Remembering David Ortiz and Chuck Gilbreth

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

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.

Statement from the SDCBC on Chuck Gilbreth's Death

As Executive Director of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, I am deeply saddened and terribly troubled to learn of  the recent fatailty of Mr. Charles Gilbreth, a man who was riding his bike home from work and was struck and killed by an SUV on Wednesday, April 18. This marks the second bike fatality of a legally riding bicyclsit in the last three weeks in San Diego. This is unacceptable. According to reports, Mr. Gilbreth was riding in the bike lane on Montezuma Road when he was struck. If confirmed, we can not be satisfied until there is full and complete legal action taken in this case and in the case of Mr. David Ortiz. The San Diego bicycling community needs action now...for safer streets and protection for all who ride  legally everyday in San Diego. We wish to express our sincerest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr.Gilbreth and we will work on his behalf and all who ride bikes to make San Diego a safer, more complete bicycling community.

San Diego's High Speed Roads Claims Another Life

Less than a month after David Ortiz was killed in an environment that fosters speeding, 63 year old Charles Raymond Gilbreth was killed after being struck by an apparently impatient driver in an SUV. The collision occurred on Montezuma Road by Collwood Boulevard yesterday shortly after 3:30 pm. One of our readers, Shane, just left the following comment (from the U-T coverage),

Just wanted to mention one of the comments on the poor guy who was hit and killed on Montezuma yesterday:

“The guy that hit him was behind a transit bus and got mad because the bus driver was ging [sic] a little too slow so he went around him in the bike lane my good friend was driving the bus and when the suv hit the man he knocked him in front of the bus and the bus ran him over. My friend is just devastated! He keeps having visions of the mans face poor guy!”

This was the same location where KPBS' Morning Edition Anchor, Tom Fudge, was struck five years ago. Fudge survived, but lives with the daily physical pain as a constant reminder that the City of San Diego is a city that only encourages and supports high speed roads that discourage any mode of transportation but the automobile.

Despite its proximity to San Diego State University, the roads surrounding the university are all designed  to encourage speeding. College Avenue, not far from where Gilbreth was killed yesterday afternoon, is the site where 11% of all speeding tickets were handed out by the SDPD last year.

Yet, despite the knowledge that the environment is dangerous by its very design, the leaders at the City of San Diego has not undertaken any traffic calming measures to ensure the well being and safety of the city's residents. If I were to personify City Hall, it strikes me as unbelievably callous that the leaders in the city are unmoved and unwilling to take action to address this deadly problem.


Alison Whitney expressed her feelings about yesterday's death on her blog and I too join her in expressing my anger and disappointment at everyone in City Hall who has the ability to effect change, but has to date failed to do anything about it.
UPDATE: I'm quoting Ted Rogers here who writes, a comment on Bike San Diego says that the SUV driver became impatient following behind a bus, and used the bike lane to go around it; the writer says the SUV hit Gilbreth’s bike and threw him in front of the bus, which then ran over him. However, it’s important to note that the description of the rider being run over by a bus doesn’t fit with the ME’s report, or explain why his body was found off the side of the road instead of than within the traffic lanes as would be expected under such circumstances.

Hopefully the SDPD will release more information when their investigation is complete, and the press will follow-up so we can understand what actually happened and why.

UPDATE at 12:05 PM: One of Gilbreth's co-workers just wrote in to state the following,
It is very sad that yesterday we lost another San Diego bicyclist and my friend, Chuck Gilbreth (see the 10news article below). I worked with Chuck Gilbreth at Hamilton Sundstrand Power Systems in Kearny Mesa for many years. He rode his bike almost every day from his home in the College Area to work and back.

It again points out the need to improve the road conditions for bicyclist, automobile driver's awareness, and traffic law enforcement for the safety of San Diego bicyclists.