Cardiff 101 executive director, bicycle safety advocate seriously injured while cycling

A Cardiff-by-the-Sea community leader and an advocate for bicycle and pedestrian safety was struck and seriously injured while cycling in Leucadia, authorities said.

Roberta Walker was headed south on North Coast Highway 101 about 6:10 a.m. on Dec. 8 when she was hit by a truck, also headed south, near the Leucadia Post Office, according to a sheriff’s sergeant and friends.

The 42-year-old victim, who was wearing a helmet, was thrown a significant distance and was unconscious for a time after the crash, friends said. She was taken to a hospital in critical condition with injuries that included a brain bleed, a spinal injury and broken ribs.

Both Walker and the truck were in a lane with a painted “sharrow” marking, which is used to indicate that the space is for vehicles and bicycles, sheriff’s Sgt. Agustin Rosas said.

The truck stopped after the collision. Drugs and alcohol were not suspected factors in the crash, according to Rosas.

“It was still kind of dark so that could have contributed to the crash,” the sergeant said.

Walker is the executive director of Cardiff 101 Main Street, a community development organization with a mission that includes promoting a walkable neighborhood, according to the organization’s website.

Walker, who describes herself as a passionate cyclist in an online biography, is also a vocal supporter of the Leucadia Streetscape project, which aims to overhaul a 2.5-mile stretch of Coast Highway from La Costa Avenue to A Street. The roadway would be given six traffic circle roundabouts, as well as bike lanes and sidewalks.

The area has long been criticized as an unsafe place to walk and bike and includes the location where the crash happened.

Kellie Shay Hinze, the executive director of Leucadia 101 Main Street, another community development organization, said her friend, Walker, is just one community member to fall victim to the dangerous stretch of road. Another bicyclist was critically injured in the area in an August 2017 hit-and-run crash.

"(Walker) is among very beloved community members whose lives won't ever be the same due to very avoidable crashes on Highway 101," Hinze said. “That’s why we are so fiercely advocating for improvements.”

Mayor Catherine Blakespear said Dec. 10 that she will request city staff to put together an immediate plan to have the road operate as it will after the Leucadia Streetscape is finished.

“We need a dedicated bike lane there and the roundabouts installed, even if they are only temporary structures,” Blakespear said. “The remaining approvals needed from other agencies for drainage, parking in the rail right of way and other issues should not hold up the city from building basic elements of the project to improve safety. We need to see the safety of that road improved now.”

-- Lyndsay Winkley is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Encinitas Advocate reporter Brittany Woolsey contributed to this post.

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