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Community Honors Fatally Struck El Cerrito Bicyclist with Memorial Ride

Bicycle safety advocates are hosting a memorial tonight for El Cerrito resident Susan Watson who was fatally struck while commuting to work on her bike last month in Oakland.

A "ghost bike," or a bicycle painted white, has been placed at the site of the crash in honor of Watson. Photo credit: Chris Tran
A "ghost bike," or a bicycle painted white, has been placed at the site of the crash in honor of Watson. Photo credit: Chris Tran
By Bay City News

The Oakland bicycle community is organizing a memorial ride today for a woman who was fatally struck while biking in Oakland last month.

Susan Watson, 62, of El Cerrito, was hit by a big-rig the evening of Dec. 17 near Fifth and Market streets. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the driver of the truck was cooperative and it doesn't appear alcohol was a factor in the crash.

Since her death, fellow bicyclist Chris Tran, who had befriended her on their daily ferry ride from Jack London Square to Oyster Point in South San Francisco, has put together a ride that will honor Watson and send a message about bike safety.

Tran, an Oakland resident who maintains the bicycling blog, "I Love Biking SF and OAK," anticipates dozens of friends, commuters and fellow bicyclist will take a ferry ride and then bike through West Oakland in honor of Watson.

The event starts with mourners taking the 5:20 p.m. ferry that leaves from Oyster Point and lands at Jack London Square around 6 p.m.

Tran said Watson, an avid bicyclist, used to take this ferry on her return trip home from her job at a bio-technology firm in South San Francisco.

From Jack London Square, the group will ride a loop on a route frequented by trucks heading to and from the Port of Oakland and go past the spot where Watson was struck, Tran said.

Tran said the bicyclists will have signs asking truck drivers to "Share the Road" and be carrying fliers to post around West Oakland that urge city officials to improve bicycle safety and infrastructure.

Posted on the fliers is more information about Watson and the bike community's goal to improve safety in West Oakland and throughout the region.

According to the flier, Watson was from Leeds, England, and clocked in 30 miles on her bike daily to get from her El Cerrito home to her South San Francisco office and back.

On the flier, bike advocates are calling for improvements on city roads, including separate bike lanes on truck-heavy routes, better lighting and mandatory truck driver training about sharing the road with bicycles.

Tran also said attendees are asked to have bike lights on during the ride to increase the visibility of the roving memorial.

Tran said Watson was known for being well prepared on her bike with lights, a helmet and other safety equipment.

A "ghost bike," or a bicycle painted white, has been placed at the site of the crash in honor of Watson, and that is where a short memorial service will be held. Tran said attendees will have an opportunity to speak about Watson and share any memories.

He said since he only was Watson's acquaintance he doesn't plan to speak, but he has been notified of friends and coworkers planning to attend the bike ride -- including some close friends who have never biked but are getting on the saddle in honor of Watson.

Those on the ride are encouraged to bring candles and flowers to place near her phantom bike.

After the ceremony, the bicycle contingent is invited to a bicycle-friendly Vietnamese restaurant, Banh Cuon Tay Ho, at 344 12th St. in Oakland.

A discount is offered to bicyclists who bring their bike helmet to the restaurant. There is bike parking outside the eatery.

The East Bay Bicycle Coalition and community group "Walk Oakland Bike Oakland" is also helping with the memorial and encouraging members to participate, Tran said.

Memorial ride attendees are reminded to bring enough money for the ferry fare, which is $7.

More information on tonight's event on I Love Biking SF's website.

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