Western Wheelers History

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Menlo Park Recorder, May 30, 1973

There is a unique bicycle club in Menlo Park that has done more to promote bicycle safety and encourage bicycling for recreation than any other such club in California.

The Western Wheelers Bicycle Club, originally formed in 1968 by a group of Menlo-Atherton High School students interested in taking rides together, has succeeded in just five years in getting 250 persons, predominantly from the Peninsula, to use bicycles as an alternative to a second car and through painstaking persistence spurred bicycle legislation to make thoroughfares safer for cyclists.

“One of our biggest concerns right now,” said Roy Peterson, a Western Wheelers’ board member, is to include a wide variety of questions on bicycle safety on driver’s tests. We encourage cycling for fun, but we realize that in order for it to be safe, the rights of cyclists must be made known to motorists.

“Cyclists have the same rights as motorists, and I don’t think very many people are aware of this,” he said. According to Peterson, the increased popularity of lighter and faster 10-speed bicycles led to the rapid expansion of the bicycle club from 20 M-A students to its current membership of 250.

Although the club is headquartered in Menlo Park and sponsored by the Menlo Park Recreation Department, members hail from all parts of the Bay Area, including Oakland, Fremont, Tiburon and Los Gatos. The majority of the members, however, live in Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto and Redwood City.


As a major concern of the club, bicycle safety is of course stressed among club members, but additionally the club is called on to assist schools and organizations in promoting safe cycling. Two club members recently spoke to eight classes at Fremont Elementary School in Los Altos Hills on bicycle maintenance, repair and safety. A group of mothers from Millbrae also recently called upon Western Wheelers to establish a bicycle safety program in their elementary schools, and Girl Scouts working on bicycle merit badges have been given instruction in the safe operation of bicycles. Western Wheelers led groups of these scouts on bike trips, a part of the merit badge requirement. Many members of Western Wheelers are deeply involved working in other fields of bicycling including bikeways and legislation. The following is merely a glimpse of the varied activities of club members.

—Early this month, Western Wheelers was represented at a national conference “Bicycling USA,” in Boston, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Artemus Ginzton of Los Altos Hills, who has devoted countless hours to the bicycling cause for nearly 10 years, attended the conference at his own expense. His wife is responsible for the recently opened bikeway along the California Aqueduct, approved by the California Department of Water Resources.

—Jean Rusmore of Ladera has finally, after years of persistence, succeeded in getting San Mateo County to agree to improve the Alpine Road Bike Path—the only bike path in the county—and it will soon be re-routed, according to Peterson, under the off-ramps of Highway 280. Another Western Wheeler, Rowland Tabor of Portola Valley, serves on a bike committee for that city, and is working to get the Alpine Road Path extended into Portola Valley. —Peterson, past president of Western Wheelers, recently was elected chairman of the State Bicycle Advisory Board, established by Attorney General Evelie Younger to implement a new law on bicycle licensing. He is also a member of the San Mateo County Bike Committee and the Santa Clara County Bicycle Trails Committee working on a bike route system from San Jose to San Francisco. Additionally, he is serving on an evaluation committee of the Palo Alto Bikeway System.

—Ted Noguchi, traffic manager for the City of Palo Alto, laid out the very comprehensive 40-mile bikeway system in Palo Alto.

—Mel Wright, of Los Altos, serves on the bicycle committee for that city and is a daily commuter from his home to Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park. He is currently working on bicycle commuter routes between cities.

—Enid Pearson, a Palo Alto councilwoman, has long supported bike programs in that city.

—All members of the club were recently asked by the Minnesota Mining Company to test newly-designed reflective tires for night riding. The tires are bonded with a narrow strip of “Scotchlite” on both sides and are visible for hundreds of yards under car headlights. Peterson said that after thousands of miles of riding the tires have proven very successful in alerting motorists driving at night.


In addition to promoting bicycle safety, Western Wheelers also do a bit of cycling for fun. This month, 45 members rode in the Bike-A-Thon to raise funds to fight cancer. Tommy Hill, Mike Clauss and Mike Veglia, all club members, rode 100 miles and secured sponsors who donated hundreds of dollars to the cancer cause. Phillis Haletky, who commutes daily by bicycle from her apartment in Menlo Park to her job at Stanford University, rode 30 miles in the cancer event on a three-speed bike. She is seven months pregnant. Earlier this year ten Western Wheelers participated in the “Mt. Hamilton Century Ride”, a 120 [mile] excursion over 4,280 foot Mt. Hamilton. Eric Peterson, an M-A High School and Cañada College graduate, finished the ride in seven hours and 10 minutes. Duane Hallesy and his 14- and 15-year old sons also completed the Century. And this month about 10 Western Wheelers tried the Double Century out of Davis, California, to Berrysea Lake, to Clear Lake and then back to Davis. Thirteen year old Tommy Hill completed the 200 miles in about 20 hours and was the youngest participant. Besides participating in these marathon events, the Western Wheelers conduct Tuesday night rides through the streets of Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside and Portola Valley. Local residents are invited to join in the rides, which begin at the Menlo Park civic center at 6:30. “Out of all the cities in the Bay Area, I think Menlo Park, Atherton, Woodside, Portola Valley and Los Altos Hills are the best cities to ride through,” said Carol Peterson, club secretary. “The bike routes are scenic, and there is ample flat lands and hills.”

As far as obtaining bike paths in Menlo Park, Peterson said that he has had several meetings with the general plan committee, the Traffic Commission and the Planning Commission. The former, Peterson said, has considered the bikeway plans as “low profile,” and consequently the Traffic and Planning Commissions have taken little action regarding bikeways. “The bike paths are needed in this city,” said Mrs. Peterson, “in fact, I think that if a good bike plan was implemented, congestion would be alleviated and possibly business would improve in the downtown area. Merchants on Santa Cruz (Avenue) should urge bike ways, and if they were smart they would provide free delivery service to those customers who ride bikes to their stores,” Mrs. Peterson said. Peterson said that since he has begun riding a bicycle he has saved hundreds of dollars in automobile expenses. He does not own a second car. “I figured out that after a car is paid off it costs me $750 a year for gas and maintenance,” said Peterson. “That’s $60 a month. If people want to save this money they should purchase a bicycle.” The Western Wheelers meet on the first Monday of each month at the Menlo Park Recreation Center at 7:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend the meetings, where information on bicycle safety, touring and the latest bicycle events are announced. The club is a member of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, and is affiliated with the League of American Wheelmen, a national organization designed to promote bicycling.

President of Western Wheelers is Henry Provost and vice-president is Ed Manrubia.

Last updated December 01, 2004.