Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Rural roads need sensible limits

Hollyhock Lane and South River Road sound like idyllic pathways in rural San Luis Obispo County. And for many bicyclists, motorcyclists and car drivers, they are. To some, however, these roads exist for them to get from one point to another at dangerous speeds.

This speed, combined with serpentine twists and dips in the road, make for one disaster after another. The near disasters are smashed fences, mail boxes and cars off the roadway in the ditch.

Virtually every fence on Hollyhock Lane has been damaged by drivers losing control of their vehicles on these twisting curves.

One very dangerous part of Hollyhock Lane, apparent to all who live here, is a rise in the road at the south end of our property. Immediately after one comes over this rise, there are four driveways within a few hundred feet. A young motorcyclist, probably unaware of the danger ahead, came over this rise and struck a van exiting the first driveway. He was killed.

South River Road is another story. I know of three deaths on this road, the most recent being the tragic death of CHP officer Brett Oswald who had responded to a 911 call I had made about a vehicle abandoned on the roadway on a sharp curve.

The officer was waiting for a tow truck to get the vehicle off the road when a car, described as traveling at a high rate of speed, struck the patrol vehicle, which in turn, struck the officer, killing him. This occurred within a stone’s throw of a memorial to a person killed a few years ago coming around a curve. He lost control and hit a tree, killing him.

A few hundred feet up the road, a tree once stood, since removed after a young driver lost control in marginal weather and struck the tree, killing his passenger.

What is sad about these deaths is that I personally feel little is being done to set responsible speed limits in rural areas. To be sure, 55 mph is reasonable in some areas, but not sensible in others.

Why a sign has never been posted just short of that dangerous rise on Hollyhock Lane astounds me. Leo Dunaetz, a farmer who once lived on the property where the van was exiting, told me he would hold his breath when he exited that property on his tractor. He even put up his own sign stating, “tractor on road.” It has since blown down.

I think most people in rural areas have a pretty good idea of what constitutes a dangerous situation on their roads. The agency responsible for road signage and the Board of Supervisors should initiate an immediate program to identify the places that need a reduction in speed limits and appropriate signage to warn of dangerous conditions.

I know of one area on Hollyhock Lane to place one of those signs. We do not need another agonizing scene of a young man lying dead on the roadway to suggest that something has to be done.

Richard R. Rogers has lived on Hollyhock Lane for 16 years.