As I was taking some photographs in Portola Valley, I asked a couple what they thought the most important issue was in Portola Valley - they said speeding traffic. On the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee, I've heard parents worried about speeding cars as they send their children to school. Each month, San Mateo County Sheriff's office reports on the number of speeding citations given in the town. A police presence in the town, calms some traffic, but we can all help calm traffic by driving at or below the posted speed limit.
In rural areas, sometimes there are long stretches of road being repaired, resulting in one-way traffic. Drivers cannot proceed until they follow a pilot car. The pilot car drives slowly to control the speed of following vehicles.
Seat belts, semi-autonmous vehicles and driver training all mitigate the risks from vehicles. Ultimately, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians choose whether to act with the utmost safety and concern for others, or put themselves at risk. Outside my house I've seen the after-effects of four crashes all involving cyclists, some involving vehicles.
It's easy on a bicycle to have fun going as fast as possible down a hill, but the consequences of an accident can be life-threatening. I remember fixing a rusty bicycle at the age of 13 and racing it down a small hill. I hadn't secured the gear cable very well and it came loose and wrapped around the front wheel so my bike veered across the road straight for a tree. I threw myself off the bike on to some grass before it hit the tree.
On another occasion, as a student I was rushing to lectures down a hill to get through traffic lights before they turned red. A lady stepped into the road in front of me - also in a hurry she failed to look in my direction and had her back to me - I was over the handlebars saved by a shaggy sheepskin coat - my bike getting a broken axle and bent forks. So, yes it is fun to race down a hill, but is it wise? Let's value safety for all and save the thrills for more appropriate venues.
How about driving as if you are a pilot car, driving at or below the speed limit to calm the speed of followers? I've heard it said that cars behind will overtake, but in doing this myself, I've only been overtaken twice and then it was where it was safe to do so. In the vast majority of cases, all the cars behind me had to go at or below the speed limit.
Crosswalks in Portola Valley are not always used optimally. A recent initiative has been to use flags when crossing near schools. The Bicycle, Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee has worked with Howard Young, Portola Valley's Public Works Director, and transportation consultant, Paul Krupka, to identify improvements that can be made to crosswalks. Implementation of recommendations, because of the COVID-pandemic, has been delayed, but expect to see improvements as roads get repaved.
Vehicle routing apps like Waze have helped people find backroads to avoid traffic. Unfortunately, going north on 280 there is often a traffic jam during evening rush hour at Sand Hill Road. Page Mill Road - Arastradero - Alpine Road - Portola Road - Woodside... gives drivers an alternative route. The result - increased traffic through the heart of Portola Valley.
The COVID pandemic started with very few leaving Portola Valley for work - so the roads were quieter, but some saw this as an opportunity to exceed the posted speed limits. It is all too easy to come off 280 heading southbound, exiting on Sand Hill Road that turns into Portola Road, and speed along Portola Road as the speed limit. As more hikers discovered the Windy Hill trails and town trails, they usually come in cars and park them on Portola Road and Willowbrook when car parks are full.
As a town we need to look out for each other, look out for deer, look out for pedestrians on the Road to Zero roadway deaths. As a town council member, I would support law enforcement as they cite speeders, encourage options for safer road use and look for creative responses to citizens traffic concerns.
Angela Hey is a candidate for Portola Valley Town Council. She is an experienced technology marketing consultant who serves nonprofits, as a volunteer.