Do you know where the San Antonio Valley is? This remote valley, on the back side of Mt Hamilton, is one of the last truly rural and isolated places in Santa Clara County. One road runs through the valley from Livermore to the top of Mt Hamilton. Another road comes in from the east, from the town of Patterson in the Central Valley. Its isolation and rural beauty attract birdwatchers, motorcyclists, and bicyclists. Recently, the valley and its residents have created a stir in the bicycling community as they have lobbied their County Supervisor, Don Gage, to introduce a Special Events Ordinance that would regulate bicycling events. It is unfortunate that events took this turn, as the proposed ordinance will do little to address their concerns, and could have a negative impact on bicycling countywide.
The proposed ordinance was heard at the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting on June 22, at which time the Board voted to send it back to staff for revision. Following the meeting, the County Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) made numerous suggestions for revision, which, if adopted, would make the ordinance acceptable. We will hear how the County reacts to the suggestions by early August, but we feel hopeful.
Another, potentially more interesting development was that after the Board of Supervisors meeting, several members of the bicycling community struck up a conversation with residents of the San Antonio Valley, and agreed to meet to hear out the residents' concerns. The meeting took place at the Sweetwater Fire Station, deep in the heart of the San Antonio Valley, on Thursday July 8th. The bicyclist delegation consisted of Don Worn, organizer of the Mt Hamilton Challenge, Joe Walton, former member of the VTA-BPAC, Alan Wachtel (CABO), Herman Wadler (ACTC and BPAC), and myself. Dan Collen represented County Roads and Airports. There was a good turnout of residents, law enforcement, and the fire department.
We heard many things from the residents. There is no question that the first Tour of California came through there without properly notifying the residents, which was a huge mistake; however, for me the real take-away was that although a lot of the anger came from the misconception that the road belonged to them, many of the complaints were about behavior that was simply rude or inconsiderate. The bicyclists at the meeting agreed to meet again and come back with some concrete ideas, but in the meantime, if you ride back there, here are my suggestions:
* Don't litter, clean up after yourself
* If you encounter an emergency vehicle with siren and lights flashing, get off the road
* If someone seems to be having trouble passing you, be courteous, and move over when it's safe to do so
* A friendly wave and smile will go a long way towards improving the climate
By the end of the meeting, I believe both the residents and the bicyclists gained a bit of an understanding of the other's perspective. Hopefully, this will lead to improved relations in the future.