By Brittany Woolsey
4:32 PM PDT, October 29, 2012
More than 1,000 cyclists pedaled near Fashion Island on Sunday in memory of two riders who died last month after being hit by cars.
The 1-mile ride, which started on the northwest corner of Santa Rosa and Newport Center Drive at 8 a.m., aimed to spread awareness about and raise money for bicycle safety, as well as commemorate Dr. Catherine "Kit" Campion Ritz and Sarah Leaf.
Riders of all ages participated.
"I'm a cyclist, and I see a lot of need for safety around Irvine, Costa Mesa and Newport Beach," said Kurt Bahneman of the OCC Food Riders Club.
Friends and colleagues of Campion Ritz and Leaf also participated.
"It's good that we can come together for Kit and Sarah and raise awareness for bike safety," said Jennifer Wilson, a physician's assistant at Newport Family Medicine, who worked with Campion Ritz. "She was the quintessential family practice doctor. Losing her was a huge loss to the community."
A truck struck and ran Leaf over near East Coast Highway and Bayside Drive on Sept. 14. The truck's driver remained at the scene but wasn't cited, according to police.
Campion Ritz was killed in a hit-and-run accident a day later along Newport Coast Drive, according to police.
The Orange County district attorney's office charged Michael Jason Lopez, 39, of Anaheim, with one felony count of hit-and-run causing death and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. He pleaded not guilty Sept. 28.
David W. McGill, deputy chief and patrol/traffic division commander of the Newport Beach Police Department, said cyclists and motorists alike should know the rules of the road.
"The streets were made for cars," he said. "There's no getting around that. But our goal right now is education. This event, and events like this, is going to help educate the public, not only the motorists but also the bicyclists. People have got to know the rules of the road and what bicyclists can and can't do. This is one event of many that are going to be coming up in the city."
Newport Beach City Councilman Rush Hill said he believes the awareness level of cyclists and drivers has gotten better of late.
"Improved safety comes from those two entities understanding each other and showing compassion for one another," he said. "We can paint all kinds of things on roads and put all kinds of signs up, but until the individuals in the cars are aware of what's going on, and until the bicyclists follow the traffic laws, then safety will be even greater than it is today."
Event co-organizer April Morris said she was surprised at the large turnout.
"I was expecting 500 people," she said. "I think this shows a real commitment on the part of the cyclists to help improve bicycle safety in Newport Beach."
At the end of the event, she said $53,000 was raised, and she anticipates reaching the $150,000 goal by the city's Dec. 31 deadline. The city will donate $3 for every $1 raised, up to $450,000.
"I think we've set something in motion that will be an awesome trend," she said.
For more information about the memorial and to donate, visit newportbeachmemorialride.com.