San Francisco

SF Cycling Advocates Seethe as City Leaders Say 2 Fatals Were Preventable

San Francisco city leaders said Thursday they are saddened and outraged over the deaths of two women bicyclists in separate hit-and run collisions Wednesday night.

Cycling advocates were equally outraged, accusing Mayor Ed Lee and other officials of not backing their sentiments with action.

"What is so challenging and so tragic about these deaths is we not only know why they happened, but we also know they were preventable," said Margaret McCarthy of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Police responded to the first fatal hit-and-run around 6 p.m. Wednesday at Golden Gate Park, where 41-year-old San Francisco resident Heather Miller was hit by a stolen white Honda Fit, near John F. Kennedy Drive and 30th Avenue.

The driver was speeding in the opposite lane of traffic while trying to pass another vehicle when he hit Miller head-on, police and witnesses said. The driver and at least one passenger were still at large Thursday.

Witness Jason Sirois was riding his bike through the park when he saw the collision.

"I heard just a loud bang, and that caused me to look up a little further, at which point I just saw the bike tumbling head over heels," Sirois said.

Another witness at the park also heard the impact.

"I look up and see the woman who had just passed us fly up, and I saw the bike fly the other direction," said Timmory Johnson.

Police believe the driver of the Honda is a man in his early 20s. They recovered the vehicle about a mile from the collision site.

The second collision was reported at 8:24 p.m. at Seventh and Howard streets in the city's South of Market neighborhood. San Francisco resident Katherine Slattery, 26, died after a driver sped through a red light in a BMW X3 and struck her, police said.

Farrukh Mushtaq, a 32 year-old San Francisco resident, was later booked into San Francisco County Jail on charges of felony hit-and-run and vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence.

Mushtaq at first continued driving but then stopped at Ninth and Howard streets, where a bystander convinced the man to stay and cooperate with police. Police do not suspect alcohol or drugs played a part in the collision.

"We are simply outraged," Lee said. "These are tragedies that can be prevented."

Both women were riding their bicycles legally, Lee said.

"We're spending millions of dollars re-engineering our streets and lights and timing," the mayor said. "We're educating the public to slow down in their driving habits."

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition spokesman Chris Cassidy said the infrastructure at both intersections where the deaths occurred is woefully inadequate. The intersections are along corridors identified by the city as having high rates of bicyclist injuries.

"San Francisco is supposed to be a visionary city, but we're so behind" on some of the biking infrastructure, Cassidy said. Police also are failing in their commitment to prevent serious bicycle injuries and fatalities by not writing enough citations for speeding, running red lights, failing to yield, violating turn restrictions and running stop signs, Cassidy said.

McCarthy agreed. "What the city needs is to provide infrastructure, provide engineering that makes the street safer for all road users," she said. "We want to see protected bike lanes across San Francisco but specifically on the streets where both of these crashes happened."

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency director of transportation Ed Reiskin said the intersection of Seventh and Howard streets had recent improvements, including updating the timing of the traffic signals and installing high-visibility crosswalks.

Reiskin said the city is spending tens of millions of dollars to prevent traffic fatalities. He cited projects on other high-injury corridors such as Masonic Avenue and Polk Street.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said the deaths are the first two bicycle deaths in the city this year. Last year, there was just one. Reiskin said about 30 people are killed each year in traffic collisions in San Francisco.

The city has a road safety policy called Vision Zero SF, which was adopted in 2014 and aims to eliminate traffic fatalities in San Francisco by 2024.

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