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Death of bicyclist prompts outpouring of grief, renewed calls for protected bike lanes

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A woman was struck on 6th and Howard streets on Friday, March 8, 2019. The truck that struck her is on the left in this photo. (Ellie Doyen/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The death of 30-year-old Tess Rothstein in a bicycle collision in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood Friday has prompted an outpouring of grief from shocked friends and coworkers and anger from frustrated cyclists.

Rothstein, a Berkeley resident, was riding a Ford GoBike Plus around 8:15 a.m. Friday when she was struck by a commercial truck in the area of Sixth and Howard streets. She died at the scene.

A design researcher, Rothstein had worked for Medium and Airbnb in recent years.

Medium on Saturday issued a statement on Twitter that said they were mourning Rothstein’s loss.

“Tess was courageously curious and open-hearted, and we feel lucky to have worked with her,” the company said. “Our condolences go to her family.”

Chris Lehane, head of policy at Airbnb, said in a Tweet that Rothstein “brought boldness and curiosity to everything she did, and her friends and coworkers knew her to be warm and selfless.”

Rothstein’s death, which some witness accounts suggest may have been caused when she swerved to avoid a car door opening in front of her, has also spurred bicycle advocates and riders to intensify calls for protected lanes in that area and elsewhere in The City.

On Friday evening, a large group of demonstrators from the group “People Protected Bike Lanes” stepped out into the street to protect the bike lane with their bodies, in a visual demonstration of what was needed to keep cyclists safe.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition said bluntly in a Twitter statement Friday evening, “a protected bike lane would have saved this person’s life. Where infrastructure stops, people die.”

“No more thoughts and prayers; action is long overdue.”

Supervisor Matt Haney, who responded to the scene of the crash, called for a protected bike lane in the area on Friday, while Mayor London Breed issued a statement noting that long-term safety improvements were coming to Howard Street and promising “short-term safety enhancements” in the near term.

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