Update: Susan, a ferry passenger and bike commuter just died…

Update: 2/6/14

One of the things we love about blogging here at I Love Biking SF & Oak is being able to connect with the bike community about issues that are important to bicyclists everywhere. Every once in a while, we get a message in our inbox that really stands out to us. Recently, we received an email by a gentleman named Doug Bowman who knew Susan Watson. He kindly sent us a lovely photo of her from back when he was close to her in the 70s and wrote some beautiful words about her. We have shared them below. Thank you Doug for giving us all this special glimpse into another part of Susan Watson.

“I had the privilege and honor to be very close to Dr. Watson for a number of years beginning soon after she arrived at NIH in the mid 1970s as a post-doc fellow. I had not heard from her since last Nov, and was stunned a couple of days ago to learn of her death. I do not recall ever being as stunned as I am by this. I want those who knew her only recently and were moved by her untimely death to see her as I saw her all those years ago. I have attached a photo I took of her in those early years after she arrived in the US.  She was the most penetrating personality I have ever known, intense, deep, having endured much, having overcome much, and having accomplished much by force of her own will and intellect, yet, like so many long time “performers” she had an easiness about it all. Some of the comments seeking to characterize her are so very accurate. You are welcome to post this photo on your memorial to her.”


Read also:

Video: Susan Watson Memorial Ferry & Bike Ride

Truck drivers and traffic engineers need to rethink bicycle safety

Update: 12/27/13

I went back to the location of Susan’s collision (Market and 5th St. in Oakland) to investigate and I saw that a ghost bike was placed there for her. Below are the photos I took of it.

Going there again along with info from recent news reports, I got more insight into how the collision happened and will be writing my thoughts about it in an upcoming post.

Susan's ghost bike

Susan’s ghost bike at Market and 5th St.

Susan's ghost bike at Market and 5th St.

Susan’s ghost bike.

Here are some news articles with more info:

KTVU.com – Cycling community grieves for woman killed

SFGate.com – Bicyclist killed by big-rig was from El Cerrito

San Jose Mercury News – Friends mourn scientist killed by truck while riding in West Oakland


Posted on December 18, 2013:

In my last post, I talked about how nice the ferry ride is. Part of what makes the ride nice is that you get to ride with other bicycle commuters. We all commute from different parts of Oakland but join at the ferry terminal. We all know when it is time to get off the ferry by seeing others put on their helmets and gloves. That is when you know that the ferry is about to land at the pier. Then, we would line up to get off the ferry after all the non-bike passengers exit first. That’s our routine every day. Bike helmets on, then gloves, turn on our bike lights, and wait in line patiently.

There was this one lady in her 50s (62 y.o.) whose bike was decked out with lights – MonkeyLectric lights on the wheels, lights on her backpack, and both front and rear bike lights. We all recognized her by the Stegosaurus-like spikes that decorated her helmet and she liked to wear a red jacket. She was always smiling and chatting with everyone of us. Her name was Susan Watson. She’s a scientist that worked at a small biotech in South San Francisco. That is the little info I know about her. Well, today she wasn’t on the ferry. I had read the horrible news this morning and had a thought it might have been her, but I wasn’t certain. The mystery of this lasted until this evening when we waited to get off the ferry- this gentleman told me and the rest of us that Susan just got into a bicycle collision with a truck driver. It’s heartbreaking. She had all the lights and safety measures correct and was even riding in the bike lane on Market St. The truck driver still didn’t see her and killed her. What else can bicyclists do to stay safe?! It’s up to the city and the drivers out there to look out for us!

Ride safe out there.

I will update if I find more info about her.

Rest in Peace, Susan… We will miss you.


  1. Kristen

    Susan was a dear friend and former colleague. I visited the spot where she was killed and it’s clear that although there was a bike lane, the lanes need reprinting and signs need to be posted up high to make all the truckers aware that there is a bike lane on Market. It appears to be a common route for truckers to take to get on the freeway so signs need to be in abundance. What can we do so this doesn’t happen again? *sigh* I loved her and she is already missed…

    • Chris

      Hi there,

      I am sorry too. When we all heard about her death while waiting to exit the ferry, we were frozen and even scared to ride home.

      I agree with what you said about the clear signage, and I am planning to write about it. By any chance, you have a photo of her? Are you planning a vigil at her site?


  2. Janice Murota

    Susan was much beloved of a community at the Albany YMCA where she exercised regularly. If anyone knows of a service for her please let us know 510-525-1130. She was smart and funny and very fit. I am not a cyclist but it seems to me that bicyclists need more protection. Susan had lights and reflective jackets and that wonderfully goofy helmet and none of that was enough. Do bicyles and big rigs have to be on the same roads?

  3. dirk

    In some of your previous posts you have examined the existence(or lack) of safety improvements at intersections, and analyzed bike accidents at intersections. In this case, are you clear how the accident happened? There are bike lanes on both Market St. and 3rd St. Which one was she on? News reports mention 5th and Market, but she would not be on 5th because it is one way in the direction back towards the ferry. Another report said she was dragged two blocks before the truck stopped, which would mean she was possibly on 3rd St. Was the truck going straight thru an intersection or turning? Something does not add up here, and the information we are given does not paint a coherent picture. And yes, Market St. is the route trucks take to the Schnitzer Steel facility at the Port of Oakland.

    • Chris

      Yes, I am almost definite and based on other bike/truck collisions (it always ends in a similar crash). I was at the site the yesterday and planning to analyze it more.

      She was riding northbound on Market St. from Jack London Square to home which is in El Cerrito (shortest route with bike lanes from JLS to El Cerrito), and the truck driver made a right on 5th St. which hooked her and dragged her for two blocks (one report said the cop stopped the truck driver and another report said the truck driver realized he struck Susan after two blocks and stopped himself) on 5th St. It’s so terrible.

  4. greenefree

    Chris- thank you for writing about this. My condolences go out to Susan’s friends. I also knew Susan from the ferry commute (Alameda). I went to the corner of 5th & Market the night after Susan was killed. Three of us organically appeared there at he same time. For what it’s worth, from looking at the corner, the news footage & general description, I don’t think that she was dragged at all. I think it was her bike, caught in the truck. It’s a (very) small comfort if she was killed instantly & didn’t suffer.
    Susan was a great role model for me- I’m at the “beginning of the end” of my career & her focus on living her passion outside of work & keeping workplace anxiety to a minimum kept me pretty balanced.

    She was such an amazing person, and I only knew such a small piece of her.

    • Chris

      I am glad she did not leave without influencing some of us in some small but generous ways.

      Let me know if you hear anything about holding a memorial for her.


  5. Richard W

    I just came across this blog today, after learning of Susan’s tragic death on the ferry this morning. I’m a fellow bike commuter and had seen her many times last year, although I hadn’t spoken with her very often. It takes ones breath away to think about what happened, and how easily something as mundane as a commute home can turn into tragedy.

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