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Making Sense of Jake’s Death


About 40 parents, four Santa Barbara city councilmembers, one county supervisor, one supervisorial candidate, two police officers, and two high-ranking traffic engineers gathered Tuesday night at La Colina Junior High School to discuss the violent death of Jake Boysel, the 12-year-old fatally injured while bicycling to school last week by a motorist driving an SUV. Boysel’s death hung heavy in the room as the two officers explained they could not discuss their ongoing investigation of the accident. Similarly, they declined to address recent news reports that the motorist involved had a reputation for being a reckless speed demon in the mobile home park where he lived. La Colina principal David Ortiz stressed that Boysel himself was in no way responsible for the accident. “Jake was doing everything 100 percent A-plus perfect,” said Ortiz. For Ortiz, the issue extends far beyond the confines of kids on bicycles. “We need to slow the traffic down,” he said. “Jake’s spirit is to inspire us to get off our rear ends and do something about it.” The meeting was convened by Eva Inbar, who runs Safe Routes to School, and many in the crowd were dedicated, middle-aged bicycle commuters seeking solutions so that future cyclists could be spared the young Boysel’s fate. “This was not an act of God,” declared Alex Pujo, an alternative energy advocate with COAST. Pujo expressed hope that bicycle safety might soon enjoy the same dramatic cultural shift that’s made public smoking and drunk driving legally and socially unacceptable. The owner of Jerry’s Flower stand spoke expansively of overthrowing the supremacy of the automobile, while others spoke more concretely of fixing storm drain grates in bike lanes, potholes in the road, and tree branches obstructing cyclists. City public works official Browning Allen attempted to instruct the computer-savvy crowd on how to find Safe Routes to School maps on the city’s home page, but his overly intricate directions tried the patience of many there. Larry Bickford, a school safety volunteer at Peabody Elementary School, cautioned that new laws took time to pass and that new bike lanes — and other infrastructure — required money that was not available. “But what we can do now,” he said, “is change the way people drive.”

— Nick Welsh



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