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.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/qbQyyiM3QKE?rel=0&w=600&h=338]
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.