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Following tragic bike accident, a local family and their friends take action. 'Slow down for kids. Be more mindful.'

Original post made on Mar 11, 2020

The family and friends of an 11-year-old Greene Middle School student who died in a collision in Palo Alto on Friday are coming together to raise awareness about road safety.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 11, 2020, 3:53 PM

Comments (62)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2020 at 4:00 pm

There is an implied indication that speed was what caused this accident. Has this been verified by PAPD? Can we be certain that speed was the underlying cause of the tragedy?

I think it is fair to everyone if the investigation is allowed to continue and the results published. As parents, drivers, bikers, pedestrians, we deserve the accurate information.

Many have attributed at least some blame to the sidewalk furniture (newspaper boxes) at the site. Can these be moved?

We all have sincere sympathy to the Lafargue family. Any support we can give them at this difficult time is justified. RIP Paul.

Posted by parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2020 at 4:04 pm

There is way to much speeding going around in town, regardless of what happened in this collision. I applaud these efforts to make our streets safer for all residents.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2020 at 4:10 pm

This is so heart breaking!

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 11, 2020 at 4:18 pm

[Post removed. Please avoid speculation.]

Posted by friend
a resident of Greene Middle School
on Mar 11, 2020 at 4:45 pm

i never knew paul but i have just seen what an effect he has made on people. he seemed like a really sweet boy and he didn’t deserve this. i feel terribly for his brother and family and i’m keeping them in my thoughts. i would’ve really liked to know paul. [Portion removed.]

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 11, 2020 at 4:45 pm

Je vous présente mes condoléances pour vôtre fils Paul.

Posted by Kim
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 11, 2020 at 5:06 pm

This is so sad for all involved.

One thing I learned when cycling, especially going through intersections and in front of driveways, is to make eye contact with the driver of the car and even wave or call out to them, so that you know that they have seen you, before proceeding in front of them.

Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2020 at 5:24 pm

Shameful journalism here. First, it was a crash, not an "accident.". An accident is unforeseen and without apparent cause. Has the PD determined as such or is the reporter making an assumption? [Portion removed.]

Posted by Culpability
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 11, 2020 at 5:34 pm

There is not enough information here to make judgement of fault. However putting myself in the drivers position, if I were driving at speed limit and came to an intersection I would take that turn without thinking to look BACK to see if a cyclist were coming up on my right. [Portion removed.]

Regardless, thoughts and prayers to the child, his family, and the driver, it’s heart-breaking all around.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2020 at 5:44 pm

So sad for Paul's family and friends. This is a huge tragedy.
Without laying blame on Paul or the driver, a request:
Parents, please teach your children to ride in a street lane and not on a sidewalk. If they have to ride on a sidewalk, teach them to get off their bikes and walk them before leaving a sidewalk and going into the crosswalk. I watched a near-accident happen yesterday at a different intersection, with a young cyclist riding at full speed from sidewalk through the crosswalk and almost hit by a motorist making a fully stopped right-on-red. This might NOT be what happened to Paul. But it almost happened yesterday.

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2020 at 5:46 pm

I am so sad for this family. No one should have to go through this.

[Portion removed.]

Unfortunately, the traffic/population/construction increases will continue to increase the possibility of accidents. The City isn't helping by creating circumstances in which there is so much going on at intersections, it's hard as a driver to feel like you can adequately keep track.

The City installed a bunch of road furniture at Coulomb and Arastradero that seems designed to cause a right hook accident. Before, if you wanted to turn right from Arastradero, you looked for bikes and moved into the bike lane, obviously having to slow down, before turning right. You always knew exactly where bikes were, which is important because they can come up really quickly and sometimes even pull up beside you when you are in the lane. It's important to have that ability to watch for them even at the last minute, which is possible because of having that bike lane there.

But the City decided to move the bike lane into a narrow trench on the other side of the parking spots. They built up curbs that jut out into traffic on Arastradero so far, they keep getting hit, and because of it, their reflective paint keeps getting blackened and more people hit them. They've had to keep putting up signs so that people know what's what, and don't ruin their car frames on the jut outs (as some have). The worse scenario is if a bike doesn't realize that's parking and ends up getting launched when they hit that curb.

In the many months since the City installed that expensive change, I have only ONCE seen a bicyclist use that trench. Which is lucky since it's impossible to keep track of them on the right like it is when there's a proper bike lane.

I have many times seen cyclists approach that trench and veer into the park or take the sidewalk. Trench or sidewalk, neither is safe for the cyclists, because just like this accident, cars turning right will have difficulty seeing an approaching bicyclist because the bike path is so removed, and they may even have no idea that there is a bike lane hiding 10 feet from the road anyway. A cyclist could easily zip up and ride through a green light when the car turns and even if the car is going slowly, break their neck or be hit. The city made the oncoming lane so narrow, it's necessary for drivers to take attention away from the right side (where it's not even very clear where the bike path is now) and watch the oncoming lane in order to avoid hitting oncoming traffic in the turn. For most of the turn, the new remote bike lane is in my car's blind spot.

No one uses the new trench, but the traffic chief calls it a success because he's seen lots of bikes during school hours, when there already were lots of bikes and there is a crossing guard there, i.e., they just took however many dollars of City money and flushed it down the tubes to set some poor bicyclists up for a right hook accident just like this in the future. The only reason it hasn't happened yet at that location is that no one uses it except during school hours when there is a crossing guard (and any furniture is at best unnecessary).

Our planning department does things based on theories and won't listen to sense or feedback, they want accident and death numbers before they'll do something (have basically been told this is how they operate when I have complained and felt not heard).

Safety planning should be about, as much as possible, ensuring that even when driver or bike make a mistake, no one gets hurt. I think some of the changes are making things worse, including just the drive to convert our town ever more into a glorified office park.

I post this with hesitation because if you complain about a danger that could cause an accident just like that, the City tells you they just don't listen unless there are accidents. Once the accidents happen, you can't complain or you are accused of being an opportunist using a tragedy people/make things safer... which is definitely beyond the pale here there days.

I'm so sorry for this family. Please at least if you know what I'm talking about at the intersection I described above, please complain to the City so they fix it. I'm terrified every day of a cyclist getting hit there, like I said, the only saving grace is that apparently cyclists are too and never use it.

Posted by Responsible for Knowing Rules of Road
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 11, 2020 at 6:13 pm

[Portion removed.]

Terrible terrible tragedy. And we don't know what happened so please refrain from judgement at this juncture. No one knows what the driver did or did not do vs. if the biker shot across the crosswalk on his bike coming up from behind the driver on his right. Bikers in the crosswalk are not pedestrians which is why riding a bike in the crosswalk is actually illegal.

Everyone needs to understand that bikes MUST BE WALKED in the crosswalk. It's illegal and insanely dangerous to ride a bike through a crosswalk! Indeed, under California Vehicle Code 21200, which governs the operation of bicycles in the state, it is unlawful to ride across a crosswalk. This is because bikes come shooting off the sidewalk too fast for cars to see them and stop, even if the driver has already stopped and looked both ways. Please please please teach your kids to ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS walk their bikes across a crosswalk.

Posted by Jennifer
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2020 at 6:22 pm

Teaching your children to ride on the street and not the sidewalk is wise advice. Is it illegal to ride on the sidewalk? I didn't know you had to walk your bike across a crosswalk. Adults and kids ride their bikes across crosswalks all the time.

Posted by Ben
a resident of Nixon School
on Mar 11, 2020 at 8:15 pm

Paul was in the swim group after me and last year was in his group, and even in the same school as me last year. I remember the way back home pretty dark. Its really sad because daylight saving times was the day after that.

Posted by Longtime Resident
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 11, 2020 at 8:53 pm

About 30 minutes ago, I was meeting a friend in Mountain View, and drove on High School Way onto Castro Street, intending to make a right turn onto El Camino Real.

It was dark with some streetlights and I did not see any oncoming car. There were no pedestrians. But good thing I came to a complete stop, and made sure before entering the intersection because a young boy about age 14 flew by my car as if he were a sailboat, carried along by wind. He was riding his skateboard on the sidewalk, and onto the crosswalk, but without stopping. I saw the blur of his white pants. What a scare.

Posted by Kelly Slaughter
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 11, 2020 at 10:21 pm

Please contact me regarding your signs. I would love to post them near Paly in honor of Paul. My ninth graders want to bring awareness.

In community,
Kelly Slaughter

Posted by Well
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2020 at 11:05 pm

Bikes are supposed to be in the street if there is no bike lane. BUT many streets (including the street he was on) are too dangerous for bikes in the middle of the street.

Above posting states to always walk the bike in the crosswalk. This would not have helped in this situation. The tow truck was likely trying to make the green light. The dark night could have contributed also.

Bottom line, Palo Alto has become too busy with hurried commuters to be a safe biking city. I've been in PAUSD for over a decade and there are bike accidents often, they are underreported because city officials want people to bike to cut down on traffic.

Posted by Mike Alexander
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Mar 11, 2020 at 11:59 pm

I'm so sorry for everyone affected by this tragedy.

"Slow Down" -- it's perfect advice for anyone using Palo Alto streets. During a decade or more of lax traffic enforcement, drivers of cars, trucks, AND bikes have become ever more complacent about speed and right-of-way, leading to lots of crashes and near-misses.

Car and truck drivers are the worst offenders, not because they ignore the rules more often than cyclists, but because of failing to respect the lethal potential of a misguided car or truck.

And bike riders have always been slow to learn to ride defensively. It requires always knowing (at any speed) what else is moving in the space all around you, and being ready to yield, stop, or veer at any moment. It's a survival skill, and it comes with lots of experience.

Slowing down, even a little, gives more time to see and react to trouble. Slowing down rarely means arriving at your destination later. Slowing down always reduces tension.

"Slow Down!"

Posted by Alvin
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:16 am

This is very sad and my heart goes out to the family. I can't imagine what it's like to lose your child or a brother at that age.

With that said, I can't let one of the above comments go without responding. The above comment: "...putting myself in the drivers position, if I were driving at speed limit and came to an intersection I would take that turn without thinking to look BACK to see if a cyclist were coming up on my right.

That's wrong. You're supposed to slow down well under the speed limit before driving through a pedestrian crosswalk and look both ways, especially at a busy intersection at that hour with lots of kids in the area and especially when driving a flat bed truck with massive blindspots.

Finally, as a parent myself with two young teenage kids, I never allow them to bike to school. I see how fast the drivers are going in the morning, half asleep or distracted with phone and failing to make complete stops. It's too dangerous. We drop them off at school and pick them up afterwards. And I would never allow them to bike at night - too many bad drivers who are not paying attention.

Posted by Greenmeadow resident
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:36 am

I am so very sorry for the loss of Paul. It is heartbreaking.

When I read "...putting myself in the drivers position, if I were driving at speed limit and came to an intersection I would take that turn without thinking to look BACK to see if a cyclist were coming up on my right." I am HORRIFIED.

CULPABILITY - Is that the correct way to drive? I am surprised you haven't hit a cyclist in Palo Alto.

Posted by DES
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 12, 2020 at 2:58 am

We live on a bike way near Paly Hi, a terrifying experience to be sure and so I can attest that most students have no knowledge of bike safety. I remember being taught in school to always wear light clothes, and that head and tail lights must be lit after dark. Likewise, bicycles must follow the rules of the road of an automobile and do not have pedestrian right of way, unless being walked.

PAUSD could put together a video on proper bike safety and rules of the road and require each student to bring in a signed statement by the parent that their child had watched and understood the video. That might cause the parents to watch the video as well.

Posted by Palo Altan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2020 at 6:20 am

I am currently out of state with a close family member who was recently injured in a serious cycling accident. Major surgery yesterday. Just an fyi that not all bike accidents involve cyclists and vehicles.
My relative was biking at moderate speed, I think, on a long ride through my relative’s major city and in an unfamiliar section had to make a snap decision to have an accident And be thrown over a major pothole/street damage that presented (I haven’t seen it myself as it is some distance away) OR be thrown into heavy boulevard type traffic and likely be killed. It’s been a horrific experience. This city (Where I currently am) is rated as a top one for cyclists but beware hazards anywhere like I’s not only kids and vehicles tangling. I am sadly re-evaluating the viability of cycling unless one is on some separated or high quality route.

Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 12, 2020 at 8:01 am

Mandatory bike safety units should be part of PE curriculum in all middle and high schools. One session in 3rd grade is not enough, make it last for several PE lessons. The same in middle school. The same in high school.

The name Bike Rodeo makes it sound like a game and give a cavalier attitude to bike riding. Bike Safety would be a much better name for it.

Bike riding is not a rodeo experience. It is a serious life skill for our students since we do not have buses and all students arrive at school using city streets mixing with the rest of the commute.

Posted by OregonXwyHazard
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2020 at 8:22 am

There is an extremely hazardous situation for cyclists at the intersection of Oregon Xwy (Westbound) and Louis Rd. The bike path is hidden behind a row of hedges that conceal the bike path right up until the intersection. I have encountered cyclists who do not stop, but come full speed out of the hedges to cross Louis Rd, riding in the path of cars turning right. I am aware of this hazard so I always take extreme precautions when making this turn, sometimes getting honked at by drivers behind me. This would be a good place to hang one of the signs being made in memory of Paul. The best move would be to remove some of the hedge so drivers can see the cyclists well ahead of that turn. I believe there are other intersections along Oregon Xwy that also have this hazard, and all should be inspected and evaluated for right turn safety.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2020 at 8:35 am

We need a culture of safety in this city, not a culture of selfishly breaking the law in order to shave seconds off your trip. Safety starts at home. When kids see parents flagrantly violating speed limits and not stopping at stop signs, they learn that traffic laws don't need to be followed.

Ask yourself, do you drive 25 on Middlefield, 25 on Embarcadero, 25 / 35 on Alma? Do you come to a complete stop at stop signs? If not then you're part of the problem. YOU can help fix this.

Posted by Culpability
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2020 at 9:36 am

Yes, I am going to defend my statement. As a driver in a right hand lane I would not expect anything to pass on my right. A cyclist has a responsibility to follow rules of the road and just because they’re in a bike lane does not give them freedom to blow by traffic, they are required to go with the flow.

And no, I have never hit a cyclist or anything for that matter as I am an extremely conscientious and experienced driver. And yes, had this been me, I’m hoping I would have seen the cyclist as I passed by on the street and hopefully would have known that he’d be coming up along side the right and quite likely not going to follow rules of the road (as many don’t) and I would have waited. But again, that’s assuming I saw him. Cyclists have GOT to assume responsibility for safety as well. You can argue “rights” all you want but u fortunately the car is always going to come out “ahead”.

Posted by Fr0hickey
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2020 at 9:53 am

Palo Alto City Council should adopt an ordinance that mandates the construction of protected bike lanes for each cyclist fatality. The distance of the protected bike lane to be determined by the age of the dead cyclist.
Do this enough times, and eventually there will be decrease in fatalities.

Posted by Lindsay Joye
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 12, 2020 at 10:37 am

I printed out the sign and posted on my street to honor Paul and to remind us ALL to #SlowDownForKids.

Posted by LS
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2020 at 11:28 am

Please contact me regarding your posters. I would love to post them on Bryant St in honor of Paul. We live on Bryant St, and we get many adults, children and school kids bicycling day and night. Our family would like to bring awareness.

For the community,
Lilian Lee

Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 12, 2020 at 11:44 am

Adults can make streets safer for young cyclists by biking MORE not less! We can model good bike behavior, reduce car congestion on the roads, achieve a critical mass that will make cars more aware of cyclists, and advocate for the bike safety improvements that will work based on our cycling experience.

I rode my bike today in honor of Paul and his family, who were brave enough to let him be independent. I'm so sorry for their loss.

Posted by Vini
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2020 at 12:00 pm

Culpability-Your comments evoke sadness in me.
Please refrain from trying to justify an action where this 11 y/o lost his life. We need empathy and community grieving and coming together, not self righteousness.
A life lost is a life lost. A family lost a brother , a son.

Posted by PA Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2020 at 12:08 pm

This is a heartbreaking tragedy that should not have happened. Many of us in the community are shocked and grieving. Sadly, it was just a matter of time with the heavy traffic, distracted and disobedient drivers and poor infrastructure for cyclists, and cars, we have here in Palo Alto.

From what I understand, children, by law are allowed to ride their bikes on sidewalks to ensure their safety. Even if Paul had been in the bike lane, it seems like the same thing would have happened. A car turning right into a cyclist or pedestrian going straight across is not dependent on if the cyclist/pedestrian was on the sidewalk or bike path. Cars will always "win" in this case. Some more information on what happened would be helpful here.

This is agonizing for the family and for parents who have children that regularly communte to and from school and other activities. May Paul rest in peace. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Posted by stu berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2020 at 12:22 pm

This tragedy is incredibly sad. Drivers of cars and trucks, please slow down to the speed limit,take extra care at intersections and watch for, bikers and pedestrians. They always lose in these encounters. I will support the Slow Down for Kids initiative and I hope that everyone else will as well. It takes a village.

Posted by Stu Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2020 at 12:28 pm

Nick Weisner: Can I get files of your poster so that I can have them printed in a larger format at a sign printer like Kinkos?

Posted by NeilsonBuchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 12, 2020 at 12:41 pm

It would be nice to know which local print shops have the files and can provide options for printing different size and durability signs. The shops can print them and offer them for sale. My condo association has a good safe place for a sign on busy bike route.

Posted by Carl Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:03 pm

I, too, would like information on when/where I might also get a poster. I'd like something that I could put in my lawn, next to my driveway. Like the political posters.

Posted by Tragedy
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:13 pm

I’m so sorry to Paul’s family and friends for this devastating loss. Thank you for sharing info about ways to help.
Is there a way for us to purchase these posters so we can put them up in our neighborhoods?

Posted by Carl Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:37 pm

@Culpability -- " Cyclists have GOT to assume responsibility for safety as well. You can argue “rights” all you want but unfortunately the car is always going to come out “ahead”. "

You are so right. The car always wins. This is the KEY point. I am a long time motorcyclist. Good motorcyclists constantly drill themselves to watch out for the vehicles, to always assume that the drivers cannot or do not see them, to slow down sooner, to assume the unexpected. The unfortunate reality is that in a "meeting" of car and motorcycle, the car and driver will win.

Most motorcyclists are adults, and as adults can understand the above. They can truly understand the ramifications of not riding defensively. They understand the possibility of death. They can accept the responsibility. This is true of most adult bicyclists as well.

Children are CHILDREN. They have *no real concept* of the danger or of the consequences. They must be TAUGHT, over and over, that they MUST be defensive. Because accidents DO happen. Sometimes to even the most conscientious drivers. I, like others, have seen numerous instances in which youth bicyclists ride unsafely. And, too many times, I see adults in cars ENCOURAGING that action by waving bicyclists through intersections.

I wholeheartedly support annual mandatory classroom and outside bicycle instruction in the elementary schools (starting at grade 3?) perhaps even through middle school. If you support that as well, then lobby your school board. And be prepared to pay for it.

And please do not begin to rant about 'bad' motorcyclists and bicyclists. They exist, as do bad drivers. They are responsible for their actions.
The FOCUS of THIS ISSUE is the CHILDREN who need to be TAUGHT.

Posted by a neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:58 pm

I am so sorry for the loss of this boy’s life. I cannot fathom what his family are going through. It seems not all details are revealed but it reminded me of the young woman who was ran over by a bus on a tech campus last year when a bus made a right turn when she started crossing the road. These big buses, trucks have blind spots when turning and we don’t think of them much. Our streets are narrow and cannot provide for a wide turn. I personally witnessed somethings very close to this. I was going home from MV Costco, waiting at the light to turn left onto Charleston. A truck was trying to make a legal left turn from Charleston onto the street going to Costco. A woman was on the sidewalk waiting to cross after coming from In/Out at. the same intersection, on Charleston. As the truck made the left turn, and as you know the road has a slight turn, , its back slowly rotated toward the sidewalk, going slowly over the sidewalk. My heart started pounding as suddenly the back tire of the truck obviously was going to be over the sidewalk and possibly sideswipe the woman if she didn’t step back. Thank goodness she did as she was also monitoring the truck and noticed how it was getting dangerously close to her. If her back was to the truck or she facing the other way or distracted, she would not have seen what was happening. Once all was clear, I could clearly see the back tire marks on the corner of the sidewalk, where she was originally standing. She had walked about 3-4 feet back and away from where she was originally standing. I am not sure if the driver noticed, but he was also going very slowly, so maybe he did. . This may be an explanation of what might have happened there, not that it will bring this boy back but at least we may be able to know how to stop a tragedy before it happens. My condolences. So sorry :-(

Posted by DeepSorrowandLove
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 12, 2020 at 2:14 pm

Driving is a privilege AND not a right. Biking and walking is a right for all.

Sadly, tragically. What was a large truck w a heavy load doing out at 7:40 on a Friday night ? leaving a residential/commercial area a wide attempting a right turn on a green light at 25mph. Vigilance City planning, code enforcements, permits, and construction trucks, The bus shelter at dark is scary and dark and stinky. Bus goers don’t ever use the shelter-for above reasons and mill around on a narrow strip waiting for the bus.

Casting a net of love for the LaFarge family and our whole community.

Posted by Culpability
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 12, 2020 at 2:33 pm

@Vini I am not trying to justify anything, rather trying to point out reality. And yes, sometimes reality sucks and isn’t fair and causes heart-breaking situations. My heart breaks for this family, I have two children and cannot imagine going through something like this.

@Carl Jones, thank you for understanding the point I am trying to make. I am not heartless, I am not “pro-car”...I am as I said just pointing out realities. And frankly I do feel that the push for pedestrian and cyclists “rights” has created a very false and dangerous sense of security. What happened to looking both ways before crossing streets? I don’t know how many times I see people just stepping off curbs and walking into streets without looking at all. It’s insane. I have taught my kids, I don’t care if the light is red and it’s your green to cross, ALWAYS look at the driver and make sure they see you! There are WAY too many distracted drivers, people in a hurry.

I also won’t let my kids ride bikes on most of the streets in this area, they’re just not safe. Keep having these discussions about what’s “right”, certainly not going to risk my kids life on it.

Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2020 at 2:55 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 12, 2020 at 3:36 pm

Having grown up in The Netherlands where bikes are everywhere, elementary school students around 9-10 years of age had to take a written and a practical exam, specifically designed to making biking in general traffic much more safe.

I remember thoroughly studying the traffic rules and signs (being checked by my parents) and taking both exams. For the practical biking test, we would wear a big number on our backs and we were guided by special signs throughout the exam. Teachers would be hiding somewhere and noting the mistakes young students made. It was quite a serious but fun day. No school before or after the exams. I am now 71 years old, but I remember that day so clearly still.

I look at the picture of Paul, this young child with a whole future before him. I think of his parents and his brother, and the hopeless feeling they must be going through. You don't expect to bury your child, especially an eleven year old one.

I send you my love and prayers. If there is anything I can do to making biking more safe, I am here to help.

Posted by Anneke Dempsey
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 12, 2020 at 3:49 pm

In the article in the Palo Alto daily, Paul's friend, Lobos, states that "the streets are not very safe for bicyclists. Bryant is supposed to be a bike avenue, but I still don't feel safe on it."

Bryant Street is NOT a bike avenue, it is a car street with a lot of traffic. I ask that the Council Members truly make it a bike avenue. For example, at the entrances of Bryant Street from Embarcadero Road direction University Street , the city could post a sign that no car traffic is allowed from 7:00 A.M. - 10:00 A.M., and from 4:00 P.M. - 7:00 P.M. We have those signs in other parts of the city, so it should not be a tremendous deal. Just get it done!

The family and friends of Paul deserve action in memory and in honor of their young son.

Posted by Nick
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2020 at 4:41 pm

Hi All,

If you'd like to print the posters, I've posted the files here:

Web Link

We're in the process of printing ourselves and will update you with the status of those soon.


Posted by A mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 12, 2020 at 4:55 pm

It is utterly heartbreaking to read what happened. I cannot imagine what the family is going through right now. It is also accompanied by fear as my kids bike to get to places and sometimes in the evenings too. While we have explained the road rules and they know defensive biking as they have biking for quite some time...the nagging fear of bike versus car always remains, regardless of who is in the right.

I would like to post some those posters around our neighborhood as well. Is there anyway we can get the posters?

I am so very sorry for what happened to Paul and his family. Cannot stop thinking about you...even though we have never met.

Posted by Lindsay Joye
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 12, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Is the memorial walk at the Dish still scheduled for Saturday at 10 AM?

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 12, 2020 at 6:02 pm

@Rules of Road,
"And we don't know what happened so please refrain from judgement at this juncture."

A right hook is merely a description of of the type of accident, it does not impute fault to either the cyclist or the driver. (There was no reason to censor that.)

Designing safety into our roads cannot involve presuming that everyone must behave perfectly at every moment and never make mistakes or they pay the ultimate price. I know exactly what someone else was talking about above about how CA Avenue is just dangerous for bikes at that end. And while I think a slow down for kids initiative is a great idea, there are five times as many people who come here to work who as live here who won't hear it because they're already slowed down and aggravated from gridlock.

We have to get to a point where we say that our kids are acting on the fact that our town cannot be all things to all people, it cannot be a limitless office park with skyscrapers and escalating urban problems for as many people who want to pile in as possible and a medium-sized college town with bikable streets. Out City hall has proceeded as if giving the impression of bike safety through expensive window dressing road furniture is the same thing as doing something about safety.

As far as separating bikes -- I am all for that. But our planners think that separating bikes is some kind of panacea, no matter how dangerous the setup, like the intersection I mentioned above. We should bite the bullet and underground the train, and make the area above a bike, scooter, and pedestrian boulevard from one end of town to the other. And we should make connecting separated bikeways that have real signaling when the bikes meet roads with car traffic. It would mean changing the way we think about safety, and it would mean a LOT of cash. But it's about time all the companies who benefit from a PA address start contributing.

I hope the safety changes that happen in the wake of this tragedy mean our City stops thinking of safety as window dressing and starts putting safety first. Thanks to the family for showing such grace in the face of unspeakable loss to try to help others.

Posted by Gordon
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 12, 2020 at 7:12 pm

Heartbreaking. There are no other words.

Posted by Blarryg
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 12, 2020 at 7:51 pm

I'm so saddened this happened. But, I dislike things that rely on driver education. They'll work, for a month or two. Busy street intersections are dangerous because right turn vehicles tend to look left and have poor visibility right. Sensors could detect bikes and pedestrians and signal drivers.

Posted by Julia
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 12, 2020 at 9:17 pm

My heart broke when I heard this tragedy! As a mother whose teenager bikes to school, I am deeply impacted by this sad news. City has to put up more efforts to protect bikers. RIP Paul!

Posted by Wand3r3r
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 12, 2020 at 11:16 pm

Sorry in advance. This is long but there is a point. This is not what happened to Nick, but it is apropos to the discussion. When I was a kid our entire world was accessible by bicycle. We rode every day everywhere. We had very strict bike rules in our family, set by my father, the most important of which was to never ride on the “wrong” side of the road, that is to say the left side of the road. It was explained to us again and again why it was so important to ride on the right side of the road and we all knew what was at stake, quite possibly our lives, if we broke this rule, not to mention quite possibly losing our biking privileges. I grew up in South San Jose right off of Blossom Hill Rd. pretty much across the street from Oak Grove High School and not too far from Snell Ave. (for those of you who know that area by the old IBM plant). Back then, while there were still blossoms and orchards on Blossom Hill Rd., Yes it was already a very busy street. Think El Camino or Steven’s Creek Blvd. In August of 1973, when I was 12 years old, I was riding my bike westbound on Blossom Hill Rd. toward the shopping center at the corner of Snell Ave. A car was stopped at one of the side streets between me and Snell. Unfortunately, I chose that day and that time to disobey my father’s rule and was riding on the left/wrong side of a very busy main artery. The driver of the car was trying to turn right from his street onto eastbound Blossom Hill Rd., hoping to beat the traffic coming from the Blossom Hill/Snell intersection, where the light had just turned green. His head was turned completely left where the traffic was coming from. He was not looking for someone coming at him from the other direction. I could just as easily have been a pedestrian and “in the right,“ but I wasn’t; I was a bicyclist and in the wrong—yet he still should have checked to see if someone was coming from the right. Just as he gassed it to beat the traffic rushing at him I made it to his front bumper. It wasn’t a pretty sight and it hurt like heck. My left foot never did heal fully. I was a lot luckier than poor Paul though. I have never forgotten that day: the people who stopped to help, the anguished look on the driver’s face and that I was the one who put it there, my father’s initial anger that masked his concern and fear, my first ride in an ambulance (I was totally humiliated in addition to being hurt). And I have never forgotten that rule, nor have I disobeyed it since.

Thank you, @CarlJones, for the reminder to teach our children about bicycle safety and to *keep* teaching them. Thank you, @NickWiesner, for sharing your talents and for the beautiful signs I hope to see soon all over Palo Alto. Thank you, Lafargue family, for your strength during what I’m sure is a horrific time for all of you, for helping us do better, and especially for giving us Paul even for a little while to serve as a reminder that our children‘s very existence depends on us to help them navigate the early years of their lives. He sounds like such a choice boy. It sounds trite, but I am so very sorry for your loss. We do need your reminder to slow down, both on the road and in our lives. I am sorry, Mr. Truck Driver, for the enormous pain you are no doubt feeling and which you will probably feel forever. The way we are always dashing here and there with so much noise going on around us, literally and figuratively, it could have been any of us who met up with Paul that night. We know you didn’t mean to.

People, love and be careful.

P.S. I got grounded off my bike for a year for my disobedience. Excruciating, but probably the most memorable and effective punishment I was ever given.

Posted by Cal Ave Neighbor
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 13, 2020 at 9:37 am

When my son was in 3rd grade he was nearly hit at this same intersection. Daily we would ride together to and from Escondido Elementary. He was getting the hang of riding in the street, learning the rules of the road and to ride with an expectation that cars could always do unexpected things. I would ride right behind him calling out things to notice as we approached different situations. We would ride in the street for safety except when we were approaching El Camino on California Avenue. At that intersection, if there were any cars waiting to turn right on El Camino, we would carefully merge onto the sidewalk in front of Wells Fargo. Almost always we would join a crowd of pedestrians and other riders waiting to cross on the green light. I liked the intersection to cross at because of the crowds and the feeling of safety in numbers.

On this day (almost eight years ago) there were a few cars and a utility van waiting to turn right onto El Camino. The light was red for us so we were coming to a stop at the corner where surprisingly there were no other pedestrians. When the light suddenly turned green, my son, with some momentum, just kept on rolling right into the crosswalk. At the same moment the van started to make his right hand turn on his green light where a moment before there were no pedestrians waiting to cross. I screamed STOP with everything I had. My young rider did his best but couldn't stop quick enough. I don't know if the van caught a glimpse of him as he accelerated into his turn or if he heard my scream, but he stopped inches away from my son.

There was no one to blame. It was almost just a terrible accident.

My heart goes out to Paul and his family.

Posted by Lisa McManus
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2020 at 11:51 am

I see this in the story: "A preliminary police investigation revealed that both the boy and the truck were traveling east on California Avenue approaching El Camino Real, with the boy riding on the sidewalk. The truck made a right turn to head south on El Camino and hit the boy, police said."

There's no indication that the boy entered the crosswalk ahead of the truck as so many commenters seem to assume.

I am a former Palo Alto resident who now lives in the Boston area, and we've had several fatalities involving trucks turning in front of cyclists waiting (correctly) beside them in the bike lane at an intersection. As you may remember from those graphics often stuck on the back of large trucks about caution when they're turning, trucks make wide, awkward turns, and the back end sweeps across the corner. That's how it can strike cyclists, even if they're technically in the correct space (bikelane or sidewalk).
Bottom line: If you're on a bicycle, don't wait next to large vehicles that could be making a turn. Wait far behind, or get as far as possible over to the other side of the sidewalk and be ready for the back side of the truck to move toward you.

What a tragedy...I wish there was more awareness of this particular danger.

Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Posted by Anneke

>> Having grown up in The Netherlands where bikes are everywhere, elementary school students around 9-10 years of age had to take a written and a practical exam, specifically designed to making biking in general traffic much more safe.

>> I remember thoroughly studying the traffic rules and signs (being checked by my parents) and taking both exams.


Is there an English language version of the bicycle safety course and exam online somewhere? I would be interested in seeing it.

Posted by Joe C
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2020 at 5:20 pm

Such a tragedy. Beyond words.

But the suggestIon that Paul might have been on his cell phone is completely uncalled for. There’s no evidence Paul did anything wrong.

There are ways to make intersections like that one safer. If the City won’t do it then we know what it values.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 13, 2020 at 6:06 pm

Today I saw a teen on her bike riding nb on Middlefield near the Winter Lodge, mid afternoon. She had her helmet hanging from her handlebars and she was staring at her phone while riding.

I was hoping that the accident, just one week ago, would mean that young people on bikes would be paying more attention. Sadly that is obviously not the case.

Posted by Derek
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 14, 2020 at 4:18 pm

@Culpability, you wrote

"If I were driving at speed limit and came to an intersection I would take that turn without thinking to look BACK to see if a cyclist were coming up on my right."

Please take the time to review page 51 of the California Driver's Handbook and update your driving habits.
Web Link

Looking back is what is required in this situation.

From the Handbook:

Right turns–To make a right turn, drive close to the right edge of the road. If there is a bike lane, drive
into the bike lane no more than 200
feet before the turn. Watch for
pedestrians, bicyclists, or
motorcyclists who may get
between your vehicle and the curb.
Begin signaling about 100 feet
before the turn.

Look over your
right shoulder and reduce your

Stop behind the limit line.
Look both ways and turn when it
is safe. Do not turn wide into
another lane. Complete your turn
in the right lane.

Posted by steve schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 16, 2020 at 1:08 pm

At these big intersections used frequently by pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboards & motorists, the design model for maximizing safety should be inspired by the Homer/Alma intersection in Palo Alto: A signal phase for non-motorized vehicles only with no movements of any kind allowed for motor vehicles.

Posted by Matt Bryant
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 18, 2020 at 8:20 pm

I put those posters on every pole at the intersection of CALIFORNIA and El Camino during our Ped/bike safety protest last Friday night. We are not done. Paul has fueled my safety mission. As soon as the all-clear, I am going to make changes in Palo Alto. Please, Slow down for kids and pedestrians and bicyclists.

Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 19, 2020 at 8:44 am

I recently took my theoretical exam to renew my driver's license.

In the DMV book it talked about the blind spots truck drivers have: just behind the truck and right next to the truck.

I am going to talk with the Police Department to see if we can design a series of traffic lessons specifically aimed at young people which can be taught in school or in Distance Learning.

Posted by Jake Millan
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 1, 2020 at 9:49 am

Thank you Derek and Vini and everyone else for for your thoughtful comments.

@Culpability, you should be ashamed of your comments, and also for hiding behind your pseudonym. If you have real opinions, please own up to them in public.

As both an avid cyclist and motorist, it is both of our responsibilities to be safer at intersections.

As a cyclist, I always am looking to the left as I approach every intersection in anticipation that a car is going to right hook me.

As a motorist, I always look to the right in my mirror and over my shoulder to ensure there is no bicyclist or pedestrian entering or already in the crosswalk. Yes @Culpability, this is your responsibility as a driver of a 2 ton killing machine at every intersection.

Bicycling can be much safer, however only if we work together as a community of drivers, bicyclists and planners to protect bicyclists and pedestrians.

So sad to hear about young Paul and my he rest in peace. My heart goes out to his family and friends.

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