Another Tragic Reminder of Why Big Rigs and Big Cities Don't Mix

by Jana Ritter - Published: 8/15/2013

On Wednesday an unidentified 24-year-old woman was killed while bicycling on Folsom at Sixth Street in San Francisco, when she was hit by a big rig truck driver, according to SFPD. What's worse is that this is the third bicycle rider killed in San Francisco this year, and each death has involved a truck driver. Although the driver seemed to be at fault in each case, none have faced charges and that may be due to poor city planning, making it inevitable.

Crime scene

Police said the crash happened as the truck tried to make a right turn at Sixth and Folsom streets. Both the bicyclist and the truck driver were headed east on Folsom and when the trucker tried to turn south onto Sixth, he hit the bicyclist. As police investigated the crash, the woman's crumpled blue, road-riding bicycle lay at the southwest corner of the intersection and a bike helmet lay nearby. The truck driver stayed at the scene and was interviewed by police.

Tragically, the woman died at San Francisco General Hospital. Although neither her name nor the name of the trucker has been released, it was reported that police have already determined that the truck driver won’t face any charges. However, SFPD spokesperson Dennis Toomer said he couldn’t confirm those reports. “This is still an on-going investigation and I cannot confirm if charges are pending for a later date or not,” he said.

Leah Shahum, executive director of the SF Bicycle Coalition, called the crash “another tragic reminder of what can happen when bikes and large trucks mix on our city’s high-speed corridors.” “Folsom Street is one of the city’s few designated bike routes to downtown,” said Shahum. “Still, this street feels intimidating. This core route sees thousands of bike riders every day, yet large trucks travel next to these bike riders — completely unprotected.”

The woman was killed while riding in the painted, unprotected bike lane and Shahum stresses that such crashes might be prevented under a plan to redesign streets such as Folsom with a two-way, parking-protected bikeway, as called for in the Eastern Neighborhoods Transportation Implementation Planning Study (EN TRIPS). The plan would also convert Folsom into a two-way traffic street and remove one of its traffic lanes, creating a calmer environment. However, city agencies have yet to initiate the street redesign.

Shahum also pointed out that in Manhattan, one-way protected bike lanes installed on Eighth and Ninth Avenues led to a reduction in overall traffic injuries of 35 and 58 percent, respectively. “San Francisco is woefully behind other cities in adding separated bikeways on arterial streets,” she said. Truck drivers should also be required to have convex safety mirrors, “so drivers can more easily see vulnerable road users,” she added. Shahum even called on the city to require that large vehicle operators take safety courses in how to safely share city streets with people biking and walking. “It is the responsibility with more building and development planned for San Francisco, and subsequently more large trucks, it’s imperative that safety measures are put in place to prevent further tragedies like this from happening.”