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bikes on the loose

Original post made by Janice Berman, Downtown North, on Nov 25, 2012

One last addendum to my letter to the editor about dangers of cyclists on Palo Alto's downtown sidewalks -- here is the relevant ordinance from the City of Palo ALto web site:

10.64.130 Riding bicycles on sidewalks.

(a) No person shall ride or operate a bicycle upon any sidewalk in a business district, any sidewalk in or on any pedestrian underpass or overpass, or any sidewalk on the Embarcadero Road Overpass across Bayshore Freeway unless such sidewalk is officially designated as a bicycle route.

(b) Any person riding or operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk shall exercise due care and shall yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians.

(c) No person riding or operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk where a bicycle lane or path has been established shall travel in a direction other than as posted.

(Ord. 3055 § 1, 1978: Ord. 2877 910 (part), 1975: Ord. 2652 § 7, 1972: Ord. 2496 (part), 1969: Ord. 2470 (part), 1968: Ord. 2051 (part), 1961: prior code § 16.22)

Thank you.
Janice Berman

Comments (7)

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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2012 at 2:06 am

How about instructions on how to make a citizens arrest? ;-)

1 person likes this
Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2012 at 9:03 am

I have had my left hand clipped by the side mirror of a car while riding on Embarcadero. There really isn't room on Embarcadero to ride anywhere safely except on the sidewalk. The same is true of Alma.

If I have to choose between safety and the law, I choose safety. Which means I will pay the fine if I get cited. It beats death or injury.

Like this comment
Posted by Occasional Cyclist
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 25, 2012 at 9:14 am

I know that cycling people don't agree, but there are several streets where it is too dangerous to ride a bike. Alma is one and Embarcadero is another. Fortunately, Bryant is an easy alternative for Alma and I can manage to avoid Embarcadero with forethought.

It isn't a matter of riding on the sidewalk, what would you do when meeting a bike in the opposite direction, or a group of elderly pedestrians, or a parent with a toddler and a stroller, expect them to get out of your way?

No, it makes much more sense to find alternative routes when on a bike. The obvious way to drive to a destination is never the same way to go by bike.

We should really have more sense than to ride bikes on narrow through routes and leave those for the cars.

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Posted by commuter
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 25, 2012 at 9:49 am

I bet more bicyclists would ride in the street instead of the sidewalk if cars would stop crowding them so much. Change lanes if you're passing a bicyclist in a narrow lane. Look for bicyclists near intersections and don't cut them off or pass them until they are through the intersection. Look back before opening your car door. Very simple.

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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 26, 2012 at 3:59 am

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

Sidewalk bike riding is only prohibited in the business districts and the older underpasses like Cal Ave and Embarcadero underpass. Otherwise, Alma and Embarcadero are not business districts, so you can ride a bike there, though you are required to be careful of other sidewalk users. You should be extra mindful if you ride on the sidewalk, checking behind you at intersections that a speeding car isn't about to make a right turn into you as you cross the intersection: since you aren't in the street, but obscured by shrubbery and moving much faster than a pedestrian, cars turning into intersections or coming into or out of driveways have difficulty seeing you and usually aren't expecting you to be there. For a time several decades ago, Palo Alto tried to say bikes HAD to ride on certain sidewalks, but the dangers (to the cyclists themselves) of sidewalk riding were revealed by studies and so this requirement was removed and signage changed from "bicyclists must use sidewalk" to "may use sidewalk".

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to ride on Alma, Embarcadero, or El Camino Real (ECR), for instance to access homes or businesses or parks, or, especially for Embarcadero, to take the most direct route. I personally usually go for more pleasant, safer routes, like Park Blvd instead of Alma or ECR, though sometimes I do take ECR. If I'm on the wrong side of ECR, I take the sidewalk and am careful of pedestrians and driveways, because it is illegal and suicidal to wrong-way ride in the street. (If a car hits you going the opposite direction, the speed of impact is their speed plus your speed, while if you are hit from behind going the same direction, the impact speed is their speed minus your speed.) If I'm on the right side of the street, I ride in the road. If there's no parked cars for very long stretches and room for cars to pass safely on the left in my lane, then I stay to the right to give them room to pass. (Don't weave in and out of gaps of parked cars, because you aren't visible or predictable.) If there are parked cars (with their dangerous door zones), or debris in the road, or it's just too narrow for a car to pass in my lane, then I take the lane and ride down the middle of it. This makes me more visible to cars and gives a clear indication that if a car wants to pass, they'll have to change lanes and go around. Still, using my helmet mirror I always keep a wary eye on the cars behind me (and those at intersections), to be sure they've seen me and to give myself time to react if it looks like I'm going to be run down by an inattentive or hostile driver. On ECR, it is safer to take the lane than the sidewalk, because of the aforementioned lack of visibility at the many driveways and intersections, and it is legal to do so.

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Posted by Ducatigirl
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 27, 2012 at 10:30 am

I generally use alternate streets to avoid major thoroughfares as much as possible, but sometimes it is not possible. A lot of streets do not have any bike lane...does that mean they should be avoided?

Many drivers like to say that if there is no bike lane, there should be no bikes on that road. However, the Bryant bike route has no bike lane, just a lack of stop signs, which unfortunately, has had the effect of encouraging more motorists wishing to avoid stops.

Being a motorcyclist as well, there are some roads, such as in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where there is simply no room for a bike lane and therefore no room for bikes. As a result, every weekend there are three or more bicycle accidents requiring helicopter evacuation. No bicyclist NEEDS to ride up there. Why purposely put your life in such danger? I have seen a couple of absolutely chilling bicycle accidents.

To paraphrase Cedric, with the beautiful name, choose your route with care.

Like this comment
Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

"Many drivers like to say that if there is no bike lane, there should be no bikes on that road."

Unfortunately, many drivers are woefully ignorant of the rules of the road, which can lead to unjustified righteous hostility when they see a cyclist taking up *their* road. By California law, bicycles are vehicles, and cyclists are accorded all the rights and responsibilities of all vehicle operators. They can travel any road unless expressly forbidden, such as most freeways.

I only rarely have ridden those mountain roads, so I have no knowledge of the pros and cons and connectivity of the routes. I presume the selection of the routes were based on the same criteria for motorists and cyclists. Drivers must exercise greater caution on these winding roads with poor sight lines, as there is no room for a cyclist to get out of the way.

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