They showed up on mountain bikes, cruisers and sleek road racers. Some rode with children strapped behind them in kiddie seats; others sported gray hair and crow's feet. But all had come to pay tribute to two fallen strangers -- and to fight to keep such tragedies from happening again.

Three dozen Mountain View residents turned out Saturday morning for a bike tour of the city's Rengstorff Park neighborhood, where in the course of three months last summer two men were struck and killed by motorists.

"This street just screams 'drive quickly,' " said ride co-organizer Jarrett Mullen, standing with the peloton of cyclists at California Street and Escuela Avenue -- the intersection where city resident William Ware, 50, was killed in June. Prosecutors said the driver who hit him was speeding to beat a red light.

Elena Pacheco rides along Ortega Avenue during the Great Streets Rengstorff Park Neighbor Bike Tour in Mountain View on March 2, 2013.
Elena Pacheco rides along Ortega Avenue during the Great Streets Rengstorff Park Neighbor Bike Tour in Mountain View on March 2, 2013. (LiPo Ching / Mercury News)

In September, an Illinois man named Joshua Baker was fatally struck by another car while crossing California Street less than half a mile away.

Mullen, who lives in the neighborhood and commutes by bike to his job in the Palo Alto Public Works Department, noted that the street -- a major crosstown artery -- is four lanes wide, with a posted speed limit of 35. He suggested that the roadway could be narrowed to slow down traffic.

But, Mullen and others said, the dangers aren't limited to California Street.

As the cyclists, who included two Mountain View councilwomen and several members of the council's Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee, followed Mullen on a four-mile loop of the area, they were greeted at various points by others who'd come to testify about their own close shaves with speeding cars.


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Dana Meyerson, a senior at Los Altos High School, and her father pointed out a corner on Ortega Avenue where a car had clipped Dana's bike in the crosswalk as she rode to school in late 2011. The collision damaged her rear wheel and left her too shaken to ride for several months. The driver, she said, kept on going.

As the group cycled slowly down Ortega to its next stop, several impatient drivers honked their horns, which Mullen cited as evidence of the "harassment" riders can face. He and co-organizer Wendee Crofoot also pointed out dangers such as slender bike lanes that leave just inches between riders and parked cars -- or, in some places, a lack of bike lanes altogether.

Crofoot, a neighbor of Mullen's, said the two began organizing the group they call Great Streets Rengstorff Park about six months before Ware was killed. The twin deaths, she said, have only heightened demand for safer roadways in the neighborhood, which is densely populated with apartment buildings, community centers and an elementary school.

City Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said the issue is citywide, especially as Mountain View continues to add employees of Google and other tech firms.

"We've had a number of hit-and-runs," she said while cruising down Latham Street in the mid-morning sun. She said her two daughters had seen a classmate's parent hit while riding a bike and had sworn off cycling to school.

With the city having last summer completed a revamp of its general plan, Abe-Koga said, the time is right to push for traffic mitigation efforts.

In recent years, cities such as Sunnyvale, San Jose and San Francisco have replaced traffic lanes and street parking with designated bike lanes. Crofoot called it the wave of the future.

"Our streets were designed in the 1960s for the car culture," Crofoot said after Saturday's ride.

She and Mullen hope to make Great Streets a regional movement, and they're seeking funding to elevate the group beyond a two-person volunteer effort.

"People tell me they'd like to ride," she said, "but they're afraid."

Contact Peter Delevett at 408-271-3638. Follow him at Twitter.com/mercwiretap.

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