Remembering David Ortiz and Chuck Gilbreth

David Ortiz (June 25, 1982 – March 22, 2012). via happyholodecks.com

It’s been an entire month since David Ortiz was struck by three different vehicles and killed on Balboa Avenue – a road that is designed to encourage speeding.

Nearly two weeks after Ortiz was killed, friends, family and strangers came together to honor Ortiz’s life and ask the City of San Diego for changes to be implemented to ensure such a tragic event wouldn’t happen again. Specifically, the community asked for:

1) A public apology from the police department to the victim’s family & the cycling community for jumping to conclusions and immediately blaming the cyclist before fully completing the investigation.
2) A stronger commitment (from City) to safer infrastructure and roadway design.
3) A stronger commitment from PD to enforce traffic laws that have an adverse impact on cyclists/pedestrians (failure to stop/yield, distracted driving, etc.)
4) The City immediately become a NACTO affiliate.

Less than a month later, another rider, Chuck Gilbreth was killed. This time the collision occurred on another high speed road, Montezuma Road.

Montezuma Road with the I-8 (in blue) to the North.

This was the same location where KPBS’ Tom Fudge, was struck five years ago. In the five years since, the City’s engineers made zero improvements to reduce drivers’ tendencies to treat Montezuma Road as a highway despite running parallel to an actual freeway (the I-8) located less than 4,000 feet to the north – less than a mile away.

Like Balboa Avenue, Montezuma Road serves as a critical link connecting neighborhoods and thus as a feasible route for someone riding their bicycle. But these connector routes are dangerous. To quote Stephan Vance, a senior regional planner for SANDAG,

Our city streets are dangerous because they are built to accommodate high speeds that are lethal. This creates an expectation by drivers that they should be going fast, and leads to frustration when they can’t.

In the five years since Fudge was struck, the City’s engineers could have reduced a travel lane on Montezuma Road and created a protected bikeway to ensure the safety and comfort for any one who wanted to traverse Montezuma on a bicycle. But instead, Montezuma Road was neglected. Fudge’s experience was forgotten. And now we have another needless death on our hands.

Gilbreth worked at Hamilton Sundstrand Power System(HSPS). He was 63 years old when he was killed last Wednesday. According to one of his co-workers and close friends, Phillip Young, Gilbreth was looking forward to retirement and rode his bike to and from work most days. Young goes on to say that Gilbreth was,

a great guy that mentored many folks at HSPS. He will be greatly missed.

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