I wanted to post here an email I recently sent to Saratoga City Council. It seems that despite the recent auto/cycling tragedies basic share the road rules still haven't been conveyed to those in positions of authority and those in positions of enforcing the CA Vehicular Code.
My name is Bob McMahon. I'm a resident of Saratoga and I am an avid
cyclist. I'm writing this email after watching the rebroadcast of the
city council meeting discussing removal of class 3 classifications for
Mt. Eden, Pierce Rd. and Big Basin Way. I'd like this email to be
forwarded to the appropriate city commissions (Trails and Public Safety)
as I didn't see any email contact information for them on the City's web
I'm writing because it seems that both Saratoga leadership and Santa
Clara Sheriff's hasn't yet learned how cyclists must be treated equally
with respect to traffic safety and traffic enforcement. The particular
issue of concern (which is commonly misunderstood by non cyclists) is
called taking the lane. The CA Vehicle code of interest starts:
"21200. (a) Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the
rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver
of a vehicle by this division,"
Unfortunately, in recent history Saratoga and its agents have been in
the spot light with respect to auto and cycling tragedies. Neil Oda's
fatality was poorly handled as revealed by initial public statement made
by the city representatives. (Thankfully, these were rectified in later
statements.) Also unfortunately, Santa Clara County Sheriff's
department, the agency hired by the city to enforce the CA Vehicle code,
was directly responsible for the deaths of two cyclists and the injury
of a third.
One would hope that after such tragedies that city and its
hired staff would learn rules such as those taught in "share the road"
programs. Here's a few examples demonstrating this has not occurred.
Councilor Page's comment during the meeting that a bike on a 20' wide
section of road could cause harm to the driver and passengers of a car
was an attempt at placing blame on a hypothetical cyclist for what is
probably poor and illegal driver behavior. The cyclists' in such
hypothetical instances increase the safety for all by taking the lane so
a car doesn't attempt to pass in an unsafe manner on a road with
insufficient width for safe passing. The following car must treat
the cyclist as if it were an auto and not pass endangering the lives
of all. A cyclists taking the lane is exactly equal to an automobile
and should not be passed. A driver passing another vehicle in a manner
that causes a head on accident is the fault of the driver attempting to
pass and not the vehicle being passed, cyclists or otherwise.
A second concern comes from the the Santa Clara County's sheriff
department. A recent incident occurred during Celebrate Saratoga where
I took the lane on Big Basin way just prior to a temporary barrier. I
did this in order to prevent the auto behind me from passing me, cutting
me off by turning right (his only option) which would have caused injury
(or possibly worse) to me. I was reprimanded by the county Deputy
working near the barrier for "riding in the middle of the lane" (which
is properly described as taking the lane.) I didn't think it was the
appropriate place and time for me to educate the deputy on the CA
Vehicular code but found it disheartening that those charged with
enforcing the vehicle codes still don't know them.
Finally, of concern is Councilor Page's comment during the meeting that
a vast majority cyclist disobey traffic laws with the implications that
cyclists are solely responsible for these safety issues. This is a
false prejudice common to many drivers who are non cyclists. Yes there
are cyclist disobeying traffic laws but the vast majority of
traffic violations come from automobile drivers. All road uses are
obligated to respect these laws. This statement by the councilor
suggests what psychologist's would call discounting and reveals a
prejudice against equal treatment under the law for cyclists.
I'd like to see Saratoga do better.
Thanks for your time,
13654 Verde Vista Lane
Saratoga, CA 95070
PS. I had to resend as the send email to all councilors on
http://www.saratoga.ca.us/citycouncil/index.html doesn't work.