A grand jury report released July 10 showed that while San Mateo County cities have made improvements on bicycle safety in the last two decades, there's more work to do.
This is the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury's second report on bike safety in the county, with the first in 2002. The new report states that cities have put increased effort into making it safer for bike riders, a marked difference from the 2002 report, which came to the conclusion that bike safety wasn’t important to most San Mateo County cities. Some of the improvements throughout the county include the availability of bicycle maps and routes in San Mateo County, with most of its cities and towns creating and updating their bicycle and pedestrian master plans.
Despite this apparent progress, the jury report says the county has seen no increase in residents cycling. It cites the California Household Travel Survey, which reports approximately 1% of residents saying they use a bicycle as transportation in 2002 and again in 2023.
According to the civil grand jury report, Woodside and Portola Valley share similar topography that affects bicycle use in the towns. The report notes that Woodside has focused heavily on large community cycling events, while Portola Valley has focused on weekend cyclists. Woodside invested in a safe routes to school program for children who want to use cycling to get to school.
“In both cases, the communities concentrate on ensuring quality of life for residents,” the report said. “They both see mostly recreational bicyclists … however, the communities don’t make a strong effort to track riders or accidents.”
The report also said that the towns are inconsistent with the enforcement of rules, only paying attention to “problem locations.”
The grand jury report said most cities and towns in San Mateo County could improve by tracking metrics, as cities can't fix problems if they aren't tracked. The report also listed consistent enforcement of cycling and driving rules as a core improvement to bike safety.
The jury report called upon the Bicycle Friendly America Certification by the League of American Cyclists. Menlo Park received the organization's Gold certification in 2017. Portola Valley and Woodside are not listed in the certifications.
"I’m glad that the grand jury dedicated their time to the important topic of bicycle safety because it’s such an important mode of transportation," Menlo Park Mayor Jen Wolosin said.
The report gave recommendations for ways cities and towns in San Mateo County to improve their bike safety, including effective education for both bicyclists and drivers about the bicycle rules of the road, consistent communication between branches of government responsible for bike safety and collection of enforcement details and data about cycling accidents and incidents in order to receive funding from agencies for bicycle infrastructure.
Portola Valley Mayor Jeff Aalfs and Woodside Mayor Chris Shaw said they had not yet read the grand jury report and could not comment on it.