This is a pattern.
I really wish these deaths were just one offs or just “accidents”, but looking at the number of people killed or seeing first-hand how dangerous our streets are makes it apparent these tragedies are systemic.
Fifteen year old Saul Lopez lost his life Tuesday morning making this the third cyclist killed in the northeast valley just in the last month.
Wednesday night, I went with Danny Gamboa for my third time to place a ghost bike (Danny is in the triple digits) and it just becomes more of an abstract experience everytime.
When we got to the site, there were already a few people standing around including Anthony all the way from Oxnard who helps Danny and lost his son five years ago this Thanksgiving.
There had been a vigil the evening before which was just hours after the incident, so a ghost bike, flowers and candles had already been in place.
Apparently, Saul’s family had just left before we had arrived.
I’ve never come into this type of direct contact before and quite frankly, I don’t know how I would have reacted.
Danny documenting another ghost bike
I met Juan, who lives down the street, and he described how dangerous of a street Glenoaks is.
He was saying that despite the bike lanes, drivers go well above the speed limit and there’s a lot of volume with people trying to get onto the 118 freeway.
We looked at the intersection and from what I heard, I was even more angry once I started piecing things together.
The story coming from a few sources is that a truck coming down Glenoaks ran a red light and struck another crossing on Vaughn.
The momentum from the first truck drove the two vehicles further down Glenoaks where Saul was crossing on the far crosswalk.
He was pinned between the two vehicles and died at the scene.
Both the second truck and Saul were over halfway across the street when they were hit, so I counted how long it would take for a driver on Vaughn to get that far after the light turns red.
Juan and I both timed it at four seconds.
The truck that ran the red light was heading this direction, but in the lane directly to the left. The other truck was crossing Vaughn from the left as was Saul Lopez in the far crosswalk. Think about how long it takes to get this far, across the street after the light turns red.
That isn’t the span that someone is gunning the light turning red, it’s late enough that the driver wasn’t paying attention.
Count out four seconds to see how long that takes and you’ll come to the same conclusion.
Adrianna who I have been emailing the past two weeks in another capacity came from nearby San Fernando to share her grief.
She mentioned that the streetlight is only a few years old and what a madhouse it is in the morning with people hurrying to the freeway.
The tough pill to take was her remembering there used to be a crossing guard at this intersection years ago.
A rider making his way is a danger even if he had lights.
Among all this, there was a woman there who lost her husband cycling on Foothill earlier this month.
Danny had placed a ghost bike with her as well and she was obviously still dealing with the pain.
There is no handbook to deal with this type of loss and even if there was one, there would never be a final chapter.
This type of pain is permanent, yet we do little to prevent it.
Traffic deaths are not declining and even with these morbid reminders, nothing seems to be done.
A cyclist hits a person on the LA River Bike Path and the local council member comes up with a plan to slow the area down.
A teenager gets innocently killed on the way to school and let’s see how quickly we can clean up the road to keep drivers moving.
The more I show up to these ghost bikes, the more dehumanized I feel seeing people treated like statistics.
There is an open seat for city council here is District 7 for the March elections and it is very important that the next council member takes the issue of street safety seriously.
I will make noise about this in the coming months and I hope you do too.
Please contribute to support the Lopez Family on their GoFundMe page.
Also, the Milt Olin Foundation is making a drive to help end distracted driving and I encourage you to donate as well.
Sadly, I wish that giving money would end it all.
Not just the deaths, but also the enduring pain these families will live with for the rest of their lives.