K. Mennem 7:17 p.m., June 17
Following Fatal Hit and Run, Cyclists Gather for Improved Infrastructure
When 29-year-old cyclist David Ortiz was struck by an SUV and then run over by two sedans on the eastbound lanes of Balboa Avenue on March 22, the official word from local media and officers on scene was that Ortiz was likely at fault.
It appears that he was first hit by a black Ford Expedition whose driver had the rising sun in her eyes as she drove up a slight incline on east Balboa, police Sgt. Jim Reschke said.
“The gal in the SUV - she never saw him,” Reschke said. “She felt the collision and pulled over.”
The bicyclist was thrown forward several yards, then was struck by a black Toyota Camry and knocked forward several more yards before being hit by a gray Camry, police Lt. Jerry Hara said.
“From witness statements and evidence it seems at this point that the bicyclist was possibly westbound in the eastbound lanes,” Hara said. “We’re pretty sure he was going the wrong way.”
However, a week later, NBC reported that the Ford Expedition, now identified as blue, not black, fled the scene.
Where did Sargent Reschke’s driver account come from?
Further, NBC noted that “Balboa Ave. does not have a bike lane; just three travel lanes and a transition lane” and accounts from friends of Ortiz’ suggest that he was actually riding with the eastbound traffic, as the incident occurred around 7:15 a.m. when he would be commuting from his Pacific Beach home to work in Kearny Mesa.
According to Bike San Diego, police officials have issued a retraction of their statement that Ortiz was riding against traffic.
For years, residents living in Clairemont along Balboa Avenue have been asking the City of San Diego [pdf] to turn Balboa Avenue from a 55 mph high speed thoroughfare into a source of community pride that would invite its residents to walk, bike and enjoy Balboa Avenue at a slower, more humane pace.
The plan that the Balboa Avenue Citizens Advisory Committe helped prepare addressed a lot of the downsides that currently make Balboa Avenue very dangerous road for cyclists despite being a major thoroughfare that connects residents to the major job centers in San Diego.
Yet, five years after this plan received widespread community support, the City continues to drag its feet and has only allocated funds for a bike lane that has yet to be striped along Balboa Avenue.
Meanwhile, the wide width of Balboa Avenue encourages all its motorized users to travel at excessive speeds contributing toward an unpleasant and dangerous riding and living environment.
In a demonstration of support for the Ortiz family and bike-friendly infrastructure, a group of cyclists will be meeting at the Balboa Park Fountain tomorrow (Wednesday, April 4) at 4 p.m. and riding to the City Administration Building (202 C Street) Downtown.
From the Urban Bike and Social Club event:
The death of David Ortiz highlights the quintessential problems faced by San Diego cyclists on a daily basis: inattentive drivers, poorly designed roadway infrastructure, and a societal mindset that cyclists always ride recklessly.
At the conclusion of the ride, cyclists will lay down on the ground with their bikes to represent the thousands of cyclists and pedestrians struck by motor vehicles every year in San Diego.