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Stanford alumna dies in San Francisco road collision

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Stanford alumna Tess Rothstein ’12 died in a fatal collision on Friday around 8:20 a.m. while cycling in the San Francisco Market District.

According to multiple witnesses, Rothstein swerved to avoid an open car door and collided with a truck on 6th and Howard Street. She was pronounced dead at the scene. The truck driver remained on the scene and cooperated with police.

Rothstein graduated from Stanford with a bachelor’s in psychology and focus in anthropology. She was known as a creative designer, passionate traveler and cyclist and an active community educator and volunteer.

At Stanford, she interned at Hillel and cooperated with the Jewish Multiracial Network, in addition to working as a research designer for the d.school. She won the Beagle II award in 2011 to conduct research on the “Social Structures for Emotional Wellness” in the northern Indian region of Ladakh. She also blogged for the Stanford Center of Longevity’s project “Your Life, Starting Now.”

After graduation, she worked as a consultant for some of the Bay Area’s most reputable companies, including Google, DropBox and Mozilla, and went on to become a design researcher at Airbnb and Medium.

Rothstein was deeply involved in her local community, advising and volunteering with Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR), Race Forward, a racial justice innovation center, and the Digital Public Library of America, an all-digital library which maximizes public access to American history, culture and knowledge.

Coworkers and friends expressed their shock and grief after Rothstein’s passing on Twitter.

“The world is worse tonight without Tess Rothstein,“ tweeted Michael Sippey, vice president of product at Medium. “She was one of the kindest and most open-hearted people I’ve ever worked with.”

Stanford alumna Annie Fryman ’14 recalled her time with Rothstein on campus: “She and I lived in the same co-op in college. Two years ahead of me in school. We shared dinners and space on porch swings. RIP.”

Ryan Mac ’11 vocalized his anger at the city.

“Tess was an incredible soul,” he said. “I’m broken she’s gone. And I’m angry at this city’s indecisions around bike safety that deprived her of her full life.”

The death occurred less than 100 feet away from a protected bike lane that would have prevented Rothstein’s death, according to SF Gate.

On Friday evening, around 200 members of the bike advocacy group @PeopleProtected lined the cab loading lane on Howard street, creating a human protection for cyclists, holding signs and demanding “Safe Bike Lanes for All.”

Together with @PeopleProtected, several bicycle advocates and city officials are prompting the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to increase street safety and deliver the promised goals of “Vision Zero Action Strategy,” a project initiated in 2014 which aimed to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.

Matt Heaney, supervisor of District Six, thanked all @PeopleProtected protesters for supporting immediate action on Howard Street.

“We mourn #TessRothstein, and everyone who has been killed or injured because of our city’s failure to provide safety on our streets,” he wrote.

Between 2014 and 2017, Vision Zero efforts reduced traffic deaths to the city’s all-time low of 20. However, fatality rates rose to 23 in 2018. In 2019, five pedestrians and Rothstein, a cyclist, have already lost their lives.

Three of these fatal events took place on Howard and Folsom street, according to the SFMTA. A recent report revealed that Folsom and Howard are part of the High-Injury Network, which consists of 12 percent of city streets that account for 70 percent of the San Francisco’s “severe and fatal traffic crashes.”

On Oct. 17, 2017, the SFMTA approved the Folsom-Howard Streetscape Project, which seeks to redesign the streets on Howard between 3rd and 11th, and on Folsom Street between 2nd and 11th.

Near-term safety enhancements were installed on Howard between 11th and 6th Street in December 2018.

Two days before Rothstein’s death, San Francisco Mayor London Breed prompted SFMTA staff to expedite the installment of long-term measures which extend to 4th Street. Yet, according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, these measures “have been delayed and are not expected to be completed before 2023.”

“The pace at which our city is delivering on Vision Zero is too slow … and we’re losing precious lives in the meantime,” reported executive director of Walk San Francisco Jodie Medeiros. “It’s heartbreaking and unacceptable.”

“Where infrastructure stops, people die,” wrote the SF Bicycle Coalition. “Enough is enough.”

Contact Caroline Ghisolfi at ceg1998 ‘at’ stanford.edu 

This article has been updated to explain what the Folsom-Howard Streetscape project is.