Surge In Cyclist Deaths Prompts Calls For Faster Safety Upgrades
Monday, July 26, 2021
Photo by Matthew Bowler
Safe streets advocates are urging San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria to speed up the construction of protected bike lanes throughout the city after a month in which five cyclists were killed in collisions with cars on county streets.
Several dozen cyclists gathered Monday at the northeast corner of Balboa Park, near the site where 57-year-old Laura Shinn was struck and killed by a driver as she was biking to work last Tuesday.
Shinn, a prominent local architect and director of facilities planning for SDSU, was traveling on Pershing Drive, which has been slated to get protected bike lanes for nearly a decade. But the project, which would separate cyclists from traffic with trees and concrete barriers, has been repeatedly delayed.
"She was kind and brilliant and beautiful," said Kristen Victor, a friend and colleague of Shinn's. "It hits really close to home, because we both advocated for a safer, more sustainable San Diego."
The driver in the crash, who is suspected of driving while high on methamphetamine, has pleaded "not guilty" to charges including murder and gross vehicular manslaughter.
Other recent cyclist deaths include Swati Tyagi, a 34-year-old mother and researcher at the Salk Institute, Allen Hunter II, a 75-year-old retired physicist, and 27-year-old Jackson Williams. A fifth cyclist, who was struck and killed on Genesee Avenue in Clairemont last Friday, has not yet been publicly identified.
"We strongly believe these tragic deaths were preventable," said Elizabeth Mayer, programs manager for Bike SD, a local advocacy nonprofit. "The choice to ride should not cost us our lives. This is the time for our government leaders to act quicker than ever before."
Mayer called on Gloria to commit to building 25 miles of protected bike lanes annually. That would be a dramatic increase from the status quo — so far in 2021, the city has built less than two miles of protected bike lanes.
Gloria has not committed himself to any timelines, but said in a statement Monday that even one cyclist death was too many.
"My administration has taken a number of steps to help reach our Vision Zero goal of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on our roads, including establishing a new team to create bike lanes more quickly, joining the National Association of City Transportation Officials to learn and adopt best practices, and working with SANDAG to reduce the time it takes to process a bike infrastructure permit by 75%," Gloria said.
SANDAG, the regional transportation agency that is designing and building the Pershing Bikeway, says the project is expected to start construction next year with the bike path opening to the public in 2024.
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