Update — salmon San Diego cyclist killed after being hit by multiple vehicles

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.

Update 2: The Union-Tribune identifies the victim as 29-year old David Ortiz of Pacific Beach; thanks to billsd for the link.

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.


  1. Bill D says:

    I know the man. We work(ed) together. He was headed to the office. Cops got it wrong. He was going EAST in the eastbound lanes, WITH traffic. The lady in the SUV lost eyesight due to the morning sun and clipped him, flipping him around backwards.

    • robocharlie says:

      Thank you, Bill! I know David too. Why would he be going back to PB at 7am?! Are the witnesses that think he was headed West the same witnesses that were driving blind?

    • billdsd says:

      You should contact SDPD and tell them that if you haven’t already.

      • bikinginla says:

        Thank you both for your insights; this puts a completely different perspective on the collision. Please do contact the police if you have any reason to believe he was not at fault.

        • bikinginla says:

          It occurred to me after I wrote this that police don’t often take much interest in what people not directly involved in a traffic collision have to say, unless they actually witnessed it. And even then, they don’t always care.

          You might have better luck going to the press to suggest that David was unlikely to have been riding east at that hour.

  2. billdsd says:

    Apparently the police have determined that not only was Ortiz riding in the correct direction, the first driver to hit him fled the scene.


    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks, Bill — I saw that earlier tonight. I’m going to update the story tomorrow in a new post and give it a complete rewrite.

      I’ve never seen a story about a bike wreck change so dramatically, from blaming to victim for riding the wrong way to acknowledging he was going the right way and it was, in fact, a hit-and-run — which was never mentioned in the initial stories.

      Whoever released the initial version for the SDPD has got some serious explaining to do. And someone should do some serious time behind bars for Ortiz’ death.

  3. lucky.penny says:

    David Ortiz Memorial Ride

    We are riding from Balboa Park to City Administration Building to demand better cycling infrastructure. David Ortiz’s death this week represents the quintessential problems faced by San Diego cyclists on a daily basis: inattentive drivers, poor infrastructure design, and a societal mindset that cyclists are 2nd class citizens.

    This could have happened to anyone of us, we have to stand up and demand better.

    We will ride from the fountain at Balboa park at 4pm (Wednesday) to the city administration building located on 202 C St. Upon arrival, we will lay down on the ground with our bikes to represent the 2,000 cyclists and pedestrians injured and killed on the streets of San Diego every year.

    In order to make this a strong showing, we need 2,000 people so please invite everyone.




  4. […] To make the pain worse for Ortiz’s family and friends, the local media quoted Lt. Jerry Hara who simply blamed Ortiz for his own death by falsely stating that he had been riding the wrong way, facing traffic on Balboa Avenue, and the local media further blamed Ortiz for his death by noting that he hadn’t been wearing a helmet – something that could never have protected him against a three ton vehicle from striking him. […]

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