Signs and expressions stating the obvious

December 12, 2015

A sign just for bicyclists on Page Mill Road. How patronizing.

A sign just for bicyclists on Page Mill Road. How patronizing.

Have you seen the signs on Page Mill Road warning about water tank work about a quarter-mile up from Moody Road?

I wonder who made them because they sure don’t adhere to any highway sign standards I’m aware of. They call out cyclists, which I find curious.

Here’s what it says:

Attention Bicyclists
Construction Zone
Ahead Loose Gravel
Please Slow Down
Have a Safe Ride

It’s commendable that the local water agency, my guess, went to such effort to create a sign, but it’s not necessary. The work affects all traffic and poses a similar hazard to motorcycles, cars, trucks, anyone using the road. Let’s use the proper signs, ones that we’re all accustomed to seeing.

We’re all guilty of stating the obvious. As I was riding slowly up Page Mill Road, I heard a voice pipe up behind me as a car drove by: “Car back!”

I quickly checked my hearing aid to see if it was working. Working fine, that really was the noise of a car approaching; I heard it for quite some distance before it passed.

There’s only one expression more annoying: “Car up!” On those I have to check both my hearing aid and my prescription glasses to see that they’re working. Let’s not forget “On your left.”

Come to think of it, when passing it might be better to say, “Have a Safe Ride!”

Safety concerns on Mt. Umunhum

December 8, 2015

Hikers and cyclists a security problem? I don't think so.

Hikers and cyclists a security problem? I don’t think so.

This morning’s San Jose Mercury News delves into the issue of opening Mt. Umunhum summit to the public. I mention this here because so few people subscribe to the paper anymore. Support your local newspaper.

As I wrote in my 1986 article, the landowners on Mt. Umunhum believe they are under assault by trespassers and that the county and other law enforcement agencies are unwilling or unable to be of much help.

Fair enough. The area attracts its share of miscreants. I’m guilty of riding the length of Mt. Umunhum Road, as are dozens of otherwise law-abiding citizens.

The question is, how far do you go to maintain security? Video cameras were placed at access points to Mt. Umunhum by the landowners. MROSD rangers have responded when violators were seen, as I can attest.

I think things have gotten out of hand. Most of the violators are well-intentioned. They just want to see the view from up top. Don’t we all? That’s why the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District has spent millions of our dollars (some Federal, so I can include myself although I don’t live in the district) cleaning up the former Air Force base, buying land. Let’s move on.

When I rode bikes with Jobst Brandt, I came to subscribe to his belief that open space should be shared, regardless of who owns it. Europeans pretty much feel the same way. However, that’s not the attitude here. So we have to create an agency that buys land for public use and sets all kinds of restrictions.

There will always be security concerns. They can be dealt with. It reminds me of the politicians who would punish an entire group of people for the misdeeds of a few. That’s no way to handle the problem, including this one.

Follow-up: The board voted 7-0 to pursue eminent domain.

Transmission towers are located on just about every mountaintop, as with Loma Prieta.

Transmission towers are located on just about every mountaintop, as with Loma Prieta.

Mt. Umunhum access down to this: Eminent Domain

December 5, 2015

Mt. Umunhum Road where the McQueen property begins. It might take eminent domain to gain public access to the summit.

I’ve been following the Mt. Umunhum soap opera for more than 30 years, but now the last act is about to be played: Eminent Domain.

It’s the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s (MROSD) ace card, held in reserve until it ran out of options.

That time is now. The road to the summit, originating at Hicks Road, is supposed to open to the public in October 2016, but MROSD can’t get an easement across the McQueen family (Scott and Randee) land through which the upper reach of the road passes.

Without an easement, there can’t be a grand opening. From all appearances, eminent domain is MROSD’s last resort. The staff recommendation to pursue eminent domain will be taken up by the MROSD board at a meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m.

Probably of lesser importance, but still calling for eminent domain, is access to a road leading to nearby Mt. Thayer, the land apparently owned by Michael Rossetta and Leonard Rossetta.

For anyone unfamiliar with eminent domain, it basically means the government takes your land, although it has to pay a fair price. In this case, it’s about $380,000 for an easement to use the road crossing the McQueen land.

When the Air Force shut down its radar station at the mountain summit in 1980, the land was put up for sale. MROSD swooped in an bought it. The original owner, Loren McQueen, who sold his land to the Air Force, didn’t have a chance to buy it back.

At least that’s one version of the story. McQueen never forgave MROSD and put up roadblocks, literally and figuratively, to prevent the agency from developing the land for open space.

He claimed the Air Force easement to use the road crossing his land expired, if the base shut down. I don’t doubt him on that point.

While McQueen is the primary obstacle, other landowners haven’t been accommodating either. Most were bought out by MROSD, eventually.

I think both sides in this dispute share some blame for not settling their differences, especially now that Mr. McQueen is gone. He was your classic curmudgeon.

His children, I’m told, are reasonable people who went out of their way to help out with a time trial bike ride up Mt. Umunhum, granting access to their part of the road.

If it were up to me, I would lease the Mt. Umunhum cube to the McQueen business, Communication Control Inc. (CCI), at a fair price in exchange for opening the road.

That would preserve the cube, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on where you stand on the matter.

I have no problem seeing the cube, and a fence around it. CCI owns the facility on Black Mountain off Monte Bello Road, also on MROSD land, and it doesn’t bother me in the least seeing it there.

I wrote a lengthy article on this topic way back in 1986. It’s available here for anyone who wants to delve into the history: The Last Outpost.






Bikes vs. Cars coming to a theater near you

November 29, 2015

Bikes vs. Cars is coming to the Bay Area in December.

Bikes vs. Cars is coming to the Bay Area in December.

I first learned about Bikes vs. Cars a couple years ago through Kickstarter, from which the producer/director Fredrik Gertten raised $80,000 from 2,000 pledges.

In the Bay Area it’s showing Dec. 3-9 in San Francisco at the Roxie theater, in Oakland Dec. 8 and in San Rafael Dec. 4-10.

The movie looks at bicycles and how they are used for transportation from a global perspective. It takes a Michael Moore advocacy slant for bicycles, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I plan to see it. What might be missing (I haven’t seen anything more than previews) is how the autonomous car fits into the transportation equation. This technology is going to be of enormous benefit for all humankind, bicyclists included, and will certainly ensure continued use of the automobile.

I’m not advocating individual ownership of autonomous cars, such as we almost have now with the Tesla. I took a ride in one and it was truly unnerving, at first.

What I think we’re looking at is the “elevator model.” That means companies like Uber and Lyft will own autonomous cars and use them as horizontal elevators, as suggested by Alain Kornhauser, professor at Princeton. He recently gave a brief talk in Santa Clara at a community forum on autonomous cars.

All of this is at least a decade away, but it’s definitely coming. You can already see companies jockeying for a position within the new transportation model.

As for bicycles, they’ll play an increasing role, but I don’t see them ever becoming the primary means of transportation. The good news is that people who do ride bikes will find things a lot safer.

Now we know why this tree's seed is called a buckeye. It looks like a deer's eye. Contains tannic acid, poisonous.

Now we know why this tree’s seed is called a buckeye. It looks like a deer’s eye. Contains tannic acid, poisonous.

Flooding on Guadalupe River recreation path

November 25, 2015

FYI, the mighty Guadalupe River has submerged parts of the Guadalupe River recreation path.

I saw it beneath the Hwy 237 overpass. While it might have been less than a foot deep, I wasn’t going to risk submerging my bottom bracket.

I can imagine other locations are also under water, such as at the Trimble Road overpass and Hwy 101.

San Tomas Aquino Creek trail is OK with the exception of a wet section beneath the Great America Parkway overpass.

Aptos Creek Road makes the grade

November 22, 2015

Aptos Creek Road after grading. Much smoother now.

Aptos Creek Road after grading. Much smoother now.

Today I celebrated a 20-year anniversary of dubious distinction: a head-on collision with a mountain biker bombing down Aptos Creek Fire Road in Forest of Nisene Marks state park.

It’s something I’ve written about, but it bears repeating. Bikes going fast are deadly weapons. We had a walker killed on Page Mill Road by a cyclist earlier this year. It happens.

I was lucky. I got my bell rung for about 10 minutes and rode home some 35 miles. I was even luckier because Jobst Brandt helped fix my tweaked wheel so I could ride. I was not wearing a helmet (wish I was).

The cyclist who hit me was not so lucky. He dislocated his shoulder and needed a ride out. He was wearing a helmet. He waited several hours for a ranger to arrive. The rider was nice enough to pay for my damaged parts. I hope he learned his lesson.

Today I saw one racer barreling downhill. Everyone else rode safely, including about 10 youth doing a commercial bike tour. A few mountain bikers have exceptional riding skills and can manage to avoid accidents, but most riders lack these skills. They’re yahoos and they’re the ones who crash because they ride beyond their abilities.

Here’s the good news: Aptos Creek Road, which connects Buzzard Lagoon Road and Aptos Creek Fire Road (green gate) was graded since I last rode there in May 2013.

It’s a dramatic improvement. I found a photo from 2013 that illustrates the rocky boulder field and one that may be the same location. It’s hard to tell because the grading made the road smooth, as smooth as I remember it from riding here in the early 1980s.

Dirt roads degrade over time, mostly from water erosion, and just a little from bike tires. So we should thank the government agency that went to the trouble to grade the road, whether state or county. It’s greatly appreciated.

Today’s ride was much like the one in 1995: A beautiful day with temperatures in the mid-70s and sunny skies. Only this time I didn’t get a headache.

Aptos Creek Road in May 2013, before grading.

Aptos Creek Road in May 2013, before grading.

Reynolds Road to nowhere

November 17, 2015

Nice views of San Francisco Bay from Reynolds Road.

Nice views of San Francisco Bay from Reynolds Road.

I’m sure anyone riding on Hicks Road and passing by Reynolds Road wonders where it goes.

I can tell you: it goes nowhere. That is to say, it goes uphill paved for a mile at a 10 percent grade, or more, before reaching a Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District sign. I'm sure you can imagine what it says: no traipsing.

The road turns private and goes beyond to ranch houses and the like, according to maps.

It's part of the Sierra Azul preserve, MROSD's largest. This section is called Rancho de Guadalupe. It makes one wonder why this road exists and why county tax dollars were used to pave it, if nobody uses it beyond a handful of ranches? Maybe it was because realtor interests anticipated growth here back in the day.

Based on what I've seen perusing topo maps, there are some roads that go to interesting places. One of these days they might even be open to the public.
Reynolds Road off Hicks Road. Open for a mile or so.

Hickory Oaks Trail brings out riders

November 14, 2015
Hickory Oaks Trail view looking northwest.

Hickory Oaks Trail view looking northwest.

I’ve been riding on the Hickory Oaks Trail and Long Ridge for about 30 years. Today was one of those days you’ll remember for the fine weather and clear skies, as long as you take a photo.

Highway 9 still has a stop light about three miles up from Saratoga, but it looks like work will be done soon.

Skyline Boulevard has new pavement near the CDF station, but it’s still rough farther north for a few miles. Will they wait until next spring to repave?

Avoidable accident on Page Mill Road

November 7, 2015

Fatal bike accident scene on Page Mill Road. Road striping needed.

Fatal bike accident scene on Page Mill Road. Road striping needed.

No matter how it played out, there's no reason why Jeffrey Donnelly, age 52, should have been killed while riding his bike on Page Mill Road around 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

I’ve taken Old Page Mill Road to Page Mill Road dozens of times and I can only imagine what happened. The 19-year-old Palo Alto motorist driving a 2014 VW Golf was heading west on Page Mill Road. Donnelly was continuing straight, westbound, on Page Mill Road. Beyond that, I would be speculating.

However, a common scenario here is for a cyclist to move left to access the bike lane, which is positioned on the far left side of Page Mill. At the same time, cars are either continuing straight or heading for the northbound 280 on-ramp. It’s an awkward situation with the overlap but one that is hard to avoid with the double right-turn lanes for Interstate 280 just ahead.

While I believe that the motorist is ultimately most responsible in almost every bike-car collision, Santa Clara County and Palo Alto have some responsibility.

There should be a dashed-lane transition between Old Page Mill and the bike lane. Throw in some green paint for good measure.

It’s common knowledge that Old Page Mill Road is a favorite route for cyclists.

I’m not saying it would guarantee no further accidents, but I’m sure these markings, used everywhere in Santa Clara Valley, will help reduce the chance of an accident. The motorist would have seen the dashed lines and have known that bikes are moving left to reach the bike lane.

Many motorists don’t ride bikes and may not be aware that’s how cyclists ride through the 280 freeway interchange.

This fatal bicycle-car accident once again reminds us that the autonomous car will be the best thing that could ever happen to make cycling safer. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Donnelly will not live to see the day.

Below is a video of the scene of the accident. I encountered a car coming from behind on Page Mill headed for the on-ramp. I looked back twice as the car slowed dramatically. It was only then that I continued left over to the bike lane.

DeAnza College makes a small change for cyclists

November 2, 2015

Access improved on DeAnza College campus to McClellan Road.

Access improved on DeAnza College campus to McClellan Road.

Back in July 2011, I mentioned on my blog how it would be nice if a small access road from DeAnza campus to McClellan Road could be open for two-wheel vehicles.

Lo and behold, it was done! I noticed it today on my ride. The access point bridges between De Anza College Parkway and McClellan Road, near the Hwy 85 overpass. There’s good visibility both directions.

Cyclists can now use this route as a continuation from the Mary Avenue bike path through Cupertino.

It may have been something the school intended to do well before 2011, but whatever the reason, it’s greatly appreciated.

This access point at DeAnza College and McClellan Road no longer has chains across the path.

This access point at DeAnza College and McClellan Road no longer has chains across the path.


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