Community members and elected officials gathered Wednesday at the site of a deadly collision that killed a Palm Springs bicyclist last week. The incident has renewed calls for safety and awareness, with some local bicyclist safety advocates calling it yet another preventable tragedy that's cost a valley life.
58-year-old Nelson Esteban was hit by a car while riding his bike on Monday, March 13 around 4:45 a.m. at Ramon Road and Compadre Road in Palm Springs. The driver, a 45-year-old man, was arrested on unrelated charges. Police were still investigating the incident to determine whether drugs and/or alcohol were a factor in the crash.
Bike safety advocate Victor Yepello has been car-free in Palm Springs for more than a year but said he increasingly feels less safe riding his bike on valley streets. He and his crew put up a ghost bike as a reminder to slow down and stay aware, but he said there's more that can be done.
"I would love to get a commitment from our city to begin to change the culture of roads," Yepello said. "Our culture right now is all about moving cars. We need to change that culture and begin to design roads to move cars and bicycles and people."
Palm Springs Mayor Grace Garner acknowledged the issue at Monday's gathering, saying, "Unfortunately, we see cyclist accidents all too often in our city." She noted that safety is improving, including the city reducing speeds by about 10 miles an hour on select Palm Springs streets.
"People are going to see these types of improvements happen every year little by little until finally we are a city that is extremely bike-friendly," she said.
Yeppello hopes to keep momentum up, saying, "What happens is, everybody is upset and hurt when we lose a pedestrian or a cyclist on the road. And everybody paid attention to it for about five heartbeats. And then everybody forgets."
Bike safety advocates are also urging valley drivers to be aware of a new state law that took effect at the start of the year. AB 1909 requires cars passing a cyclist to move lanes when possible before overtaking the rider. Drivers must be more than 3 feet away from bicycles at all times.