News

Bicyclist has major injuries after Stanford crash

A Menlo Park man was struck by a motorist in the early morning darkness at Stanford University on Wednesday, according to the California Highway Patrol and a witness.

The accident occurred at 6:03 a.m. when the 27-year-old bicyclist was riding west on Palm Drive east of Campus Drive. A blue Honda Civic driven by a 39-year-old Antioch woman for unknown reasons hit him from behind, CHP spokesman Officer Art Montiel said.

The man was ejected from the bicycle and sustained major injuries, including broken bones, he said.

Shortly thereafter, a second vehicle, a Honda Accord driven by a 47-year-old Palo Alto woman, struck the bicycle's rear tire. Neither driver was injured.

Montiel said the accident was still under investigation. No one was cited. Traffic accidents on the Stanford campus are handled by the CHP rather than campus police, Stanford Department of Public Safety spokesman Bill Larson said.

Comments

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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

Why is the CHP involved in investigating traffic accidents on the Stanford Campus? This is private property. Why would the State be providing these sorts of services to private entities? Does Stanford pay the CHP, or are these services provided the University for free?

And where are the accident statistics reported? Does the CHP have a reporting zone for Stanford, or are these accidents hidden under some more generic category?


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Posted by Stanny
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:21 am

The "Stanford Police" are really just glorified security guards with powers of arrest. Whenever a crime occurs on campus that is over their heads, the Sheriff's Office is called in.

One of the problems with the campus streets, especially Campus Dr, is that there are many, many stopsigns. I have worked for Stanford since the mid-nineties and have observed a rather large minority of drivers on the campus run many of its stopsigns.

My own son was hit, while riding his bicycle to see me on campus, by a woman who ran a stopsign while turning left from a side street onto Campus Dr. Fortunately, there were witnesses, since she continued driving after hitting him, and a couple of them got her license plate number. Campus police were called, but it was the Sheriff's Office who tracked her down and charged her with a hit-and-run.


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Posted by Janet
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:42 am

Bicyclists on campus often ignore traffic signs, wear dark clothing and frequently have no lights. It is amazing that more are not injured or killed. I would also question why the CHP has jurisdiction over a private university


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Posted by evidence
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:55 am

Janet - is there any evidence that the victim was ignoring stop signs, wearing dark clothing, and riding without lights? If not, then quit slandering him. Every day, I see cars speeding and running stop signs on that street, recklessly endangering all road users including pedestrians.

Just pray for a full recovery.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:06 am

CHP has jurisdiction for traffic issues in unincorporated areas, which is what Stanford is. The Santa Clara County Sheriff handles non-traffic issues.


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Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:14 am

Dark and stormy. Two very good reasons not to be out there. Sometimes it can't be avoided. Sometimes it can. Let's face it; riding a bike on the road during a sunny day is dangerous. I ride in the dark 50% of the time. I have a flashing red light on the bike as well as on my backpack. I don't think that prevents anyone from riding me down though. They're there so that after a car hits me, at least the police won't blame me for not having a light.

All I can say is that if I am hit, it would be best for the driver if I were dead or unconscious.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:16 am

Hmmm is a registered user.

I am very sorry to read of this terrible accident. I'm glad at least it happened close to the ER & I hope he has a complete recovery.

This is yet another reason for cyclists to ride on the wide paths on campus whenever possible. Not only is there so much distracting construction in some areas, but some of the drivers need to remember that on a college campus, they must make pedestrians & cyclists a priority, even though the cyclists & peds don't seem to care about their safety sometimes. They must do so even when the cyclists don't wear helmets or light clothing, talk on their cell phones, run stop signs & not pay attention to how they're impacting the drivers, lest they experience a wrenching impact themselves.

Car drivers - remember, the campus isn't full of regular roads, the roads are filled w/students, employees, post-docs, etc., who rely on feet, bikes & constantly stopping shuttles to get places. It's not highway 280!

Oh - & cyslists - please stop riding on the road in the underpasses. There's a reason that there are separate sidewalks/paths - for you to use. In my decades here, it's only been in recent years that I've seen such foolish, dangerous behavior from cyclists who insist on riding on the street in the underpass, where it's very difficult to see or avoid them.

It'll be getting darker sooner & wet weather will be hitting soon. Please, be more cautious.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fact Check
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:16 am

Palm Drive East of Campus Dr. has no stop signs except for the four-way at Palm and Campus. The article says the bicycle was struck from behind by the first driver. Hard to understand how you can run over a bicyclist from behind and not be cited, but then again the accident on Park Ave earlier in the year provides precedent that this is ok. Then post-accident the bike was hit again by another driver. Sounds more like people driving too fast for the conditions than a stop sign issue.


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Posted by Janet L
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

@Raymond The reporter didn't check the weather. It wasn't raining at 6am on Wednesday morning where this accident occurred. Roads were wet, but nothing was coming down. So while yes it was dark out, there was no rain to impair the driver's visibility.


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Posted by Brian
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:49 am

@ Hmmm - the safest place to be in in the middle of the lane going through the underpass. You are not aware that Bicyclists are supposed to walk their bikes on the side walk in the underpass to prevent hitting people coming down the tunnels from the train station. Would you push your transportation? The 10-15 seconds it takes to follow a cyclist through the underpass in insignificant to the your commute.

Hopefully the 3 ft passing rule coming into law next year will prevent people who hit cyclist from not being sited.


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Posted by Be safe out there!
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:50 am

Terrible news. I wish the best for all involved.

I have noticed some bicyclists without proper gear riding at night. Here are some simple tips:

A headlamp and rear reflector are REQUIRED by LAW if you ride after dusk in California. Police WILL ticket if you don't have this equipment. I have seen them do it. Get a good head lamp. Lights and reflectors help drivers see you and you can see the road better. The rear reflectors that blink are more visible. Any good bike store carries these items. Wear a reflective shell wind breaker. There are some wonderful designs now that look great, protect you from the wind and make you much more VISIBLE to drivers.

I realize that sometimes bad things can still happen, but it really does help if you gear up for bicycling after dusk. These items make GREAT holiday gifts if there is a bicyclist in your life. My husband, children, and I all bike commute to school and work. We aren't the "spandex" variety of bicyclists. We are conservative, careful bikers who care about getting exercise and reducing auto emissions. We don't have a lot of fancy gear or expensive bikes, but we invested carefully in this safety equipment (and some bike safety skills classes offered by the City of Palo Alto), and it was money well spent.

I hope this information will help other people who love to bike.

Happy trails!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Concerned in PA
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:50 am

I arrived shortly after the incident and pray the cyclist recovers. So hard to not be able to provide better comfort and assurance to someone so frightened and in shock. Watching out for others is something we all must do and take better precaution as others might not see us in the dark mornings and evenings we are now into. My heart broke to see him in such trauma. A blanket for warmth seemed little and I still struggle with what I could have done more form him as the group there was all in shock. My prayers go out to them all. You are correct it was a drizzle at that time not raining per say. But road was damp and slick I an readily tell you as I was there,


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mariana
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:57 am

It is true that they are many bicycle riders at Stanford that wear dark clothes with no bicycle lights at night. Even though, I need to go through the University sometimes, I go all way around it (el camino and page mill) to avoid them, and especially on Fridays and Saturday night when many are drunk on top of that. Stanford Police does some sort of job educating newbies at the beginning of the school year, but completely disregards the problems by graduation. I've seen this cycle year after year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Brian - you don't get it, but I do. I've cycled through those underpasses hundreds of times - getting off of my bike & walking, actually. It's NOT safe for cyclists to ride in the center of the lane, because it's very hard to see them, no matter what. I've lived here for decades & this trend of cyclists refusing to get off of their bikes & walk them in congested areas is foolhardy, as they insist in riding in heavy traffic. It's asinine.

Concerned - I've helped cyclists after accidents & it is difficult because we can only do so much, even though it's usually a short time before medics arrive. I now always carry a blanket or large towel for that reason. It's great to read that he had immediate help after such a terrifying, painful event. The poor guy!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Donald:
Thanks for providing readers (esp. Stanny and Wondering) with the facts about campus policing. By law, since Stanford is an unincorporated County area, it is policed by the Sheriff's office or the Highway Patrol. Personally, I wouldn't mess with either kind of officer since they are hardly keystone cops.

Like many readers I wish that Stanford would do more aggressive bike safety training to the students, and would give tickets to riders who are on the phone (unbelievable) or riding their bikes without lights at night.

It's pretty scary to attend Continuing Ed courses during the winter -- pedestrians and bike riders don't always see each other. Factor in being older or being handicapped and the situation is downright treacherous.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wendy
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 22, 2013 at 2:07 pm

It is scary out there! Tuesday evening, dark, on a street in Palo Alto with a bike path, a bicyclist riding the wrong way, with dark clothes on, no lights, no reflectors, no helmet, blew by me (again, going in the wrong direction) and I never saw them until they were right there passing my right front fender. Scared the you know what out of me!

And, as far as even well equiped bicyclists riding in the driving lanes of the Embarcadero underpass, the University underpass or the Oregon Expressway underpass because they don't want to waste time walking their bikes or taking the alternate routes for bikes is unconsionable. You may think that it is just you who are taking the risks but any driver who can't see you, isn't expecting a bike to be there in the driving lane, is also at risk for causing you harm, causing harm to themselves or to other drivers who may have to slam on the brakes. Please be considerate. And the way that more and more drivers are distracted with their phones etc why would you even want to be in the path of auto travel? Death wish I would say. But you wouldn't be the only one affected by your lack of acting in a safe manner.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm

There seem to be quite a few bicycle accidents on the Stanford campus--

Web Link

"Throughout the five years prior to the accident, Stanford police had recorded 200 bicycle accidents on the campus, reported The Stanford Daily."

This data seems to be accurate around 2010, so the number must be closer to 250 accidents since 2005, by now. Looking back 20 years, the number would be close to 1000!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm

If those above are correct in identifying Stanford as an "unincorporated county area" qualifying it for CHP and sheriff coverage, why then, when the discussion arises about the Dish and the parking issues there, do so many cite Stanford's "private property" rights?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nora Charles
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I hope the cyclist makes a swift and complete recovery.

I have seen many near misses on campus, and both drivers and bicyclists driving badly or recklessly, or meandering. Bikes are supposed to stop at stop signs, but many whizz right through them, a very common sight. I've learned to drive extremely defensively on campus.

And by the way, the campus police are excellent; I don't like to see them dissed.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Unincorporated means it is outside of the limits of any incorporated city or town, but that doesn't mean it is not private property. There are lots of private farms and ranches outside the limits of cities in the south part of the county.

By the way, Stanford does more bicycle safety education than most universities.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm

What a horrible accident--I do hope that the cyclist is able to recover.

I'm sorry--this isn't really any more relevant to the accident that happened than most of the other posts, but it's hard to let this one go because it is so utterly wrong-headed.

Wendy, above, said: " And, as far as even well equiped bicyclists riding in the driving lanes of the Embarcadero underpass, the University underpass or the Oregon Expressway underpass because they don't want to waste time walking their bikes or taking the alternate routes for bikes is unconsionable. You may think that it is just you who are taking the risks but any driver who can't see you, isn't expecting a bike to be there in the driving lane, is also at risk for causing you harm, causing harm to themselves or to other drivers who may have to slam on the brakes. Please be considerate. And the way that more and more drivers are distracted with their phones etc why would you even want to be in the path of auto travel? Death wish I would say. But you wouldn't be the only one affected by your lack of acting in a safe manner."

1) Let's define (and spell correctly) "unconscionable": it means, literally, lacking in conscience. None of the cyclist actions that you describe above could be so defined. It might, however, be unconscionable to text or talk on a phone while driving, given the potential of your multi-ton vehicle to seriously injure or kill other human beings. It's kind of incredible to me that you're somehow blaming cyclists for the actions of unsafe drivers. You're right--we are taking a personal risk when we ride a bike. And if we run into a pedestrian or personally cause an accident by failing to obey the rules of the road, that's bad and our fault. It is not our fault when negligent drivers run into us or do goofy things because they aren't paying attention and then suddenly notice us.

2) There's nothing inherently unsafe about riding in a straight line on a road. Any driver who can't see a properly lit vehicle straight ahead of him/her ISN'T LOOKING well enough. Period. There's a reason why rear-ending someone is almost always (legally) regarded as your fault.

3) Nope, not a death wish: a wish to get to work. I ride this particular way--the University underpass--every single day. There are no bike routes--there's a pedestrian sidewalk and a road, with a speed limit of 25 mph. This is hardly an expressway. It's a road, shared by bikes and cars. If you are the sort of driver who can't handle this level of complexity, I suggest that you buy some good walking shoes and take to the sidewalk yourself.

4) I'm not excusing bad behavior on the part of cyclists--running lights, stop signs, riding against traffic, and all the other things that have been excessively, exhaustively documented in threads like this one, every time a cyclist is injured by a car. These things make me crazy too. The campus police are actually staking out intersections with frequent stop sign violations and issuing tickets, which is great.

Now, more germane to the accident:

There are some serious infrastructure/traffic challenges on Stanford campus that make it tough for bikes and cars to co-exist.

1) The four-way stop signs, particularly those with multiple lanes going each direction, are basically a giant game of chicken--drivers don't know the rules, bikes don't know/follow the rules, and it's all complicated by the existence of pedestrians in crosswalks and the lack of dedicated right-hand turn lanes at some intersections.

2) That section of Palm Drive which lacks a bike lane is problematic. Yes, there's a nice wide sidewalk that pedestrians and bikes can share. I've also seen many near misses, however, when drivers cut cyclists off to make a right-hand turn onto Palo Road or Arboretum. I'd rather be seen by a driver, albeit an annoyed one, who has to wait a couple of seconds to come around me, than not be seen because I'm on a walkway that suddenly crosses a road. So, if I'm riding on Palm Drive at all, I right in the righthand lane, just as (apparently) the cyclist who was hit was doing.

If we don't want cyclists confused about whether or not they are to act like pedestrians or vehicles--and if we want to incentivize bicycle commuting (which Stanford definitely does--there are financial incentives and other perks for dedicated bike commuters)--then we need to think hard about the way we structure intersections and, in cases like the aforementioned underpass, create separate bike lanes that are visible and not obstructed--ones that aren't shared with pedestrians and have clear and obvious and safe ways of incorporating cyclists into the flow of vehicular traffic.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by red94104
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I don't know specifics regarding this event. Every evening, I observe bicyclists and skate boarders on Stanford streets wearing dark clothing, sans lights or reflectors, running stop signs. I often wonder if some of them have a death wish. I have excellent eyesight and I am very careful but sometimes they creep up. The campus police should start fining these kids. As a responsible adult, the last thing I would ever want to would be to hit one of them. This has been going on for years and years. What can the community do?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Pat
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 22, 2013 at 9:43 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Terrace Antelope
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Terrace Antelope is a registered user.

I spend a lot of time cycling and jogging around campus. Here's my approach -- cycle slowly and run CAUTIOUSLY on the SIDEWALK. I've experienced far too many knuckleheads pushing into 4-way stops while I am jogging through them and have the right of way as a pedestrian. Walk, Jog and Ride defensively. Don't expect drivers to be looking out for you. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing an intersection and then provide a thankful wave when they let you through, even though you have the right of way. This way you've got safety and karma on your side. Expect people to drive like idiots and protect yourself accordingly.

Finally, when possible, RUN LIKE AN ANTELOPE out of control!!!!!!!!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Stanford needs lots of stop lights at intersections not stop signs. Stanford needs to set up more street lights to help in dark hours.
Others have data on how many bicycle accidents have occurred at Stanford but how many moving violations by bicyclists have been issued? My bet, none. They have a free rein to do whatever they like. Not only at Stanford but everywhere.


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Posted by Illuminato
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

I guess the wide, smooth path along the side of Palm Drive, separated from the road, wasn't good enough for this bicyclist. The "unknown reason" for the accident was that the driver didn't see the bicyclist. When bicyclists or pedestrians get hit by cars in the dark, particularly when there is a path available off of the street, the scientific term for that is "Darwinism".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ticketed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2013 at 10:57 am

I also work at Stanford and unless it is raining, ride my bicycle to work. In the late nineties, when I first starting working there, I rode on the wide paved paths that function as sidewalks/jogging paths. After a out three months, I received a citation for bikeriding on these paths from campus police! I took it to court, arguing that it really was unsafe to ride in the street , especially Campus, Galvez, and Palm Drives during rush hours. The judge ruled against me and I had to pay the fine which went on my DRIViNG record and raised my auto insurance rates!

After that, I simply started leaving home earlier in the morning and then leaving work earlier in the afternoon, with my boss' consent, to avoid the bulk of the traffic. However, I have still had some close calls, and I have been side-swiped twice in the ensuing years, once breaking my left wrist.

BTW, I was recently ticketed for riding on the sidewalk on Embarcadero, portions of which are much too narrow for cars AND a bike to be in the street. This time I took the online traffic school!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Aquamarine
a resident of Stanford
on Nov 23, 2013 at 11:01 am

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Illuminato
a resident of another community
on Nov 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I rode my bike up and down the paths on Palm Drive countless times in the 80's and 90's, as well as many of the other paths on campus. The only problem I ever had with it was bicyclists riding the wrong way and trying to force me off the path.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by CCB
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 24, 2013 at 7:58 pm

The Stanford police have been ticketing cyclists regularly for blowing stop signs. It's probably only scratching the surface and they can only be so many places at once. Agree that lights would be better. During rush hours or when there's game traffic, you often see cops directing traffic and it helps a lot.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joey
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Hmmmm... CA vehicle code defines bicycles as vehicles equal to cars and they have every right to occupy a full traffic lane. this underpass sounds like a brief section where they need to be safest and to ask that they ride illegally on a sidewalk is not the safe for pedestrians, You wouldnt want people to ride a motorcycle on the sidewalk would you?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Joey - really, I don't need a lesson in the law. But these cyclists need a lesson in staying alive & staying smart. And you're wrong, btw. While the law treats bicycles as vehicles, they aren't the same as cars or motorcycles, as many, any laws reflect. Your comparison to riding a motorcycle on the sidewalk is asinine and ignorant.

The visibility is low in the underpasses, as the amount of light drops suddenly, among other factors. Whether the cyclist takes up the whole lane (which is the safer of the unsafe options), or stupidly hugs the right (decreasing their visibility even further), as is usually the case, being right in the eyes of the law doesn't keep them safe from injury or death.

Getting off of a bike to walk it through the underpass is safe, takes little time and keeps the cyclist out of harm's way. Arguing w/this strategy is proof of the increasingly stubborn attitude that cyclists exhibit, as well as their refusing to understand comments suggesting that they WALK their bikes on the sidewalk of the underpass, thus sadly ensuring the continued program of organ donors.


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