Bulgarian tourist dies following hit-from-behind collision in San Diego’s Mission Bay Park

Sadly, this one does not come as a surprise.

Yesterday, news broke that a young woman had suffered life-threatening injuries when her bike was hit-from-behind by a car in an early morning collision in San Diego’s Mission Bay.

Today, multiple reports confirm that 21-year old Stela Hristova, a tourist from Bulgaria, died of her injuries yesterday afternoon.

Hristova was riding south on the 2500 block of Ingraham Street on Vacation Island when she was hit from behind by a sedan around 3:30 am. According to police reports, the driver reportedly swerved into the left lane when he encountered her riding in the middle of a traffic lane, but wasn’t able to avoid hitting her bike.

Which traffic lane wasn’t specified; if she was in the right lane, she would have been riding exactly where she should have been in a traffic lane that does not appear to be wide enough to share. However, it would appear from the news reports that the police are blaming her for not hugging the curb, instead.

She was transported to a hospital with what a police spokesperson described as “major, life-threatening injuries,” where she died at 2:05 pm, less than 12 hours after the collision.

Bike SD notes that the 2002 San Diego bike plan called for bike lanes on Ingraham; if had the city followed their own plan, Hristova might be alive today. Instead, Ingraham — one of the main roadways through the city’s primary beachfront resort and playground area for tourists and locals alike — remains a virtual highway designed to transport the maximum number of vehicles at the highest possible speeds.

And evidently, without regard to the cost, human or otherwise.

I frequently rode through that section when I lived in San Diego over two decades ago. Even then, it was an uncomfortable stretch of roadway that, by design, encouraged speeding and needlessly close passes by drivers.

There’s no word on whether Hristova, who was in the city visiting relatives, was using lights or reflectors in the early morning hour. If she was, there is no excuse for the driver to have failed to see her until it was too late; yet all the news reports focus on the motorist’s seemingly heroic efforts to avoid her, rather than his failure to see her in the first place.

News reports also indicate that she wasn’t wearing a helmet. Whether or not that could have made a difference depends entirely on the speed of the vehicle that hit her, which has not been mentioned yet in any of the stories reporting the collision or the death that resulted.

Commenters to the stories will undoubtedly question why someone would be riding a bike at that hour; yet no one would similarly wonder what a motorist was doing in that area in the middle of the night.

And it makes me heartsick to think that we are once again sending a visitor to our country home in a box simply because we can’t seem to tame the carnage on our streets.

Or care enough to do anything about it.

This is the 64th bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the eighth in San Diego County; it’s also the third in the City of San Diego since the first of the year. That compares with 11 in the county, and six in the city, for all of last year.

My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to Stela Hristova and all her family and loved ones. 


  1. Opus the Poet says:

    We seem to be exceedingly efficient at sending visitors home in pieces (woman eating hot dog on NY sidewalk) or dead (Aussie baseball player killed by “bored” teens, and now this woman). In 2 out of 3 of the cases the weapon of choice was a motor vehicle.

  2. JD says:

    Our prayers go up for the family and friends of Ms. Hristova.

  3. Amado says:

    Thoughts go out to the family of Ms Hristova. We don’t yet know the full story of what happened, so don’t be over-reactionary. As a cyclist with a quarter century experience riding the tough streets of LA, which is a breeze compared to riding in cycling bastions with narrow roads like Seattle, there are many factors that have to be examined before we start pointing the finger at cities, drivers, etc. First, if she had no lights (required by law), there is very little the driver could have done to see her. Reflectors are useless. No helmet? Strike 2. Lack of bike lanes may have been a factor as well, but we don’t yet know how far away from the shoulder she was riding, so that may not have helped. I hope the full story is investigated so we can focus on comprehensive changes that not only look at infrastructure, but education and law enforcement of the vehicular codes for both drivers and cyclists. We have a place on the road, but we have to examine our own behaviors as well.

    My .02

    • bikinginla says:

      Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pointing the finger anywhere, as we don’t have enough details to make a determination where fault lies, as you point out.

      However, it is not out of line to criticize San Diego’s highly flawed 1970’s style street design that turns major arteries into virtual highways that encourage dangerous, high-speed travel. Nor is it out of line to say that if the city had followed through on its commitment to build a bike lane there, she most likely would have been riding in it, rather than within the traffic lane where she was killed.

      As you point out — and as did I — we don’t know if she had lights and reflectors as required by law. However, in my experience, police usually go out of there way to tell the press if a rider wasn’t using lights after dark; it’s very seldom — but not unheard of — for that information to come out later.

      As for helmet use, I’m a firm believer in bike helmets and never ride without one. But let’s be clear about their limitations. Bicycle helmets are designed to protect only against impacts up to 12.5 mph; above that, they offer little, if any, benefit. Even if the speed limit there was only 35 mph — and given the design of the road, it’s likely to be much higher — an impact at that speed would far exceed the design limitations of any bike helmet.

      Finally, as for riding away from the curb, California law allows cyclists to ride in the middle of the lane on any substandard lane; that is, any lane that is too narrow to safely share with a car and a bicycle, which this lane appears to be, judging by the street view photo. And, in fact, the League of American Bicyclists teaches cyclists it’s safer to ride in the middle of such a lane, rather than hugging the curb. If she was in the center or left lane, she would have been breaking the law; however, if she was in the right lane, she may — may — have been exactly where she should have been, despite the apparent attempts by the police to blame her for being out in the traffic lane, rather than next to the curb.

      It’s also possible, given the hour, that either the victim or the driver — or both — had been drinking. And as a visitor to this country, it’s entirely possible that she did not know how to ride safely and legally on American streets.

      Hopefully, someone who lives down that way will visit the scene and let us know how wide the lane is. And hopefully, the San Diego police will conduct a complete and fair investigation in this case that will tell us what really happened, and why.

      • ValleyBall1 says:

        I haven’t been down there in ~1 year but do know there are bike lanes in both directions on that street; not sure if construction may have closed them recently or not. Cars do drive pretty fast on that stretch, though, as everyone is racing to get to Sea World…but at 3am? One thing is for sure: doing anything at that hour — whether it be driving or cycling — is risky business with all the bars closing at 2am.

        God bless Stela and her family…

      • Opus the Poet says:

        Also LEO love to blame cyclists for not wearing glow in the dark clown costumes that to prevent wrecks, and that wasn’t mentioned either, so I would say there are better than even odds the bike had a taillight, and a reflector, and the rider was wearing e reflective glow in the dark vest. Usually if any of those are missing it will be cited as a “reason” for the wreck, not the driver’s incompetence.

  4. ValleyBall1 says:

    Prayers to the victim’s family…

    I’m actually taking my family to SD this weekend and staying on Vacation Island and had planned on riding Ingraham Street to get to Fiesta Island for the TT. I’ll take this article as a warning and just park at Fiesta.

  5. Brent says:

    Apparently, a British man was charged with driving while intoxicated and killed Hristova:


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