Monday, December 8, 2008

Los Altos Hills - YOU ARE ON NOTICE!

Los Altos Hills 94022 - the 26th priciest Zip Code in the US has decided that there is a stretch of their precious roads where bicycles are VERBOTEN. Given that El Monte Road is not a freeway, their little stunt is, umm... ILLEGAL.

I use this stretch of road frequently. Los Altos Hills has decided that instead I should wind into the adjoining college property onto some bike path I didn't even know existed until LAH decided to be ignorant, stupid, or both. I have never heard of a cyclist hit or injured on this stretch of road (not to say it cannot happen) but I consider the two things of equal likelihood.

1) Someone on the LAH town council saw bikes there and feared for their safety.
2) Someone on the LAH town council lives on Elena or Moody, and feared they would be late for coffee at Peet's because their trip to I-280 was delayed by some cyclist.

Per Jeff Orum on the South Bay Cycling Listserv.

Some time this week a "NO BIKES" sign was stenciled into the pavement as you are heading southeast on El Monte Road just past the intersection of Elena/Moody/College Loop. The only places bicycles can be prohibited are freeways (CVC 21960) and clearly this road is not that. So it would appear this ban is not allowed.

I've been in contact with Richard Chiu of Los Altos Hills Public Works ( He indicated this was done at the direction of council due to safety issues and the bike route is through the college. My understanding is that even if there is a bike route, bikes can still not be prohibited from alternate streets.

I did sent Mr. Chiu a link to Alan Watchel's excellent article on this ( and he said he would look at it and also review it with council. However, if you also feel that bicycles should not be banned on this road you may want to contact Los Altos Hills as well.

Jeff Orum

Per gmcpheeter's flickr stream we can see photos of the illegal signage.



FordFasteRR said...

Does the city council think that they have the right to prohibit tax-paying citizens from using a public roadway because of their choice of vehicle?

I don't think they can get away with it, be sure to contact your local news stations and bicycle advocacy organizations.

chet said...

There's plenty of car traffic through that parking lot, with drivers distracted by figuring out where to go. I'd bet the road is safer.

Tom said...

If the 'NO' was reversed and put on top of the 'BIKES' it would be inspirational.
Bike ON!

anyone have some krylon and a couple of hours to kill under the cover or dark?

jason said...

Tell them the only way this would be legal would be to prohibit cars as well. After all, if it's reasonable for bicycles not to use this road, why is it okay for motor vehicles, which are much faster and dangerous, to use these same roads?

More seriously, if they're worried about motor vehicles overrunning slower traffic, well, then, I guess they need to post a speed limit that allows for all roadway users to safely share the road. How about 15 mph?

Yokota Fritz said...

Jason, California law currently doesn't allow for speed limits less than 25 mph, believe it or not. What is legal, though, are "Bikes May Use Full Lane" signs. It's not really about cyclist safety, of course, but motorist convenience.

Several members of the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition talked to Los Altos Hills public works director Richard Chiu and informed him that the city is breaking the law with this stenciling.

Erik said...

How unutterably lame of the Los Altos Hills council. And just when I was about to gift that town with $100 million dollars. I guess I'll just keep the money now. Seriously though, do these town councils not thing people will call them on their BS?

murphstahoe said...

LAH is getting blasted on all fronts. I like it. Personally I sent off a LTTE to the PA Daily News, we'll see if that gets published.

The Silicon Valley Bike Coalition fired off a letter to Los Altos Hills.

Bob Shanteau does some pretty interesting research on the topic and fires off as well.

Amanda said...

Beh... I've barely seen a car when I ride this stretch. A worse one is Arastradero between Purissima and Deer Creek Rd. Stupid move on LAH's part. I'd be confident of it's illegality if Prop 8 hadn't passed. Now I"m not confident in much.

geostreet said...

In general, there are two classes of vehicles prohibited, one for slow vehicles are prohibited on limited access freeways, and heavy vehicles where the road was not engineered for heavy vehicles.

@yokoda fritz- could you explain a bit more about CA state law without speed limits less than 25?

While it seems to be case in the overview grid:

I happen to live on a street with a posted speed limit of 15. I also frequently travel on Market in SF, with a 10 mph posted speed limit. In this case the link for the 10 mph speed limit has a condition, but there are other cases where a local jurisdiction can set a maximum speed limit lower than 25 mph.

In addition, I believe that CA state law allows local control over some of these matters like setting a maximum speed limit lower than allowed by CA state law. -- parking lots often have a lower speed limit.

Google street view of 10 mph speed limit (underneath it says "when peds present):,-122.411113&sspn=0.01345,0.015557&g=market+and+9th+sf&ie=UTF8&z=17&iwloc=addr&layer=c&cbll=37.777961,-122.415785&panoid=Pk0N6P24xn01vtU3LJLEqw&cbp=12,245.09524986638874,,2,-1.1927420520758238

Yokota Fritz said...

Geo: I was incomplete -- local authorities can set lower speed limits after a speed survey that shows most drivers go under 25 mph anyway. That's not the case on El Monte. Some cities in the South Bay have under 25 mph speed limit signs posted but you can't get a citation for 'violating' that speed limit. Yeah, it's a goofy law.

Parking lots aren't public roads. In California, the Vehicle Code can be used to cite motorists driving dangerously in parking lots, but parking lots aren't held to the same engineering standards as public roads. That's why you also see non-standard signages (wrong size and color stop signs, etc) that wouldn't be legal on public roads.

Disclaimer: This is my understanding of the CVC, but IANAL, YMMV, etc.

Scott said...

Yes let's urge them to reverse the NO to ON to read "BIKE ON" and maybe add an exclamation point for good measure. This will be cheaper too, since they won't have to remove the word BIKE

Yokota Fritz said...

Update: L.A.H. covered up the signage.