Friday, December 03, 2004

Political Action/Los Gatos Creek Trail

By Rick Madden

Members of Responsible Open Mountain Peddlers, Western Wheelers, the Silicon Valley Bicycling Coalition and ACTC have recently organized to discuss the Los Gatos Creek Trail corridor between the village of Los Gatos and Bear Creek Road.

Attention has been focused on this area recently after the death of 65-year-old ACTC and Western Wheeler member Jim Mills while leading the popular Hills R Us ride. An accomplished cyclist, Jim had completed the Everest Challenge and fulfilled a dream by climbing Alpe d’Huez, Le Tourmalet and Mont Ventoux on a recent trip to France. Each year he participated in the Multiple Sclerosis Bike tour and was one of the top fundraisers.

One of Jim’s weekly rituals was leading the popular Wednesday ride, which typically works its way from Los Altos up to Skyline. On August 4 the group headed south on Skyline to Old Santa Cruz Highway and Lexington Dam. Jim was having a particularly good day, as he had missed many previous rides acting as caregiver for his terminally ill wife. On this day he got a few hours away to ride his beloved Calfee.

Upon finding the Los Gatos trailhead gates locked at Alma Bridge Road, Jim led his group down Highway 17, the only paved alternative. The closure was not announced by the San Jose Water Company, which was working on the trail below. Ironically, public safety was the impetus they had closed the trail. The reason for Jim’s crash is still in question, but eyewitnesses point to bad pavement as the possible cause. Jim went over the guardrail and struck a fencepost, sustaining massive injuries. Although rescue crews arrived very quickly, it appears he died almost instantly. As a sad footnote, Jim’s wife Carolyn died weeks later.

James Porter, (president of Western Wheelers), Rebecca Lucky (executive director of Silicon Valley Biking Coalition) and myself began talking about safe passage for all cyclists through the very important Highway 17 corridor. Realizing all cyclists, regardless of specific interests, needed to work together on this project we contacted Paul Nam, president of ROMP. Paul quickly threw his hat into the ring. ROMP has extensively lobbied municipal agencies to include bicycles on trails.

Possible solutions identified by the collective cycling groups are:

- Advance notice of trail closures on the Los Gatos Creek Trail corridor
- Paving the steep grade near the dam
- Resurfacing the trail with a finer material more suited to compaction than the current surface.
- Petition CalTrans to remove obstacles from the shoulder of Highway 17. This includes pavement heaves and bumps and repositioning of the storm sewer grates. Periodic sweeping to remove glass and debris will also be requested.
- Identify funding sources for bike trail improvements in the Los Gatos area, including alternatives to the creek trail during periodic maintenance closures

Over 2,000 members belong to the four organizations working to provide safe passage past Lexington Dam. This is a unique opportunity to work with other area clubs to achieve a common goal. In the coming months, you may be contacted to lend support to this cause by writing letters or emails to public officials. Please be generous with your time. Let public officials know that rider safety is important to us and should be important to them.

If you have any comments or questions, I would be happy to address them on the new ACTC ride forum at Look under the political action topic.

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