Update: Cyclist killed in San Diego collision; first SoCal cycling fatality of 2013

That didn’t take long.

Just three days into the new year, the first Southern California bicycling fatality rears its tragically ugly head.

Several San Diego sources are reporting that a cyclist was killed while riding on eastbound Clairemont Mesa Blvd near the onramp to southbound I-805 around 5:50 pm Thursday.

No details are currently available on the identity of the victim or how the collision occurred; the bike rider was dead by the time paramedics arrived. The woman driving the Pathfinder remained at the scene; there was no immediate indication that alcohol or other intoxicants played a role in the collision.

However, a satellite view of Clairemont Mesa Blvd suggests the sort of virtual freeway all too typical in San Diego, designed for high speeds and traffic volume at the expense of safety. A bike rider approaching the 805 onramp near the curb would be forced to cross in front of exiting traffic in order to continue on Clairemont Mesa.

That doesn’t mean that’s how the collision occurred, though. We’ll have to wait for more information to tell us what really happened.

This is the first fatal bicycling collision in Southern California this year, and the first in San Diego; that compares with 12 cycling fatalities in San Diego County in each of the last two years.

Thanks to BikeSD for the heads-up. My deepest sympathy and prayers for the victim and his or her family and loved ones.

Update: BikeSD reports that the victim, who still has not been publicly identified, was a 53-year old married man of Chinese descent. He was reportedly using lights and wearing a reflective vest, yet a story from San Diego’s CW station suggests that no one is assigning blame to the driver — even though the rider should have been clearly visible to anyone who was paying attention.

In fact, police appear to blame the victim for veering in front of the driver, despite the fact that the design of the roadway forced him to do exactly that.

Yet a city official rejects any suggestion that bad roadway design could have played a role in the collision — even though a cyclist wanting to ride straight on Clairemont Mesa has to cross directly in front of high speed traffic exiting onto the on ramp, as I surmised above.

In the CW link above, San Diego 6 quotes key figures disputing the city’s head-in-the-sand comments:

“The design of the roadway is at fault,” said Kevin Wood of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition. “This interchange was never built with my needs as a cyclist in mind. It wasn’t built with the needs of pedestrians in mind. This interchange was built using 1960s design standards that only considered automobile traffic.”

According to an attorney handling a similar case in San Diego, 

“This case [on Clairemont Mesa] is about as good as they get when it comes to lawsuits against cities for dangerous conditions,” he said.

It’s long past time for Southern California officials to stop denying the obvious, and accept that bad roadway design is just as much a problem as bad drivers or careless cyclists.

And people will continue to die until they finally accept that cars — and bad roads — can kill, and changes must be made.

Now.

9 comments

  1. So sad. I hope the bike rider died quickly. My thoughts are with whoever has now lost their son or daughter, spouse, parent, sibling, friend. Also with the driver, who thankfully stayed on the scene. I hope this year more people pay attention to the real people suffering because of these crashes and make the choice to do their very best, most attentive, and courteous driving. Crashes happen and 90% or so are preventable. That’s sad, too.

  2. Paul Tourkin says:

    Details are slow right now but you are correct about the freeway ramp situation there – David Ortiz was killed near that spot last year. We’ll post on BikeSD as we learn more.

  3. JD says:

    Passing a freeway on ramp is most dangerous. Drivers floor it wether they’re paying attention or not. Our prayers go up for the family and friends of the victim.

  4. I commute by bicycle on that road 4 times a day every weekday (2X each way). I am also a Commercial Driver.
    People drive as if Clairemont Mesa Blvd.and Balboa are freeways.
    1. Install STOP signs at the point where the off ramp becomes a city street.
    2. Post street speed limit signs on the highway off ramps after the STOP.
    3. enforce the “Speed Limit”.

  5. Joe says:

    I am a former amateur triathlete that competed in Ironmans from 1989 to 2000. I never commuted to work but stop cycling because of the drivers. There are too many distractions for drivers today for me to get me back on the road. I want to do another triathlon so bad but I don’t want to train on the roadways anymore.

  6. Tom says:

    There are major problems with the road design, obviously. The direction in which the cyclist was riding on that part of Clairemont Mesa Blvd opens up to a gently curved stretch and a straight (a bridge that crosses the 805. What many people don’t actually realize is that the speed limit there is still 35 mph. There are three lanes there, which invariably leads to the majority of drivers doing 40+ mph, particularly with the slightly curving on ramp. The last reminder of the 35 mph speed limit is at Longford, which is over half a mile from the 805 south on-ramp.

    Secondly, a number of people in the left lane veer over at the last minute and often at speeds in excess of 40 mph in order to take the 805 south on ramp. I once saw my life flash before me when a pizza delivery guy almost took me out in a very similar situation about 10 years ago on exit south of there (the one where David Ortiz was killed).

    As a defensive, responsible, and alert commuter (abiding all laws, NO going through stop signs, etc), there are a couple of places that make me very nervous even when using commuting smarts and defensive measures. The majority of Clairemont Mesa Blvd is one such area (I won’t ride along it, unless absolutely unavoidable, especially near the 805 on and off ramps). One of the best strategies is to wait a little back at that point on the very far right and cross when there is no traffic. This may take as long as 5 minutes but it is worth it.

    Balboa Avenue got a revamp a couple of years ago. Bike lanes were marked on the short stretch from Genessee to Mt. Abernathy. It was supposed to go all the way to the 805 and beyond. What happened? This has been almost 10 years in the making, too many people dragging their feet. Same type of revamping needs to be done along Clairemont Mesa Bvld.

    Lastly, there are too many people distracted with all sorts of gadgets. Fines need to go way up.

  7. wes oishi says:

    Tom write: “One of the best strategies is to wait ….” One of the more intelligent things I’ve read here.

  8. wes oishi says:

    writes or wrote…….up to you.

  9. […] Thursday, a 53 year old man, a married man, was trying to get to his destination when he was needlessly killed while crossing the 805 interchange at Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. He was killed by a vehicle exiting (sic) off of the freeway to Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. About […]

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