EXCLUSIVE: Driver who opened car door that led to cyclist death in San Francisco speaks out

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- In an exclusive interview with ABC7 News, reporter Luz Pena spoke to the woman driver who opened a car door that caused cyclist Tess Rothstein to swerve into traffic, where she was killed by a truck.

"No, I didn't see her," said the unidentified driver. The woman explained that since the accident, she's been heartbroken.



Pointing to her heart, she said, "You want to put your head over here? I'm dying. She came to change my life," referring to Rothstein's death.

Tess Rothstein was a 30-year-old design researcher in San Francisco. Her childhood friend, Tasha Pelaez, went to the scene to leave flowers.

"Tess was really full of life, she was really adventurous, she was really kind and generous and she had really strong convictions about things. And for someone with that much life to get killed for no reason is awful," said Pelaez.

The cyclist's death has prompted an outpouring of grief from friends and neighbors who saw the collision.

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"When the car door was opened, the lady tried to avoid hitting the car and fell out on the streets under the back tire of the truck of the big box truck and that has being stuck in my head for a long time... I can't sleep," said San Francisco resident Henry Belton.

Cyclists all across the city have expressed concerns about the 6th and Howard corridor. John Firebaugh drives through the same route that Rothstein was on. He captures his daily commutes in fear that one day he will also be struck.

"It's also frustrating because Howard just protected bike lanes just one block west where Tess was killed, and the city didn't put bike lanes because it would have required moving parking," said Firebaugh.

We spoke to SFMTA about a lack of protected bike lanes on 6th and Howard.

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"Why did we have to wait for someone to die for this to happen? We know this corridor has safety issues. That's why we installed protected bike lanes between 6th and 11th. That was a specific project that we needed to go out for design and do public outreach and then do the construction for that to happen. The area between 5th and 3rd was not part of this project," said Paul Rose, SFMTA's spokesperson.

Since Rothsteins death, SFMTA was given 96 hours to respond with a plan to protect cyclists.

"We put up signs and bagged some of the meters on the north side of Howard to make more space for bicyclist in that area," said Rose.

Starting Wednesday, cars won't be allowed to park on 6th and Howard and, starting in April, a permanently protected bike lane will be installed.
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