Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Fix needed for dangerous SLO crossing

My sincere condolences to the family, friends, patients, and colleagues of Dr. Damian Horstman. His is a tragic loss that could have been avoided.

Seven years ago, I was involved in a cycling accident at the same intersection, where South Higuera Street, Ontario Road and Highway 101 meet.

Although I was not killed, I am paralyzed from the chest down. No doubt there have been a significant number of other serious accidents at that location. It is a very dangerous crossing for bicycles, even though it is part of the City to Sea bike trail and the main access from San Luis Obispo to the Bob Jones Bike Trail.

At the end of Ontario Road going north, bicycles on this frontage road reach a stop sign. They then must cross from a complete stop, while the cars and trucks rounding a blind corner on South Higuera Street are speeding up to enter the Highway 101 on-ramp.

The driver of the truck indicated that Dr. Horstman did not stop. I did. It wouldn’t make much difference. A truck going 45 to 55 mph cannot see a bicycle crossing the intersection at 3 to 10 mph in time to stop. I was already in the crossing when the truck rounded the corner. I pedaled as fast as I could to get out of the way, hitting the curb and flipping me and the bike upside down. I was wearing a helmet, or the fall would have been fatal. As it was, I suffered a concussion, broken ribs, and crushed vertebrae.

I did not do anything reckless, nor was the truck driver breaking any laws. It is the crossing itself that is the danger. The two roads involved are perfect for cycling. There is little traffic and beautiful scenery. Cycling is encouraged for fitness and to reduce traffic, yet San Luis Obispo is not really a bike friendly town. There are too many intersections and narrow streets like this. (South Higuera Street is probably used by trucks as a way of avoiding the crowded on-ramps at Los Osos Valley Road.)

There have been a number of fatal cycling accidents reported over the past two years, none of which were the fault of the cyclist. I hope something can be done, and soon, to avoid such accidents. Maybe an overpass can be created for cyclists and pedestrians, or narrow roads like Ontario and parts of South Higuera, both of which parallel Highway 101, can be dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists only.

This may sound extreme, but deaths and debilitating conditions such as mine are no small matter.

Shel Ann Burrell is a resident of San Luis Obispo.

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