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Dana Point to Erect Wall to Protect Bicyclists, Joggers

July 28, 2006|Garrett Therolf | Times Staff Writer

A wall will be built on a perilous stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point to help prevent more injuries and deaths to bicyclists and joggers.

The section of road, offering classic ocean vistas along the coastline's craggy bluffs, has in the last five months seen cars cut into the bike lane and critically injure two joggers and kill two bicyclists, the most recent incident this week.

Brad Fowler, Dana Point public works director, said the City Council approved the $350,000 pathway in June after the first two accidents. Fowler said the area had not been a safety problem before the recent spate of accidents.

The 10-foot-wide bike and pedestrian path will be 1 1/2 miles long on the ocean side of the highway and will carry traffic in both directions. A 3-foot-high concrete wall will shield it from high-speed vehicles on PCH. It is expected to be completed in September.

"Finally," said Craig Daniel. On April 8, a hit-and-run driver smashed into Daniel's wife, Carol, 41, and her jogging partner Stacy Neria, 34. The driver was arrested a week later. "To me it's just a tragedy that we let this keep happening," Daniel said.

Carol Daniel returned home Wednesday as a quadriplegic. Neria remains at a rehabilitation hospital.

"Here is the crazy part of it," Craig Daniel said. "It's going to cost millions of dollars to care for Carol and Stacy. Those millions could have easily paid for a quick trail. It's going to break me. That's the tough part to swallow."

A month after the two joggers were hit during their morning run, Viola Hill Tucker, 78, of San Clemente was killed while biking along the same stretch near the intersection with Palisades Drive.

On Tuesday night, 33-year-old Mike Thompson of Dana Point was killed while biking at the same location.

Thompson, who worked on construction jobs and also on special events at Patsy's Irish Pub in Laguna Niguel, was killed instantly.

He was memorialized with candles and placards at the site of his death, including one from a girl who thanked him for guitar lessons and by a friend who said he was "there for me when no one else was."

Tammy Jo Booth, 23, a waitress from San Clemente, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and vehicular manslaughter. She was released Thursday on $100,000 bond.

The district attorney has not yet charged her.

Seasoned bikers said they still faced danger when riding elsewhere in the city.

"It's part of riding. I don't know a road rider who hasn't been hit at least once," said Greg Polanski, manager at RevoCycles.com in Dana Point.

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