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Skyline Blvd. collision kills Woodside woman

Original post made on Sep 19, 2013

A Woodside woman on a bicycle was struck and killed in a collision with a van Wednesday afternoon at the intersection of Skyline Boulevard and Elk Tree Road near Woodside, the California Highway Patrol reported.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, September 19, 2013, 9:09 AM

Comments (40)

Posted by Incredibly Sad, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 10:08 am

This is incredibly sad. Just riding her bike in the middle of the day. Cyclists typically are traveling at high-20s or low-30s mph on that stretch. On a weekday, there is hardly any traffic, and suddenly the van coming toward her in the opposite lane turns right in front of her. She apparently was an amazing person. Very very sad.


Posted by Hulkamania, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 19, 2013 at 10:21 am

After a long, hard climb to the top of the ridge, that stretch of road is a welcome decent into Skylonda. I've ridden it many times.

She was probably looking forward to stopping at Alice's to cool off. Really sad.


Posted by Derek, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 10:25 am

Fellow Cyclists: PLEASE use a powerful blinking LED headlight ALWAYS when riding. I ride this stretch of road about 3x per week. Even at mid day, the road is dappled in sunlight and tree shadows and your own vision will be obstructed, never mind that of motorists. Your best chance of avoiding collisions is to be VISIBLE. A friend of mine was involved in an almost identical accident on this very stretch just a few months back. She survived but was severely injured. She has resumed riding but now uses a headlight.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 19, 2013 at 10:59 am

Sometimes it's best not to go to all-out speed when coasting downhill, just in case of an event like this.


Posted by Raymond, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

Poor Lady. I feel bad. It's dangerous up there. Drivers can't always see. A lot of cars and a lot of bicycles; bad mix.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 11:45 am

The standard, "She was wearing a helmet" comment. Why does it matter? Hitting a car at speed with a motorcycle helmet wouldn't make much difference She was killed while legally riding her bike by a motorist that made a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes. Until the drivers are held accountable innocent cyclist will be killed and are at fault until proven otherwise.

This is why California needs to pass a 3 ft passing law.


Posted by Cid Young, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 11:49 am

I am sad forvthis tragedy. I was driving in the afternoon yesterday, and noticed the bright sun blinded me momentarily, in San Anselmo. I was driving cautiously, but the pedestrians crossing the street probably were not aware of the light in my face obscuring my vision temporarily. They just suddenly appeared in the crosswalk, or so it seemed. Fortunately the patch of shade I entered just before I saw them, must have restored my sight-line in the nick if time. It could have been the same for the cyclist or the driver of the van.
Still, I often have seen cars pull out in front of my car, either misjudging my speed, or assuming that I'd see them pulling out, and I would slow or stop, but how could they assume? What if I had not seen them?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2013 at 11:55 am

It does sound as if the driver was at fault. But, it makes sense for cyclists to do a better job of being visible even in daylight. Shadows on the brightest day can make it very difficult to be seen if the bike has no lights or bright colors. Reflecting vests are required and daytime lights for motor cyclists as standard in some countries. Here cyclists are allowed to wear dark clothes at night, not wear reflective clothing and get away with no lights and the wrong side of the road and are still expecting drivers to see them at night let alone in the shadows. Most cyclists are also drivers at some time and should realize how difficult it is to be seen, but somehow that does not carry through when they get on their bikes.

It is sad that this cyclist was killed and I feel for her family.


Posted by fgh, a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 19, 2013 at 12:36 pm

so car wasnt even cited after running down bikes now someone is killed. so palo alto cops chase someone riding bike in underpas and she ends up hitting cop. now you know why. cops are going after bikes while all these dangerous cars are text messaging all the time on el camino and running stop signs and nearly collidiong with other cars. but BIKES are public enemy no. 1. polluting cars are privileged but you claim to be bike friendly! bikes are to blame for worlds problems. sort of like racially diverse people. always blamed for everything.


Posted by Sheesh, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Sep 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm

Remember, this is traumatic for the driver too, even if it was his fault. I am not placing blame on either. Some bicyclists assume drivers see them and are too risky with their cycling. Basic safety rule is: Vehicle vs. Bike - Vehicle wins every time.


Posted by Wrong Side of the Road?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Sep 19, 2013 at 1:53 pm

What a tragic accident - so sad for all involved. I agree that both drivers and cyclists need to be as cautious as possible, and ranting about one side or the other is just not helpful. In reading the article though, it appears the cyclist may have been on the wrong side of the road. "Authorities closed the southbound lane of Highway 35 at Highway 84..." "The cyclist was traveling northbound on a downhill section of Skyline when a white Mazda minivan turned left onto Elk Tree Road..."

It looks like maybe the cyclist was traveling on the wrong side of the road, and the vehicle may not have seen her approaching from behind when they turned left.

Again, not blaming the cyclist, but we should have compassion for all involved and realize that with the best of intentions and skills, sometimes accidents still happen.


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 19, 2013 at 1:59 pm

I have to drive in the foothills a lot and one of my nightmares is that I'll accidentally hit a cyclist.

Cyclists, you *have* to think defensively. What Derek says about going in and out of shade is very true of those roads. There's no point in going on about how drivers should be held accountable because no one *wants* to cause a fatal accident.

I see cyclists do reckless things all the time--riding two or three abreast on roads with curves and fast traffic, darting in and out among cars, not pulling to the side when there are cars behind them.

Remember, even if you're in the "right" a van or even a light car is bigger and heavier than you and your bike. You will bear the brunt of the injury. Make sure you can be seen (and teach your kids the same.)


Posted by Riding, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:12 pm

@Wrong side: The cyclist was on the correct side of the road, the motorist turned in front of her and the cyclist hit the right side of the van.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 2:18 pm

It is tragic for all involved. Particularly for the deceased because she doesn't have any choices. But as individuals we do, If you think the conditions are dangerous - slow down. The vehicle code already address cars and cyclists (which have all rights AND responsibilities as cars).

@ Derek - The idea of using a daylight running light is a good one. The vehicle code does not allow flashing white lights on vehicles (including cyclists - got that ticket already) other than emergency vehicles and some motorcycles but I not familiar with that exception. Wearing high visibility clothing definitely helps but won't help when the driver is temporarily blinded.

Often when conditions are not ideal or we are in a hurry it maybe helpful to stop and think - Is it worth killing somebody over?

We can all share the road!


Posted by Monty Kersten, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Motorists need to remember rods are NOT made for cars: they are made for PEOPLE.


Posted by Rode this route today, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 3:12 pm

@Wrong. I rode this stretch of road today. My riding companions told me about this accident, and I just read this article.

Given the specifics in the article, and the curve of the road at this intersection, it seems likely that she would have bounced off the van toward her left (into the southbound lane). This is a much more likely explanation for why the southbound traffic was closed than her riding on the wrong side of the road.


Posted by Bill, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 3:21 pm

I regularly ride with a daytime headlight. While I'd like to think this reduces the chance of other vehicles turning in front of my path, it hasn't always helped. I still get drivers turning in front of me. The problem as I see it is that motor vehicle drivers are looking for "car-shaped" objects entering their path, not narrow bicycles or motorcycles.


Posted by billyjames, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm

@Brian: Could you please cite the vehicle code that "does not allow flashing white lights on vehicles (including cyclists - got that ticket already) other than emergency vehicles and some motorcycles" I ask because flashing lights seem to be more visible.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm

"CVC 25250. Flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles except
as otherwise permitted."

Yeah, that's helpful. The code goes on to okay turn signals, hazard lights, and various official and emergency uses. Nothing permitting flashing bike headlamps, though there is one paragraph specific to motorcycles ("CVC 25251.2. Any motorcycle may be equipped with a means
of modulating the upper beam of the headlamp...").


Posted by 3grtkids, a resident of Stanford
on Sep 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Derek and other cyclist -
Could you please give us some examples of the type of helmet mounted lights that you use? I did not know Joy but I am crying for her family and friends that have lost this wonderful person because of this awful accident. I want to be a safer cyclist and know it can be hard to be seen in the shadows. Thanks,


Posted by PA007, a resident of Community Center
on Sep 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

A former Amazon CFO..


Posted by Derek, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 6:54 pm

@3grtkids: I use a front headlight and a rear light, both made by Light and Motion, mounted on my handlebar. The front model is the Urban 550 meaning it provides 550 lumens which is very bright. L&M is a local company based in Monterey. There are 4 modes including flashing, which I find effective in getting the attention of most motorists without being offensive. I was not aware of vehicle codes applying to bicyclists regarding the use of flashing lights; however, I have ridden past many police, sheriff, CHP vehicles without incident. There are many manufacturers of headlights and I think every rider should use one - the brighter the better. I am considering adding a helmet mounted front/back light as well, which I think is essential if riding alongside traffic on roads like ECR, because the height of the light makes it visible even if you are alongside a car. Yesterday's accident is a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to her family & friends. I rode on that very stretch just a few hours earlier. Please everyone be safe.


Posted by Derek, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 19, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Correction: The rear light is mounted on the seat post. Model is L&M Vis 180 (large version).


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Sep 19, 2013 at 9:50 pm

There is an article about this in Yahoo News now.

Makes you wonder how someone with an IQ of 173 would available herself to the risk of cycling on skyline, as so many posters have indicated here.


Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Sep 20, 2013 at 10:07 am

@3grtkids - Derek is right. The brighter the better. I agree the flashing lights are much more noticeable and I do use the flash mode when it is foggy or just dingy light during the winter. That was how I was stopped by a police cruiser riding through San Pablo. A good inexpensive light (900-1000 lumen actual vs rated) can be had for under $25. Web Link

@Outside Observer - it is pretty clear by your comment that you believe bikes are toys meant to be used as such and do not belong on roads. It is you that we need to provide more education to so we can increase your IQ up to par with the unfortunate victims.

Ride safe!


Posted by Sam Hay, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 20, 2013 at 10:26 am

Brian: "It is you that we need to provide more education"

Perhaps.

But you, sir, are drinking the koolaid, if you think it's just a few drivers that "need education".

I can guarantee you it is most drivers that are freaked out by riders flying down parts of Skyline, 84, etc.. around curbs with limited visibility, in packs, riding double, in an out of tree shadows, etc...

Drivers are well aware of the dangers that cyclists on those narrow, limited visibility roads, face. Most of us have sweaty palms driving up to Huddart, or 84 or another of these twisty narrow roads, fearing we're going to nail a cyclist flying around a corner, or not seeing him until it's too late. I'll never forget a story about a friend, when on the way to visit an acquaintance in a hospital after a bicycle v car crash, was asked to bring several pictures of the adult patient, so they would know how to reconstruct his face to resemble what he looked like before the accident.

Guess what? When the inevitable happens, the driver will feel awful about it. But he's on a road built for cars, and he will drive the same route the next day. These roads are not made for bikes, and they are clearly no good for bikers that don't take basic defensive tactics in mind, increasing their visibility and obeying not just laws, but common sense about where to ride and at what speed.

Condolences to Joy's family and friends.


Posted by Sad, a resident of Barron Park
on Sep 20, 2013 at 11:14 am

Guys, for the record, this accident wasn't about "roads built for cars," was she going too fast, in or out of a bike lane, etc. The van turned right in front of her without seeing her. If a guy doesn't check on-coming traffic before turning, he might cause an accident - in this case, a tragic, fatal one.


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 20, 2013 at 3:25 pm

My guess from reading about the accident is that the driver was making a delivery under time pressure had probably almost missed the turn-off, saw it and made an abrupt left. The cyclist didn't see what he was doing until too late--otherwise she could also have swerved--she would have fallen, but that would have been less likely to be fatal.

No question, the driver making the turn into oncoming traffic is at fault. However, it is worth asking whether some sort of lighting would have made the cyclist more visible might have averted the accident.

Or, on the other side, if there was some better training of delivery drivers? I remember when Domino's 30-minutes-delivery-or-your-money-back campaign ended up backfiring because the delivery drivers caused too many accidents.


Posted by Accident, a resident of Woodside
on Sep 20, 2013 at 5:23 pm

The van made a left turn and failed to yield to the oncoming bicycle which had the right of way. Plain and simple. Lighting/visibility may have been affected by sunlight coming through trees and the shadows under the trees - however, if one cannot see, they should stop and be sure before making turning movement. My guess, the investigation will lead the D.A. to file a vehicular manslaughter charge, a misdemeanor with no negligence. Conviction will lead to community service hours and probation. Case closed.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Whether or not it would have made any difference, I've missed any mention of the driver signaling his left turn "continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning." (CVC22108) I don't know what percent of drivers ever signal their turns or lane changes or under what conditions. Or what percent cyclists for that matter.


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Accident,

Yes, the driver was at fault, but finding fault won't undo a fatality. Being in the right doesn't help if you're dead. So, my interest is in how could something like this have been prevented. Could something have made the cyclist more visible to the driver? Could better regulation of delivery drivers make for more experienced, more cautious drivers?

I don't think it's a cut-and-dried vehicular manslaughter, by the way. The cyclist hit the van, not the other way around--and that means a possible defense.


Posted by Mike Jacoubowsky, a resident of another community
on Sep 23, 2013 at 8:51 am

I spend quite a bit of time at the scene yesterday (Sunday, 9/22) and had my video camera running. Check this out-

Web Link

Unbelievable that you'd see something like this, we presumably heightened awareness of the dangers of that intersection, possibly coming from a local resident living on Elk Tree Road. The bike even had a front flashing light and the cyclist was wearing a bright easily-seen jersey. --Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner, Chain Reaction Bicycles


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2013 at 12:14 am

Ummm, actually, it looks like there was a reasonable amount of time to make that left turn. The cyclist might have considered slowing down slightly as the car was making that turn, particularly as the cyclist seemed to be coming around a slight bend and wouldn't be immediately visible to the car.

But, anyway, while I was driving today, I saw the following:

1) Cyclists riding side-by-side obstructing traffic on Arastradero. It's a relatively narrow, fast, curving roads with a surprising amount of traffic. It is not a cycling path--single file if there's car traffic. Make it passible for faster vehicle to pass without crossing the double line.

2) Cyclist going against traffic on sidewalk--almost runs into me as I'm waiting to turn onto Middlefield.

3) Cyclist on sidewalk on Embarcadero--at least he was going in the right direction and I have some sympathy for cyclists who want to stay off the street there. No helmet though.

4) Stanford--cyclist blows stop sign at a busy intersection. Cyclist--you are NOT a pedestrian, you do not have automatic right-of-way. Three other cars, two bikes and four pedestrians ALL had the right to go before you did. Good thing some of us are aware of just how brain dead the brilliant minds at Stanford can be.

That was just today. And that was a pretty normal day (with good weather). There were some cyclists who signaled and paid attention, but so many don't. I'm always saddened to hear about bad bike accidents, but not surprised. The faults lie with both drivers and the cyclists.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2013 at 7:29 am

The tv channels were reporting yesterday that a 12 year old was killed riding his bike to school by an suv where the driver was another parent at the school. The fact that he was riding his bike on the wrong side of the street, going against traffic, was only a passing mention. It is so dangerous riding against traffic, but school children are doing it all the time. Teach children to ride bikes safely.


Posted by Derek, a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 24, 2013 at 8:20 am

@OPar: Regarding the left hand turn in the video - would there have been a reasonable amount of time if the oncoming vehicle were a semi truck rather than a bicycle? The stopping distances and maneuverability of a semi truck and a bicycle are roughly equivalent when traveling downhill on a narrow road at that speed.

Clearly one can cite numerous examples of bicyclists driving badly, as one can also do regarding motorists. But I think it is safe to say that most motorists and most cyclists attempt to drive and ride safely. We must all be on the lookout for the exceptions.

As is true for motorcyclists, bicyclists must be more defensive on the roads than motorists. Bicyclists must always bear in mind that motorists either will not spot them, or will not properly account for their speed and reduced maneuverability on the road, even when they have "right of way".


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Derek,

I should hope a cyclist controls his speed better so as to have more maneuverability than a multi-ton semi. Seriously. This is one of the big reasons why there's such an emphasis on not going faster than is safe in given conditions. My recollection is that Skyline is 35 mph most places--and it's because of the curves.

To some extent, the angle of the footage distorts things--so what you saw and what I see on your clip are different things.

And, yes, many people do ride and bike carefully. As opposed to yesterday, I saw several careful cyclists today--including one actually walking his bike when on the sidewalk, others were pulling up far enough at intersections so they would be seen and signalling.


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2013 at 5:30 pm

OPar - you're right. It's such a relief to see cyclists being safe, as it is for them to see safe drivers. I actually recall when it was common to get on the sidewalk & walk your bike because the road was dangerous for whatever reason. Nothing says a cyclist has to continue riding on the street, in a dangerous condition. It's their desire for speed & unwillingness to take things slowly that stops them from walking their bike on the sidewalk.


Posted by musical, a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 24, 2013 at 5:52 pm

That section of Skyline is posted 45 mph. Drops to 40 near Hwy 84.

What I observe on the clip is the SUV stopping for less than 1 second, most likely seeing the cyclist 200 feet away and making a snap judgement to proceed. The SUV then takes about 2 seconds to accelerate across the northbound lane, and the cyclist crosses the intersection 2.5 seconds later at probably near 30 mph (44 feet per second).

Why couldn't this driver wait 5 seconds?

My theory -- in the heavy traffic around here, drivers become conditioned to grab a 5-second gap when they see one.

Perhaps irrelevant to last week's collision, since it's not yet clear whether the minivan driver saw the cyclist at all before beginning his left turn.


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2013 at 7:56 pm

Musical,

Yep, I suspect it is a timing thing. Which makes the video trickier to assess. After all, there *wasn't* a collision, nor did we see the cyclist swerve. Would it register as close if two cars were involved? And, yes, would the SUV have waited?

Anyway, not the same situation as last week's collision--there would have been decent visibility on Skyline itself. My guess is that the driver was distracted because he was looking for the street sign and not enough at the actual road. May also not have been aware of the need to look for cyclists as well as four-wheeled vehicles.

Hmmmm, Yep. Nothing wrong with walking your bike--particularly if there are a lot of pedestrians around, but you don't see it much.


Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:52 pm

@ Mike Jacoubowsky,

Well staged video. Do you make videos on bicycle safety? If so, please share them with us.


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