also be provided in the noise barrier which would allow a fire hose to be passed through it. Local emergency response agencies should be contacted early in the design process to determine the need for emergency access gates and fire hose openings.""


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 24, 2015 at 5:44 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The access doors in the 101 sound walls within the jurisdiction of the MPFPD were the result of the Fire District reaching out to CalTrans after the 1989 earthquake. These sound wall access doors then set the standard for the rest of the State.


The Fire District also worked with CalTrans to have removable barrier installed in the 101 median near the Willow Road overpass so that a surface level East-West connection could be made if the overpass became unusable.

Sadly few other fire jurisdictions have done the same.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Peter - thank you for this information. I wonder if a suit against a city for not having doors might result if traffic continues to be such an impediment that help can't arrive in time for the injured.

It'll also be interesting to see what happens with the emergency responders using motorcycles idea. Talk about putting one's life on the line even more.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 25, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Here are some pertinent articles:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Strong citizen input would be helpful in getting such a program implemented here.

P.S. If MPFPD decides to implement a Motor Medic program I will personally donate the first motorcycle. And Ray Mueller has also pledged $500 to support such a program.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 25, 2015 at 3:58 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"I wonder if a suit against a city for not having doors might result if traffic continues to be such an impediment that help can't arrive in time for the injured. "

I doubt it; elected officials cannot be sued for being stupid.


10 people like this
Posted by buzweston
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:01 pm

buzweston is a registered user.

Those who have studied the research (University of California - Berkeley and American Motorcyclist Association) know that responsible lane splitting is safer than following in line. Both have their risks, and some motorcyclists are irresponsible. Most of us are trying our best to stay alive. We appreciate your help.

To those who don't like lane splitting, please be rational. Crowding a motorcyclist is illegal and dangerous. What is the point of being anything less than helpful and courteous?

That being said, I hope that everyone can agree that each motorist should do their part to make things as safe as possible for everyone. Lane splitting is legal in California, and many of us do it. To those who give us extra space, THANK YOU!


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:33 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Peter - certainly they can't, but a modern city with its own fire dept. might be held accountable for not making it safer, faster and more efficient for their fire dept. to do its job.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

From: Peter Carpenter
Subject: There Ought to be a Law
Date: September 25, 2015 at 4:37:51 PM PDT
To: supervisor.simitian@bos.sccgov.org

Lane splitting by motorcycles and lane changing by all vehicles should be prohibited in highway construction zones.


2 people like this
Posted by Gabrodymd
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Gabrodymd is a registered user.

Studies by the CHP do show show that lane splitting by motorcycles is safe if the cyclist does not exceed the speed of the traffic by more than 10 mph. The salient point here is that this cyclist was moving at a high rate of speed and creating a dangerous situation. Because lane splitting is safe within the 10 mph differential CHP does not frown on the practice. Unfortunately I have never seen an office cite a cyclist who is lane splitting at a high rate of speed, which is very common.


Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

But we don't actually know that the rider wouldn't have crashed even if he was only going approx 10 miles over the speed of traffic. And of course, he likely wouldn't have gotten up to his high speed without lanesplitting.


4 people like this
Posted by Be Kind PA
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Sep 25, 2015 at 6:24 pm

Be Kind PA is a registered user.

Going back for a moment to the topic of lane splitting, I think some clarification needs to be made. Lane splitting is NOT riding along on the lane divider between two lanes, it is sharing a lane, WITHIN the lane, with other vehicles.

My recollection from many years back was that the motorcycle had to be fully within one lane, including the handlebars, except when actively changing lanes. It was not legal to simply drive between the lanes constantly weaving back and forth between lanes, or to ride along with the bike occupying two lanes at the same time (even if just the handlebars jutting into the next lane).

I think if all motorcyclists utilized lane-splitting legally we would not so much objection to it.


2 people like this
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 26, 2015 at 10:13 am

Paul is a registered user.

Two things. Most motorcyclists are very aware of the cars around them, and if you make eye contact through the side mirror, they will almost always acknowledge, appreciate the signal, and then slip by. Message: be cool. Next. There is a very real potential problem with lane splitting which no one here mentioned. I was driving to the airport in Sao Paolo Brazil a few years ago, and I found a steady stream of motorcycles lane splitting on my right, exactly between lanes 1 and 2. The problem was that I needed to switch lanes to exit, and it was literally impossible to do so because of the constant stream of motorcycles passing on my right. I had to carefully time my move to make it to the next lane, and luckily I got out in time. Message: what makes sense when a few do it, does not make sense if everyone does it.


4 people like this
Posted by Chip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 12, 2015 at 12:12 pm

Chip is a registered user.

Last week I was driving on 101 Northbound @ up to 12 mph with frequent full stops in the heavy traffic. I regularly check the rear view mirror & wasn't considering a lane change, but it was very disconcerting to have a zigzagging motorcyclist zooming up & around me at a high speed. A few seconds later, another cyclist took the identical path, changing lanes several times & driving on lane dividers to circumvent slow car traffic. It's extremely difficult to see cycles approaching from behind at speeds so much beyond the recommended 10 mph over cars.
I'd like to see that irresponsible cycle-driving ticketed but CHP cars can't get through traffic to do so. it's been a long time since I've seen a bike patrolman on a freeway during rush hours.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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