drone footage of Berkeley pedestrian bridge
A man who crashed his bike while riding across the pedestrian bridge by Aquatic Park in Berkeley (seen above as of November 2020) was later pronounced dead of natural causes. File photo: Phil Rowntree

An 81-year-old Oakland man who crashed his bicycle in West Berkeley on Monday afternoon stopped breathing and was later pronounced dead of apparent natural causes, authorities report.

UPDATE: ‘Ride on Grandpa John’: A tribute to the 81-year-old man who died biking in Berkeley

Police and firefighters were dispatched to the pedestrian bridge near Aquatic Park at about 4:10 p.m. on a report of a cyclist who had fallen off his bike. The man was unconscious and had stopped breathing, police said in response to an inquiry from Berkeleyside.

Bystanders who found the man called for help and administered CPR, said Officer Byron White, BPD spokesperson.

“When emergency personnel arrived, they took over medical care from the bystanders and soon transported the bicyclist to a local hospital,” White said.

The man was pronounced dead at the hospital just before 5:40 p.m., White said. The hospital told police the man’s death “appeared natural or as the result of a medical emergency.”

As of publication time, the Alameda County coroner’s office had not responded to inquires this week from Berkeleyside about the man’s identity. Berkeleyside will continue to seek that information.

UPDATE: ‘Ride on Grandpa John’: A tribute to the 81-year-old man who died biking in Berkeley

Police said the incident would not be classified as a traffic collision because the crash happened on a designated bicycle path rather than in the roadway. But it’s still worth noting other major traffic incidents in the city this year.

Berkeley has had six traffic fatalities in 2021 — including two motorists and four pedestrians.

(The investigation into the Marin Avenue crash in May that killed a driver and his passenger remains open pending analyses by agencies outside Berkeley, police have said.)

Read more about Vision Zero in past coverage

The city is working on a plan, called Vision Zero, to end traffic collisions resulting in severe injury or death by 2028.

In 2019 and 2020, nearly 7,600 people were killed in crashes throughout California, the CHP said recently in a prepared statement, “with pedestrians and bicyclists accounting for 2,354 of those deaths.”

Berkeley regularly ranks No. 1 in California among 59 cities of its size — those with populations of 100,000 to 250,000 people — for having the highest rate of fatal and injury crashes involving cyclists and pedestrians, according to state Office of Traffic Safety data.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist of the Year...