Fountaingrove intersection where cyclist killed called dangerous
Published: Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 3:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, August 3, 2012 at 10:32 a.m.
Fountaingrove residents say that for the past seven years, they have been raising concerns with Santa Rosa about the safety of the intersection where a cyclist was killed Tuesday.
The fatality was the fourth at or near the turn into Thomas Lake Harris Drive on a steep stretch of Fountain Grove Parkway going back to 1995.
"It doesn't take long to live up here to realize this is a scary intersection," said Dewey Nelson, who has lived on Stonefield Lane, a block from the crash site, since 1999.
Ruben Hernandez, 37, a Modesto teacher, was riding westbound on the parkway about a mile from Mendocino Avenue when a pickup driver turned left in front of him onto Thomas Lake Harris Drive.
It is a curving, two-lane section of Fountain Grove Parkway without bike lanes in which vehicles and cyclists alike can easily reach the 40-mph speed limit.
The driver, Adam Bigham, 22, of Sebastopol, was on his way to a construction site when the collision occurred.
"When you make the left-hand turn, you cannot see the traffic coming. It is uphill and around a turn," Nelson said. "You have to dart across that intersection."
A stoplight will be installed within the next six months at the intersection, as part of the Fountaingrove Lodge retirement community project, which has just begun construction.
The stoplight is one of the traffic mitigation measures spelled out in the environmental impact report for the project when it was approved two years ago, city planner Erin Morris said.
A CHP database of traffic accidents statewide has logged 28 crashes at the two intersections where Thomas Lake Harris Drive meets Fountain Grove between 2001 and 2010, according to CHP statistics. The data, however, doesn't distinguish between the two intersections.
Fountain Grove Parkway is a popular road for cyclists because of the challenge of the steep climbs and the fast descents, but those who ride the road regularly always stress the precautions they take.
"I am one that likes to go fast, but if I see a car in the left-hand turn lane, I am already braking. I never ever assume they see me," said City Councilman Gary Wysocky.
The fatalities include:
Walter Partridge, 32, of Sonoma, who died Sept. 20, 2002, when he lost control of his motorcycle on Fountain Grove Parkway and hit a sign at Thomas Lake Harris Drive.
Magdalen Munson, 80, of Napa, who died April 19, 2004, when she pulled out of Thomas Lake Harris Drive onto Fountain Grove Parkway and was struck broadside by a car.
Warin Jared Parker, 24, of Santa Rosa. who died Aug. 25, 1995, when he lost control of his car on Fountain Grove Parkway between Thomas Lake Harris Drive and Round Barn Boulevard and hit a light pole.
Hernandez was the fourth fatality on that steep stretch of road.
He also was the fifth cyclist who has been killed in Sonoma County in the past 10 weeks.
Even before the latest fatality, the rash of incidents involving cyclists prompted City Councilwoman Susan Gorin to call for a work session with the city's pedestrian and bicycle safety advisory committee.
"We have had a number of fatalities over the past months and a lot of injuries," Gorin said. "I am wondering if there is anything else we should be doing to bring to the public to just pay attention."
You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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