Good Intentions, but Poor Results

San Francisco's newest "separated bike lane"

$2.4 million settlement reached in wrongful death suit over fatal bike accident on Menlo Park’s Sand Hill Road


Seven months after agreeing to a $2.4 million settlement in his wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Menlo Park, the husband of a woman killed while riding her bicycle on Sand Hill Road is speaking out to prevent a similar accident from happening to another cyclist.

Deborah Johnson, 54, was riding her bike with a friend on Sand Hill Road on a Sunday afternoon in July 2007 when she fell and struck her head. She was taken to Stanford University Medical Center, and pronounced dead two days later.

Her husband, John Gerrity, told The Daily News this week that Johnson’s friend saw her fall from her bike after hitting an object in the bike lane — the flat black octagonal rubber base of a “candlestick” delineator that had become separated from its plastic orange pole.

The lane divider should never have been there in the first place, he said.

Gerrity said the Menlo Park Public Works Department had finished its repaving of Sand Hill Road on Friday, July 20, two days before the accident. It put up the dividers to mark the bike lane of the heavily trafficked road and removed them shortly after the accident, Gerrity said.

According to the federal Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, used by road managers nationwide, “posts or raised pavement markers should not be used to separate bicycle lanes from adjacent travel lanes.” The same notation is made in the state’s adaptation of the manual.

According to Section 9C.04 of the federal manual, using raised devices “creates a collision potential for bicyclists.”


6 replies
  1. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Maybe we need a website named, where vehicular cycling advocates can collect all these stories of cyclists deaths in which bikeway design contributed to — or outright caused — the death of cyclist.

    Their’d be a single link to send to elected officials and traffic engineers.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Would it do any good? Everything I see and hear makes things look like “seat the pants” engineering designs to answer calls by planners and “activists” that serve on committees.

      Apparently, nobody in San Francisco reads the newspaper that serves the community of Menlo Park, a mere 30 miles away. The woman in the story was killed in 2007, and these new lanes with posts in the picture were installed only since July. Prior to July 2009, there was a restraining order in effect.

      But then the engineers and planners don’t seem to read the Green Book either, unless it supports something they don’t want to do, then they can quote it chapter and verse.

      They certainly have ignored the sidewalk width section for years. “Just recommendations,” they say when they disagree with it.

  2. Bob Sutterfield
    Bob Sutterfield says:

    Regarding that hazardous “separated bike lane” on Market St in San Francisco: Since it doesn’t meet the geometric standards for a bike lane (e.g. one stripe and easy egress by cyclists), it’s a shared-use path. Bike lanes are mandatory in California but sidepaths are optional. So by painting the double stripe the city actually did cyclists a favor: emancipation.

    But it still carries a bike lane stencil, and there’s still a bike lane sign on a post nearby, and it’s being trumpeted as a bike lane. So none of the cyclists, and none of the motorists, and none of the law enforcement officers think it’s optional. They still think that’s a special space for bikes, where cyclists must stay and be happy about it.

  3. MikeOnBike
    MikeOnBike says:

    This quote stood out to me: “the public works director for Menlo Park said he was not familiar with the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices directive on using raised devices”

    Those warnings used to be in the California Highway Design Manual, but are now in the California MUTCD:

    “Raised barriers (e.g., raised traffic bars and asphalt concrete dikes) or raised pavement markers shall not be
    used to delineate bike lanes on Class II Bikeways (Bike Lane).”

    I’m quite surprised to hear somebody in that role being unfamiliar with the CA HDM or the CA MUTCD.

  4. John S. Allen
    John S. Allen says:

    Note probably just for the Blogmasters to act on rather than to post: The “more” link no longer works, because the San Jose Mercury News article has been moved to the newspaper’s archive. Search and fix…

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