Dangerous Balboa Avenue Claims Another Life

David Ortiz (June 25, 1982 - March 22, 2012)

Last Thursday while over 800 bike advocates (including myself) were in Washington D.C. urging members of the House to vote in favor of a clean extension of the existing Transportation Bill and support the Petri Amendment in order to ensure safe routes for bicyclists of all capabilities, twenty nine year old David Ortiz began his ride to work as he had countless times in the past.

As Ortiz climbed Balboa Avenue from his home in Pacific Beach, Ortiz had no way of knowing that the extremely dangerous and fast paced traffic on Balboa Avenue would claim his life giving him absolutely no chance of survival. As he headed east toward the I-805 on-ramp, he was hit by an inattentive driver in three ton Ford Expedition that knocked him off his bike where he was then struck by two Toyotas. Only a miracle could have saved Ortiz from this horrific collision.

To make the pain worse for Ortiz’s family and friends, the local media quoted Lt. Jerry Hara who simply blamed Ortiz for his own death by falsely stating that he had been riding the wrong way, facing traffic on Balboa Avenue, and the local media further blamed Ortiz for his death by noting that he hadn’t been wearing a helmet – something that could never have protected him against a three ton vehicle from striking him.

For years, residents living in Clairemont along Balboa Avenue have been asking the City of San Diego [pdf] to turn Balboa Avenue from a 55 mph high speed thoroughfare into a source of community pride that would invite its residents to walk, bike and enjoy Balboa Avenue at a slower, more humane pace. The plan that the Balboa Avenue Citizens Advisory
Committe helped prepare addressed a lot of the downsides that currently make Balboa Avenue very dangerous road for cyclists despite being a major thoroughfare that connects residents to the major job centers in San Diego. Yet, five years after this plan received widespread community support, the City continues to drag its feet and has only allocated funds for a bike lane that has yet to be striped along Balboa Avenue. Meanwhile, the wide width of Balboa Avenue encourages all its motorized users to travel at excessive speeds contributing toward an unpleasant and dangerous riding and living environment.

It is this very dangerous environment that needlessly took away the life of a very young David Ortiz. My deepest condolences to all who knew and loved Ortiz.

UPDATE: I just spoke with Lieutenant of Traffic Division, Rick O’Hanlon who stated that the SDPD acknowledged the error in stating that Ortiz was riding the wrong way when he was not and has issued a retraction.

UPDATE from the comments: From Channel 6, Police Looking for Witnesses to Fatal Accident. NBC San Diego has a story asking for witnesses to step forward.

I will post any more updates as I learn more. Members in the cycling community have been asking the SDPD for answers on what precisely happened last Thursday. I will also follow the legal proceedings that relate to the driver who initially struck Ortiz and post any updates as I learn them. If you learn of any new information, please share them in the comments or contact me.