Orange County, we have a problem.
Just five months into the year, the county has already seen seven people killed riding their bikes.
The latest came this morning, when a 70-year old woman lost her life at the hands of motorist, who was barely mentioned in news reports.
According to the Orange County Register, the victim, who has not been publicly identified, was struck somewhere near the near the intersection of Portola Parkway and the 261 toll road around 9:59 am.
She was pronounced dead on at the scene.
There’s no word on how the crash occurred, or whether it happened on Portola or the 261.
The driver remained at the scene; police don’t suspect he or she was under the influence.
Victor Bale forwards word that the intersection is near the entrance to the Peters Canyon Trail.
According to Bale,
It’s a pleasant and popular trail in Orange County that can be used to head to Laguna Beach and Dana Point or further south to San Clemente or Oceanside. It also is used to lead to trails that go to Newport Beach’s back bay.
I’ve been at that intersection probably hundreds of times, typically riding on Portola over the 261 to reach the trail on the other side.
Unfortunately the story doesn’t tell us if she was exiting the trail onto Portola (can be sketchy and you need to be very careful) or if she was trying to reach the trail via Portola as I usually do.
Hopefully we’ll learn more after the holiday.
Anyone with information is urged to call Motor Officer Mike Bergstrom at 949/724-7212, ext. 2046.
This is at least the 21st bicycling fatality in Southern California this year, and the seventh that I’m aware of in Orange County.
Update: The victim has been identified as 70-year old Irvine resident Linda Smythe.
Still no word on how the crash occurred; however, Orange County bike advocate Bill Sellin reports she was thrown 105 feet by the force of the impact, which suggests she was struck at a high rate of speed.
My deepest sympathy and prayers for Linda Smythe and her loved ones.
Thanks to Victor Bale and Bill Sellin for the information.
This sounds very strange…..for nearly 2 decades I lived a couple miles from there…..and from a bicyclist safety standpoint Portola’s about as good as it gets….clear sight lines, very wide bike lanes, etc. So we shall see.
As to the 7 fatals so far this year…..that’s a bit misleading, as a good number have been derelicts/vagrants, and they pull all kinds of nonsense in the middle of the night with no lights, no reflectors and dark clothes. Zombies on two wheels. I’ve come within feet of hitting two of them in the past year.
Who was killed, and why, does not change the fact they were killed riding their bikes. There are all sorts of bike riders who contribute to their own deaths in some way. Yet that does not minimize the tragedy of their deaths in any way, or the loss to their families and loved ones.
btw – 261 and Portola do not intersect. That’s just typical lazy reporting from the Register. 261 is limited access.
Ahh, yes they do intersect. Meaning they pass across each other. ie the 405 and 55 freeways intersect near JWA.
Explains why I couldn’t find it on a Google map. Although to give the paper minimal credit, they usually just retype whatever the police give them on weekends.
I live in the area and have ridden that road/intersection many times. As mentioned, there is an extremely popular bike/jogging path that starts near the on-ramp to go north on the toll road. This accident was brought up in my neighbor hood Nextdoor.com message board. Here is their description:
“ The biker who seemed to be a professional biker wearing bikers outfit and helmet was on the ground motionless in the middle of intersection right next to the center divider and right at the left turn. there were cars which had stoped one making left turn and others going straight. But It was hard to figure out what direction the biker was going and how the impact happened. “
I’m trying to get more details as I’d like to see where the error occurred. It seemed that the cyclist was experienced. There is a crosswalk at once intersection, but no turn lanes. There are turn lanes at the southbound toll entrance, but I can’t see how anyone would be going that direction. I suppose there are some cars that might have a green light coming off the off ramp and could be going at a high rate of speed. Cars can reach pretty high speeds on Portola as well, but there are ample bike lanes throughout Irvine.
Our prayers go up for the family and friends of the victim.
More info from the eye witness. The biker was found going westbound, and was found in the left hand lane on the far side of the intersection near the bike path entrance, near the northbound toll road entrance. A photo/diagram was posted, but there’s not a simple way to post that here.
Perhaps the cyclist was crossing Portola to get to the path. There is a bike lane in that area and it is unlikely that they were in the car lanes. If it was on the opposite side of the intersection, it is likely that the biker was thrown across the intersection from the impact. I guess it’s feasible that the car was coming off the off ramp, but likely wouldn’t have enough speed to fatally injure the biker. My guess is that the Driver was going West on Portola because drivers can easily be going 50-60mph. Maybe ran a red light, or maybe the cyclist thought it was clear and didn’t wait for a walk sign crossing the intersection.
I happened to bike up on this scene soon after it happened. Terribly sad to search the news and find out the outcome.
Linda was a very experienced biker. Veteran of centuries (100 miles) and many other challenging rides. I rode with her many times, and she was cautious and sensible.
Anything more known about this incident? There appear many possibilities offered. Would it not be wise to narrow it a bit so we all can learn and perhaps improve our riding skills / awareness as we move forward?
Unfortunately, that’s all we know right now.
Anyone with information should contact Motor Officer Mike Bergstrom at 949-724-7212 ext. 2046
I’ve ridden this trail many times. If you take it to where it ends at Portola, you have to be very very careful of cars exiting the toll road turning right on Portola. The cars are looking to the left for an opening in the traffic. If a cyclist gets a green light to cross Portola in the crosswalk, chances are good the motorist is looking in the opposite direction and you can get hit even though the cyclist or pedestrian has the right when crossing Portola in the crosswalk
I got this from a local bike club FB group. This account is from a witness (driver) who was right next to her as she was in the bike lane awaiting the light heading eastbound on Portola, just in front of the 261 northbound off-ramp. Right after the light turned green, Linda “holeshot” through the intersection, beating all the awaiting cars. That’s when a car exiting the 261 Northbound ramp exited and T-boned her. Most likely, the car ran the red light. There are some bushes and signs which hindered the cyclist’s and motorist’s view.