Austin Bicyclist 2019 Death #2: Jessica Saathoff, 28, Hit by a Car

This sad news came across my screen, and I just sat and stared at it. She was 28 years old, hit by a car Thursday night. Now, gone. The details are scant and will trickle in. Here’s an updated story from the NBC affiliate, KXAN: “Cyclists push for change after fatal MLK Blvd crash.” The story says she wasn’t wearing a helmet and the car driver stayed on the scene. Despite this tragedy, riding a bike in Austin is still very safe compared to driving and walking. That won’t help Jessica, but maybe it will help others of us who do still bike.

The City and Its Anti-Bike/Ped Voters Are at Fault

The news story above also quotes a cyclist who says it’s not safe to ride in the city. I personally use the sidewalk on that road — a four-lane road people speed on, with hills and limited sight lines, curbs and no bike lanes. The solution is simple: reduce automobile traffic to two lanes, restripe it for a center turn lane, and add protected bike lanes. This is all in the City of Austin Bicycle Master Plan, which passed in 2014 — FIVE YEARS AGO. Here are the entries for MLK, right there on page 225 of Appendix A: Complete Bicycle Facility Recommendations:

The reason A Dude thinks needless deaths of cyclists and pedestrians is the City’s and the voters fault? The City took years to put forth the bonds and voters wouldn’t approve them to pay for it all. Now we have had two bond elections, 2016 and 2018, so we are starting to see some improvements. But the pace of the projects, from conception, design, public input, to construction, is like with any bureaucracy, glacial. You could look even further and blame the State of Texas for it’s backward and regressive lack of a state income tax, placing the burden on property owners for taxes.

About Jessica

I couldn’t find much, but strangely enough her sistersurvived a hit and run while cycling last fall. She was into fashion which she studied at the University of Texas and was involved in local fashion events. The first photo is of her seven years ago, and the other more recent one below are both from ATX Street Style.

Young, attractive, full of life and with many years in front of her — all that potential was wiped out in an instant. It’s infuriating, baffling, and saddening at the same time. I expect there will be another Ride of Silence, like for Anthony John Diaz. There will be pleas for more bike lanes. Some people will be afraid to bike. Others like me will continue because compared to our shitty slow and inefficient public transit system, biking is usually a better andaeven faster optiin. The answers are the same: train cyclists to ride safe and driver’s to slow the fuck down, stop distracted driving, and yield to bikes. IIwill say that helmets will not always save your life, but they definitely won’t help if you don’t wear them at all.

SOWING HOPE

This post was supposed to be about my thoughts about an Austin Transportation Department public event regarding changing bike lanes on Shoal Creek Boulevard, and a Bike Austin happy hour afterward. Ironically, it was all about making that street safer, even though it already has bike lanes There was alot of push-back from homeowners, many of whom own more than two cars. They park them on the street which makes it more dangerous. I put in my survey results calling for PROTECTED bike lanes and the removal of parking on at least one side of the road. The city may improve it, but they may do nothing. Which is unacceptable and has been that way for far too long.

After the ATD event, I joined some old and new advocates and enjoyed the toppings of some pizza (no crust) and no beer. While we realized there is much work to be done to bring safety and sanity to the streets of Austin and all over the US and beyond for vulnerable road users, we had some cause to celebrate: the bike racks at the meeting were full, and there wlil hooefully besome improvements made to Shoal Creek. We can hope. But that is not all. We must agitate, advocate, speak up and speak truth to power, demanding equity. Just because we can’t afford cars or choose to ride a bike (or both), does not mean we deserve to die on the roads like dogs, murdered by 2,000-pound death rams.

While we celebrated, Jessica was biking toward downtown next to the University of Texas baseball stadium on the right, and the state cemetery on the left. I try to imagine her last night on this earth. Was she going home? To meet friends to party on 6th Street? What was she thinking? How was she feeling? And then, out of nowhere, she was hit by a car and laid bleeding on a road named after one of the US’s best known leaders for justice. She died at the hospital a short time later. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was often quoted by US President Barack Obama as saying “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” But that quote is a paraphrase of a longer one:

“I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”

–Theodore Parker, transcendentalist and abolitionist Unitarian minister, 1853 sermon from an op-ed in The Huffington Post by Mychal Denzel Smith

Tonight I also learned a relative I was not close to died. He had been estranged for many years. Still, it’s another loss. As my dear and smart brother, who is a well-known leader in the fields of safety, business emergency planning, search and rescue techniques, and more says, “No one gets out alive.”

I looked up Jessica’s last name wondering how it translated into German. The answer came back: SOWING HOPE. Let’s all resolve to get out there and plant some seeds, sow some hope, and bloom where you’re planted.

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20 thoughts on “Austin Bicyclist 2019 Death #2: Jessica Saathoff, 28, Hit by a Car

  1. Good write up. I am still shook up by this, and I didn’t even know Jessica. But, she was only a couple of years younger than my daughter. My daughter travels by bike and often has my two grandchildren in a trailer behind her.
    The City of Austin has to do better than this. And this is going to mean that car drivers are going to have to give up some convenience and comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the writing. It’s a very nice piece. I know Jessica well. The biking betties are adding a stop on mlk for her tonight. I will be attending that and we will do a white bike memorial next week or whenever her sisters are ready. I use to be part of the Thursday night social ride and I plan to reach out for a ride soon. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Blake. Susan felt it was too soon, I hope if there’s a ride for her you let everyone possible in the bike community know. Bike Austin, shops, media, City, elected officials, etc. We should have a police escort and 500 cyclists. I’m just so angry it happened, I take it very personally. Thanks for what you’re doing. My gmail is my name here.

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  3. I am a member of the Saathoff family & want to thank you on behalf of the family for recognizing and remembering Jessica in such a kind and thoughtful way. We could hardly find anything in the Austin paper which made us so sad. She was so precious to us and it is an incalculable loss. Her older sister Rachel indeed barely survived a bike crash last year in Austin and is still facing difficulties. It is all so senseless, but we can’t blame God and our faith, family & friends are helping us get through this. We’ll count you in this, as well. It’s wonderful that you are lobbying for safer conditions for bike riders and pedestrians in Austin, and the silent bike ride sounds like a lovely tribute. Thanks so much again to you and all the biking community there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, I’m deeply touched that you found my blog post and that it had meaning for you. I didn’t know Jessica but the loss is real. I’m just one person but I hope there is a ride and also the annual one internationally is 5/15. I’d like to connect you with that ride person and the group for family members survivors of traffic violence. I can try to find out about that. If you’d like to contact me directly my gmail is the name is this blog. I have approved and liked this quote but if you’d rather me make it private and not reference it let me know. A Dude Abikes

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      1. If it’s all right with you, I think the family would like some privacy right now. It’s such a tender time and it will take a while for things to settle down, too early for even the nicest of ideas or plans to begin forming. Your & everyone’s thoughtfulness is endearing, touching and appreciated.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. If you weren’t aware, there’s a Ride of Silence tonight at 6:30 for Jessica at Plaza Saltillo in East Austin. You can find the info on Social Cycling Austin’s Facebook.

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    2. I’ve known Rachel and Melissa for years now, but didn’t know Jessica very well. What I did know of her was that she was a very kind, very sweet person. A lovely young lady just like her sisters, she was charming and warm, a true pleasure to be near. I learned of her accident just this evening, and I can’t shake my anger at the injustice of her loss – or more correctly, our loss.

      My deepest, most heartfelt sympathies to Jessica’s family and friends. I know her absence is keenly felt, and she, as well as all of you who were close to her, remain in my prayers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good piece, thanks for writing. Such a sad loss. I live a block off MLK east and as an avid cyclist on Austin streets for 38 years I never ride on MLK. It is not only dangerous for a cyclist but for pedestrians as well. Huge trucks travel at speeds well past 35 mph and are a mere foot from the sidewalk. It’s only a matter of time before a pedestrian is killed. That street is a toxic thoroughfare from IH35 east. RIP Jessica. Ride safe.

    Liked by 1 person

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