Stanford Report Online



Stanford Report, July 11, 2001
SLAC intern, 20, killed in accident

BY DAWN LEVY

Katherine Elizabeth Pope, a 20-year-old Smith College student, was struck and killed by a car on July 5 while biking to her summer internship at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Pope, a Florida resident, had been renting a room in Menlo Park from SLAC researcher Peter Bosted and his wife, Ann. During the morning of her fatal commute, which was less than one mile, she had been riding westbound on Sand Hill Road in a marked bike lane. At about 8:45 a.m., she attempted to merge with traffic as she aimed for the left turn lane, presumably to turn into the SLAC driveway.

At this point she was hit by a Porsche driven by William Stettiner, 34, of Portland, Ore. Stettiner, uninjured, has not been charged. A police investigation is ongoing.

California vehicle code says bicyclists can move from a bicycle lane to the fast lane to make a left-hand turn if they can do so safely and after signaling. Given the heavy traffic and proximity to the freeway of this stretch of Sand Hill Road, another option is riding in the bike lane to the intersection and walking the bike in the crosswalk.

About 50 percent of Santa Clara County bicycle commuters have Stanford origins or destinations, according to Stanford's Parking & Transportation Services department. Some bikers advocate reducing the 45 mile-per-hour speed limit on the portion of Sand Hill Road near the Highway 280 entrance or improving enforcement of the existing speed limit.

"Bicycle safety is a concern for the police department," said traffic officer Craig McCarty of the Menlo Park Police Department. "Vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians each play a part in traffic safety."

"People at SLAC really want to encourage biking to work and should not be dissuaded by a dangerous road," said Peter Bosted, one of the more than 21 percent of Stanford affiliates who bike to work.

Pope recently had finished her sophomore year at Smith, where she was majoring in history and physics. She planned to spend a year at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland studying medieval swords. Her project at SLAC employed particle detectors she had helped build at Smith.

Those wishing to express condolences to Pope's parents can write to The Pope Family, 1700 Mizell Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789.

A SLAC memorial will take place Thursday, July 12, at 11 a.m. by the duck pond at Sharon Heights Park in Menlo Park. The timing will coincide with her funeral in Lockhart, Texas, where her family will be gathered. There will also be a concurrent ceremony at the Smith College chapel.

A memorial bike ride is being organized in Pope's honor. Cyclists will meet at the Menlo Park CalTrain station at 11 a.m. Sunday, July 15, for a ride approximately 40 minutes long. For further information, email daniweber@earthlink.net .