Wednesday evening, some 200 cyclists assembled around the William McKinley Monument in the Panhandle to begin a ride and vigil to remember Heather Miller and Kate Slattery, two cyclists killed in separate incidents one week ago. The ride was organized by the San Francisco Bike Party (SFBP).
One of the first to arrive was Paul Santagata, a Google employee who lives in the Mission. He sat on the base of the William McKinley Monument as cyclists came into the park. Santagata is the man who helped apprehend Farrukh Mushtaq, the suspect in the hit-and-run killing of Kate Slattery. “I was driving back from work at 8 p.m. on Howard and thought I was going over to the car of a victim of a hit and run…I dialed 911,” he explained. He saw a man near the wrecked car. “After my description, they [the police on the phone] described that he most likely was involved in a hit and run on a cyclist,” he said. The dispatcher on the phone asked him to try and keep the man there. “Me and a couple of other folks got him to sit down until the police came.” Santagata cycles daily and decided to come to the vigil to get a sense of closure.
Next to him sat Tom Rohlf, a friend of Slattery and also a regular cyclist. “I’m just remembering her,” he said. Devon Warner, who runs San Francisco’s Ride of Silence, was also there. The previous night she was at the Bicycle Advisory Committee, which she said was well-attended and contentious. “It was pretty emotional, with more public comment [than usual],” she said.
Rich Behrens of Lone Mountain said he was riding close to where Miller was killed. “I saw the car go by twice,” he said, describing the white Honda that killed Miller as going at an excessive speed and driving recklessly. “He was driving like it was a real-life video game.”
It was a real-life game that had horrific consequences. The driver of the Honda that hit Miller is still at large. A man handed out flyers, urging people to call 415-575-4444 or to Text a Tip to TIP411 and to “begin the text with SFPD” if they have any information on the driver who killed Miller at 6 p.m. on Wed., June 22., at JFK Drive at 30th.
The ride, which was not escorted by police, first went to JFK and 30th. It was slow going, since the large group had to split up and wait at several intersections. Throughout the ride, people remarked on how fast cars were going up and down JFK drive, which, as the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition pointed out in a release after the deaths, has no bike lanes in the western part of the park.
The ride was quiet and courteous, with cyclists helping each other leave openings for cars to slip through at the intersections. Several people lit candles, took pictures, and knelt at the white ghost bike for Miller.