Where will I get run over?

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Monday, March 09, 2009
By Yokota Fritz

Larey is a utility cyclist in Fort Collins, Colorado and he has an interesting idea: A Darwin Award with an actual cash prize.
You submit the top three places in your town you expect to get run over and put $20 into a pool. If you get run over at your #1 spot, then you get $10 for every person in the pool, get run over at your #2 spot then you get $5 from every person in the pool. #3 spot you get some sort of prize, like a pizza or something. The website could have a real time counter showing how much money is currently in the pool. It has to qualify as a major wreck so you have to either ride in an ambulance or go to the emergency room.
I'm not too sure about providing an incentive to wreck, but if I had to pick locations for getting into a major wreck, here are my top 3 picks.

#3. Willow Road crossing over Highway 101, Menlo Park, CA. It's actually not too bad now that I assertively take the straight through lane. I used to hug the line until I was brushed twice by a Dumbarton Express bus. AC Transit (which operates the DB Express) apologized and said they've given additional training to their drivers to give more room to cyclists, but I haven't given them opportunity to prove this because I just take the lane. It seems to work well.

I shot the photo from Willow Road just south of the interchange and, yeah, I ride through this traffic twice every work day. This is your standard cloverleaf interchange with a busy freeway and traffic is very fast, with merges in and out of Willow Road at multiple points.
Willow Road morning traffic
#2. Willow Road @ Coleman Avenue. This photo is taken from a couple of blocks ahead but shows a similar situation: At Coleman there's a popular gas station and there's a bike lane along Willow adjacent to the gas station. I've had several near hits with drivers hooking me as they pass and then cut right at the last minute to get into the gas station; one time an actual collision happened, though with little injury or damage to myself and my bike(and a pretty satisfying dent in the motorist's car).

The photo is my co-worker Stephen with whom I routinely ride to and from work.
$3.58 / gallon
#1. Willow Road at Bayfront Expressway. This is the intersection where Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam was killed in 2007 when his driver ran a red light. The city of Menlo Park installed red light cameras here after Halberstam's death, but I still see motorists routinely fly through reds at better than 60 mph.

Adding to the challenge is a lot of northbound Willow traffic merges right at highspeed onto Bayfront to head to the Dumbarton Bridge. I move left of the bike lane well short of the merge area to make my intention to travel straight through at this location clear, but I still witness plenty of idiots who can't get it through their thick skulls to slow down for safety. I believe the risk is still small, but compared to the rest of my commute this is a higher risk intersection. If I get hit around Bayfront, this is the one that's most likely to send me to the hospital.

The photo is the view from my spot waiting for the light on Willow going into the Sun Campus.
Lane-splitting is legal in California
What do you think of Larey's idea? Where do you think you'll crash along your commute route?

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Note to self: avoid Willow Rd in Menlo Park.
Sandhill @ 280, either direction -- crazy 280 traffic merge

Middlefield @ San Antonio, either direction (bike lane briefly disappears)
To be fair, Tony, Willow Road makes up most of my bike commute. I can go a couple of miles out of my way to avoid most of Willow (and I know some people who do that), but the risk isn't all that great.

Ken, the shopping plazas along Middlefield near San Antonio are tons of fun, aren't they? My favorite 280 intersection is where Foothill Expwy passes underneath.
Dorchester, due to road rage.
Crossing the Light Rail tracks on Central Expressway in Mountain View going West to East. This set of tracks has taken me down *twice*. Bad enough on a dry day (they are closer to parallel than perpindicular to the road when you are on the shoulder) but when they are wet, fugheddaboutit. The very slippery rails are built into a tracking structure that includes even more metal. Sucks badly.
Murph, do you have one of these stickers yet?
is the 101 bike/ped bridge connecting Ringwood Ave just north of WIllow Rd any good? I've never tried it, but thinking about working it into an alternate bay route that avoids EPA.
@Ammon: Yeah, the Menlo RIngwood bike bridge over 101 is just fine. There's often broken glass on it, but that's about it.
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