Mourning Bike Deaths, Activist Blasts Prioritizing ‘Parking over Human Life’ – Times of San Diego

Bicycle safety advocates list victims of recent cycle accidents. Photo by Chris Stone

Advocates with local cycling groups demanded Monday that officials take stronger, quicker actions for safer bicycling in the wake of four cyclists killed by motorists in the past month.

“We are here today to comfort one another in the aftermath of yet another preventable death of someone killed while biking,” said former Planning Commissioner Vicki Granowitz.

Local architect Laura Shinn, one of the latest cycling deaths reported in San Diego, was struck and killed on Pershing Drive on her way to work.

Granowitz continued: “I know her death was preventable because when I was chair of the North Park Planning Committee, we approved improvements to Pershing Drive that included protected bike lanes along with sidewalks for pedestrians.”

A local business owner, Granowitz was hit by a car as a pedestrian while crossing a street three years ago. She said the commission was told funding was available and the project would be completed in a few years.

“That was 2015, six years ago, she said at a news conference at Bike Park near Balboa Park.

“When safety improvements are delayed, lives are lost,” Granowitz said.

Years ago, the San Diego City Council approved an updated Bicycle Master Plan — including a bicycle network, projects, policies and programs — that provided the city a framework for improving bicycling through 2030 and beyond.

Granowitz blames the lack of bike lane completion on a struggle involving bike lanes vs. parking.

“Part of the problem is there is a vocal group of people who don’t want to lose parking,” she told Times of San Diego. “It’s (the delay) all about parking. They prioritize parking over human life and the health of our population.”

Adding protected bike lanes to Pershing Drive would reduce the number of lanes in half and “cause people to slow down and I think that’s a good thing.”

Andrew Hanshaw, executive director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, said after the press conference that biking advocates said the city should have the goal of adding 25 miles of bike paths annually.

“We have funded and approved projects,” he said. “We need to speed up the processes these projects are taking. They are taking far too long.”

Also, speaking of ways for reduce accidents, Hanshaw said there was less traffic during COVID, but more violent traffic deaths and crashes, blaming impaired and distracted driving along with high speeds.

“Your rate of survival goes way up if speed goes down,” he said. “We can take a look at speeds on our roadways and can try to slow people down when we can.”

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said, “One cyclist death is too many – particularly when we know it’s preventable.”

He said his administration has taken steps to help reach the Vision Zero goal of eliminating fatalities and serious injuries on city roads.

The city founded a team to create bike lanes more quickly, joined the National Association of City Transportation officials to learn and adopt best practices, and working with SANDAG to reduce the time it takes to process a bike infrastructure permit by 75%, he added.

Gloria said saving lives should not be controversial, and that his administration will “continue to work to make sure all who use our roads, regardless of method of travel, are safe.”

Elizabeth Mayer, program manager for BikeSD, said recent cycling deaths made this an “unprecedented critical point for Mayor Todd Gloria to act.”

Mayer said 12 such fatalities have occurred in the area since the beginning of the year.

The lack of infrastructure and protected bike lanes is the main cause of the deaths, Mayer believes.

“We (cyclists) have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles when we are riding on the road, and the lack of dedicated, separate bike lanes is one of the most significant reasons why we have had the crashes that we have had.”

Mayer added that she hopes the recent accidents don’t deter anyone from choosing to ride their bikes.

People at the press conference also pointed to carelessness of drivers.

Francisco Quiroz witnessed Shinn’s accident last week and said: “People are distracted, on the phone, under the influence of many things.”

He said the driver who hit Shinn went into the bike lane, tossing the victim into the air and knocking off one of her socks, landing about 30 feet away.

“Please be careful to us,” the 60-year-old pleaded. “Pretend that it is you who are riding; think it might be one of your family members.”

“It could be your friend, yourself. Be cautious. Be nice to us,” said the bike rider, who twice has been hit by a car while riding, seven and 10 years ago.

Quiroz, who said he has ridden his bike daily for the past 10 years, stops by and says a prayer at a memorial for Shinn along Pershing Drive where she was killed. The memorial is a white bike surrounded by flowers.

“We need to be more educated all around,” he said. “That is why this rally is going on today. But why do we have to do education after someone got killed? Why not prevent it?” 

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