Police chief tells of near-miss with teen bicyclist

Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini, inset, and a Menlo Park Police SUV.
Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini, inset, and a Menlo Park Police SUV.

BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer

What do you do when a bicyclist blazes through a stop sign or red light when you’ve got the right-of-way, and you nearly hit the cyclist?

Menlo Park Police Chief Dave Bertini found himself in that situation not too long ago. He had a green light and out of nowhere, a 14-year-old on a bicycle zoomed in front of him.

“My heart was in my throat. I almost hit this child,” Bertini told a dozen or so Willows residents in a meet-the-chief event at Menlo Park’s Cafe Zoe on Monday (Nov. 4).

So Bertini pulled over, called over the teen, and had the boy call his parents.

Bertini talked to the boy’s father and told him what had happened.

A few days later, Bertini got a letter of apology from the kid, saying that he will follow the rules of the road from now own.

A woman who was at the get-together last night said that hopefully the teen told his friends about the encounter and a whole group of teens now stop at stop signs.

Bertini and police Cmdr. William Dixon met with residents to hear about their concerns and suggestions for the department and one of the big topics being about children’s safety while biking or walking to school.

Dixon said one of the biggest things that officers try to deal with is whether to educate children they see breaking the rules of the road, or to ticket them. Most of the time, officers let kids off with a warning, and have even given children who have been safe while commuting to school coupons for free 7-Eleven Slushies.

Homeless situation

Bertini and Dixon also discussed Menlo Park’s homeless population, noting that there are two distinct groups of homeless folks in Menlo Park — the handful of people with addictions or other mental health issues who live downtown and refuse help — and the encampment in the marsh.

Bertini said the group of people who live out in the marsh have more of a “criminal element” and have even set up booby traps to keep other people, and cops, out of their lean-to homes.

Panhandlers with children

One woman in attendance asked if there was anything police could do about the woman with her children who panhandle in front of Trader Joe’s.

Dixon said police have limited ways to deal with those sorts of panhandlers, as it is not illegal to panhandle with your children. Police can make reports to Child Protective Services, and check to see if the parents are on probation or anything like that, but as far as helping the children, there isn’t much they can do, Dixon said.

Dixon also shared that once the panhandlers catch a whiff that police have made a report to CPS or another agency, they will move cities they’re panhandling in.

1 Comment

  1. I live near the corner of N. California and Bryant in Palo Alto, a very busy biking intersection on both streets, and I have had the same terrifying experience as Chief Bertini on several occasions, as young bikers blow through the intersection, heedless of stop signs and vehicular traffic. I have never seen any law enforcement presence at that intersection, even in the busiest biking and traffic hours of the day. I am confident that if our police department were to ticket violators with some regularity, the word would get around and the streets would be safer for all, especially reckless, self-absorbed teenagers.

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