Sebastian Montero: Another Life Lost on the Streets of LA

SebastianMontero00

Why do I write every time I place a ghost bike?

I really don’t have the answer.

Is it cathartic? Is it to help memorialize the victim? Am I doing anything to prevent further tragedies by doing this?

Last Monday, I came across on Instagram for a GoFundMe to cover funeral expenses for a Sebastian Montero that was killed on Easter Sunday.

I didn’t share at first because I really hoped this was a scam or an April Fools joke since I normally hear about these before donations are being asked for.

My perspective has changed after a few of these ghost bike placements just hoping in anyway that these reports are some far-fetched mistake.

Unfortunately, I got a couple of official confirmations before I even left work and texted Danny Gamboa about setting up a bike that evening.

These placements happen as soon as possible because with the amount of tragedies in Los Angeles, it’s sad that you can really fall behind quickly.

I spread the word that we would be at the site at 9pm through a few channels, but normally we only get a handful of people just because reaching out can take a lot of coordination.

 

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Many participated in spray painting the bike white.

 

Arriving at the site about 20 minutes early, there were already two pockets of a dozen each assembled at different intersections because Burbank jogs at it’s crossing with De Soto.

There was no parking along the street and after I found a spot at the school next door, the group more than doubled as a pack of cyclists rolled up.

Danny was coming with the bike and texted that he was going to be another half hour, but was short a chain, so I told people I’d be back shortly.

After getting a dog chain from the nearby Target (the best I could do), when I returned the group had doubled again.

This was going to be different.

There were so many people that there wasn’t even enough space for them standing in the bike lane let alone the sidewalk.

With traffic speeding over 40 mph over three unnecessary lanes in each direction, I decided to park my car in the closest lane using my hazard signal and borrowed cones, signs and lights to veer people away.

Damn the parking ticket if anyone bothered.

Seeing how Danny was still minutes away, I spoke up telling people what typically happens and that no one is required to speak but is definitely allowed.

For some reason, I felt incredibly numb and disconnected from my body.

 

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Beautifully decorated finished product.

 

I had no idea what words were coming out of my mouth and even second guessed if I any of the information I was saying made sense.

There was a long pause, but soon his girlfriend and other friends stepped forward to share memories.

Sebastian was in the ROTC and hoped to join the Marine Corps on top of my other dreams.

The stories made people both laugh and cry.

It was as if everyone still felt him there.

Danny arrived with the bike and asked me to grab family and close friends to spray paint the bike.

There were enough cans that a few could join in at a time with each taking extra care that no spot would be left untouched and everyone stepped away as it dried before being put into place.

 

*****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****

I don’t have many pictures of my daughter up at my office, nor do I talk much about her to outsiders.

I don’t need to.

Most of my thoughts are about her and the rest of my life is just a distraction.

There’s many memories I relive, but I’m also thinking ahead of new experiences and conversations we could possibly have.

I’ll never love anything more and losing her would be beyond devastating.

Being here, seeing others live out that reality is painful to experience.

Watching Sebastian’s dad place the bike and meticulously decorate the site tore my heart apart.

 

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This was a painfully intimate moment watching his father trying to make one final connection.

You could read with his eyes that he was searching for answers that will never come.

There’s a sense of guilt I carry for witnessing this being a stranger, but I hope my presence added to the support.

Looking around at the crowd, you forget the community you build in a lifetime.

Sebastian may only have been 15 years old, but he’ll still be a part of many people’s lives who care about him.

 

*****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****

 

My car was still blocking the lane, so I wasn’t in a rush to leave as the crowd slowly dwindled away an hour later.

Early reports say Sebastian was hit crossing the north side of Burbank where there wasn’t a crosswalk.

Apparently, the driver switched from the #1 or #2 lane into the #3 lane during a “fresh green”.

Police are still investigating the matter, but waiting there gave me time to look things over.

Why there isn’t a crosswalk on that side might not sound like a large convenience, but getting around by walking or biking in this town, you’re apt to come across a handful of these inefficiencies which add up.

 

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Does this intersection look human friendly? (image via Google Maps)

 

When you factor in that even if you follow the rules, you are not guaranteed safety, you can see how this happens.

In some cities, the signals change soon after you press a cross button.

Here, it might take up to a couple of minutes to get a green.

What gets me is that its not that they had just stepped into the roadway, but were almost all the way across.

Since they were in the roadway for that long of a time, you’d hope the driver would have seen them or the slowing traffic in the other lanes would have been a clue to what was going on.

When you have streets engineered for speed, you remove that likelihood.

 

*****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****  *****

 

I don’t know where to go from here.

It took me a week to step away enough to write about this.

Life does go on, but with a heavy heart.

This community has to stop being victims and start being actors to keep thus vicious cycle from continuing.

Even if we are able to prevent all future calamities, we can never replace the deep emotional scars from this landscape we’ve created.

To you Sebastian Montero, I’ll never say goodbye.

 


 

  • jennix

    …. one of many reasons why passing on the right is supposed to be ILLEGAL.

    • Have you ever seen anyone get a ticket for this?

      • jennix

        Not in Cars-is-Kings California, where there is no “drive to the right” rule, like everywhere else in the civilized world. I would have cited the driver for passing unsafely anyway, and made his lawyer beat the charge in court.

        The sad fact though, is that 21754 of the CAVC is really, really, really wrong. It allows you to pass on the right with NO REQUIREMENT THAT YOU DO IT SAFELY. In this accident, if the driver had heeded the other stopped cars and not gone for the open #3 lane just because he saw a feckin’ green light, this kid wouldn’t have died.

        21754. The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass to the right
        of another vehicle only under the following conditions:
        (a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left
        turn.
        (b) Upon a highway within a business or residence district with
        unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of
        moving vehicles in the direction of travel.
        (c) Upon any highway outside of a business or residence district
        with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width and clearly marked for
        two or more lines of moving traffic in the direction of travel.
        (d) Upon a one-way street.
        (e) Upon a highway divided into two roadways where traffic is
        restricted to one direction upon each of such roadways.
        The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a
        slow moving vehicle from the duty to drive as closely as practicable
        to the right hand edge of the roadway.

    • com63

      also illegal to enter an intersection when the light turns green if cross traffic is not clear.

  • “Why do I write every time I place a ghost bike?”

    You write because you care.

    Your efforts may seem like nothing more than a grain of sand on the beach, but they do make a difference. Thank you!

    • Thanks Mike. Still scrambling out my thoughts about this.

  • Gil Solomon

    Not friendly right there, but half a block up there is a crosswalk and the street is fine for crossing. It’s longer but safer. Not sure why anyone would cross right there unless they lived in the neighborhood East of De Soto. Otherwise, makes sense to walk up to the intersection or south to Ventura. While drivers should pay attention and should have been able to see a pedestrian, the consequence to them if they make a mistake is much less than if the pedestrian or cyclist does. As a cyclist/pedestrian, I am past taking any chances. De Soto is a fast wide street between Victory and the freeway. Most pedestrians can’t judge how far a car can travel between the time they leave the curb. When I ride through there, which I do from time to time, I ride on the sidewalk.

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