After Recent Deaths, Bike East Bay Renews Call for Safety Fixes

John Wheeler, Christopher Bunag, Deontae Bush, and Martin Nelis all killed by motorists in just the past few weeks

A sop marking on San Miguel road in Concord near where a cyclist was killed last month. Image: Google maps
A sop marking on San Miguel road in Concord near where a cyclist was killed last month. Image: Google maps

It’s been a grim summer for cyclists in the East Bay.

John Wheeler, Christopher Bunag, Deontae Bush, and Martin Nelis were all killed in just the past few weeks, prompting Bike East Bay’s Executive Director, Ginger Jui, to write Fierce Call for Change, a post urging leaders of Oakland and other East Bay cities to take immediate action.

From the post:

I have to point out what is NOT happening. Our cities and counties in the East Bay have not stepped up to build safe streets for people walking and biking quickly enough. John Wheeler, Christopher Bunag, and Deontae Bush all died on streets where Bike East Bay has been pushing to slow cars to safe speeds and to build safer infrastructure with dedicated crosswalks and bike lanes.

In Concord, 60-year old John Wheeler was struck by a pickup truck on San Miguel Road just one mile south of Concord BART station, where Bike East Bay and Bike Concord have been working to add bike lanes and improve safety around the station.

We demand protected bike lanes, high visibility crosswalks, and quick-fix protective barriers on all streets near transit centers, including on San Miguel Road where John Wheeler was struck from behind just one mile from BART.

In her post, Jui makes demands at each of the four locations where a death occurred, plus others. “As a society, we can no longer tolerate streets that prioritize moving as many cars as fast as possible over the lives of people biking and walking.”

Indeed, leaving so much dangerous infrastructure in place is inexcusable. Look at how Oakland transformed a notorious intersection at 23rd and Harrison into a safe crossing within weeks for $30,000 using nothing more than paint and some plastic posts. San Francisco has done significant safety improvements on multiple streets in SoMa, quickly, using some bus boarding islands, signs, paints and posts. Cities throughout the country have shown that safety fixes can be done quickly and inexpensively–if the will is there.

Bike East Bay's Ginger Jui is calling on cities to make immediate fixes to dangerous locations after a spate of cycling deaths this summer
Bike East Bay’s Ginger Jui is calling on cities to make immediate fixes to dangerous locations after a spate of cycling deaths this summer

So it’s not about costs or lack of resources. It’s about political inertia and bureaucrats and developers who talk about safety, but who refuse to actually get with the program on the ground. Meanwhile, Oakland is moving forward with plans to retrofit intersections around Lake Merritt to make them safe. But just a few blocks away crews from the same city are building a brand-new, high-speed road that conforms to dangerous, outdated designs. This kind of schizophrenia about safety and infrastructure continues throughout the Bay Area, and it gets people killed.

“Safe streets for biking and walking are possible,” write Jui. “Bike East Bay calls on all East Bay cities to swiftly implement safety measures on all high injury corridors.”

Her post is definitely worth reading in full. And it would be worth forwarding to elected representatives, all over the East Bay, to urge them to respond aggressively to our region’s unrelenting traffic violence.

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