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.

Who can forget the pumpkin tree?

October 29, 2015

Jobst Brandt and Mike Higgins pass by the pumpkin tree on Pescadero Road in 1984.

Jobst Brandt and Mike Higgins pass by the pumpkin tree on Pescadero Road in 1984.


I know I can’t. In the early 1980s the residents of a house on Pescadero Road hung pumpkins from their apple tree starting in late October.

We enjoyed passing by and admiring the tree every Halloween.

The owners of the house are long-since gone, along with the tree, but the memories remain.

Pumpkin tree location today.

Pumpkin tree location today.

Silicon Valley needs a transportation system like Zurich’s

October 28, 2015

One of the more colorful trams in Zurich.

One of the more colorful trams in Zurich.


Today’s San Jose Mercury News ran an editorial by architect Thang Do that outlined what we need to do to make Silicon Valley a better place to live.

He warns that with all the construction underway, we better do something about our transportation system or we’re headed for permanent gridlock.

He mentions Zurich as a shining example of a city that understands public transportation. Here’s why:

The city has an integrated and comprehensive network of tram, rail, bus, and even riverboats to take you where you want to go in the city, throughout the country for that matter. One ticket gives access to all public transportation, with the exception of intra-city rail.

Imagine stepping out of the Zurich airport with all your luggage and walking fewer than 50 yards to a waiting tram whose platform is flush to the pavement. Just roll your baggage on.

A model of transportation efficiency. Hauptbahnhof station with bike racks.

A model of transportation efficiency. Hauptbahnhof station with bike racks.


Every tram has an LED screen that shows your location and the stops ahead, including connecting trams. Every stop has a shelter with an LED sign indicating the time of arrival for trams, along with machines for purchasing tickets.

Local trains accommodate bicycles and stations have large areas dedicated to bicycle parking. Many streets have bicycle lanes and because there are relatively few cars on the streets, traffic is not an issue.

VTA light rail does have one up on the Swiss trams: VTA provides racks for bikes.

Zurich and Switzerland have thought of everything when it comes to getting around on public transportation. There’s no need to own a car, which is a reality for most people living in the landlocked country. That’s a good thing because living in Zurich is as expensive, if not more so, than living in Silicon Valley.

We can learn from Zurich. The sad truth about Silicon Valley is that the Valley of the Heart’s Delight once had a wonderful light-rail network, which was dismantled piece by piece with the arrival of the automobile.

Light-rail line from the late 1800s exposed on The Alameda in 1984 at Santa Clara University bypass.

Light-rail line from the late 1800s exposed on The Alameda in 1984 at Santa Clara University bypass.

In hindsight, we blew it, but we mustn’t give up hope. We can build a transportation system equal to that of Zurich. All we have to do is, in the words of Patrick Stewart: “Make it so.”

Even the fanciest shopping area, Bahnhofstrasse, has light rail.

Even the fanciest shopping area, Bahnhofstrasse, has light rail.

Intra-city and intra-regional trains whisk you all over the country with ease.

Intra-city and intra-regional trains whisk you all over the country with ease.

Tram interiors are roomy and accommodate luggage.

Tram interiors are roomy and accommodate luggage.

Ticket machines are everywhere and take all manner of payment.

Ticket machines are everywhere and take all manner of payment.

You can even take riverboats in Zurich. They thought of everything.

You can even take riverboats in Zurich. They thought of everything.

Mount Umunhum summit poised to open in Fall 2016

October 24, 2015

The latest word from the open space district is that the Mt. Umunhum summit will be open in fall 2016. That means they’ll repave the five-mile stretch of road up from Hicks Road.

There’s a trail under construction from the Bald Mountain Parking Area a couple miles below the summit, slated to open in spring 2017.

It looks like a decision on the fate of the cube will be determined after October 2017 when a private/public partnership needs to be in place.

As for the opening of Loma Prieta Road, which is what we really care about, there’s no mention of a timeline. I’m still wagering it won’t happen in my lifetime.

KQED posted a nice historic video on Mount Umunhum.

Moffett Field Trail closed

October 24, 2015

Bay Trail at Moffett Field is closed for resurfacing.

Bay Trail at Moffett Field is closed for resurfacing.


Bay Trail in Mountain View, at Moffett Field, is closed for resurfacing. It should be open in early February.

This is a nice trail to take around Moffett from Sunnyvale to Mountain View, although it gets muddy when wet.

The alternate route is described on a Bay Trail website.

Dumbarton Bridge and Coyote Hills Park tour

September 26, 2015

After reading about the tack attack on Kings Mountain Road, I decided to scratch my plan to ride there.

Turns out the tacks were spread over 50 yards back in June, but an effort to raise a $10,000 reward to catch the criminal made news, again.

I took various paths and expressways to make it over Dumbarton Bridge and then around Coyote Hills and along Alameda Creek.

That reminds me of the time I rode over Dumbarton with Jobst Brandt and friends on April 17, 1983, six months after the new span opened, while on our way to watch the Coors Devil’s Cup Criterium in Walnut Creek, won by Steve Tilford.

Because we were following Jobst, you can be sure we did the unexpected, which meant riding ON THE BRIDGE road, not the separated bike path on the south side.

Back then the striping was four lanes, two each direction, with a generous shoulder, so we rode without being hassled. Striping increased to three lanes after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. Due to construction near Crow Canyon Road, we also had to cross Interstate 580.

I’ve lived here long enough to remember driving over the OLD Dumbarton Bridge. Narrow would be the operative word.


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