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SamTrans: Gate to remain closed to bicyclists
October 21, 2010, 01:13 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal SamTrans has closed a gate in Redwood Shores that bicyclists previously used to access the Bay Trail. Bicyclists want the gate reopened but the transit agency contends it must stay closed for safety reasons.


Bicyclists who travel the Bay Trail near the San Carlos Airport have had access cut off to Pico Boulevard, forcing them to navigate a busy intersection at Airport Way and Redwood Shores Parkway they contend is too dangerous.

Pico Boulevard is leased by SamTrans and connects the transit agency’s south bus yard to Skyway Road in Redwood Shores. It closed the gate at Pico Boulevard last December because of several near-collisions between buses and automobiles, cyclists and pedestrians, according to SamTrans spokesman Mark Simon.

Coincidentally, the gate closed a few weeks after the death of a bicyclist near where Redwood Shores Parkway meets Highway 101, a point of contention for bicyclists forced onto the route.

A female bicyclist, Mary Yonkers, was killed Oct. 14, 2009 by a dump truck at the intersection of Shoreway Road and Holly Street.

The dump truck was making a right onto Holly Street from southbound Shoreway Road when Yonkers was seen trying to go past the truck on her bicycle. She was struck and killed, according to police, and the driver was discovered about an hour later at the Allied Waste San Carlos transfer station. The driver said he did not realize he struck the bicyclist, according to police.

SamTrans closed the Pico Boulevard gate a few weeks later without much explanation.

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition has urged SamTrans for more than a year to reopen the gate and has asked repeatedly for an explanation as to why it was closed in the first place.

The transit agency offered sparse remarks related to the gate’s closure before yesterday when it sent out a review of the safety issues related to Pico Boulevard.

SamTrans contends keeping the gate closed is the best way to ensure bicyclists are safe since bike lanes are clearly marked on Redwood Shores Parkway and big buses use Pico Boulevard to access the SamTrans yard.

Currently, bicyclists who ride the Bay Trail going south near the Towne Place Suites hotel must travel on Twin Dolphin Lane to Redwood Shores Parkway before meeting back up with the trail on Skyway Road.

Pico Boulevard connects to Twin Dolphin Drive to the west and Skyway Road to the east. Previously, bicyclists could travel on Pico from the hotel adjacent to the bus yard but that option no longer exists.

Mark Eliot, a Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition board member, maintains that Pico is still a safer option than Redwood Shores Parkway despite the clearly-marked bike lanes.

"Bicyclists want to take a straight shot. Cars are faster on Redwood Shores Parkway. It is a less desirable, less safe option,” Eliot said.

Eliot’s group fights for more bicycle access and closing the gate takes away the access, he said.

"This is taking a step backward,” Eliot said.

But Pico Boulevard is the only access road to the SamTrans south base and it is used throughout the day by hundreds of buses, according to Simon.

SamTrans conducted a safety review of Pico and presented it to its board of directors last week.

"As part of that report, staff indicated that the road as currently configured does not meet district safety standards. Therefore, the east gate will remain closed as a continuing safety measure, while further options are explored,” Simon said in an e-mail.

As an unimproved road, Pico Boulevard is neither designed nor configured to meet California Highway Patrol requirements for use by vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians in traffic interaction with buses, according to the safety review report.

Pico is not engineered for public usage to accommodate through traffic of any kind, including pedestrians and bicycles, according to the safety review report. The road is not wide enough, lacks safety signage and sufficient lighting and is not consistently maintained, according to the safety review report.

A formal traffic engineering study is necessary to determine what changes and improvements would be required to bring Pico Boulevard to an acceptable standard of safety and to ensure that public access to the road would not compromise security and safety at the SamTrans base, according to the safety review report.

The board will have to decide whether such a safety review is necessary and whether it wants to pay for such a safety review, according to Simon.

In the interim, the gate will remain closed, Simon said.

Ultimately, bicycle enthusiasts hope the Bay Trail will continue on along the water’s edge south of the San Carlos Airport. There is also another trail adjacent to Pico Boulevard that is currently closed off that bicyclist enthusiasts say could solve the problem if it gets reopened.

In the report to the board, it was noted that a number of comments were received from cyclists who expressed concern that the alternative to Pico Boulevard, Redwood Shores Parkway is significantly more hazardous for cyclists, Simon said in an e-mail.

"We do not have the expertise to judge the relative safety of one road over another,” Simon said. "We are particularly alarmed, however, that a public thoroughfare designed to be used by bikes and including a well-marked bike lane, is considered unsafe and significantly more hazardous than an unimproved, private roadway that is used by hundreds of buses every day.”

Simon said the perceived danger on Redwood Shores Parkway is an issue for Redwood City to solve with cyclists.

"We are prepared to assist in facilitating a meeting between cyclists and the city of Redwood City to determine what steps may be taken to improve the safety of Redwood Shores Parkway, which is already designated and designed for pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular traffic,” Simon said.

But Eliot thinks there is room to compromise with SamTrans over its closed gate.

"It is tough to know if Pico is more dangerous as they say. It has much less frequent traffic and it doesn’t go as fast,” Eliot said.


Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: silverfarb@smdailyjournal.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.


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