The Trail Companion
Theme: Trails and the ADA
A Man with a Handcycle
Palo Alto resident Daniel Bartsch is not your typical
trail user. He doesn't often venture into the wilderness on
his handcycle-a specially adapted wheelchair--but he
probably knows the town trails in Los Altos Hills better
than nearly any of the residents. Over a one-year period,
he explored every trail he could negotiate. Some trails
were easier than others.
By most standards, the LAH
trails are not especially accessible and Daniel notes that
he would have been limited to a small number of the trails
if he had only used a wheelchair. In one instance, he
resorted to climbing half a mile up a steep hill on his
knees and pushing his handcycle in front of him (while
Daniel needs his wheelchair to cover any distance, he does
have limited mobility). Other trails were so steep that he
was in danger of flipping over backwards and did so at one
|Daniel Bartsch on his
|Photo by Joan
I spent some time talking to
Daniel about his experiences on the trails of Los Altos
are the challenges you've had in riding the trails?
of the trails weren't designed with trail users in mind. A
lot of them follow lot lines, so they climb and descend
really steeply. It would be helpful if the steepness were
marked-cross-hatches on the map [which indicate steepness]
aren't all that useful.
Some of the trails just
follow along the roads and are also too steep. There's a
section along Page Mill that is virtually unused because it
is too difficult. The shoulder is wide enough in some of
those places that a trail could fit right next to the road
if it were graded and surfaced.
Besides steep trails, some of
the problems I've had are [puncture weed] thorns, lack of
restrooms, horse manure dust and property owners along the
trails who block the right of way. Some of the trails are
almost closed because they are overgrown-it doesn't look
like anyone maintains them. Sometimes there are vehicles
parked on the trails.
I've had people complain that
I shouldn't be on the trails since they're closed to
bicycles. I decided for myself that my handcycle isn't the
same as a bicycle. I don't think being in a wheelchair
gives you the right to tear up the trails, so I don't ride
them when they're wet or any time I might erode them. I
just try to be careful.
all go up or down! Cross slope isn't even an issue, even
though a big cross slope is really dangerous on a
you think the trails should have been built
though most of the trails are steep, I don't advocate
cutting into the hillsides. In some places, you'd have to
cut a great deal to get a gentler trail.
Some of the trails don't make
sense and seemed to have been built along the property line
even where there was an alternative. Maybe no trail should
have been built in some places.
are your favorite trails?
like trails that connect disparate areas best. I especially
like the [Artemas] Gintzon Trail [in Byrne Preserve]. It's
very nice back in the preserve, although one time there was
a parked bulldozer blocking the trail and I had to ask
someone to help lift the handcycle around the
The trails around Hidden
Villa are nice and I like the bottom of Page Mill Road
before it gets steep. There's a really steep section that
would flip my chair, but you can take one of the other
trails to make a pleasant loop.
Note: The trails described
by Daniel can be found on our Trail
Map of the Southern Peninsula.
Daniel Bartsch lives
and works at Magic, Inc., a nonprofit and residential
community in Palo Alto dedicated to applying scientific
methods and principles to discover common human purposes
and to further them through a variety of service and
educational projects. You can learn more about Magic on the
web, by e-mail, or by calling (650)
Trails and the Americans with Disabilities Act
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