Memorandum posted at web.stanford.edu/~learnest/sv/bigotry.htm

 

To:       Town Council of Los Altos Hills

Cc:       City Manager, City Clerk, Traffic Safety Committee, Chairs of Pathways and Open Space Committees, Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department, Los Altos Town Crier, San Jose Mercury News. Palo Alto Daily News

From: Lester Earnest {web.stanford.edu/~learnest}

Subject: Please stop bicycle bigotry

 

As a fifty year resident of Los Altos Hills and a cyclist who has been pedaling for 82 years, having started at age 3, I strongly object to the bicycle bigotry reported from the January 27 LAH Council Meeting (Town Crier, 2016.02.03). If I had heard that was happening I would have been there and I certainly would like to show up on February 18 when it is to be reconsidered, but that conflicts with an important public hearing elsewhere on a historical matter where I am already committed to appear. Thus I will not be able to attend the LAH meeting but hope that the points presented below will be considered.

 

Unfortunately this kind of bicycle bigotry is not new. For example, on two occasions during the last fifty years the Town has illegally posted signs barring bicyclists from riding the part of El Monte Road going by Foothill College and those signs were not removed until I and others threatened legal action. There really is a traffic problem on that road in that it is too narrow for motorists to pass cyclists safely but that blunder was created earlier by the Town and the only way it can be fixed is by either widening the road or closing it, with the latter being a very bad idea.

 

These hills have been a popular route for recreational cyclists since the 1890s, long before motor vehicles appeared, and it was the cyclists who initiated the movement to pave roads, though Page Mill Road didn’t get paved until World War II. Just 15 years later the I-280 Freeway was built and its Page Mill interchange was foolishly designed as a death trap for both cyclists and pedestrians. There have since been a number of serious injuries to cyclists there but happily no deaths until last November and the only thing that has since been proposed by roadway authorities is to install green bike lanes there, which will not improve safety at all. However that is another story.

 

The proposal to bar cyclists from Byrne Preserve makes no sense for two reasons:

1.     It would block the best route for cyclists heading for Skyline, forcing them to ride on the lower part of Page Mill Road and

2.     It assumes that cyclists are second-class citizens compared with horse riders and pedestrians.

If the town wants to impose speed limits on the trails they should handle it the same way as on roads: post the speed limit and enforce it with radar guns. I note that City Manager Carl Cahill was reportedly prepared to pay between $4,000 and $6,000 annually for enforcement. Those funds should not be used to discriminate against lawful cyclists.

 

Regarding Point 1 above, the best way for cyclists to climb through our town is to ride up Moody Road, then along Moody Court to the public path going through Byrne Preserve and connecting to Central Drive, which leads to upper Page Mill Road. Incidentally, the route between Moody Road and Page Mill Road described above was originally an ordinary road called Central Drive before it was segmented and partly closed to motorists.

 

The route described above puts the cyclists on gentle climbs all the way to upper Page Mill, including a pleasant ride through the woods of Byrne Preserve and it also keeps them off the narrow, steep and twisting lower part of Page Mill, which makes things better for motorists there.

 

Another problem with the public hearing on this matter is that one Council Member pushed the idea that people who are not residents of Los Altos Hills should be discriminated against. He pointed out that 8 of the 9 speakers who spoke against the proposal reside out of town, as if their needs should be ignored. That kind of snooty attitude has unfortunately grown over the years as Los Altos Hills has shifted from being an open and friendly semi-rural community into a pricey place where many residents think it is a good idea to discriminate against “outsiders” such as lower class cyclists.

 

I see that the proposal to discriminate against all cyclists reportedly came from the town’s Open Space Committee even though their official charter does not include oversight of pathway matters. I recommend that this proposal be rejected and that any speed limit enforcement be handled in the same way as for motorists.

 

Lester Earnest

Los Altos Hills