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Do Motorists and Cyclists Co-Exist Well in Mill Valley?

While Fairfax law enforcement bumps up its efforts to cite cyclists that run stop signs, Mill Valley Police receive a relatively low number of bike-related complaints.

With its winding mountain trails and close proximity to the bike path, cyclists are everywhere in Mill Valley year-round.

But in a town with narrow, sinewy streets and where just about everybody owns a bike, there are going to be times when drivers, cyclists and pedestrians clash. One of our neighbors to the north, the town of Fairfax, is its enforcement efforts of cyclists who run stop signs.

"While we are a bike-friendly town, we can not allow cyclists to continue to have the blatant disregard for the rules of the road,” Fairfax Police Chief Christopher Morin said.

When cyclists choose to ignore stop signs or speed downhill faster than neighboring motorists, they put themselves and pedestrians at greater risk, law enforcement officials say.

But for a town that's often swarming with bikers, pedestrians and cars simultaneously, Mill Valley Police officers receive a relatively low number of complaints, according to Police Chief Angel Bernal.

Bernal said that the department receives occasional complaints regarding cyclists running stop signs or speeding in various parts of the city, but the overall number is relatively low.

"We've taken a number of speed samples in specific areas and for the most part it looks like cyclists are moving faster than they really are," he said.

Cyclists are required to follow the same traffic laws as motorists, but some enthusiasts see riding a bike as more of a sport than a mode of transportation.

The Camino Alto Grade, Blithedale and Camino Alto intersection and the area from Edgewood St. to Molina St. on Miller Avenue represent the biggest problem areas. 

When it comes down to it, it's all about mutual respect and being mindful of your actions. Bernal notes that riding a bike doesn't give you a free-pass to re-invent the rules of the road, and cyclists that ignore traffic laws will get a citation.

"It's really a matter of cyclists and motorists knowing that the road needs to be shared, the fact that someone is on a bike doesn't relieve them of any responsibility." 

Camille Lee July 14, 2012 at 07:35 PM
As a hill-area resident of Mill Valley for 20 yrs. my experience has been that people both living and visiting these areas often have a somewhat ignoring regard for the consequences of their actions. This results in residential areas that can be very challenging for older people as well as for young children to be in. It is understandable that the law enforcement personnel have their imitations in terms responding to matters of public safety. I think that it is time to consider putting a great deal more signage in hill and canyon residential areas of Mill Valley so that people are reminded of the importance of safety and vital issues that define a community of well-educated and caring citizens. I would also like to bring your attention to the Opinion Page in today's Marin IJ (Saturday, July 14th.) which features a number of excellent perspectives and experiences on the cyclist/pedestrian/motorist topic of your MV Patch article.
Matthew Roche August 14, 2012 at 02:13 PM
This is an emotional problem, not a real one, and one that could be solved simply by changing the vehicle code to not require bikes to come to a complete stop at stop signs. Chief Moran is a law enforcement officer, and he is taking a law enforcement approach to what is really a policy problem. If you define the issue as whether bikers are not conforming to the vehicle code, then he is absolutely in the right. However, you will note that Chief Moran does not cite increased injury or fatality, only the supposition that "they put themselves and pedestrians at greater risk". There is no evidence this is true. In fact, in the entire city of New York, from 2006-2010, there were 3 fatalities from bike-pedestrian collisions. This is not a real problem. "If there weren't cars, we wouldn't need stop signs," according to Andy Thornley of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. "They're not there for bicycles." Bikers can safely slow down, look both ways, and proceed without sacrificing the momentum necessary to keep cycling. The alternative is to adopt the "Idaho Stop" law (http://bikeportland.org/2009/01/14/idaho-stop-law-faq-13387) . In this case, stop signs are treated as yield signs for bikers. If they have adequate visibility and there are no cars and pedestrians, they can roll through, preserving energy. Our laws and law enforcement should focus on public safety, not compliance. Chief Moran seems to confuse the two.

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