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Bike Lane Coming To San Diego Street Where Skateboarder Died

Above: A cyclist walks his bike along an informal sidewalk on 54th Street, Feb. 12, 2016.

Cars whiz past the intersection of Lea and 54th streets, where Jonathan Cortez was struck skateboarding in October. There's little more than a drainage gutter separating pedestrians from cars driving in excess of 35 mph.

A car drives past a buffered bike lane on Collwood Boulevard in the College Area, Feb. 12, 2016.

Aired 2/15/16 on KPBS News.

Four months after a teen was killed in a hit-and-run on 54th Street in the mid-city area, the city of San Diego is taking steps to improve safety there.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

City engineers plan to install a buffered bike lane there, meaning there would be a painted median separating cyclists from cars.

Randy Van Vleck of the City Heights Community Development Corporation has been working to improve safety in the area.

"The residents we work with have been saying for years this is a dangerous corridor and want to see improvements as soon as possible," said Van Vleck, who leads a resident group concerned with street safety called the City Heights Built Environment Team. "(Buffered lanes) are really quick, affordable ways to repurpose the street, and we're happy that they're going to implement that kind of improvement here in the near term, so we don't have to wait five or 10 years."

Van Vleck said he and nearby residents plan to urge the City Council to also fund sidewalks for the street. Currently pedestrians walk on craggy blacktop that isn't maintained by the city.

There's no timeline for the bike lane, but a spokesman for the city called it a "front-burner issue." Engineers began surveying the street for improvements weeks after Cortez's death.

"This hasn't fallen off the radar," said Bill Harris, public information officer for the Transportation and Storm Water Department. "We understand its importance to the community."

Harris said engineers are completing work on the design this week and will soon put in a work order to have crews break ground. The project will likely include removing or narrowing the center median.

Meanwhile, San Diego police have forwarded the hit-and-run case to the District Attorney's Office. The attorney handling the case was not available Friday to comment. Cortez's family also could not be reached.

Days after the fatal accident, a City Heights man turned himself in. Investigators said they believe multiple drivers hit Cortez.

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