Three months ago, we wrote about how Diana Sullivan was killed by a cement truck driver due to a poor bike lane design (or lack threreof) on King St. Any cyclist that was heading westbound on King St. would have soon found out that the bike lane they were riding fairly safely in would suddenly disappear right under their pedals when they reached midblock between 2nd and 3rd Sts. Not only did the bike lane disappear, but it was followed by a strangely placed single bike sharrow that told cyclists to ride closer to the curb. It was an odd set up because the sharrow was placed off to the side and not in the middle of the lane where it should’ve been and there were no other bike sharrows to follow. By riding close to the curb, drivers would try to squeeze by cyclists and perhaps clip them because the width of the car lane is not wide enough for cyclists and cars to share. It was also possible that drivers, especially large truck drivers (large blind spot to his right), would not see a cyclist and could run them over (as in the case of Diana on this very street and the recent death of Dylan Mitchell in the Mission District).
Well, a couple of weeks ago I was riding home from a 6 hours ride in Marin County. I passed that one oddly placed sharrow and to my surprise, it seemed to have been moved to the center of the lane. I then saw another sharrow following and then another one… and they all were placed right in the center of the car lane! I was really exhausted that day from the long ride and from a bad crash I had on a train track, and I wasn’t so sure about what I saw. Was I imagining things? I had to go back the next day to check it out again. Low and behold, they were all there!
Although I am grateful for the small improvement the City has made to this important corridor, it still needs a lot more work and I still have some major complaints about it. If the City has now put down more bike sharrows, why not extend them all the way to the Caltrain Station on 4th St. I don’t know what’s the point of having bike sharrows that end at 3rd St. Does the City really think cyclists are just going to disappear on 3rd St. after the bike sharrows are gone? Or maybe the City is expecting cyclists to risk their own lives after 3rd St. to the death monsters (aka cars).
In actuality, bike sharrows are stupid and they are even more stupid on a fast and busy street such as King. There are still no speed limit signs posted, intersections are far from each other, and it leads directly to a freeway on-ramp: this encourages motorists to speed. As I mentioned in a previous post, the minimum design requirement for a street such as King are dedicated bike lanes.
So, it looks like the SFMTA and DPW still have their work cut out for them in regards to King Street. They’ve checked off only two of the items on this list, below. Anyone think they will ever be able to do all that needs to be done?
What’s Wrong with King Street Checklist:
1. Fix single bike sharrow placed oddly off to the side which encourages cyclists to unsafely hug the curb 2. Fix that there are no bike sharrows to follow after that one bike sharrow
3. Need to paint bike sharrows all the way to the Caltrain Station not just stop at 3rd St.
4. Need bike facilities on the other side of King Street going in the opposite direction from the Caltrain Station to the ballpark
5. Auto speed limit signs need to be put up
6. Reduce auto speed limits
7. If sharrows are used, at least put up a “Share the Road” sign as some drivers still don’t get the message from the sharrows
8. At minimum, a dedicated bike lane should continue from the Embarcadero onto King Street and go all the way to the Caltrain station without interruption
9. The same as #8 for the other side of King St. going from the Caltrain to the ballpark (Also, similar to #4 except this explicitly calls for a dedicated bike lane and not just wimpy sharrows)
It’s been nearly two months since Diana Sullivan’s tragic accident while riding her bicycle in front of AT&T Park. Her ghost bike has been resting peacefully in its place at the corner of King and Third Streets. Everytime we’ve passed by, we’ve seen a wrapped bouquet of flowers placed upon it.
We recently had the chance to write a thoughtful letter to the management at AT&T Park to try to get them to join us in doing something about the poor bike lanes (or lack thereof) around the stadium. Here is what we wrote:
Attn: AT&T Park Management
Re: Bike safety and facilities around the ballpark
March 31, 2013
Dear AT&T Park Management,
Thank you for your continued commitment to Giants and baseball fans everywhere and the way you have kept your world-class baseball stadium beautifully maintained. The grounds around AT&T Park are some of the best kept in the entire city and its presence, along with two championship titles in three years- Go Giants!, has really helped launch San Francisco to a new era in professional baseball.
I am also glad for your accommodation of bicycles at your stadium. Your partnership with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition to provide a bicycle valet and secure parking helps encourage and make comfortable, the use of bicycles as a means of travel to your events.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the cyclist named Diana Sullivan, 48 years old, who was run over and killed by a cement truck driver in February of this year, just outside your stadium. She was riding her bicycle on King Street near Third. Claimed witnesses have stated that she was waiting in the street curbside at a red light. “Sullivan was stopped at the red light on westbound King at Third along with the truck. When the light turned green, the truck driver pulled forward, ran her over, and caught her leg in the wheel well.” (1) Police have indicated that drugs and alcohol did not appear to be involved. (2) From what I’ve heard from those close to her, she was a huge Giants fan and was likely attending the Fan Fest event that day. It was a tragic accident that has impacted all those involved, her family and friends and all who knew her, the many witnesses at the scene of the accident- many of which were attending Fan Fest, and the bicycle community.
It is actually because of Diana that I am writing. Although I did not know her personally, I feel a connection to her as a fellow cyclist. I, along with many other cyclists, believe that Diana’s death could have been avoided if the bicycle facility adjacent to the ballpark had been sufficient. More specifically, if the bike path that runs along the Embarcadero and then westbound onto King Street was complete and did not end suddenly mid-block between Second and Third.
Many cyclists who traverse this route and reach that point where the path suddenly ends take the sidewalk at the first chance they get. However, when there is an event at the ballpark, the sidewalk gets very crowded and leaves no room for a bike to safely enter. This results in cyclists attempting to share the road with vehicles, some of which are fast moving and/or very large. Despite the apparent dangers of sharing the road with fast-moving traffic, the cyclists are encouraged to do so because of the single bike sharrow that follows the ending of the path. This could have worked if the street was calmer, and there were more sharrows to follow (that single sharrow is the only one), and the sharrow was placed in the center of the car lane rather than off to the side. Its odd placement encourages cyclists to hug the curb, which is more dangerous because there isn’t enough room for a car and bike to share the width of the lane and drivers are less likely to see a cyclist that is not directly in front of them.
In Diana’s situation, the cement truck was too wide to share the width of the car lane with her, and the driver sat high up and probably didn’t see her. While there is some debate as to how much of the accident can be attributed to the bike path suddenly ending, one thing is clear in all of this: If there was a complete and dedicated bike path the whole way through, Diana would likely not have been run over because she wouldn’t have been in the path of the cement truck. Even if the driver failed to spot her at the traffic light, she would have been in the bike lane and out of his way.
With the continued increase in bike ridership (see figures below), more people moving into downtown and ballpark neighborhoods, and a visible increase in traffic volume in the city, the number of bicycle accidents are likely to increase if improvements in bicycle infrastructure are not put in place.
SFMTA 2011 Bicycle Count Report (3)
Number of cyclists counted at location:
Embarcadero & Townsend:
2006 – 2011: 192% growth
2010 – 2011: 55% growth
2006 – 2011: 71% growth
Also, as you are likely already concerned about, the potential Warriors Arena moving into the area will cause traffic and transit congestion to increase dramatically and parking to become even more scarce. The use of bicycles can be a very effective and acceptable way to transport large numbers of people while taking the strain off the limited amount of space on transit and for cars in our roads and at parking facilities.
To help ease increasing congestion and safely accommodate the increasing number of cyclists, there needs to be at minimum a complete and dedicated bike lane on King Street all the way to the Caltrain station. The bike path that is there now is only halfway done. There should also be a dedicated bike lane going in the opposite direction from the Caltrain station to the ballpark.
The SFMTA is responsible for putting bicycle improvements into place, but as funds and political will for capital improvements are limited, we need to continue to call the attention of those responsible to the most urgent needs for improvement. We need to let the mayor, district supervisor, SFMTA, DPW, and planning department know that in a place like AT&T Park, a 40,000 seats world-class stadium with 81 baseball games per year and other events, tourists from all over the world, and a location within a growing and vibrant community near many transit options and with increasing bike ridership, there should be dedicated bike lanes that are complete from one end to the other.
I know that you are committed to serving your fans and making the stadium a safe and great place to be so I think you would agree that the bicycle infrastructure surrounding the baseball stadium could and should be improved. I urge you to reach out to the city agencies yourself, if you have not done so already, as a major stakeholder in the area and specifically call attention to bicycle improvements around the ballpark for the community and all your fans.
- Bialick, Aaron. “Diana Sullivan, 48, Killed on Bike by Cement Truck Driver at Third and King | sf.streetsblog.org.” Streetsblog San Francisco. 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. http://sf.streetsblog.org/2013/02/11/diane-sullivan-48-killed-on-bike-by-cement-truck-driver-at-third-and-king/
- Bay City News, Inc. Republication “SF police investigating crash that killed cyclist near AT&T Park | abc7news.com.” ABC7 News. 9 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/san_francisco&id=8986888
- SFMTA. 2011 Bicycle Count Report San Francisco. Rep. San Francisco: SFMTA, 2011. http://www.sfbike.org/download/bike_count_2011/2011BicycleCountReportsml_002.pdf
If you’d also like to write to AT&T Park, you can send your letters to the address below, or email them using the form at their website here.
Attn: AT&T Park Management
24 Willie Mays Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94107
AT&T Park in Photos:
December 5, 1964 – February 9, 2013
From the standpoint of eternity, there is hardly any difference between a “long” and a “short” life. Therefore, it’s not whether one’s life is long or short, but how one lives that is important. It is what we accomplish, the degree to which we develop our state of life, the number of people we help become happy—that is what matters. – Daisaku Ikeda
At this intersection an amazing human being, Diana Sullivan, was taken from this world and sent into her next existence. Diana had an amazing state of life. She made many people happy and indeed that’s what matters! She will be deeply missed!
Statement from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition in Memory of Diana Sullivan
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Diana Sullivan, who was killed while biking on 3rd and King streets last Saturday. Your calls and e-mails have let us know that you are also saddened by this tragedy. We are going through a thorough evaluation of the intersection of 3rd and King, as we do for other known dangerous locations, to see what engineering and/or other solutions we will push the City to make. Since last Saturday, we have heard from many of you that the intersection of 3rd and King feels unsafe because the bikeway disappears without warning, forcing you in to fast-moving car traffic. We are bundling this information in to our review of the location and will be sharing our recommendations with you — and the City — shortly. We know that the best way for us to honor Diana’s life is to step up our efforts that much more to make San Francisco a safe and welcoming place for everyone to bike.”
Many thanks to Jo Slota from Ghost Bikes San Francisco, Rafi for providing the donated cruiser from Box Dog Bikes and Alan for creating the name plaque. This is a beautiful ghost bike to memorialize Diana’s tragic death. I echo Jo’s words, “Let’s hope it draws some attention to the need for greater cyclists’ safety. I think this is a good time for each of us to reach out to the SF Board of Supervisors & the SF Bike Coalition to ask them to re-evaluate this traffic situation.”
First, I want to give a little update on the death of Diana. Last night, I went to the site where she was hit to get a better sense of what exactly happened. When I got there, I saw this small and beautiful memorial for her (see photo below). That just sank my heart…
Another update is that Jo Slota from GhostBikes San Francisco will have a white bicycle memorial ready for her soon. I still haven’t heard anything from our District Supervisor Jane Kim (to be continued) though I read somewhere that she mentioned having a memorial for Diana at a meeting. DPW told me to contact SFMTA. I am also thinking of contacting AT&T Park to get them to try to influence the city to do something. It is in their interest to make the area around the ballpark safe for cyclists and pedestrians.
Also, Ellen Huet from the SF Chronicle just wrote a great article about the perils of King Street for cyclists and pedestrians. Read it here.
Now, in all of the discussion regarding Diana’s accident and King Street’s bike facility, I have read a few comments here and on other sites that Diana shouldn’t have been taking King Street because it’s dangerous due to the fast moving traffic. They say that no cyclist should take King Street and that cyclists should wise-up and own-up to the consequences of taking King Street if they do. There was even a comment somewhere along the lines of, “How dare cyclists use the vehicle lane and slow down cars!”
One of the problems with what they are saying (in addition to the insensitive tone of some of the comments) is that they assume that she was going to the Caltrain Station and that taking the bike lane on Townsend Street all the way to the station would have been a better and more responsible choice. However, it has been said by a couple of sources close to Diana that she was a huge Giants fan and was actually going to the FanFest at AT&T Park. I think Diana’s decision to take King Street to reach AT&T Park was entirely natural and logical. If you are trying to reach AT&T Park from the waterfront, you are most likely going to take King Street because it is the quickest and most convenient route. Especially since there is a bike lane that runs for most of it. So, I don’t think the accident was in any part her fault for being a cyclist who “ventured into an area that she should have known better to avoid”.
While awaiting the final investigation by the police as to what really happened in the last moments, we are all still guessing. I still question just how Diana was killed by the cement truck. My hypothesis on it has been evolving as more information comes out.
There were two first-hand accounts by witnesses saying that they saw her crushed in front of the donut shop, so I am thinking that she must have been waiting there with the crowd to cross the street to get to the ballpark. As I mentioned before, the sidewalk was packed with fans that day so she probably had to wait in the street next to the curb. A cement truck (which is the same width as the construction truck shown in the image below) would not allow any room for a cyclist waiting by the curb. She must have been in that spot before the truck came since I doubt any cyclist would dare try or have enough room to squeeze into the space between the truck and the curb. I think the cement truck driver didn’t see her, perhaps distracted by the sea of people on the sidewalk and from sitting high up. So my current conclusion is that she was there before the cement truck driver and that he pretty much ran her over. Arrrgh!!!
Even if that were the case, King Street’s bike facility still needs to be extended and/or improved. If Diana had a bike lane to be in at the traffic light, she would not have had to sit in the curb in a narrow space that she had to share with the truck while pedestrians crowded the sidewalk.
As we all know, San Francisco is a dynamic city and is changing all the time. That is especially true for the area around King Street. SoMa and that area are no longer places that cars use to zoom to the freeway as has always been thought. There are now a multitude of options for getting around the area and it is popular because of that. Transit riders, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists all move through the space. It is now a real neighborhood with people, shops, recreational facilities, and families living their daily lives in addition to being ground zero for the oft-mentioned tech boom.
There is an argument that since King Street leads to the 280 freeway ramp, it is not meant for cyclists and that we all have to live with that. But do drivers need to go so fast and not allow other modes of transportation, as has been growing in the neighborhood? The accommodation of cars on King Street is overly disproportionate and it is known that even pedestrians have a tough time here. One just has to look at the statistics for pedestrian accidents and how long it took the city to adjust the insanely short crosswalk signals times (which still don’t allow enough time as you can readily see when elderly people try to cross). There is no speed limit sign to be found on the entire stretch going from the Ferry Building all the way to the Caltrain Station (freaking unbelievable), so cars practically have free reign to go along as fast as they please!
Another thing is that the area on King Street from 2nd Street to 4th Street and the Caltrain Station has one of the highest walk scores in the city. To have a high walk score, there must be a lot of shops and restaurants in the area, and this place certainly does. It must be close to where people live and yes there are plenty of residential complexes that have sprung up over the last decade with more on the way. It must have nearby public transit – it has 3 MUNI light rail stations and a Caltrain station and a few bus stops and shuttle pick-up areas. By having a train station across the street from the light rail stations, there are high volumes of pedestrians rushing to cross the streets to catch their connector trains. Not to mention Caltrain has two train cars for bicycles. And there is also AT&T Park- no explanation needed there. Does it make sense to have a car-reigning zone in an area immersed with public transit and all these other aspects?
I have a question for all the anti-cyclists and/or know-it-all cyclists (who like to use their part-time cyclist badge to qualify their statements against bike improvements). What route do you think is the best way to get from the Ferry Building or Embarcadero to either Mission Bay, the Caltrain Station, or any of the shops and residences on King Street between 2nd and 4th by bicycle? Yes, Townsend Street is deemed as the safer way because it has bike lanes and works well for reaching the Caltrain Station, but taking King Street is the most logical, natural, and direct way to reach the multitude of other destinations along King Street and in that area. Here’s why:
First, if you have a little bit of faith in Google Maps directions which many tourists and other people unfamiliar with the area often have to use, the recommended bike route is King Street. See map below. But even more…
The photo below is at the intersection of Townsend and King Streets. If you are a cyclist going down the Embarcadero and choosing to continue ahead with King or turn onto Townsend, which direction would you likely take, just by looking at this alone? What if you are not that familiar with the area? What you would see is that Townsend Street has a 2-3 degree incline with bike sharrows while King Street continues with its bike lane on the same path you are already heading and is flat to boot. Taking King Street is the natural choice for me as it is with many other cyclists.
But let’s say you do take the Townsend route. You will eventually have to make a left turn at an intersection to go back down to King Street if that is where you are headed. Many cyclists do not prefer making left turns because it brings them into more conflict with traffic when merging lanes to execute a left turn, making a turn against contra-flow traffic, or just having to deal with pedestrian crosswalks which makes them have to switch quickly between vehicle and pedestrian modes, which can be confusing for everyone at the intersection.
Even if a cyclist just needed to get to the Caltrain Station, taking Townsend isn’t always their preferred route and it is a bit ridiculous to only allow bicycles on certain streets. We allow cars on just about every street in San Francisco. Pedestrians too. Why are bikes any different? This is a democracy, isn’t it? Each citizen in the US has one vote. Each person should be allotted the same amount of space. If a bus has 20 people on it, then it should get 20 times the space of a person in a car. Four cyclists riding their bikes should get the same amount of space as four people riding in a car.
There were a few comments that putting down bike sharrows on King Street isn’t enough. There is some truth to that because that alone isn’t going to fix things. Without car speed reductions, cyclists will still be afraid to take the lane and will probably want to hug the curb. Below is a video of cyclists taken at rush hour on a recent Wednesday evening. These cyclists look like they are regulars, but they are still not taking the full lane as is their legal right. Every cyclist I see coming down King Street to reach the Caltrain Station are doing exactly what these 5 cyclists are doing, other than a few taking the sidewalks. It is probably due in part to the lack of bike sharrows, but also I think the speed that traffic moves is also a major factor.
Bike lanes would be much better and ultimately they should be on King Street as well as Townsend. Traffic engineers must look at how cyclists naturally travel through a space and design by that. (On a related note, I also think that having Mission Street be the thoroughfare for bicycles instead of Market Street is not going to work. See this article.)
Cars are not king on King Street. It needs real bike infrastructure all the way down to the Caltrain Station for so many reasons. It is a street that has as much importance as Market Street for bicycling. The Exploratorium, the James R. Herman Cruise Terminal, and the America’s Cup are coming to the Embarcadero and these attractions are going to attract even more cyclists. Let’s do this right and make King Street a crown example of how great SF streets can be for everybody before someone else gets needlessly hurt.
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.
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.