The tragic death of a woman bicyclist on Foothill Road Sunday afternoon south of Golden Eagle Drive points out unusual nature of the road.
For those of us who can remember before Interstate 680 was constructed, Foothill Road was Highway 21 and the main road between Walnut Creek and San Jose. The pedestrian/bicycle-only Verona Bridge was the left-turn where 18-wheelers carrying goods from the San Ramon Valley transition over to Sunol Boulevard and joined the other southbound gravel trucks coming from the quarries on Stanley Boulevard over First Street.
Once I-680 was built, Foothill Road became a country lane for years until jobs in the South Bay exploded and it became a commuter route again. Every afternoon, you can wait for 15 or more cars to make a left into a driveway between 4 and 6 p.m. The traffic headed south in the morning led to the aggressively enforced no left turn from Castlewood Drive to Foothill during weekday mornings.
Then, on weekends, it becomes a country road again that typically is ideal for runners and cyclists.
The fatal accident Sunday belies the relatively mild traffic conditions on weekends. The 18-year-old driver who hit the bicyclist is cooperating with police and the investigation is ongoing.
I never appreciated just what Nelson Mandela meant to the people of South Africa until I toured the apartheid museum in 2007 in Johannesburg.
Mandela, who is seriously ill at age 94 in a Johannesburg hospital, served as the country’s first president after a free election that followed the end of the apartheid policy that was established in 1948.
Since he was a young man, the trained lawyer had been a member and a leader of the African National Congress. In the early 1970s he joined with a communist party in a violent campaign of bombing government targets. That led to a conviction to life in prison (after several earlier acquittals) and he spent 27 years in a South African prison before he was freed in 1990 after substantial international pressure against the political leaders.
He returned to leadership of the ANC and negotiated with President F.W. de Klerk for the first multiracial elections in 1994. He easily won that election and served five years as president before declining to run for a second term.
It is critical to remember how fresh this is to South Africans. It hasn’t even been 20 years since he was elected—the Berlin War, the symbol of the Cold War—fell five years earlier than the South African free elections that ended more than 40 years of apartheid.
Mandela’s administration was characterized by striving to unite the country and major reforms including a constitution. Popular opinion likely would have left him president for life, but he was wise enough to step aside into a senior statesman role. Through his senior season of life, he has conducted himself with dignity and grace.