Category Archives: Advocacy & Local Issues

Bicycle advocacy both local and national, as well as discussion of local bicycle incidents with the community and/or police

Which looks like the safer road to ride? If you ride West Old La Honda, please read.

On the left, a hill that’s continuing to slide into the uphill lane on 84, west of Skyline. On the right, the section of West Old LaHonda that has been closed to all traffic, for “safety” reasons. Which looks more dangerous for a cyclist?

I recently spoke with Joe LeCoco, Deputy Director of Road Services for San Mateo County. The County’s position has not changed; the county is still telling cyclists to stay off West Old LaHonda. They are sending someone out “soon” to take core samples and determine the level of activity of the slide. The present damage was apparently set off by a propane truck that went off the road in that section.

This is a tough one, because from a standpoint of relative safety the alternative route, 84, has a very active mudslide (shown in the photo above), and represents a very real hazard to cyclists. You’ll notice that the shoulder has entirely disappeared underneath the mud, and of course it’s slippery.

Mr. LeCoco insists that the county sees West Old LaHonda as a very important road to keep in place; there are no plans to abandon it. It’s an alternate route in the event West 84 gets closed again, which was quite possibly the very thing that caused the pavement on West Old LaHonda to give way (with help from a lot of rain). The straw that broke the camel’s back was the previously-mentioned propane truck.

A sign at the lower end of West Old LaHonda, saying it’s specifically closed to cyclists. The signs at the top end simply say “Road closed ahead.”

Where does that leave you, the cyclist? Obviously, if the county is actually working on the road, you have to assume you’re not getting through. Period. End of story. Until then? Just as obviously the county is telling you that it’s dangerous, and bad things could happen to you. Those of us who have ridden West Old LaHonda many hundreds of times (100+ times/year for the past 20 years in my case) feel that we’re extraordinarily familiar with it, having seen the road slip away in a few other places, and have the historical sense of never having seen the  road being here one day, gone the next. In other words, a dose of skepticism regarding the potential danger, which may be just plain stupid on our part.

I did not ask Mr. LeCoco if the county would consider actively policing and recommending tickets for cyclists crossing the “closed” section of road. That’s probably not practical, since the road isn’t closed until you get to the damaged section, and reopens immediately after. They could, of course, post a “Local residents only” sign, but I really have no idea what that legally means, for a county-maintained road. Long way of saying I don’t think there’s any way someone could end up getting ticketed by the Sheriff by surprise. You might have to turn around. But I doubt it would make sense to devote law enforcement resources to stop cyclists from taking a rarely-used (by cars) road.

In the end, the important thing is that the road is repaired as quickly as possible. I realize the county is a mess (although thankfully San Mateo County didn’t get hit anything like Santa Cruz!) and they’ve got a lot on their plate. But I have concern that a road that likely has far greater cyclist traffic than motorist may not rate as highly on the list of important roads to repair as it should.

At the very least I would like to see a statement from the County that says yes, we understand the importance of this road to the cyclists of San Mateo County and consider it a high priority to get back in service. Even better would be an indication that perhaps it might take a long time to make the road available for cars, but priority will be given to at least make it suitable for cyclists. Either is preferable to what has been done so far- reaching out to the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, requesting they encourage cyclists to stay off the road.  -Mike Jacoubowsky

Why I won’t support Santa Clara’s Sales Tax vote for transportation projects

As a retailer, I’ve always had a sensitivity to pricing issues for the products we sell. We have to provide a “compelling selling proposition” to our customers. An exchange of goods and services for payment that makes sense to retailer (that’s us) and customer (that’s you). We try very hard to be as competitive as possible, and thankfully there are some suppliers who give us the same deals they offer the on-line world. Level playing field, as they say.

But then there’s sales tax. We don’t yet live in a world where on-line sales tax is universally charged. It’s happening, but very, very slowly. Amazon, for example, is charging local sales taxes on goods shipped from its own warehouses, but not for goods shipped from 3rd-parties. Some companies openly flaunt the fact that you aren’t paying sales tax when buying from them, and of course forget to mention that you’re legally required to pay them (yes, there’s a section for out-of-state purchases on your California Income Tax Return). Until recently, enforcement was non-existent, but the state is selectively going after some people. Still, the perception is, buy from out of state and save $$$.

Who doesn’t want to save money? But the point of a sales tax is that the people who benefit from the local services provided by that sales tax (schools, roads, police & fire departments, libraries, the list goes on and on…) are the people paying for it. That was then, this is now.

So we have a vote coming up for a sales tax that would pay for all sorts of transportation projects I’m in favor of. The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition is in favor of it, for good reasons. Yet here I am, a member of Redwood City’s Complete Streets committee, recommending a vote against it. Keep in mind I’m in that category of people who vote for most ballot initiatives that are going to cost me $$$. I’m not a tea party guy.

Yet we NEED the projects. They just shouldn’t be funded by a sales tax, in my opinion. Their time is past. My alternative? A parcel tax. Something that would be pretty much impossible to escape paying for, if you live or work here. If you own a property, you pay directly. If you rent, it’s going to be factored into what you pay. If you work, your business is paying for the property it owns.

It’s time we stop chasing retail businesses out of town. It’s bad enough that rents are increasingly so rapidly that nearly any small business is one rent increase away from extinction. High sales taxes are an unfair burden to add to the mix. The concept of a livable community goes beyond wide sidewalks and open space… it includes the “neighborhood” aspect of smaller shops that are tuned in to the local needs and opportunities of the area. Let’s look at ways we can support tax-paying small businesses before they’re gone (and in some cases, important services they used to provide end up as publicly-subsidized co-ops or a further expansion of local government).