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.