On March 15, a fatal vehicle collision near Lake Merced took the life of 14-year-old Madlen Koteva, who had been out walking her dog at the time of the crash. Still in mourning for their friend's death, Koteva's middle-school soccer team has joined the fight to improve pedestrian safety on SF streets after the tragic event that left their teammate and friend dead.
Speaking to the SF Chronicle, the girls say that the city's streets continue to be unacceptably dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. Koteva, a 14-year-old student of A.P. Giannini Middle School in the Outer Sunset and a native of Bulgaria, succumbed to her injuries on March 25 after being hit by a vehicle. She was walking on John Muir Drive with her mother, and the pair were struck by a car being driven by a 91-year-old woman who claimed the sun in her eyes made it impossible to see the Kotevas. Madlen's mother was injured in the crash as well.
Team members of Westside Waves, the all-girls youth soccer team that Koteva was a part of, have added momentum to the ongoing public outcry to improve the safety of streets in SF. Dressed in their soccer uniforms, the girls attended Koteva's April 2nd funeral to pay their final respects to their teammate, and most were shocked and disturbed by the experience. “I don’t think any of us at our age had ever lost someone and not had the chance to say goodbye,” 14-year-old Maureen Loftus told the SF Chronicle.
On April 17, the team gathered at the City's Hall and wrote a letter to the mayor and every official demanding answers regarding the absence of pedestrian crossing signals, the paint marking on the curbs, the proximity of parking spaces, and the speed limit on John Muir Drive. Koteva's classmate Leela Sriram tells the Chron, "It shouldn’t take our friend to die to fix this problem."
Twelve people have lost their lives to traffic accidents so far this year, and the number of traffic deaths hit 22 in 2018. And a pedestrian was killed in 2015 on the same street as Koteva — something that refelects poorly on the effectiveness of the city's five-year-old Vision Zero strategy.
Prior to Madlen's passing, the Koteva family used GoFundMe to reach out to the community for help with impending medical bills, and to "help my family through this hard time." Within a few days, they were flooded with support, raising over $41,000, which will was used to cover both funeral and medical expenses, as reported by the Examiner.