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Bicycle Safety

Two Bay Area Cyclists Cut Down By Drivers in One Day

Goettingen Street lacks any design measures to discourage speeding. Image via Google Street View

While out with friends last night in West Portal, I mentioned that a cyclist was killed in San Francisco that morning. One of my friends corrected me and said "no, it was San Jose."

My heart sank as I realized two Bay Area bicyclists had been cut down in separate incidents.

In San Jose, a bicyclist was struck by a pickup truck driver near Martial Cottle Park, as reported by InsideBayArea. "It does not appear that speed was a factor," said San Jose Police Sergeant Todd Lonac. "It just appears to be a tragic accident."

Ruling out excessive speed alone, however, does not absolve the driver. We still don't know if texting or some other form of distraction was a factor. It's too early in the investigation and not enough information is available for the cops to tell the public it was a faultless "accident."

In Portola, meanwhile, a 63-year-old bicyclist was killed by a 26-year-old motorist who was apparently speeding and driving on the wrong side of Goettingen Street. The case was extreme enough that the SFPD arrested the driver on “suspicion” of vehicular manslaughter.

Sharrow markings on Ocean already covered by a patch
Sharrow markings on Ocean already covered by a patch.
Sharrow markings on Ocean already covered by a patch

I rode over to the crash location earlier today. Mariette Alipio, 70, has lived on that street since 1979. She described the victim, who was her neighbor, as a “nice, friendly guy who biked almost every day.” Joe Lu, 53, lives across the street. He said he's disturbed by young people in the area revving their engines and the lack of law enforcement. "We need more police here."

More policing would certainly help, but I noticed the road looks like an airport runway with houses on it. It has no speed humps, bulb outs, or any other design features to inhibit excessive speeds.

As I rode my bike to Portola, I encountered an environment familiar to all San Francisco cyclists. Cars parked in bike lanes. Potholes and cracks big enough to grab all but the widest bicycle tire and catapult a rider into the pavement. And laughable safety markings, such as sharrows on streets that are way too wide and fast for them. And even these markings aren't maintained.

As I finished surveying the block in Portola, I saw a man in his 20s getting into a car with two older women. I asked the man if he saw the crash. He said he couldn't talk; he was on his way to a funeral. “It was my father,” he said.

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