You knew it couldn’t last.
After going the first three weeks of March without a single SoCal cycling fatality, San Diego’s KFMB-8 reports that a bicyclist has been killed this morning.
The rider, identified only as a white male, was traveling against traffic on eastbound Balboa Avenue at the I-805 onramp shortly after 7 am when he was hit by a Ford Expedition, followed by two other vehicles.
While facing traffic may seem safer to some people, it dramatically reduces reaction times while increasing the force of impact in any collision. Despite the presence of either a bike lane or painted shoulder on Balboa, drivers would have had no way of anticipating a cyclist riding the wrong way on the roadway, with virtually no time to react before hitting the rider.
This is the 10th cycling fatality in Southern California this year and the 2nd in San Diego, following a disastrous year in which 12 riders were killed in San Diego County in 2011 — nearly twice the county’s six-year average of 6.8 cycling deaths per year.
Update: The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the first driver to hit the victim said she had the sun in her eyes as she entered the roadway, and never saw the rider; she pulled over after feeling the impact. The paper also notes that the victim was killed on impact and wasn’t wearing a helmet.
Note to Union-Tribune — bike helmets are designed to offer protection at impact speeds up to just 12.5 mph; at speeds significantly above that, it doesn’t really matter whether the rider is wearing a helmet or a propeller beanie. Not to mention the rider was hit three separate times, by three separate vehicles; if you can find a helmet that would make a damn bit of difference under those circumstances, let us all know so we can buy one.
Comments below suggest that the police got it wrong, pointing out that Ortiz would have been riding east from Pacific Beach to his work, rather than the other way around — which means he would have been on the right side of the road riding with traffic.
And that would make it a completely different matter; instead of the rider being at fault, the first driver who hit him should bear responsibility for breaking the basic speed law by driving too fast for conditions; if she couldn’t see, she should have slowed down until she could.
Update 3: Bike San Diego offers a good follow-up on this case, agreeing with the commenters that Ortiz had been riding with traffic, rather than against it. And suggesting that this may be yet another case of San Diego police jumping to a false conclusion.
My prayers and sympathy for David Ortiz and his family and loved ones.