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Older cyclists must be role models for youth

Original post made by Parent on Feb 9, 2007

I know we have had threads before on cyclists not stopping at stop signs, but an incident this morning has made me take this up again.

I was driving my freshman to Paly because he had extra stuff to carry today and it was raining, he usually rides his bike. We were driving along Loma Verde and stopped at the 4 way stop sign at Cowper. It was our "turn to go", but an older male cyclist comes along Cowper with his hand raised to us indicating stop, I am crossing. He didn't slow down, let alone stop. His eye contact was constant and his attitude was arrogant. What made it worse although he couldn't have been aware of this, was that my teenager thought that this was a great idea and he should try it. I have had many discussions with him on how he should behave when riding his bike, pointing out that he is a vehicle and should obey all traffic rules. What he saw today undermines all that.

As a request to this cyclist and all adult cyclists, please remember that you are sharing the road with others, you must use traffic rules, and you are in a subtle way teaching younger cyclists how to use the road. If you deliberately flout these common road courtesies in front of younger road users, how will they learn the correct way to behave.

Comments (35)

Posted by Robin, a resident of Community Center
on Feb 9, 2007 at 10:08 am

When approaching stop signs, I look for cyclists, and if it's safe and clear for them to proceed without stopping, I smile and wave them through.






Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2007 at 10:45 am

So many stories, so little time.

I ride my bike to the farmers market and see whole families with small kids ride through stops in front of cars with right of way.

You are right, bike/car interactions are all out of wack in this town.

When I bike commute, car interactions are unpredictable until I reach Mountain View and beyond


Posted by k, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2007 at 11:02 am

Parent, thank you for the heads up.


Posted by PA Mom, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 9, 2007 at 11:13 am

The problem occurs when you don't see the cyclist, for whatever reason, and make your complete stop as required by law, and then proceed to go through the intersection, only in the meantime, a cyclist unexpectedly shows up, without stopping or slowing at the intersection. I try to be careful, and will often let the cyclist proceed before me, even though I've got the right of way. Only if there is an accident because I didn't see the cyclist, then most likely, I'm not the one who will be injured, nor will I be legally at fault.

All I have to go on as a driver, is what the law is and then on careful driving. Frankly, I never know what to expect from bicyclists - sometimes they feel like following the laws of the road and sometimes they ignore them completely. They should at least, for their own safety, slow down at intersections before entering, especially the ones with stop signs. I'd be very unhappy if I witnessed my kids not being extremely careful in this regard.

I know what can happen to bicyclists who get hit by cars. It's terrible. My mom at 8 lost a 14 year old brother 65 years ago in a bike accident. I grew up with my mom always worrying about me the minute I got on a bike. I was thrown off a bike when someone opened a car door right in front of me and broke my finger. My friend was in a coma for days after being hit by a car and it took him a year to get his life back. In each of these instances, the car was at fault. This makes me very nervous when my kids get on bicycles. I just have to drive the point home to them that they are the ones who will get hurt, if they ever come into contact with a car and they must be very careful!

I also agree that older bicyclists by example are teaching our younger kids how to ride, but I don't think it's subtle learning.


Posted by Theresa, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2007 at 11:23 am

PA Mom, I share your dismay with the scene you witnessed this morning, and your son's reaction. I wrote a satirical piece many years ago that was printed in the Weekly about bikes and cars. Some people understood that it was satire, but a few didn't and responded as though I'd suggested we all go out and kill a puppy or something.

Basically, what I said was that when I'm driving, I assume that everyone riding bikes is suicidal and wants to use my car for their demise. So I always have my eyes peeled for bicycle riders and do what I can to avoid them. When I approach stop signs, I look ahead to see if there's a bike rider about to try to use my car to kill him or herself, and deny the bike rider that opportunity by staying out of their way.

Conversely, when I'm on my bike, I assume that anyone in a car is either blind to bike riders or a homicidal maniac out to kill bike riders. If they're blind to bikers, I have to ride as though they won't stop for me or look out for me. I have to look out for them and make sure they don't hit me.

If they're homicidal maniacs, I have to avoid putting myself in a place where they might hit me -- most of the time, this means staying out of the auto traffic lane (and staying off one-way streets like Homer and Channing where the cars go faster than usual) and also keeping an eye out for cars when I approach a stop sign.

I hope you're able to get through to your son that what the hand-raising bike rider did was not safe, nor was it smart. In a few years, when he starts driving, I bet he sees a biker doing that and realizes how stupid it is.


Posted by Peter, a resident of Southgate
on Feb 9, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Good thread. I'm a bike rider, as well as a driver. The shortcomings of drivers in bike/car interactions are well documented and deservedly criticized, as are most bike riders' indiscretions, so I'll limit my discussion to a couple of riders' issues.

One is the practice I've observed in mostly riders who appear to be in their late sixties to late seventies (I'm 71), of riding where they will, including going the wrong way in the southbound bike lane on Churchill. When I was riding the other way and politely attempted to discuss the situation (endangering both of us and confusing motorists, he contemptuously waved me off with a curse. I have also seen him do the "hand wave" gambit. Sometimes Perhaps people like this are seeking forgiveness by playing the age card – "just let me through because I'm old."

I have also observed older riders, particularly women, who don't wear helmets.

The second is similar behavior amongst Paly students who exit the Churchill campus on the sidewalk, bike path, and bike lane, heading north in the southbound bike lane. They converge at the Alma/Churchill light, and then launch across the street riding on the sidewalk and the wrong way in the bike lane, then darting across the street part way down the block, seemingly oblivious to traffic. Many of them wear helmets, but leave the straps hanging, negating the purpose of wearing the helmets.



Posted by Tim, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 9, 2007 at 4:17 pm

I've been cycling in Palo Alto since I was 6-7 years old and find it fairly safe to roll through stop signs, especially 4 way stops. I'm not saying everyone should do the same, but for me, I have much more perception than someone in a car. I have plenty of time before I hit the white line to look left and right for traffic and can also hear traffic around me. I always stop if there is a car comming up to the line and usually when that car hits the stop first, they gester for me to go, which can be pretty annoying. You were there first, so you friggin go, that's the law and that's why I stopped.

I'm the last person to want to get hit by a car. I've been smacked a few times and it has always been 100% the drivers fault. I've never been in any type of car accident either. Cars are difficult to drive and riding a bicycle really helps to clue in your senses and pay attention to every single slight moves these f-ing idiots out there. We need to stop handing out licenses to everyone who can simply fill out a form. I'm glad your kid rides a bike.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2007 at 4:36 pm

Nice thread. Gives me a chance to say something I have been bothered by lately a lot.

I have noticed that lately there are a lot of cyclists on Arastradero between 280 and Foothill. It isn't so bad closer to Foothill because the road is wider and there is room for the bikes, but back by 280 it is downright dangerous. There are blind curves, which forces the car to just drive slowly behind the cyclist until the curve is done, but since there is usually traffic coming the other way, the driver has to just follow the bike for a ways until the road opens up. Or, conversely, try to squeeze by the bike. Both are very dangerous.

Bicyclists, please use the bike lane off the road to the north to ride your bike. You can enter it at Purissima easily, and at every corner after that. It would be a lot less dangerous for you and less nerve wracking for the car drivers. I almost never see anyone on that beautiful lane built for this purpose.

The only good thing about it is that I get to use whoever these bicyclists are as good lessons in what NOT to do with my kids every day. But I would really hate for them to be in the car the day a bicyclist blows a tire and goes down right in front of me or something.


Posted by El Camino Driver, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2007 at 9:44 pm

Since this seems like such a nice polite thread, I would like to ask those of you who are cyclists a question. I was going southbound on El Camino, planning to turn R on Los Robles. It's one of those right turns where there is a red curb zone, wide enough to pull into and turn right while not having to wait for the back-up of cars at the light. I don't think there is a designated bike lane there. As I approached the light, I passed a cyclist who was really moving quickly. I believe he judged his timing to get to the light just as it turned green so he wouldn't have to stop. I signalled with my blinker, but at the last moment I noticed him right on my tail, so I didn't go, unsure of whether or not he had noticed I was turning. He screamed some obscenity at me, pulled to the LEFT of my car and thumped the back of it as he raced past. Really, I was trying not to turn right in front of him. But from his reaction, something went awry...

So, who was right?

Thanks.


Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 10, 2007 at 12:37 am

I can't respond to that last question, although I do ride a bike and drive a car in Palo Alto. I agree that bike riders in this town can be very arrogant and wreckless, although when one gets hit by a car we hear from them only that car drivers are always at fault. One place this problem is cultivated is with crossing guards. When I ride bikes with my children to school in the mornings, I find crossing guards who stop traffic and urge us to run the stop signs, or make a row of cars wait for us even if it is their turn and we aren't at the crossing yet. If we stop at the stop sign or to wait for the light, the guards get testy. In this way they are teaching us the signs and traffic laws don't apply to us because we're on bikes. Safety for a bicycle rider depends in part on following the rules of the road where applicable. A person on a bike should stop at the stop sign and take her turn and should obey what the traffic light says. Why are the crossing guards teaching our children to ignore this? It is now wonder then that local children grow up expecting cars to make all the accomodations.


Posted by Palo Alto Mom, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 10, 2007 at 12:38 am

I can't respond to that last question, although I do ride a bike and drive a car in Palo Alto. I agree that bike riders in this town can be very arrogant and wreckless, although when one gets hit by a car we hear from them only that car drivers are always at fault. One place this problem is cultivated is with crossing guards. When I ride bikes with my children to school in the mornings, I find crossing guards who stop traffic and urge us to run the stop signs, or make a row of cars wait for us even if it is their turn and we aren't at the crossing yet. If we stop at the stop sign or to wait for the light, the guards get testy. In this way they are teaching us the signs and traffic laws don't apply to us because we're on bikes. Safety for a bicycle rider depends in part on following the rules of the road where applicable. A person on a bike should stop at the stop sign and take her turn and should obey what the traffic light says. Why are the crossing guards teaching our children to ignore this? It is now wonder then that local children grow up expecting cars to make all the accomodations.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2007 at 6:14 am

Time to consider separation of bike and auto traffic at least on major arterials.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2007 at 9:24 am

El Camino Driver,

I was not there, but from your description, it sounds like you did nothing wrong. It sounds like you signalled your intent well in advance of his approach, so he could plan abd react. Later you went into reasonable defensive driving mode because of his speed differential and what appeared to be an illegal pass on the right about to happen.

I always try to sit directly behind a moving car with a right blinker going if I can. That way I am easy for the driver to find. Passing on the right or left is problematic until the car really starts executing the turn. Being on the right is an obvious issue since thats where the car is going to go, but passing to the left is tricky too, if the car has not actually started executing its turn. Not every car that indicates a right turn, actually does it. So typically I wont start passing a moving car on the left until the car is executing the right turn. I like to see some real commitment before I pass.

Occassionally I do happen on a driver that for some reason panics and wont do anything unless I pass first and for me, there is no magic rule of thumb for that, I just pass however I can if I think I can keep safe. Only once have I had a deadlock, where I was unwilling to pass and they were unwilling to proceed until I did. I just patiently sat behind her for about 2 minutes waiting for her to get that I was really going to wait. Eventually she did proceed and no mean gestures were exchanged ;^)

hope this helps


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2007 at 7:30 pm

I bike to work most days, and generally encounter one or two drivers who try to wave me through a stop sign without stopping. No wonder bicyclists are confused! Some drivers encourage them to break the law, others get mad at them for doing it.I personally never accept such invitations, and as a driver I never wave bicyclists through unless they were there first. I don't think I am being nice to them by encouraging them to break the law and put themselves in danger.

As for the "beautiful" separated path along Arastradero, the reason that bicyclist don't use it is that most of them are smart enough to have figured out that it is a death trap! It is very rough and cracked, and debris is rarely cleaned from it. It is far too narrow for two way traffic, especially when shared with cell-phone yacking or headphone-wearing pedestrians. The worst part of paths like this, though, is when they cross driveways or intersections. Who has the right of way? Do you think that drivers turning right into a driveway will look at the path to see if there is a cyclist there? No, out of sight is out of mind. After a couple of ugly encounters like this, intelligent cyclists will ride out in the road where drivers will see them. If drivers need to slow down a bit so everyone can be safe, well, that's what the law requires. Nobody likes an angry driver behind them, but it is often necessary to take pre-emptive defensive action to avoid conditions that drivers aren't aware of.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Those dang pedestrians, mixing in with traffic where they don't fit.
Does anyone besides me see the irony here?


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2007 at 9:58 pm

Walter, I didn't say that pedestrians didn't fit. I was saying that bicyclists don't fit there. Leave this "beautiful" path to the pedestrians. You are the one advocating for separated paths, but the real irony is that they are more dangerous for bicyclists than riding in the road. Do you understand that?


Posted by Jerry, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2007 at 10:02 pm

I have occasion to drive Sand Hill road frequently on Saturday and Sunday mornings at about 8:45- 9:00 a.m.. At this time there are many cyclists in racing gear going westbound between El Camino and 280. They do not stay in the bike lanes and do not yield to motorists. Some days last fall there was heavy biker traffic with refreshment stands along the way.

Stop signs all over town are evidently invisible to bikers in general- and particularly older ones. Also having headlights, tail lights, and reflective clothing.

Question: Years ago our children had to take their bikes to a fire station to get them licensed and get a sticker put on the bike. Is that still required?


Posted by El Camino Driver, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2007 at 11:16 am

Thanks, all, for your responses. I guess the answer is, there is no ideal answer! I'll just play it safe and do what seems to be the safest for both of us, erring on the side that I'm driving a death machine and he's out getting some exercise. I can appreciate this since both my sons are bike riders and the 20 year old still doesn't want to get his driver's license. One day that cyclist whose life I don't endanger may be him!


Posted by NAC, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2007 at 6:46 pm

Perhaps we should consider a mdoel more like the UK? Bicycles by law have to obey the same rules as cars; laws govern the interaction of cars and bicycles; and children are taught the laws and earn a cycling proficiency certificate at primary school. Most parents will not let their children on the road before they have passed the proficiency test.

Furthermore, the police will fine cyclists if they see them violating rules - running through red lights on crossings, cycling on the sidewalk, etc.

After first moving to the USA, riding a bicycle on the roads here just looked extraordinarily scary coming from such a background.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2007 at 9:22 pm

NAC,

Believe it or not, In California, bicycles do have to follow the same rules as cars and the kids get taught the rules for bikes in elementary school.

However there is not much enforcement of the laws for cars, bikes, or foot traffic to cause some folks to comply.


Posted by Janis, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2007 at 7:09 am

I agree with the original sentiment that adult cyclists should set a good example for youth. I also feel that adult drivers should set a good example for youth. Every day I see drivers speeding, following too closely, turning without signals, blocking crosswalks, rolling through stop signs and red lights without stopping, and failing to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists. Many of these drivers have children in their cars. Those children are learning how to drive, whether their parents mean to be teaching them or not. After years of watching their parents, a few hours in a driving class is not going to have much effect on their attitude. Where is the sense of responsibility here? Why do we need police enforcement to get people to behave the way they know they should?


Posted by Bike to Work, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 12, 2007 at 7:46 am

"I always stop if there is a car comming up to the line and usually when that car hits the stop first, they gester for me to go, which can be pretty annoying. You were there first, so you friggin go, that's the law and that's why I stopped."

Exactly. Having nearly 20 years of daily bike commuting in Palo ALto I heartily agree. I'm so fed up with stopping, putting my foot down and waiting my law abiding turn that I've just stopped doing it! If I get this "go ahead you're on a bike so go first" gesture 99.9% of the time, then I'm just going to stop trying to follow the law and just roll on through. Treat us as another law abiding vehicle and that's how we'll behave.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2007 at 8:23 am

I've had people get visably angry when I stopped at a stop sign after they waved, so I know exactly what you mean.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2007 at 10:07 am

Janis,

Don't think of enforcement just as punishment, if a police officer stops someone, its an opportunity to educate the person on what the rules are and what they did wrong.

I don't always assume that people know all the rules.


Posted by also a cyclist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2007 at 10:56 pm

Palo Alto Mom --
Just read your Feb 10th observations about your experiences with adult crossing guards waving you through stop signs even when they have to hold up drivers of motor vehicles who were in the intersection before you. This is definitely not what the guards are supposed to be doing!! You are right that this gives the wrong message.

** The next time this happens to you (or anybody reading this), please contact Sgt. Steve Herrera, who heads up the PAPD traffic team, with your comments (email: steve.herrera@cityofpaloalto.org).** Details like specific location, time and direction you were traveling, direction drivers were traveling are all helpful.

When I submitted a different complaint for a different part of town, he followed up right away and some additional training was done. It turns out that the guard service is now contracted out and sometimes they aren't adequately trained or supervised. Feedback from observant parents is important if we want our kids to learn the rules of the road.


Posted by PV Parent, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Feb 13, 2007 at 8:24 am

I agree that it is up to the crossing guards to do the right thing when they are "in charge" of a busy intersection. However, at the intersection we use, where on the way to school I am a pedestrian, but at other times of the day when he is there I am a motorist, our crossing guard is doing a pretty good job. He does have very limited English though and although he does not need to speak to do his job well, it does limit any communication with him. I once wanted to let him know that the road was dug up and he should alert children to use the other side of the road so that they would not have to walk in a busy street, but his lack of understanding made that useless. I am not saying that our crossing guards all have to speak English but if they can't speak English I wonder how good their training can be?


Posted by NAC, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 13, 2007 at 9:59 pm

It's hard to imagine bicylists have to follow the same rules as cars! Only this morning on N. California, on the way to work, I rode past a group of children cycling in the wrong lane (towards incoming traffic).

The crossing guard didn't take any action --- I guess it's just assumed that dangerous cycling is the norm, and rules are not enforced. That's the real problem we should fix, in my humble opinion.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2007 at 7:56 am

NAC,

I can confirm for you that riding against traffic is illegal.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2007 at 6:02 pm

"You are the one advocating for separated paths, but the real irony is that they are more dangerous for bicyclists than riding in the road. Do you understand that?"
No I don't understand. From What I have heard, on paths where bikes and joggers share, the bikers have the same arrogance of entitlement that makes them a pain in the saddle to cars and pedestrians. Everybody understands the biker's need to conserve velocity. Most of us know that does not make other users subordinate users.


Posted by Euro, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2007 at 6:53 pm

We should look at Holland. There is a complete system of cyclepaths there, complete with their own traffic lights, traffic signals, etc. completely away from motorised and also pedestrian traffic. Bicycles are modes of transport there, not weekend hobbies, and the cyclists know and use the rules of the road (or cycle path). Until we get a similar system here, road users share a very bad system and everyone must obey the rules or they are in danger of being killed, since they don't seem to be in danger of being ticketed.


Posted by Richard, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2007 at 7:45 pm

Walter and Euro,
One problem with our separated paths is that we don't have a complete system as in Europe, where there are bike-only paths that have separate signals at each intersection. The biggest problem US bicyclists have is getting drivers to see them, since most drivers are only looking for cars. Here every intersection on a bike path is a struggle because drivers will just not be looking for anything but cars on their road. Our paths were not designed with cyclist safety in mind but simply to eliminate any delay to motorists. In Holland, where everybody and their grandmother bikes regularly, car drivers know to look for cyclists at every intersection. The separate traffic signals and phases for bikes cause extra delay for car drivers, but that is accepted. I don't think that would fly here. They also have very different liability laws that favor smaller vehicles instead of larger ones, the exact opposite of our "might makes right" philosophy. In Holland, the larger your vehicle the more careful you must be. That affects people's attitudes greatly when they get behind the wheel and permeates their whole transportation philosophy. All of these aspects work together. We can't take their paths without their culture, attitudes and laws and expect them to work here.


Posted by Dave Voelker, a resident of Professorville
on Feb 16, 2007 at 11:46 am

I follow the same rule as Tim (some replies up) when approaching a stop sign on my bike: stop & yield to any cars who have the right of way in the intersection, but otherwise roll through it if it's clear.


Posted by RS, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 16, 2007 at 4:01 pm

Dave,

I think the original poster's concerns still apply. On the times when there is no car around, but there is a kid around, do you ride through the stop? I think her concern is about when an adult is modeling behavior that a kid sees and the kid will apply later.

Not telling you what to do, I totally understand the desire not to stop.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 17, 2007 at 12:08 pm

Hi guys - I really wish that the PAPD had the time and resources to help kids understand the real issues, laws and realities of biking in PA. PTAs try so hard with the 3rd grade bike safety program, but after that, when kids enter their "I'm immortal" stage that the real issues rear their ugly heads.

On Los Robles there are tons of kids riding so unsafely it makes me cringe. I stand in my cross-walk and try to say something to all of them who pass with helmets dangling from handlebars, riding with friends on the handlebars or standing behind on the thingies that stick out from the hubs. Both mornings and afternoons, they blow through all the stopsigns, ride on the wrong side, listen to their I-pods, blah blah blah. I feel like an old fuddy-duddy trying to squash their youthful energy, but I just couldn't bear to see this light extinguished by a stupid collision, so I still say things to them.

I wish their parents could see their babies who probably leave home with helmet firmly clipped and no musical interference sailing past my house. I once watched a kid take off his helmet and pull his Ipod out of his backpack and continue to school - without slowing down!

The awful part is that their worst enemies are their SUV driving peers who might be late and don't seem to understand that residential streets are 25mph. I know I shouldn't distract them by asking them all to slow down and be careful, but sometimes I just can't help it (and, yes, I yell at adult speeders, too).

I know you've heard this rant before if you're the Richard or the RS I think you might be, but I'm still frustrated after all these years!

Also that beautiful path along Arastradero has horse poop on it. Ick.


Posted by gordon, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Feb 23, 2007 at 11:04 am

run the idoiots over. bunch of jerks, cyclist need to start dying in greater numbers.


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