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:
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.