Amelie’s death: last of five tragic deaths involving truck drivers.

Amelie Le Moullac, 24.  Image courtesy of Voce Communications.

Amelie Le Moullac, 24. Image courtesy of Voce Communications.

What a very sad last week it was for the bicycle community. Amelie Le Moullac of 24, was on her way to work last Wednesday morning. She was riding her bike on a striped bike lane going straight on Folsom St. in the SOMA neighborhood when a truck driver made a right turn on 6th St. and killed her. It was the driver’s fault but of course he wasn’t cited.

Amelie's bike.  Image courtesy of SFGate.

Amelie’s bike. Image courtesy of SFGate.

Since 2011, the last five bicyclists’ deaths had all resulted from colliding with truck drivers at intersections in San Francisco. This seems like a common theme here.  This is all too familiar when cycle tracks are not put in.  I hear these kinds of stories coming from London as well. 50% of cyclists’s deaths in London involve trucks. The reason I think is that cities like London and San Francisco are very auto-centric and both have a rapidly growing bicycle culture. However, both have dysfunctional bike infrastructure which is composed of striped bike lanes.  As a result, cyclists are forced to share roads with motorists. In just about any city with this kind of set-up, tragic fatalities with motorists are bound to happen.

Bike lane on the right on Folsom St. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

Bike lane on the right on Folsom St. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

The street Amelie was a riding on is a one way thoroughfare with 4 lanes. This is one of many streets (pretty ridiculous for such a small and dense city) in SF which are very suitable for large trucks to be on.  The construction frenzy in the city has also brought in dozens and dozens of these trucks. Add to the fact that truck drivers can’t see you because they sit 8 ft/2.4 m above ground with a huge blind-spot on the driver’s right side.

Either reduce speed limits on these kind of roads (and enforce it), ban all right turns on red lights, or put in real bike infrastructure. Bicycle commuters are going to take this route because it is one of 2 routes (from the central neighborhoods) with some sort of bike facility that leads to downtown. It’s unfortunate that we have a long way to go to have safe streets throughout SF for bicyclists. Since our city is not going to implement any of these soon, the responsibility to be safe is on us bicyclists. Below are some tips that may help you to be safe.

1. Always look over your left shoulder moments beforehand when crossing an intersection.

2. Don’t speed through intersections, prepare to stop.

3. Be visible to drivers by being out in front at a junction when waiting for a green light.

4. Listen for loud trucks if you can. I know the city can be very loud a lot of times.

5. Be assertive and take the whole lane if you have to. You have the legal right to.

6. And always pass to the left of a vehicle to avoid a right hook, this is when a car merges suddenly to the right to make a right turn sandwiching the bike rider between the car and the curb.

Amelie's memorial at 6th and Folsom St.

Amelie’s memorial at 6th and Folsom St.

Rest in peace, Amelie.

Read also:
In Memory of Diana Sullivan, Ghost Bike Memorial

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6 comments

  1. Kourtney Avila

    Diana Sullivan was my Aunt. More like second mother. I so feel for this young woman’s family. My heart aches for you, for i know your pain. RIP Amelie.

  2. Dante

    I was disturbed a bit by last week’s accident. I remember that morning because I was cycling my way home around 7AM and I was waiting for the light to turn green at the corner of 7th St. and Folsom (I was heading towards Market St.) and suddenly I heard sirens, and then the SFPD pulled up and blocked Folsom St. that heads to 6th St. I was wondering what all the fuss was about and then I continued to bike home.

    As a cyclist, I cannot just rely on unprotected bike lanes and bike sharrows. I have to always be ready to improvise, and to ride on the sidewalk in order to stay alive. If a truck is parked on the bike lane, my first choice will be the sidewalk over the dangerous “get around move to the left”. And of course, bicycling on a sidewalk is a bigger crime than driving carelessly and killing a cyclist. The cyclist is more likely going to immediately get a citation for trying to stay alive by riding on the sidewalk. The police will see the bicyclist riding on the sidewalk as a top priority citation while the careless truck driver/motorist killing a cyclist is of course “just an accident” and not a priority for any citation or punishment. I know I sound very cynical but it appears I may have a point.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/spoke/2013/07/is-this-possible-sidewalk-biking-is-the-new-speeding

  3. Ed Carrillo

    Such a tragedy. My heart goes out to her family. One piece of equipment that I never leave the house without is my clip-on rear view mirror (which attaches to my sunglasses). It looks awful, but it works extremely well on the streets such as those described in the article.

    • Chris

      Ditto. Side-view mirrors would really help, but I didn’t want to mention it in this article. I want to keep it simple.

      I have a coworker who is a mom and rides through an industrial area filled with freight trucks. And she also has her child on her bike and go to the child care center on her way to work everyday. She must feel safe because her bike has two side-view mirrors on the ends of the handlebar.

  4. Pingback: Oakland – A new home for my bicycles | I Love Biking SF

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