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Bicyclist 'unsafely turned' before fatal crash

Original post made on Dec 21, 2010

The accident that killed a Los Altos Hills bicyclist on Alpine Road in November occurred after the bicyclist "unsafely turned" on the road and toppled in front of a truck, according to a report released this week by the California Highway Patrol.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 9:55 AM

Comments (68)

Posted by not believable
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2010 at 10:11 am

I still cannot believe that the bicyclist tried to pass a truck going uphill. Did the cops just take the truck driver's word because the bicyclist could not give a statement?

Posted by Use-More-Digital-Technology
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2010 at 10:22 am

Given how inexpensive digital video equipment is, there may come a time that big-rigs will be outfitted with video equipment to monitor the driving skills of the drivers, and to be available for forensic accident analysis. Being able to know whether a driver is safe, or not, would be in everyone's interests.

It might pay for Palo Alto, and/or Santa Clara County/San Mateo County to experiment with this sort of surveillance equipment in areas where there is a high likelihood of accidents (such as bike/vehicle).

Posted by fellow cyclist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 10:54 am

It is sad that this accident resulted in Lauren Ward's death.

The article repeatedly mentions that the truck driver has been involved in accidents in the past, but it makes no mention of the cyclist's past history which seems especially relevant in this case.

I encourage the author of the article to publish a follow-up with information about past incidents involving the cyclist, since the cyclist was deemed to be at fault by the police.

Posted by lawman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 11:13 am

What a bizarre un-explanation. How does a cyclist make an "unsafe turn" while going on a straight road (on the left hand side of the truck) and then fall to the right (where she gets run over by the left hand side of the truck), and how did the CHP make such a determination? Hard to believe there were no percipient witnesses other than the truck driver (who said he did not even see her until after he heard the bump of running into her)?

To "fellow cyclist": there have been a number of previous articles in area newspapers recounting Ms. Ward's cycling experience.

Posted by seeking truth
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 11:14 am

I find that the probability is very low for an experienced safety-conscious cyclist to inadvertently veer/fall into the side/front of a moving big rig truck.

I would hope that the CHP would use both physical evidence as well as testimony in drawing their conclusion.

It would be very helpful for Palo Alto Online to:
1. share more details from the CHP report, such as which part of the truck did the collision occur, and where exactly on the road was the truck, victim and bike parts found?
2. conduct an interview of the investigating officer to understand their logic in drawing their conclusion.

Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 11:17 am

a tragedy ... but this news report doesn't seem to make sense nor does it say if other witnesses were ever located to corroborate the sequence of events.

the article appears to state: bike is on left of truck; truck is looking and moving to right; bike and truck collide.

it certainly sounds like the truck is overtaking the bike.

Apparently there is a redacted CHP report released (it omits Cause and Recommendation, accoding to the Mercury News) does anyone have a link to these?

Posted by ob
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2010 at 11:44 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by janet
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 12:43 pm

This sounds completely unbelievable

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm

This seems to make perfect sense to me. At this spot, cyclists have to cross from the right hand side of the road to the left so it may not be a 90 degree turn, but turn it is. If this was done without enough due care and attention then I can understand what happened quite easily.

Posted by MPCyclist
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Based on everything I've read about this tragic accident so far, the conclusions drawn by investigating authorities appear to lack credibility as well as defy the laws of physics. I realize that I don't have access to all the facts and can only extrapolate based on published reports and my own experience riding through that intersection but, based on that, putting the full burden of blame on an experienced cyclist seems totally nonsensical. I would definitely like to see both the initial report and the investigative report if they are made available.

Whatever the final determination, the fact remains that this is a dangerous intersection for bicyclists and a dedicated bike lane may be helpful in preventing additional needless injuries or deaths.

Posted by Cor
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm

If the truck driver does not see a bicyclist who is riding right in front of him, even if it is in the next lane, then how can he ever drive his big rig safely? It was not night or the rider was wearing camo, so how can you miss such a big bright target? Was the driver distracted? On the phone maybe? Passing at unsafe distance and knocking the cyclist over, dragging her and her bike with the left side of his truck? Big rigs typically need to swing left before making a right turn to get clearance at the inside of the curve. If he did not look and failed to see the cyclist then it is understandable that he might have entered the next lane, causing a big surprise for the bicyclist and taking her life.
As someone on another list suggested: as long as you kill 'em dead, you get to tell the story...
What is important here is to find evidence - in which position are the marks on the road, did the truck enter the lane of the through-cyclist during his preparation for a turn? Or did the cyclist move over too far or unsafely and hit the truck?

Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 21, 2010 at 2:25 pm

This sounds very, very wrong. Why would an experienced cyclist suddenly fall off her bike on a flat, straight road? As was mentioned earlier, she would have to have been moving from right to left to continue up Alpine. Why did the driver not see her? She could not have just materialized out of nowhere. She would not have been overtaking the truck. This just does not make sense. If this is he driver's 3rd fatality, I hope he has found another line of work.

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 2:39 pm

The accident sounds very believable to me. Someone on the side of a large same color object might not recognize a form (in this case a truck side) because there are no delineating lines apparent. Our eyes do not "see" objects without form . That is why accidents with buses or large walls and small cars for example might and have occurred. Sometimes we wonder "how come the driver didn't see this or that? It's because as cognitive scientists have concluded, we only see in context. (that's also why we cannot see but one object if a same color object is inside another with the same color). Mrs Ward may have been a great and careful cyclist but cognitive mistakes we all make.
Btw, I made a drawing following the reported CHP observations and logic and seems about right because of the injuries Mrs. ward suffered and the way they described what her bike position.
Not believable,
the road stretch of the accident is NOT uphill and there is NO suggestion that she tried to overtake the truck. It's likely that she saw the truck on her side suddenly and knee-jerk reaction tried to move away from it, losing equilibrium in the process and falling. The rest is horrifying, but it doesn't make the truck driver guilty.

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Cor, are you aware of the physical limitations and the large blind spots trucks have? Not even cars riding alongside trucks are visible to truck drivers if they are small. A pedestrian or biker stands no chance of being seen by truck drivers or even large SUV drivers. You've got to be careful and not place yourself where you can't be seen easily. As we know many school districts have equipped their buses with a crossing arm so that a child or an adult is forced to cross at some distance of the front of the bus, because otherwise they can't be seen.
Likewise bikers should not place themselves where they cannot be seen.
I'm afraid the laws of physics do not really make exceptions for bikers.

Posted by cyclist
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:00 pm

At this intersection, cyclists have to cross trafic from the right to left, but the rider apparently had completed that: she was on the left.

Here's a theory: Truck driver downshifted, causing the truck to backfire, or make a loud noise just as he passed her (truck needs to slow down for 270 deg on-ramp and then climb the uphill ramp). The loud noise startled the cyclist. She instinctively, abruptly, looked over her right shoulder (where the sound was coming from). This threw her off balance and she fell, just in front of the truck. A tragedy, but not necessarily with any villians.

I'd hope the police checked the driver's cell phone records to make sure he wasn't making a call.

Let's be honest: riding a bike isn't as safe as being inside a Volvo.

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm

The Almanac has another piece of information. Here it is :
"Asked to comment on the CHP's latest conclusion, bicycling advocate and Menlo Park resident Steve Schmidt noted that "in the absence of other witnesses, I guess they did the best they could."

There is a hint that another vehicle -- a "side zoomer," Mr. Schmidt said -- may have been trying to get around the truck and on to the freeway. Such a driver would have approached Ms. Ward from her left side and could have scared her such that she fell or turned into the truck. "We don't know," he added. "It's all speculation."

There is conceptual agreement among the stakeholders on a striping change at this intersection to improve safety for bicyclists, Mr. Schmidt said. "

Posted by Careful driver
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Seems to me that the"bicyclists rule the road crowd" cannot accept the fact that it was the deceased fault.they are still intent on pinning the blame on the truck driver.too bad. Case closed.

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm

One of the accidents in the truck driver was the victim of a car that crossed the center divider and crashed against him .
By what standard of reasoning do you consider that Mr. Vera was at fault?
If you want to people to be fair to you you have to be fair to them. It looks as if you are willing to blame the truck driver for the accident in which clearly he cannot possibly be at fault. Someone crashes against you in your own lane and you are at fault?

Posted by MP resident
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:32 pm

How did they conclude that she fell over in front of his path? Perhaps he ran her over - not too hard to believe considering he never even saw her. Never even saw her. How can anyone conclude that he is without fault if he never even saw a bicyclist in broad daylight. The collision was in the front of his truck, he was travelling 10-15 mph. Sounds like she was in front of him, and he never even saw her.

Posted by BikerDad
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

The only person who gets anything to say is the truck driver. Cyclist is dead. There are many such "accident reports" that get discussed like this. The truck driver has enormous incentive to tell the story to his advantage.

Referring to Google Maps, the area/intersection in question is a traffic situation infamous to bicyclists -- the freeway on-ramp on the right hand side of the road. Bicyclist is riding in the right hand lane, near the right shoulder, as required and legal. Bicyclist must proceed across a traffic lane where cars/trucks make the right turn to the on-ramp. Traffic-smart bicyclists check, check, and recheck behind them for a car advancing on them preparing to make the right turn to the on-ramp.

Bicyclist does not need to make a "turn". Bicyclist is merely proceeding in his ordinary traffic lane, while the truck is making a right-hand turn out of his "lane" in traffic.

The "safe way" to do this on a bike is to "take the lane" early and cross the right-hand exit lane as expeditiously as possible so as to minimize time in the death zone.

From the truck driver's point of view, a bicyclist which had been to his right, which he likely did not see, having admitted that he was busy checking his REARVIEW MIRROR is now in front of his truck in the middle of his "lane". The truck failed to take account of a vehicle (namely, the bike) in front of him as he planned to pass the vehicle (bike) and make a turn.

I seriously do not understand why the truck driver was not cited for an unsafe pass of another vehicle. That alone would bump it up to vehicular manslaughter.

To buy the truck driver's account, we have to assume that the bike swerved to the right (after having "taken the lane" and accomplished clearing the "death zone" of the on-ramp turn) in front of the truck for no particular reason, and then the truck just heard a thump as the bike miraculously "fell" under the wheels.

This is total crap. Driver got a huge break on this one.

Bicyclists: be extra careful, because there are people out there who drive like this.
Drivers: see the bikes as well as the cars.

Posted by Jim
a resident of University South
on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm

It continues to amaze me that the people who make comments in this forum do not seem to do much "homework" before they state their usually not very well thought-out comments.

Mr. Vera was involved in one accident which killed the other driver. The other driver had crossed over into Mr. Vera's lane and hit Mr. Vera head on. He was not at fault. Wrong place, wrong time.

I am a bit hazy about the other accident, except I do remember that Mr. Vera was cleared of any fault.

Why would we think the California Highway Patrol would do anything, but report the facts of this accident.

Bike riders, and I am one, continually break traffic laws by not stopping at stop signs, not using hand singles and generally acting like they own the road.

Obviously, I am sorry about Mrs. Ward's death. It sounds like she made a fatal mistake.

Posted by Careful driver
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Biker dad proves my closed.end of story.those that disagree should come forward with proof, not conjecture and lose the "driver has to be at fault since bicyclists never do anything wrong" attutude

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 4:21 pm

as per BikerDad's instructions truck drivers and all drivers will forthwith be equipped with the following:

eyes that can simultaneously and continuously see point by point within a 360º degree angle (sorry let's make it 720º just to be a little safer)

Rear mirrors that do not need to be consulted-they'll not move to the front but will move above the truck and with it and be called to stream into the truck

Trucks which will have the ability to move each part independently in any direction simultaneously including above and below if applicable, as dictated by necessity

Truck drivers with God like abilities only need apply

Posted by Chrisco
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 6:06 pm

If you want to murder someone, just get them on a bike and run them over. Time and time again, this is what we see: total exoneration, maybe a traffic summons at worst.

This report and conclusion is ridiculous on its face. Apparently, the only evidence for the conclusion is the truck driver's testimony. And, surprise, the cyclist decided to turn directly into a superloud, gigantic truck. Yeah, right.

Posted by Deborah Goldeen
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 21, 2010 at 6:21 pm

As a veteran cyclist, this just sounds absurd. The truck clipped the cyclist.

Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 21, 2010 at 6:28 pm

Chrisco, Just as it's unbelievable that a cyclist would turn into a truck, it is also unbelievable that a truck would plow through a cyclist.
The CHP made the conclusion. I'm sure anyone can view the report.

Whenever I'm riding my bike, I always remember a quote from a fellow cyclist, "be careful, bumpers bite hard!"

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 7:06 pm

to turn a bike wheel even 1º left or right for it to clip a target. If the target is moving the biker will lose equilibrium and fall into the direction it turned. Steve Schmidt, bicycling devotee, gave a possible scenario with great wisdom and no bias. We need more of him to make biking safer. Here are his commentsagain since some posters prefer to ignore reality in favor of self-righteousness:

""Asked to comment on the CHP's latest conclusion, bicycling advocate and Menlo Park resident Steve Schmidt noted that "in the absence of other witnesses, I guess they did the best they could."

There is a hint that another vehicle -- a "side zoomer," Mr. Schmidt said -- may have been trying to get around the truck and on to the freeway. Such a driver would have approached Ms. Ward from her left side and could have scared her such that she fell or turned into the truck. "We don't know," he added. "It's all speculation."

There is conceptual agreement among the stakeholders on a striping change at this intersection to improve safety for bicyclists, Mr. Schmidt said. "

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 7:09 pm

sorry, my first sentence should have read : It's enough to turn a bike wheel even 1º left or right for it to clip a target."

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2010 at 7:28 pm

Some posters really want t make the truck driver guilty at all costs.

The report points out that in the view of the forensics of the case Mrs. Ward fell first (her injuries are consistent with this) and was thereafter run over by the truck. Maybe she got startled by something momentarily, we don't know. But we know that she fell first and as the report indicates it was after falling that the collision occurred. In other words, the collision didn't make her fall. She was already on the ground. Very experienced people are more likely to get into sports accidents because they feel so confident about their abilities that they can become momentarily lax. Whatever happened was Mrs. Ward's responsibility as the report concludes and she payed dearly with her life. What must be done is to work for better conditions for all road users, in particular bike lanes in both directions on that road.

Posted by Seen It Before
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 21, 2010 at 7:32 pm

As many of you, I wasn't there. But, since that hasn't stopped anyone from pontificating. I'll add my thoughts to the conversation.

I've had numerous occasions where a bike rider has turned in front of me - from my right across the front of my car to make a left without even looking - I've only had seconds to react. It happened recently in front of a school crossing guard who started yelling at the cyclist - who paid no heed. I remember the accident that took another cyclist's life several years ago in Menlo Park - she crossed from the right in front of the car to make a left. Again all the bike riders came out of the wood work to blame the car driver with many of the same comments as above.

I've had bicyclists bike in front of me in the middle of the street - instead of the bike lane - then go on the sidewalk then ride right into the crosswalk then back onto the street - and these aren't kids. I sometimes have to stop my car dead in the street because I can't figure out where the bike will be next. Bike riders around here seem to above the rules of the road and it's never their fault or their poor judgement.

I'm sorry that this person died, but to blame the truck driver or a phantom driver who clipped her as if bicyclists are never at fault is wrong.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2010 at 7:49 pm

I am very happy to read that some cyclists on this forum acknowledge publicly how dangerous the sport can be. It is so tragic that she died; I can't imagine what her family friends are experiencing right now.

I feel terrible for the trucker, too. I hope that if he indeed was not at fault he can get retrained for another profession.

It's very easy to make truck drivers the villains, & I hate to drive past them in my small truck - it's scary. The constant mistakes we all make on the road - pedestrians, drivers, cyclists - are usually immediately correctable, with no dangerous results. But w/the increasing cycling & motor vehicle traffic, the cyclist is usually going to lose. I cycled Alpine Road a lot as a teen, but quit due to how dangerous it was. I really, really hope that some of these popular cycling routes can be augmented or fixed so that cyclists are safer- I'd pay extra taxes for that.

Posted by William Robinson
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 21, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Lauren Ward perished on Alpine Road in my opinion because the huge truck frightened her and she reacted in a way that caused her to collide with the left side of the truck. If both were moving, they both had just emerged from beneath the shadow of the 280 overpass. The truck's brakes and/or "jake brake" upon slowing for the right turn could have frightened Lauren. Perhaps she thought a truck was on her left so she (sadly) took evasive action (or just fell) to the right in the path of the truck. Sounds bouncing unpredictably from beneath the overpass could also have contributed to confusion and the regrettable loss of a wonderful human.

I have ridden over 60,000 miles in the mid peninsula and have often been frightened by someone honking nearby. My only minor accident in traffic was caused by an impatient driver honking at me being in the left turn pocket. Fortunately, the motorists did not run me over.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 21, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Question for cyclists: given the number of injuries and deaths of cyclists by cars, what is the lure of riding on roads such as Alpine? I'm not saying riding down El Camino or Univ Ave are attractive options, but I mean where there are big rigs, few or no pedestrians, roads that until recently were mostly used by cars. It seems to me that the risks & the stress of death or injury greatly outweigh the benefits, but given that I haven't ridden Alpine Rd in years, am I clearly missing what is the lure of it & similar roads.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2010 at 7:17 am

In car-bike crashes the biker is found at fault 75% of the time when there are no other witnesses. When there are other witnesses the driver is found at fault 66% of the time. The reasons are survivor bias, anti-bike prejudice (conscious or not) and lack of competence by the cops when doing an investigation involving bikes. In this case there were no witnesses so I am not surprised at the result. The family has hired experts to do their own analysis and has come to a different conclusion than the CHP and they are filing a suit.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 22, 2010 at 7:31 am

This article makes absolutely no sense. As someone who rides his bike along that stretch several times a week, I can state with a great deal of confidence that this version is logistically improbable. It seems like the police investigators decided to believe the driver's version and turned it into the official explanation for the accident. I am certain of one thing-it's only a matter of time before this driver kills again.

Posted by Careful driver
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 22, 2010 at 7:39 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Careful driver
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 22, 2010 at 10:39 am

Looks like the Ward family is suing now:

Web Link

"It alleges that the Nov. 4 crash on Alpine Road near Portola Valley was a result of Vera's negligence in driving directly into the path of Ward's bike."

Naturally their claim is just the opposite. I assume that they will have to provide proof for their claims which run counter to the results of the police investigation. Of course they hired experts that gave them the results that they wanted, while the police investigation is an unbiased look at the accident.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

There's nothing new here. In nearly every fatal accident between a vehicle, particularly a commercial one and a bicycle, the police report ends up blaming the cyclist. A few years ago, while riding my bike and obeying all the road rules, I was a victim of a hit-and-run. The driver violated all kind of traffic and road laws and rules while in the process of clipping me and fleeing the scene. He was caught and arrested. Shortly afterward, I started receiving aggressive phone calls from his attorney(I can only assume that he got my unlisted home phone number from the police, which I had given it to when they were making their accident report), demanding that I contact the judge and ask him to drop the case. Shortly after I refused and told him to jump off the nearest bridge, the judge dismissed the case, apparently because I was not cooperating with the defense attorney. This is pretty much what a cyclist, dead or alive, can expect from the police and the judicial system after an accident, so this improbable report is not surprising at all.

Posted by bikes2work
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Dec 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Doesn't anyone on this forum notice how tractor trailers usually veer to the left when making a right hand turn? If he didn't see her, he just veered left and ran her over. End of story. CHP is wrong.

Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm

@ Daniel - question: Did the judge give you that specific reason for dismissing, or is that the conclusion you came to? I would say your experience sounds highly improbably except I know how slimy attorneys can be. I am glad you survived & am so sorry to hear how terrible the aftermath went for you.

My partner was hit by a car in downtown PA last winter, while not violating any laws & was cycling. Luckily, the driver was going slow. Partner still has bruise on arm, 10 months later. We never reported it, because my partner was ok, but I think not reporting it was a mistake. If driver hadn't been going slow, it would've been much worse. I take perverse pleasure from the fact my partner left big dent on driver's hood - after all, driver dented my spouse!

As a kid, I was hit by a UPS truck while on my bike. It reversed into my bike, my wheel caught under its bumper. All this in front of a police dept, w/many cops as witnesses. Bike ruined, I was fine. We didn't sue, they didn't even give me a new bike. In those days, people weren't as litigious. My brother was also hit BY A COP walking his bike through a crosswalk as a youngster. Can't recall the aftermath of that, except he was ok & there wasn't much drama. I think he got a new bike out of it.

That's part of why I posed my above question: Why cyclists ride in such dangerous areas, for pleasure purposes? Given my history ,I think it's a logical question :-) Even though I loved cycling & my partner does, I see many more cyclists violating laws around town - except for speeding - cars speed all the time - so my bias is usually in favor of the driver when it comes to cycling in non-commute areas. It helps to get a different perspective.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 22, 2010 at 12:57 pm

@Hmmm, no, the judge never communicated with me before dismissing the case. It was such a clear-cut case where I was doing everything right and he was being unbelievably reckless, that I was being somewhat ironic. The attorney should never have been given my phone number by the police. The driver was a Stanford student, so I wonder if his parents hadn't pulled off some strings, as I have no other explanation for dismissing a hit=and-run case before trial and not making the offender suffer any consequences. Like I said, vehicle-bicycle collisions are nearly always ruled in favor of the vehicle. In my case, there was no way to exonerate the driver, who was so blatantly reckless, so the case never even went to trial.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 22, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Additionally, an assistant DA assigned to the case contacted me about an impending deposition I would need to give, and then I never heard from the DA office again. They never even bothered to inform me that the case had been dismissed or why. I found out on my own. This is pretty much the justice a cyclist can expect after a collision.

Posted by A Bit Bitter
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 1:33 pm

It is amazing the number of people who, #1 think they are much more clever than the experts who assessed the actual scene, and #2 think that no matter what anytime a person on a bike is hit it's the other persons fault.

Neither are true. I'm sorry this woman died, it's tragic (though I have no further respect for her law suit happy family). But for every ten bikes I see on the road 8 of them are breaking laws in one way or another - running stop signs, running lights, pulling passed the curb while waiting for a light, riding down the middle of the street instead of the shoulder, cutting in front of your car, and wearing those ridiculous biker pants (ok that last one isn't illegal but it shoud be - face it dude, you are NOT Lance Armstrong, put some grown up pants on so I don't have to cover my eyes while I try to drive around you).

Bikes should be illegal except on roads that have specific lanes for them. And bikers should use common sense on the road and with their wardrobes.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Unfortunately there have been way too many incompetent police investigations and there is good reason to suspect them in this case. The police summary is that there is "a mystery" as to why the bicyclist swerved in front of the truck. The simpler solution involves no mystery and the inattentive truck driver ran over her.

Eight of ten car drivers I see are breaking the rules of the road: speeding, following too close, not signalling for turns, rolling through stop signs and red lights, blocking crosswalks, etc.

Cars should be illegal except on roads that have lanes exclusively for their use (e.g. freeways).

Posted by Karellen
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Maybe we should ban cars as well, since motorists do all of those things plus speeding. Grow up.

Also cyclists are not required to ride on the shoulder as you imply.

Posted by A Bit Bitter
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 5:27 pm

All roads are inherently built for cars. Unless there is a sign saying "no cars". In which case you can bike away.

And yes, cyclists are supposed to ride on the shoulder. Not down the middle of the road. They cannot drive the speed limit, and thus should not be in front of cars.

I think your shorts are too tight.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 22, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Not all roads are build for cars. Freeways are built for cars only, that's it. Bicycles are as legitimate a transportation method as cars. Cyclist don't always obey the rules, but if you watch traffic on any road, you will see that nearly a 100 percent of car drivers break the rules, and do it day in and day out. This police investigation of this tragedy deserves zero trust from the public. I know the exact spot where the truck killed the cyclist, I have been riding along it for may years now and their conclusion is totally absurd and improbable. Actually, their conclusion seems to uniform when a cyclist is killed or injured by a car:it's the cyclist's fault. They have basically adopted the driver's version, someone who had killed another cyclist in he past and was involved in a number of accidents and traffic violations. It's high time to limit cars to designated roads, like freeways and highways.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I don't know why you say all roads are built for cars. California Streets and Highways Code section 885.2.f says "The bicycle is a legitimate transportation mode on public roads and highways".

Web Link

Although the previous section does admit that "The design and maintenance of many of our bridges and highways present physical obstacles to use by bicycles".

The Vehicle Code allows bicyclists to use shoulders but does not require it. Please study the law before you post incorrect statements.
Web Link

So if a road is built for cars, that is a design flaw according to California law.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Use this link instead of the one listed above for Streets and Highways Code Section 885:

Web Link

Posted by Too Bitter?
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 22, 2010 at 7:48 pm

A bit, I think YOUR shorts may be too tight! Loosen up!

Posted by pedestrian in traffic
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2010 at 8:00 pm

PLease stop this nonsense. As a pedestrian I get no respect from bikers far more than cars even on pedestrian only designated thoroughfares. Evidently, any collision has consequences more severe for the weaker. That is why when hiking I do not cross Alpine road and it's not that I don't have that legal right. It's that I am not that stupid. I understand the consequences for me, never mind a biker or driver. We have the legal right to do somethings but it seems that the prudent measure the risk of a bad outcome even for a simple accident (glare that blinds momentarily, an animal forcing an expected turn, the fact that humans cannot see 360º, a startling noise that deviates attention, etc).
Donald, the code also allows pedestrians to use the shoulder in some conditions, but since I don't want to be run over by bikes I don't walk on it. I don't want to force a confrontation between a weaker shoulder user (me) and a vehicle at a speed that can kill me. Should I insist on my right just because I like to walk?

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm

Rights are like muscles: if they aren't exercised they will disappear. And, like muscles, they need to be exercised judiciously and with discipline.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2010 at 10:01 pm


Quoting you from a prior post:

"I know the exact spot where the truck killed the cyclist"

If you do, then you know there is a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian path there which goes under the 280 on-ramp and is far removed from the roadway.

Separate infrastructure for bicyclists makes sense from a safety standpoint and from an efficiency standpoint.

If there were laws requiring bicyclists to use dedicated infrastructure, when available, this tragedy wouldn't have happened.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2010 at 6:57 am

Outside Observer: if you knew anything about bike path standards you would know that the path along Alpine fails to meet basic safety criteria. This path is too narrow, low overhead clearance, blind curves, etc. It is fine for pedestrians or bicylists poking along at walking speed, but no more. Some states have laws requiring the use of bike paths if they exist, but the paths must meet the safety standards for the law to apply to them.

Posted by A bit bitter
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 23, 2010 at 8:09 am

This is getting way off track.

A woman was killed and that is sad.

We take inherent risks when we wake up in the morning. We get in our cars and trust our lives to the mechanical workings of our vehicles, and to the proper driving of everyone else on the road. We get on a bike and drive on a road designed to promote the flow of car traffic, we assume risk. She took a risk getting on her bike and riding on that street. As one person said, just because you have a right to do something doesn't make it wise. Is riding your bike around downtown Palo Alto during the busy commute hour legal? Sure. But it is stupid - really, really stupid. I've seen many near accidents and several actual accidents. I am not familiar with the area this lady was biking in (hence my PA example), but should she have been there?

You talk about bike lane standards. I agree that perhaps certain roads should be required to promote better access with bikes, at least safer access. But, I think bikers should have to pay for the roadway improvements. They should have to register their bikes with the DMV and pay a fee, less than cars of course, but a fee none the less. If you are going to insist on having rights and "sharing" the road, you should share in the safety, maintenance, and improvements of said roads.

Posted by Truth Needed
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

@Daniel, Donald, A bit bitter, and everyone else interested in trying to gather facts and make sense of this tragedy:

I live just down the street from where the collision occurred, and being both a cyclist and auto driver who knows the area very well I wonder if anyone would care to meet me at the site to look at and discuss the collision?

I feel I need to know the truth about what happened. I'm NOT accusing anyone of lying by saying that. I am saying that I want to have a logical explanation supported by evidence, facts, etc. presented or made available, and since there has been no comprehensive reporting including the facts the CHP used to conclude their findings, I would like to talk with any other interested people about this. I would like to learn more and go through scenarios of what may have happened at the site. Can what the CHP claim occurred be reproduced in a test? Can the laws of physics support CHP's explanation? Aren't there very specialized investigators who should handle these types collisions? Is it possible to obtain the report detailing how the CHP arrived at their conclusion?

Finally, with all due respect to Mr. Schmidt as quoted in The Almanac about the CHP's conclusion "in the absence of other witnesses, I guess they did the best they could.", I understand your position, but I don't think that should be acceptable!

Arriving at a conclusion about a person's death based on speculation, possibly involving bias, zero witnesses, and with only one side of the story told is NOT a good, fair, or just standard by which to work. How would any of you posters like the conclusion to an investigation of a life-changing matter involving you handled in this way?

If anyone wants to meet at the site please post back and suggest a time.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

The path along the 280 south on-ramp lane on Alpine Rd. is not safe and would require cyclists to get off their bikes and then cross the on-ramp lane which is extremely dangerous due to blind spots and because traffic moves incredibly fast along that lane. Nearly all cyclists ride along the solid white line demarcating the lane from Alpine. The fact that the left side of the truck hit the bicycle's right side proves she had done just that and that the trucker rode recklessly. The lane is pretty narrow and trucks pretty much fill up its entire width, so trucks, even when there aren't cyclists to their left, must slow down and be extremely observant and cautious, but from many years of experience, I know that very few are. The police report accepted the testimony of the only witness, the killing trucker himself who had killed a cyclist before and had no motivation to give an objective description of what had occurred. His version, just like the police report are not believable.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm

It is not a question of being a bike "hater" it is a question of being stunned by some of the things bikers do. I am in favor of bikes provided they use common sense and act reasonably.
Today I drove on San Tomas Expy and was suddenly surprised to see an expert adult male biker (in team regalia of some sort)in my rear view mirror and this guy swerved very suddenly over three lanes of traffic (to an apparent left hand side exit, 2 lanes turning left). I had no idea the biker was even there prior to this (I assume he had been in a bike lane to the right) and I was driving correctly and safely in my own middle lane, but bikers need to understand they are like a tiny speck in moderate, fairly high speed traffic, like what one encounters on San Tomas!
Second, a few yrs ago I had a scary experience, as a pedestrian, I merely walked out of the downtown Hamilton Ave Post Office -- I was on the sidewalk -- and a grown/young adult male cyclist whizzed right by me ON THE SIDEWALK at very high speed, missing me by a fraction of an inch. A couple of nearby people were stunned and shaken (along with me) at my very near miss at being clobbered by this guy. I thought about going to the police to file a report, but the biker was long gone and the description would have been vague.
It is not ok to do this kind of stuff.

Posted by Need to Know
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 23, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I've posted a link at the bottom to a very interesting article regarding the odds of a truck driver killing two bicyclists, and the article INCLUDES the calculations AND uses models that err on the side of the truck driver saying that the event of one driver killing 2 bicyclists is not strange enough to be statistically significant. NO BIAS just math. Here is the ending paragraph of the article courtesy of www.gasstationwithoutpumps/

"With 3.5 million truck drivers around, we would expect to find about 28 double-bicyclist-death truck drivers by chance in 60 years.

With both models, using overestimates of how likely bicyclists are to be killed by chance, we get an expected number of chance double-death truck drivers of between 1 such driver every 2 years in the country and one every 8 years. This means that we can’t completely reject the null model (that the driver was just unlucky enough to have 2 chance encounters), but our suspicions about the driver should certainly be raised, and other evidence checked to see whether the driver is really incompetent to be driving a truck.

Late-breaking news: It seems that Gabriel Vera was involved in 3 fatal accidents, not just two, so there is no question in my mind that he isn’t just an unlucky driver, but should never be allowed to drive again."

Posted by Bicycle victim
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2010 at 7:31 pm

@ Anonymous of the Duveneck/Saint Francis neighborhood:

I am with you on this. I WAS clobbered by a bicyclist on Halloween this year at the Baylands! The bicyclist was coming from behind me, on a straight, flat, and wide path! I was looking at birds and did not hear said bicyclist coming. I was walking straight. There was no warning, nothing... My husband says I went flying as if I had been a quarterback tackled on a football field on Sunday afternoon NFL! I had scrapes, and bruises, a huge bruise in my back (I am over 50 and had back surgery a number of years ago, which made it all the more frightening). I also had a headache for 3 weeks from the whiplash. I guess the bicyclist was about to pass me when another person on a bicycle came from the other direction... And the bicyclist chose to plow into me rather than run into the other bike...

Now, about bicyclists cutting in front of my car: frequent! Do they have a death wish? I am dead scared of running into one, some day, through no fault of my own. I go super slowly because of it... to my son's utter annoyance.

Bicyclists: You'll get more sympathy the day you become better citizens of the road yourselves. It's that simple.

Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 23, 2010 at 8:00 pm

The behavior of bike riders in PA is appalling.
They do not stop at stop signs nor obey other traffic regulations that are designed to save life and limb.

Their behavior is particularly egregious at night when many do not have lights and blast through cross streets like Bryant and N California crashing into pedestrians who in fact have right of way, most never dismount when going through the California underpass despite the fact that the law to that effect is clearly posted.

Darwin rules--so ultimately the problem will be solved.

We need hard enforcement of traffic rules and fines for bike riders for the next 9 months to modify their behavior
--bike traffic violations should be put on their DMV records to notify insurance companies and ultimately get violators off the road entirely.
enough is enough.

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 24, 2010 at 7:53 am

Sit by any intersection or watch traffic on a residential street for just a few minutes and you will see drivers running red lights, rolling through stop signs or just simply running them, driving in bike-lanes while speaking on cell phones and paying scant attention to traffic, driving too fast, not signaling, driving without headlights in intense fog or during stormy weather and bad visibility, and the list goes on and on. Compared to them, the infractions of cyclists, which I take very seriously, is minor, since vehicles are infinitesimally more dangerous and deadly. What we need is law enforcement for cars and trucks, which barely exists now. Additionally, we should be forward looking, and ban cars to freeways and highways, and not allow them inside residential areas, Sienna, Italy, would be a wonderful example to learn from.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 24, 2010 at 9:02 am

Why don't local police officers enforce the law against cyclists? From reading the posters here you would think that this is a major traffic safety issue. The fact is that cops don't think that biyclists are a big enough threat for them to spend time on. I am inclined to believe that they know what they are doing and how to spend their limited resources. Of course bike violations can't go on a DMV record because you aren't required to have one - remember what DMV stands for?

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2010 at 11:31 am

I would like to read the CHP report. There are lots of news stories that talk about the report, but I haven't found any links to the actual report. Has anyone been able to see the actual report, and how?

Web Link

Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Dec 24, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Actually, bike traffic violations do go on your driving DMV record, same as if you committed them while driving a registered vehicle. Of course, comparing traffic violations to vehicle violation is as absurd and as disproportional as comparing the invasion of Granada to to WW2.
As a life long cyclist(who drives a car when he absolutely has to) I have asked fellow riders to explain why they sometimes don't obey certain road rules(although most do) and the gist of the answer is that drivers often don't seem to consider them as a legitimate part of the road and risk their lives by drifting into bike-lanes, driving too close and too fast, speaking on cell phones when they have to share the road with cyclists and generally perceive cyclists as a nuisance, that they need to assert themselves as legitimate users of roads, especially city streets. I don't necessarily agree with this, but I sympathize with their experience, because here, unlike in Europe, bicycles are considered by many drivers as a nuisance.

Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm

If a 14-year old runs a stop sign on his bike, what do the cops do? If someone has no drivers license what do they do? I don't believe that pedestrian violations or any non-motor violations can legally go on your driving record. Of course it can be done illegally if we allow rogue traffic commissioners and cops to do so.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Kids do get stopped and get fines - usually parents pay them so the kids don't learn the lesson. Sometimes the kids get sent to a Saturday traffic school, those might learn the lesson. I have never heard of an adult getting a ticket on a bike.

Posted by Firefighter
a resident of another community
on Dec 25, 2010 at 7:39 am

First, I'm a cyclist who puts in around 100 per week riding.

Second, I have been on dozens of bike vs auto accidents(four were fatal) in my 26 years of being a Firefighter and sad to say almost all have been the cyclist's fault. Even the four fatal ones were the cyclist's fault.

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