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Cyclists Mourn Woman Killed in Accident

Safety: Death of Debra Goldsmith, an experienced rider, brings calls for a raised awareness among drivers and bike enthusiasts.

April 19, 2001|BOB POOL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bicycle enthusiasts mourned the death of a popular rider Wednesday night amid demands for safer cycling conditions in Los Angeles.

About 150 friends of Debra Goldsmith held a sunset memorial service on a Santa Monica ocean bluff and pledged to press politicians and motorists alike for improvements.

Goldsmith, 41, of Pacific Palisades was killed April 11 when she was hit by a sport utility vehicle as she bicycled home from a training ride.

Her death jolted Los Angeles' organized bicyclists, a close-knit group whose clubs participate in daily training rides and in weekly recreational outings and races.

Bicycle enthusiasts say that local accidents are common; 340 riders were killed and an estimated 30,000 were injured in Los Angeles County between 1986 and 1995. But fatalities among organized bicyclists are rare.

Goldsmith was struck about 10:40 a.m. while pedaling uphill along Palisades Drive just north of Sunset Boulevard. It is a four-lane stretch with good visibility that lacks driveways or other distractions, according to cycling enthusiasts.

Los Angeles police are continuing to investigate the collision. The roadway has a posted speed limit of 45 mph. Officers said Goldsmith was wearing a helmet.

"The woman driving the [sport utility vehicle] said she just didn't see Debra," said Peter Schindler, a Brentwood television producer whose show "Once and Again" airs on ABC.

Schindler, an organizer of Wednesday's memorial service, said Goldsmith had been a member of the West Los Angeles-based Velo Club La Grange bicycle racing team for about four years.

"She was the kindest, sweetest person you'd ever meet," he said. "She was a very strong rider. She was well-known and well-liked."

Goldsmith, who was single, worked as an investment banker. She was buried in New York on Wednesday.

Those attending the memorial service vowed that her death will spark a campaign to educate motorists about bicyclists. Efforts also will be made to convince transportation officials to designate more bicycle lanes.

"Two key things need to happen: Drivers need to be educated to share the road with bicyclists and there needs to be better places to ride," said Ron Milam, a leader of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

"It shouldn't take a death to do this. But I think it will stimulate a campaign to improve bicycling conditions in Los Angeles. I don't think we can rest until concrete changes are made."

Milam said children and other bicyclists often put themselves in danger by not riding safely. But he said Goldsmith's death was different.

"This was unusual. She was a mile from home after taking a morning ride at the beach. She was a careful rider. It shows this could happen to anybody."

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