Diana Sullivan, may you rest in peace

diane sullivan

This was Diana’s bike.

Yesterday was a very sad day for my wife and I. Before heading out to celebrate Valentine’s Day a few days early, Nellie and I read about this terrible news. Just that morning, a bicycle rider named Diana Sullivan who was heading westbound on King Street near 3rd Street was hit by a cement truck driver. She was taken to the hospital with serious injuries and pronounced dead later that morning.

The night before, we were cycling on that very same street and noticed a long row of idling cement trucks which were bringing concrete in to pour at the new waterfront park. I counted 17 of them and would have never thought that one of those cement trucks would be involved in a deadly accident. On the way home (we live about 3 blocks away), we took the same route that she did. I remember telling my wife to move off the vehicle lane and onto the sidewalk at the spot where the bike lane suddenly disappears. So when I heard the terrible news, I thought about that section of King Street and had such a vivid image of Diana and the way she was hit. We could have been her and countless others that take that same route risking our lives in the fast moving traffic. It is just so depressing to see one of our own get killed this way.

I have long felt wary about that part of King Street where the bike lane suddenly ends. Awhile back, I made a video and took pictures thinking I would write a post about it. But I never got a chance to write about it until today and now, it is no longer a hypothetical story of what could happen. This post is laced with the sorrow and tragedy of someone’s very real death.

As you can see from the video and two photos below, this is probably why and how Diana was hit. On King Street close to 3rd, which is where the news reported Diana Sullivan collided with the truck, the striped bike lane ends suddenly in the middle of the block. It is followed by a single bike sharrow placed oddly off to the side. Then after that, there is no other bike sharrow and bike riders are forced to move into the narrow traffic lane quite suddenly and unexpectedly. They won’t even realize that they should move onto the sidewalk before they are already thrown into the current of very fast moving traffic. “A very poor bicycle lane design” is clearly a major understatement.

The video above was taken during a time of low traffic but during rush hour and baseball games (AT&T Park is right across the street) the area gets very activated and busy with cars and pedestrians. When there isn’t much traffic, motorists zoom by on the lane very fast as it is a major boulevard that leads them directly onto a freeway ramp which is further down.

Some photos:

Bike lane ends with a bike sharrow (looking East)

Looking east: Bike lane (next to parked car) on King Street ends with a bike sharrow.

Bike sharrow but no sign after the crosswalk (looking West).

Looking west: Bike sharrow but no sign after the crosswalk. 3rd St. is up ahead.

I believe that Diana may have been compelled to hug the curb closely due to the stupid location of the bike sharrow and fast moving traffic and not take the full car lane as is her legal right. But a cement truck is too wide to allow any space for a cyclist to share the width of the lane. It doesn’t help that drivers of cement trucks sit very high up. Hence, Diana could have been rear-ended by the truck, then caught under the giant front right wheel, and then dragged (as the news reported that she was dragged). She may have wanted to take the sidewalk but was deterred by the crowd during the Giants FanFest Day.

This terrible accident would’ve probably been avoided if the street and bike facility were designed much better. At the very least, the bike sharrow should be placed in the middle of the car lane telling cyclists to take the full lane and not try to futilely hug the curb. There should be a sharrow visible every 50-100 feet to remind motorists to share the road.

Within the vicinity of the accident, there is a Caltrain Station located at 4th and King Streets, about 1.5 blocks away. This highly-utilized station sees thousands of commuters everyday and a few hundred cyclists take their bicycles on them. MUNI light rail stations are also across the street from the Caltrain station and you get people rushing from the light rail ramps to the Caltrain, hurriedly crossing the busy street to catch their connector train in time. AT&T Park’s main entrance is only half a block away.  On any given Giants game or other event, tens of thousands of attendees walk around the area. On average, a couple of hundred SF Giants fans ride their bikes to AT&T  Park. Not to mention, the low-income senior home Mission Creek Community which houses 150 seniors is only 3 blocks away. As you know, seniors require a lot of time to cross the street. Then you have this ridiculous speed limit of 35 mph (56 km/h) in a walkable neighborhood that should be reduced to 25 mph (40 km/h) or slower. And you know motorists are not going to respect the posted speed limit. What is so crazy is that King Street continues directly onto a freeway ramp which is 1/2 a block away from the busy Caltrain Station! This encourages motorists to drive faster as they speed up to go onto the ramp. And as you know, cyclists are not really supposed to be on the sidewalk and  you can’t always take the sidewalk here anyway because on Giants game days and such they are too crowded to ride on. The street doesn’t even have a sign to tell cyclists where to go. So, you can see why this area is poorly designed for both pedestrians and cyclists.

Diana, may you rest in peace…  Although, I don’t know you, I feel like I do. I hope your family and friends are finding solace and peace.

I just contacted Ghost Bikes to suggest  getting a ghost bike to honor her. I also contacted our local bicycle coalition, our District Supervisor Jane Kim and the Department of Public Works to get this fixed already! Hopefully, I will get a response.

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25 comments

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  3. KingStPinch

    From first hand accounts it seems the collision took place immediately west of 3rd, where the right lane narrows significantly to the first bulb-out. Long term I too would like to see the excellent Embarcadero bike lane run all the way to caltrain, but that will require years of negotiation and non-trivial funding. What can be done right now is to put a sign at Embarcadero and Townsend saying “Bike route to Caltrain” pointing towards Townsend, and maybe shave off a section of that useless sidewalk on King just west of 3rd, such that bikes can transit the bulbout without getting killed.

    • i love biking SF

      How do you know that she’s heading to the Caltrain station? There’s a whole neighborhood east of King St. Additionally, there are a slew of stores and retails on that street. She could be going to any of those destinations.

      I agree about putting a sign but some people may miss it. Not everyone is savvy about this city. Putting down bike sharrows is pretty cheap. It won’t take any space away from the drivers although I prefer cycle tracks.

      Most streets should be safe especially when there are so many attractions and stores around, and light rail stations dotted along King St. I bike this way home all the time when I come back from GGB, Ferry Bldg, etc. And there are many residents that live my way.

      • KingStPinch

        I don’t “know” she was going to caltrain, but that’s the way to bet. If she was going to the berry st or mission bay area it’s much better to cross king at 2nd or 3rd, and go behind the ballpark and/or down the mission creek path than it is to deal with the 4th st slow intersection. Safeway is approachable from townsend.

        You keep talking about a sharrow as if it’s a good idea from 3rd to 4th on King. It is not. A sharrow implies a reasonably safe bikeable route, and King St is not passable to bikes where that bulbout forces large vehicles to pass right next to the curb. Instead of arguing with me go look at it for yourself, and recognize that when the sidewalk is blocked by crowds the Embarcadero/King bike route dead-ends between 2nd and 3rd. No sharrowing is going to change that until that bulbout is fixed, and a sharrow there would lure more bikers into the hazardous situation.

      • i love biking SF

        KingStPinch,

        I didn’t argue with you, more like agreeing. I said at the very least in my blog that bike sharrows need to continue all the way to Caltrain station, and cycle tracks are ideal. If you see a bike lane on any street and some people are not knowledgeable about the area, they are going to follow the bike lane. Sharrows are going to make some difference and at least it will tell the cyclist that he/she belongs there and have the confidence to take the lane instead of hugging the curb. And temporarily until the City gets its act together, they can implement real cycling lanes.

      • John Murphy

        I’ll take that bet.

        She was going to AT&T Park. Which is on King, and a huge destination and has valet parking for 100′s of bikes per home game.

      • i love biking SF

        John,

        It’s confirmed from one source that she was heading to ATnT Park. She was a huge fan of the Giants. While waiting on the curb of King and 3rd St. next to the donut shop to cross the street to the main entrance, the truck driver ran her over.

      • Deena

        Hopefully this can be fixed soon, I do know the Sullivan Family and (Diana Sullivan’s) death has struck the family horribly!

    • Aimie McDaniel

      She is my best friend, and she was not going to Cal Train, she was cruising by the Fan Fest because she is a huge Giants fan.

      • i love biking SF

        Hi Aimie,

        I am very sorry for your loss. I want to tell you that a ghost bike is being prepared for Diana. Jo from ghostbikes.org will contact you more info. Earlier, I spoke to Ellen Huet from SfGate about the problem with King St. and hopefully, that this street will be safer than ever before so Diana’s death wouldn’t have been in vain.

  4. Mike

    I totally agree that the sharrow should be placed in the center of the lane. I have driven that stretch every day for 5 years on the way to Caltrain. If you don’t take the lane, you are inviting someone to clip you. The lane is very narrow and not sufficient for two people to pass. Also, you shouldn’t be expected to merge in the middle of an intersection – this is unsafe. The sharrow should suggest that cyclists merge at the stoplight, not at the opposite end of the intersection when cars have built up speed and aren’t expecting you to merge.

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  6. jd

    I disagree that the city should put more sharrows in this location. Sharrows are the biggest cop-out for the city to pretend it is offering truly safe bicycling infrastructure. Well, not totally fair: there are some residential roads with very little traffic where I think sharrows are acceptable. But King St, which is effectively a freeway on/off-ramp, is *not* one of those streets. It should be illegal for the city to do anything but put a buffered bike lane — the whole damn way — on a road like King St. This idea that bicyclist should be happy with the scraps of urban design must end. We can do better.

    • i love biking SF

      I wholeheartedly agree with you, a cycle track is the most ideal on fast moving streets. I just said “at the very least” minimum effort from the city that bike sharrows should be there all the way to Caltrain Station.

  7. Angie

    Thank you for writing this and for tolerating, with kindness, the ridiculous bickery shit. Diana was a dear friend of mine. I will miss her forever.

  8. octavia

    Those of you who may be indicating some sort of responsibility on Diana and those who thought she was going to Caltrain CLEARLY didn’t know her. She was a safe and conscientious rider. She was also a huge Giants fan and celebrator of life.
    The fact that ANYONE is arguing about this is ridiculous.
    As a new and mildly timid sf bike rider, I honor my girl by continuing to ride. I will ride my bike to my first game of the year in her honor.
    What else arw we doing?

  9. Michael Asay

    This is an accident that should not have happened. The driver should be partially at fault and this UNSAFE violent homeless drug filled greedy. city!!! It doesn’t matter if the driver didn’t see her at the last minute. He should have been aware of her in the path ahead of time. And shame on this city for something like this to happen. Diana entered my life shortly after my sister passed away at a young age

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