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Saturday, September 8, 2007

How Fast Were Those Cyclists Going?

posted by on September 8 at 8:30 AM

I’m a cyclist. I ride pretty much everywhere, often down to the U-District. At least twice a week I ride through the intersection where two cyclists were hit—run over—by a dump truck yesterday. Both men were dragged under the truck for 25 feet; one died at the scene, another was badly injured. Neither was wearing helmets—does anyone wear helmets anymore?—but I’m not sure helmets would have helped them under the wheels of a dump truck.

The truck was turning right from Eastlake Avenue East on to Fuhrman Avenue East when it hit the cyclists, who were in a bike lane headed toward the University Bridge. David Hiller, advocacy director for the Cascade Bicycle Club, is quoted in this morning’s PI as saying that this accident has, er, struck the bike community in “a very personal place.”

As a cyclist, my first reaction was, “Fucking drivers—fucking truck drivers, fucking bus drivers, fucking car drivers.” I immediately assumed that the truck driver had to be at fault. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had people—drivers that aren’t using their signals—turn right, right in front of me, right on top of me, at that intersection. That could have been me under that dump truck.

But watching the TV news last night, I listened as one witness said the truck was moving very slowly and the bikes were moving very fast—too fast for the truck driver to see them coming.

And then I thought about that hill. Coming off Capitol Hill along the freeway, blasting down Harvard Avenue East, which dumps you on to Eastlake Avenue East right before Fuhrman… man, it’s easy to pick up some serious speed. It’s also tempting—particularly on a summer day, when the bridge is constantly going up and down—to race toward University Bridge, to beat that light at Eastlake and Fuhrman, so that you can blast up the incline that starts after you cross over the bridge. If you take advantage of that hill—if you pick up speed, pump your legs, and get low—you can be at that intersection so fast that car, bus, and truck drivers can’t see you coming, much less react to you in time.

So knowing what I know now… I’m going to have to set aside my natural allegiance to my fellow cyclists and reserve judgment about the truck driver. It’s possible that the cyclists were at fault yesterday. Were they coming down Harvard Avenue East? Were they hurtling toward the bridge? If they were, well, it’s possible that they were going so fast that they, essentially, threw themselves into the path of a truck that was already turning right, a truck being driven by someone that never had a chance to brake, a driver that couldn’t have seen them coming, couldn’t react in time.

It’s going to be hard for area cyclists to wrap their heads around this, but this accident may not be the driver’s fault. It may be the cyclists’ fault.

It is, of course, still a tragedy. And that intersection, however yesterday’s accident unfolded, is still dangerous—it’s not just cyclists that blast through it, or hurry up to beat that bridge. But yesterday’s death may not fit the script of our usual “careless driver, martyred cyclist” morality play.

RSS icon Comments


My husband's gonna be biking right past there this morning on a trip to the east side (via 90) and I'm terrified.

But you're right... it could be the cyclists fault. All cyclists, including my C, need to bike more defensively.

Posted by L | September 8, 2007 8:44 AM

Here's an idea, totally out there I realize, but here goes anyway.

Maybe no one was at fault.

Posted by Sean | September 8, 2007 8:51 AM

I drove a delivery truck for many years. I always tried to pay attention to cyclicsts, to check my blind spot before turning etc -- everything you're supposed to do. People forget that with trucks there's often a huge blind spot, and even if the driver is really diligent, a cyclist approaching quickly on the right can, if the timing works out wrong, not get seen at all. I had a number of heart-stopping moments realizing just in time that there was cyclist right on my bumper or just to the side when I was about to turn into them. Never did, but I'm surprised it doesn't happen more.

Those signs that say "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you" ain't kidding.

Posted by flamingbanjo | September 8, 2007 8:57 AM

If the cyclists were going really fast, say 40-50 mph, easy to achieve going down a steep hill, then they would assume the blame if for no other reason then they were speeding. It sucks but in a car vs cyclist collision the car always wins, and cyclists are subject to the same rules as cars. Keep in mind that no one would think to blame the dump truck if it was some speeding sports car that was hit.

Posted by Matt from Denver | September 8, 2007 9:10 AM

I live in Eastlake. Once while waiting for my bus I counted the number of bicyclists who stopped at the red light next to the bus stop. A couple dozen did not and maybe five did.

Posted by King Rat | September 8, 2007 9:10 AM

Maybe a problem with these bike lanes since cyclists will pass you on the right at a high rate of speed. You try to be cautious but it is similar to someone passing you on the left when you are making a left hand turn. I brought up this problem n the past when the woman got hit on 20th and Union by the car that sped away and got blasted for it here.

Posted by Touring | September 8, 2007 9:10 AM

I must admit that my natural bias is against the cyclists in such matter, and my first impulse was to figure that the cyclists got rammed running through a red light. (Which doesn't appear to have been the case.)

Posted by tsm | September 8, 2007 9:15 AM

Dan, you described the exact thought process I had yesterday. Harvard will get you moving like a bullet and I've almost been hit at that same intersection myself.

Posted by flash gordon | September 8, 2007 9:27 AM

why should we care who is to blame. if they made a mistake, they paid for it. let's just try and learn from it. take your time at intersections, don't this happen to you.

Posted by Roy | September 8, 2007 9:30 AM

Hi Dan,

I ride through that intersection twice a day. On my way home, I saw the aftermath in fair detail.
One thing is certain: that intersection is dangerous. I have often described it as the most dangerous part of my day. If I ever find myself lying in the middle of an intersection, contemplating an indifferent sky, it will likely be at Eastlake and Fuhrman.

Chronically, drivers make mistakes there that injure and kill bikers, pedestrians, and other car drivers. Bikers make some mistakes in that intersection too.

Seattle Department of Transportation will probably do something now. Maybe something that will do some good, although I'm not optimistic.

- Erik

Posted by Erik Nilsson | September 8, 2007 9:31 AM

yeah, forget about flying, i'm almost terrified to drive these days. we were cruising to the sounds of XTC's groovilicious easy-feel 5/4 timed English Roundabout - apropos lyrics, the other day. and thinking that the last happenin 5/4 local indie tune I'd heard was by IFOJ (susan robb/tullycraft connectitory outfit), suddenly i realized i had just blown a stop sign crossing Aloha! - missing the per-pen-dick-you-lure auto by feets! Idiotheque, I's guilty.

Posted by June Bee | September 8, 2007 9:41 AM

There is only one solution. We must ban intersections.

If it could save one life!@!!1

Posted by Mr. Poe | September 8, 2007 9:43 AM

While stuck in the traffic caused by the tragic accident, I saw one cyclist ride down the hill, one the wrong side of the road, at a decent speed; another cyclist swerved in front of two cars to make a left turn from the far right side of the lane; and a final one blaring down the sidewalk.

More often then not "share the road" to cyclists means that they get to drive erratically, above the speed limit, and with no regard for traffic laws. I tend to go out of my way to give cyclists room, but its hard when they don't follow the rules or act unexpectedly. The fact is that if they cause an accident with my car its going to be a whole hell of a lot worse for them then me.

I don't know details about this accident, except that it is tragic that people died.

Posted by Giffy | September 8, 2007 9:47 AM

This is the kind of self-questioning post that makes Slog interesting to read, rather than a liberal circle-jerk.

Bravo Dan!

Posted by MHD | September 8, 2007 9:50 AM

you are so fair,,,

Posted by come again | September 8, 2007 10:06 AM

When I first started reading this, I was thinking "oh here we go, more boo-fucking-hoo about those terrorist vehicle drivers"

Yet you have shown your ability to consider multiple angles of this...even beyond your admitted allegiance as a cyclist. I find the bicycling brotherhood of we're-better-than-you smugness nauseating most of the time , so to actually take another view on this topic AS one goes really far.

I agree with #14.
Bravo, Dan.

Posted by Lake | September 8, 2007 10:07 AM

Hey cyclist!!! Share the road is right! I drive daily on two major bike routes: Dexter and Lk Wa Blvd. There are a lot of very fast cyclists who simply ignore traffic laws... We've all seen the bicycle peeps who stupidly runs the red lights, weaving on and off sidewalks and around cars. And this side by side biz has got to stop. You can talk to your buddy at the next stop. Do not pass another cyclist unless traffic is clear. Sheesh!! And for Christ's sake, use you noodle and lookout for other traffic. Sometimes we can't see you at all. I hear these guys were not wearing helmets - Hello? McFly???

Posted by WhySettleForWalkin | September 8, 2007 10:09 AM

Mr. Savage,

To the question, "Does anyone wear helmets anymore?" I answer, check out the September 2007 issue of Bicycling Magazine. One Page 42, Ryan Lipscomb of Madison, WI tells of being decked by a delivery truck, the wheel of which ran over the rear portion of his helmet, crushing it. His head, as I understand it, was pushed out as the helmet took the brunt of the crushing action. He had a concussion, but was still able to undergo a Ph.D qualifying test a few days later--and pass with flying colors. So in answer to the question, only cyclists who value their noggins are wearing helmets. And count me among their number.

Posted by Paul | September 8, 2007 10:14 AM

I drove a phone company truck in downtown San Francisco for 13 years, a place heavily infested with bikers, both messengers and commuters. Never in 13 years did I ever see a biker come to a complete stop behind the white line at a light or stop sign, if they stopped or even slowed down at all. And when they stopped at all, it was so often in the intersection thereby preventing motor traffic from making an otherwide legal right turn on the red. I've enjoyed bike riding all my life, but if you think hot rodders are arrogent....

Posted by Karl Schuck | September 8, 2007 10:35 AM

Set aside judgment!

But if you don't cast somebody as the villain and opportunistically exploit this incident to further your political agenda, then you might as well not make a snap judgment and exploit it at all.

Are you getting old? Get off your ass and blame somebody, quick. You could be scooping the stupid old MSM while they're out gathering "facts" and "listening" to different "points of view."

Fuck that. The Stranger's job is not to think. The Stranger's job is to react. If you're too hung over, ask Erica. She can take one of her stock screeds and just do a quick search-and-replace to make it reference the poor sod who died for your cause.

And helmets? Helmets are for losers.

Posted by elenchos | September 8, 2007 10:42 AM

I have biked through that intersection so many times - I was doing it since I was a kid, back when it was a 5-way stop with no lights. My mom used to warn me about that intersection, saying she always saw bike accidents there.

They put the lights in, but it always seemed really dangerous still. I commuted between Capitol hill and the U District for 6 years, and I did exactly what Dan said - shoot down the hill and hope for greens. If the light at the bottom was red, I'd hop onto the sidewalk just in time, then crazily hop back into the street (hopefully within the bike lane) after the flower shop to zoom through to the bridge.

Going the other way I would go down Roosevelt at dangerous speeds, amid much traffic; after the bridge you are only crossing a quiet Fuhrman so its not so bad to cross on a red, and if you have some speed... etc.

I did always wear a helmet, but the way. (My "internalized mom" worked that much, at least - I didn't want to get in an accident and have people find out I was not only reckless but meanwhile concerned about appearance.)

But still, looking back I basically risked my life many times. Because of this I have no delusions that a bike accident is necessarily the fault of the driver. Bikers do dangerous things all the time, and they need to take responsibility for the risks they take.

One day, some driver yelled at me for ignoring a stop light. I yelled back something, but then I realized after 15 years of biking that he was actually right. If it is unacceptable for cars to break meaningful traffic laws, why should I be different. That day, I started biking safely. So thanks, angry man in car! (although it could have worked differently and made me more bitter and self-riteous, so...)

All that said, I don't know what exactly happened in this situation, but I know for sure that it could easily have been me.

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 8, 2007 10:47 AM

Oh, I meant to say if you don't find a villian and exploit it within 24 hours, then you might as well not judge and exploit at all.

Forgetting the fact that it hasn't even been one day yet would suck all the juice out of this clown act.

Posted by elenchos | September 8, 2007 10:50 AM

Addendum - I still bike really fast down hills, so that is not that safe, but it is my indulgence. However, I now follow stop signs and traffic lights as though I were a car. The other way, there is no way around it- I was a big fat hypocrite.

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 8, 2007 10:52 AM

Here's all the Stranger had to say about the accident yesterday:

A garbage truck hit a bicyclist at Eastlake E. and Furhman Ave. E about a half hour ago. This is at the Southern entrance to the University Bridge off Eastlake.

The bicyclist, a man, was killed. He was with another biker, who was not harmed.

As the sad tipster who called in with the news—he lives right by the scene of the accident—reported it: “We’ve really got to figure out a way for bikes and cars to share the road.”

No details are available yet.

Hardly a rush to judgment, elanchos.

And, yes, some details wrong -- dump, not garbage, second cyclist injured, not unharmed. First reports are like that.

Posted by Dan Savage | September 8, 2007 10:53 AM

has anybody looked into whether the bus driver who kidnapped erica, taking her to the far off land of west seattle, might be involved?

Posted by metro_lover | September 8, 2007 10:57 AM

@20, go ruin someone else's fun.

Posted by Giffy | September 8, 2007 11:01 AM

Was a pit bull involved?

Posted by EXTC | September 8, 2007 11:06 AM

I drive a City Light car around the Ballard/Phinney/Green Lake area every workday, so I see a lot of driver/cyclist interactions, and have witnessed several near misses. While there are a lot of clueless drivers out there (especially in school zones), there are also an awful lot of clueless cyclists.

I understand the thrill of cycling (it's much more fun than driving) but people need to keep their wits about them: If you're holding up traffic, pull over or ride on the sidewalk. If you're going faster than cars around you, slow down. Be careful when around trucks, buses, and other things that can't easily slow down, and may not be able to see you.

In other words, behave like a good driver does (except for the part about riding on the sidewalk, of course ;-) .

And wear a helmet. It may muss your hairdo, but it's better than spending eternity with a wig on because they wanted you to look nice in your coffin.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | September 8, 2007 11:09 AM

did anyone catch the interview of the chick who was biking while listening to her ipod?

Posted by mike | September 8, 2007 11:09 AM

Wow, Dan, way to not rush to pass judgment on drivers (where's ECB when you need her? She knows drivers are always wrong).

Cyclists and drivers need to be responsible (same goes for pedestrians). I've seen both doing stuff that could cause someone to get killed. I don't know what the fuck the solution is to this--as we have more people biking (yay!) it's only going to get worse.

Posted by Dianna | September 8, 2007 11:18 AM

In the journalist's laws of physics, human beings control everything, so every tragedy is the fault of at least one person. The journalist's noble calling is to use his unique power of hindsight and naturally judgmental temperament to identify the villian.

Now please stand back and let him perform his heroic work.

Posted by Sean | September 8, 2007 11:18 AM

P.S. Re: helmets. I wear one now but didn't used to and can't BELIEVE I used to not wear one.

Posted by Dianna | September 8, 2007 11:19 AM

Dumb journalists. It's so stupid they way they think humans control cars and bikes. Good thing there aren't any journalists at the Stranger.

Posted by Oh Please | September 8, 2007 11:37 AM

Elenchos, YOU'RE a clown act.

Posted by tired of your shit | September 8, 2007 11:40 AM

The intersection in question effectively has two adjacent lanes (the bike lane and the right general-purpose lane) which are both through and right-turn lanes. Picture that in your mind, and I think it's pretty clear that it's an unsafe intersection.

And I'm willing to bet that there are a lot of similar intersections throughout the city.

Posted by Greg Barnes | September 8, 2007 11:49 AM

Dan. I'll try saying it in a non-mocking, non-sarcastic way.

You should not be lobbying for a Pulitzer Prize because this one time you magnanimously refrained from conducting your inquisition, trial, and burning at the stake within 24 hours.

Well, that was kind of sarcastic. Pulitzer Prize is an exaggeration. Burning at the stake is kind of satirical.

Here. I'll be more clear. The amount of attention you draw to the fact that you are not going to rush to judgment contrasts with The Stranger's usual practice of condemning first and asking questions later. You should not be fishing for complements because for once you didn't judge. You should instead recognize that most events in life do not reveal themselves in all their subtle details within hours of the event.

I guess I should be happy, and ought to encourage more of the same. But I'm suspicious. Coming hard on the heels of Erica Barnett actually taking responsibility for a factual error and saying sorry for it, I'm concerned.

Who are you people and what have you done with The Stranger's editorial staff?

@34: Thanks for spelling my name right. Nobody ever does.

Posted by elenchos | September 8, 2007 12:01 PM

If the truck was moving very slowly, why did it drag the bicyclists 25 feet?

Posted by Andrew Hitchcock | September 8, 2007 12:05 PM

Three solutions:

1. do not route suggested bike lanes on major arterials; even when no one is negligent there will be many accidents and this type of route makes bikes stop too much (due to truck drivers who can't see them, stoplights, opening car doors, turning and parking vehicles, pedestrians, etc.).

Instead, create suggested bike routes on side streets parallel to the arterials. This is easily done on side streets near 35th SW, Stone way, Phinney/Greenwood, Fauntleroy, 11th NE or Roosevelt NE. Cyclists will be safer and will keep up momentum better.

At the Univ. bridge area this is more difficult but an improvement might be made if the cyclist coming from Capitol Hill uses Federal or 11th instead of traffic-y 10th Ave., then goes through Roanoke Park, then turns on Shelby and goes on northwestly on Fuhrman to reach the bridge, then once over the bridge uses a northbound street other than 11th Ave NE (which feels like a vehicular speedway all the way to 75th).
When you look at the Google map of Seattle it is clear there are plenty of options for bike routes other than the arterials--,RNWN:2006-38,RNWN:en&q=roanoke+10th+seattle

2. In any collision involving a ped or bike, regardless of fault, mandate automatic no-fault suspension of the drivers' license for a period, large fines and mandatory PIP or medical coverage for the injured person -- payable by the driver of the motor vehicle.

This would reduce accident rates sharply.

3. Mandate bicyle "tags" so law- breaking cyclists can be reported and ticketed more easily.

We need more safety and better bike routes. Rather than our usual approach -- making incremental changes that do nothing but try to appease all stakeholders or or that base the latest change on whoever wins the latest moral purity debate -- we should do something that works. This will involve a bigger set of changes and requires each group (drivers, cyclists, owners of homes on those side streets) to contribute more.

Posted by Cleve | September 8, 2007 12:09 PM

"Dumb journalists. It's so stupid they way they think humans control cars and bikes."

The non-villianous driver controls not only his vehicle but everything else. He is acutely aware of every object within a 100 yard radius. Nothing, no matter how quick or fleeting escapes his attention. He perfectly predicts what everyone else is going to do. He never goes too fast or too slow. He never hesitates, or changes his mind, or get's lost. He is perfect.

There's no way around it - either the biker or the truck driver is imperfect, and the journalist must call them out as such.

Now, please, stand back lest you distract him.

Posted by Sean | September 8, 2007 12:25 PM


Check out this stopping distance calculator.

With the braking power of a high-performance car in perfect condition, and 0 reaction time, the speed of the truck would have been about 25 mph.

If you assume the driver took 0.5 seconds to react, and had ordinary tires and brakes, you get a speed of about 15 mph.

Posted by elenchos | September 8, 2007 12:30 PM

I'm glad to see some rational perspective from you on this accident, Dan. I heard about this at a BBQ last night (several of us read Slog) and we all immediately thought, "Oh the Stranger's gonna foam at the mouth about this."

So I'm glad you're taking a more moderated stance on this while we still are waiting for more info.

Posted by Gomez | September 8, 2007 12:34 PM

The intersection is at fault. I'm serious. There aren't national traffic engineering standards for accomodating bicycles like there are for cars, and it seems most often the design of bicycle routes is done based on local brainstorming instead. The flaw in this case is that approaching an intersection, the bike lane should either merge with the rightmost general traffic lane, or a right-turn lane should appear, with the bike lane on the *left* side of it, and dashed lines and signs making it clear that bikes and right-turning autos need to look at each other, and then negotiate the transfer of the bike from the right side of the auto to the left side, so they don't end up in the same place at the same time.

@38: I disagree with point #1 - the route you suggest has horrible pavement and a lot of stop signs; I've tried that, and the trip takes far longer, and I bike for transportation, not for joyriding. However, along the lines of your point #3, I would wholeheartedly support licensing of cyclists who wish to use arterials in urban areas. At this intersection (in its current state), a cyclist should *never* pass a car that is entering the intersection on the right. It's fine to pass cars waiting in line approaching the intersection - they pose no danger unless they start drifting to the right, which a cyclist needs to watch out for, being ready to yell. But when a car is entering the intersection, there's always the possibility it's going to turn without signaling, and in such a situation a cyclist should *always* maintain a position in line with the rear bumper of a car entering the intersection to avoid getting hit. This is the type of thing that would be taught in a class required for licensing.

Posted by Noink | September 8, 2007 12:49 PM

@Noink - yeah, entering an intersection with a car is something people could learn very easily in a class, rather than maybe intuiting it through experience.

Somewhat off topic, but one thing I always do when biking is enter intersections (with lights or at 4 way stops) alongside a car, so it acts as my "armor" at least on one side, and also because other cars are much more likely to see the car than just me. Is this illegal/something that pisses drivers off? Would this be frowned upon by a bikers-ed teacher.

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 8, 2007 1:03 PM

Re: Licensing

Obviously, Licensing would educate cyclists to ride safely. I can tell this is true because all you drivers are expressing how nice it is that cyclists don't have to get out of your way, but that you have to avoid them, and how nice it is that you make a complete lane change to pass them, just like the law says. I'm glad we have license tests for drivers, because otherwise they might think that cyclists should get out of their way when they are driving. What a relief.

Re: Reckless cyclists.

You are absolutely right, that if you did what cyclists often do when you are driving you would kill someone. This is because you're navigating a giant steel object through space, and because you don't have to use your own energy to start up again. heck, you can even listen to the radio and maybe enjoy a fattening latte as you bop down the street, ignoring peds at crosswalks, and getting grumpy at that guy on the bike because you can't speed to the next stoplight at 30 MPH. Maybe you should spend three months trying not to get hit on a bike before you decide that what cyclists do is reckless. Come on fattypants, ride a few hundred miles on the street, and then we'll talk.

Re: Dude Killed

That intersection is fucking sketchy, especially because it's a legal left turn, there is a bike lane there, and cyclists trying to conserve their momentum for the next uphill stretch don't slow down unless they absolutely have to. Maybe we should just block that street off and make everyone go around.

Posted by TacomaDude | September 8, 2007 1:07 PM

@38, I was with you until number 2. Why the fuck should the driver pay for the fault of the bicyclist. If anything a cyclist who causes an accident should not be able to operate their bicycle for a period of time. Of course if the driver is at fault I am all for severe penalties, but to punish them for the actions of others is absurd.

Posted by Giffy | September 8, 2007 1:08 PM

Here's the problem: Bike lanes are not respected by most drivers. What I mean by respect is that they are not considered a true lane. If they were, then drivers would understand that they are no longer on the rightmost lane, but in fact in the middle. Most drivers do not check their blindspots for right turns for this reason.

When I'm on foot or riding in traffic, it is the right-turning driver just ahead of me that is more dangerous.

I'm of the school of thought that often the safest way to navigate city streets is to do so as a car, entirely. I don't want to slow anyone down when my top speed tends to be 25 on the flat, but I will exercise my rights to use the entire lane, just as I hold myself accountable for obeying the same laws that cars do.

Bike lanes are a flag around which the community often rallies, but typically the way they are implemented (i.e. right alongside car lanes with no separation) does little to really protect bicyclists. I would love to see an American city take a page from some European urban planning books and make truly separate bicycle lanes via curbs, fencing, etc.

Posted by Colin | September 8, 2007 1:27 PM

@ 37, in addition to what Elenchos said, keep in mind that 25 feet is not very far, and that a dump truck weighing who knows how many tons would have to go pretty darn slow to stop in that short of a distance.

Posted by Matt from Denver | September 8, 2007 1:28 PM


Posted by your mother | September 8, 2007 1:33 PM

@44 - re: reckless biking - none of what you say changes the fact that bikers bike recklessly and there would be fewer deaths, and less road rage, from not doing so.

Or are you saying that we bikers are forced to run red lights because we are on a bike and cars are big and heavy? As a biker, the reasons I ran red lights was because it was a pain to get going again from a complete stop, and because I didn't have to worry about getting a ticket.

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 8, 2007 1:35 PM

Sorry for the tangent - I'm not saying the person who died was biking recklessly - I don't know. I also think that there are many ways that street improvements could help. But it would be great if everyone learned basic biking safety (not just avoiding recklessness), such as how to ride in traffic, when to assert rights to preserve safety, etc..

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 8, 2007 1:40 PM

Until you witness a fatal car accident, you never really think those drivers ed videos are true.

Posted by death happens | September 8, 2007 1:40 PM

@44 I agree that there would be less road rage with less reckless biking, and I see some frightening biking on a daily basis, but there also are common maneuvers which appear to be reckless from a car driver's perspective, like low speed lane splitting, treating a red like a stop sign (i.e. stopping, and if no cross traffic on that one way then going) but which are almost self defensive in nature (i.e. going on that red to get in front of the cars at the green, so as not to end up in the back of the pack getting merged over)

Heck, some of the things which bikers do which cause the most road rage are the antithesis of reckless, like taking a lane, or stopping for pedestrians, or not riding on the sidewalk!

P.S. I run reds and stop signs because I'm lazy, and I can get away with it. I really don't want to clip out and lose all my momentum.

Posted by TacomaDude | September 8, 2007 2:01 PM

Cyclists here are generally more responsible than drivers here.. but there are unfortunately a few irresponsible cyclers, one or two of which I see almost daily.

I've seen a cyclist hit a 4 year old girl being held by her family while crossing the Fremont Bridge. The little girl did not make any sudden moves. The cyclist just droned "ON YOUR LEFT" and just scraped the girl on her side, right in front of her family.

Incidents like this are not common, but they do happen. In the same way that cyclists have an uncontrollable rage about drivers, I have somewhat of a rage against rude cyclists on Fremont Ave.

Posted by matthew fisher wilder | September 8, 2007 2:08 PM

@36 - "Coming hard on the heels of Erica Barnett actually taking responsibility for a factual error and saying sorry for it"

What?! Holy shit! When did this happen?

Posted by tsm | September 8, 2007 2:10 PM

@52 - "P.S. I run reds and stop signs because I'm lazy, and I can get away with it. "

Then don't expect our sympathy when a garbage truck going round a corner accidentally drags you along the pavement.

Posted by tsm | September 8, 2007 2:15 PM

I'd like to second Colin's comment. Off-road bike lanes in countries such as The Netherlands and Finland that provide real barriers between cyclists and cars make such accidents far less likely--fatalities in W. Europe are a small fraction of what they are in the US, and I don't know of any helmet regulations!

It is ignorant to believe that large, metal machines traveling at high speeds next to unprotected (let's face it, even with a helmet, we're very vulnerable) people will ever be safe even when everyone is being careful. It's time for us to consider what really works and invest in that--not thin, white stripes on the road.

Posted by Ilmarinen | September 8, 2007 2:42 PM

There have been several posts relative to the responsibility of cyclists to comply with the same rules by which motorists are expected to abide. When they don't problems occur.

And the same sort of problems occur even in rural areas.

Today I was driving along the Jackson Highway in rural Lewis County.

At the intersection of Jackson Highway and U. S. Highway 12 (at the intersection called Mary's Corner) there is a traffic signal.

As I approached the intersection I noted there was a large truck waiting for on-coming traffic to clear (or the light to change) to make a right turn. The truck had its turn signal on.

Approaching the intersection were also some 10 cyclists.

At 73 years of age and with physcial problem I can no longer ride. In earlier years, however, I used to love getting on my very expensive 10-speed and go all over the place.

I rode by the rules one of which is to ride single file. Those cyclists were riding 2- and even 3-abreast.

Seemingly completely oblivious of the trucks intentions to turn, the cyclists road up alongside the truck--on its right side--and when the signal changed proceeded to cut the truck off.

While I would not want to see any cyclist hurt, injured or maimed, I swear that I would have relished summoning the Lewis County Sheriff and waiting to testify as to the many ways in which the cyclists had violated the law.

In a way I believe I would have been almost gleeful.

It is only because the truck driver was aware of what was going on that injury (or possible death) did not occur.

Every day in Seattle cyclists jump lights and zig-zag in front of motorized vehicles. They have no more right to the road than anybody else and (because of size differences) must give way to larger vehicles.

Maybe the very-demanding cycling community will start emphasizing safety and responsibility to their members. Should they do so fewer cyclists will be injured.

Posted by Al Forget | September 8, 2007 3:15 PM

i have to second what tacomadude said, sometimes as a cyclist you have to make moves that seem aggressive or arrogant but are actually done for everyone's benefit. i sometimes treat stop lights like stop signs in order to keep pace with traffic so i don't get run off the road, i'm sure all of the drivers with me at those intersections think i'm an asshole, but if i don't take what i can get i'll get merged on or turned over. and i have much more at stake than they do.

Posted by douglas | September 8, 2007 3:27 PM

Douglas, I don't quite get that - treating a red light like a stop sign may put you farther ahead on the next block when the traffic catches up to you, but this increases the number of cars passing you while moving. But, if you stop, and wait for a light, then cross the intersection in a more predictable way, you will still be going fairly slow and can pull to the side while the faster cars pass you, before you gain speed.

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 8, 2007 4:15 PM

Bicycle speed is irrelevant in this case. What is relevant is whether the truck was using his signals properly.

Even when I run the read light coming down Harvard, and let my downhill momentum carry me into a sharp turn into the bike lane toward the U-Bridge, I always have to slow down in traffic, because that "bike lane" is tiny and cars stuck in traffic regularly drift into it, and there's some dangerous driveways on that block before that intersection where motorists rarely see you coming. I have never seen anyone in that bike lane haul ass when there's traffic, and I ride that route a few times a week.

The thing that makes that intersection the most dangerous: cars (or trucks) that don't use their turn signals who turn right into the bike lane when the light is green or red. You can't function in a bike lane unless people use their turn signals properly. Much of the time, bicyclists simply have to learn to see when a car is beginning to turn even though it's not using any signals.

Posted by Trevor | September 8, 2007 4:23 PM

Dumb, dumb, dumb to not wear helmets. You always wear a helmet when cycling. Always.

That said, my heart goes out to the family and friends of the 2 cyclists.

Posted by Brad | September 8, 2007 4:57 PM

It's too early to judge those involved in this horrendous accident. I'm the local package delivery driver for this intersection and was unavoidably delivering across the street soon after the accident. I'm also a bicycle commuter. I do not own a car. My heart goes out to the families and ALL people involved. However, as a professional driver, I strongly believe that defensive driving training should be REQUIRED for all commercial drivers. Was this driver given defensive driving training and if so how long ago? Does the company he drives for provide him with access to this kind of training? An investigation into this accident by SPD is essential. Questions such as:
1) How many hours had this driver worked during the previous week
2) When was his last break and/or lunch taken
3) Did he frequently make that turn, and if so why? it's much to sharp of a turn to safely make regularly (the sidewalk was extended out on the corner last year and the yellow center line on Fuhrman was repainted further away from the opposite sidewalk after the Portage Bay water main broke earlier this year making that turn very dangerous for large trucks)
4) Was the driver unsure of the directions he was supposed to be following, causing him to focus more on "making" the turn to avoid ending up on the University bridge.
5) Did he use his blinker, and if so when did he turn it on. Also, was the rear blinker working for the bicyclists to see.
6) If he was moving "slow" how could he possibly have dragged the cyclists as far as he did without noticing
7) Did he lose visuals on his right side when he had to swing out into the left lane in order to make the sharp turn.
I don't understand why the driver was not cited by the SPD. I don't believe that the evidence has been gathered to charge him with manslaughter (as far as I'm concerned what he is living with right now is punishment enough), however it's obvious that he did not "yield the right of way" to an existing lane of traffic ie the bike lane. (Seattle Traffic Code 11.53.190) If the bicyclists had run into the turning truck and then been pulled under they would be at fault according to the law. This accident looks like the first bicyclist was hit by the front corner of the truck and then run over, making the driver at fault. Why did the officers on the scene not enforce this law?

Posted by kailin | September 8, 2007 5:04 PM

Bike lanes on arterials are a STUPID, DANGEROUS IDEA. If bike lanes NEED to be on streets, then they should be as wide as a normal lane. Otherwise, cyclists should have safe lanes on side streets away from cars and trucks.

IT'S A STUPID IDEA TO PUT BIKES AND CARS NEXT TO EACH OTHER. That's like putting trains and cars next to each other. If there's an accident, the train ALWAYS wins and someone always dies.

And can I just add one more thing to the inconsiderate cyclists out there (you know who you are): YOU'RE FUELING THE FIRE OF IRE AGAINST CYCLISTS BY COASTING UP TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE OF CARS AT A RED LIGHT AND BLOCKING EVERYONE ON THE GREEN. We all want to share the road, but getting in front of and blocking everyone all the while making us watch your sweaty, dimpled ass bring you up to a whopping 5 MPH makes people want to run you over. NOBODY LIKES LINE CUTTERS. Even if you've got a nice ass.

As for who's at fault in this case - you're responsible for your own safety. If you don't wear a helmet, drive too fast, or take chances zooming by cars and trucks, it's your own fault ... even if someone else hits you when they shouldn have seen you. In the end, you're the only one you can depend on to keep yourself safe.

Being "right" doesn't matter if you're dead.

Posted by Brad in Seattle | September 8, 2007 5:17 PM

@62 - "I don't understand why the driver was not cited by the SPD."

Maybe because it wasn't his fault? Oh, but it MUST be! He was DRIVING! FOR SHAME! He should have been making deliveries from a bike.

This whole thing is terrible tragedy - something that the truck driver will have to live with for the rest of his/her life.

15 yrs ago tonight I lost my best friend in a car wreck that was unavoidable. A guy moved over into her lane, pushed her off the freeway and into southbound traffic on 405. Her car struck and killed a man. Her "estate" (as much of an estate as a 20 yo can have) was SUED by the man she hit even though the accident wasn't her fault. And she lost. Her mom had to go to court as her representative and defend the daughter she had lost against another family who had lost their father. It's a jackass who jumps to conclusions or demands that blame be fairly placed. Sometimes terrible things happen. They finally caught the guy who hit my friend, but as he didn't kill the other driver, he was out of the lawsuit.

Citing the truck driver wouldn't have brought the cyclist back to life. And it wouldn't have made anything "right."

You challenged the qualifications of the deliver driver without knowing ANYTHING about what's involved in getting a commercial permit.

How about this:
- What kind of cycling education did the cyclist have?
- Did he belong to a bike club that trained cyclists on defensive cycling and how to drive safely in major traffic?
- How many hours had he been trained on traffic safety?
- Had he been drinking beforehand or been on any medications? Pain killers? Antihistimines?
- And why wasn't he wearing his helmet? - Was his friend wearing HIS helmet?
- Was the friend given a ticket for not riding with a helmet?
- How many times had the cyclist ridden down that hill?
- Knowing what a dangerous intersection it is, why didn't he take more precaution instead of imperiling his life and the lives of drivers and other cyclists?

None of the finger pointing makes a difference. If the road can't be shared, then bikes should be taken off the road and given their own safe path.

And PS - 25' is NOT that far. And Dan, you've got a son and a husband so don't be a jackass. Wear your fucking helmet!

Posted by Brad in Seattle | September 8, 2007 5:32 PM

By the time you get to that intersection on a bike you are not going faster than the speed limit. If the light was green, I do not see how it could be the bicyclist's fault. The truck driver made a mistake that anyone of us could have made.

Posted by brian | September 8, 2007 5:45 PM


I'm a biking commuter who canNOT stand cyclists who break traffic laws (no matter how harmless and justifiable), as it makes the rest of us look bad. I also bike defensively and never ride into an intersection until I make eye contact w/ the driver of car taking a turn against me.

That said, please explain to me how, if I'm in my biking lane and proceed to the stop line at a red light, I'd be jumping in front of anyone other than another bike in my lane. Are you suggesting I stop in the bike lane behind the last car in the rightmost car lane? Or are you suggesting I bike in the car lane (taking up the whole lane) so as not to be a 'line cutter'? You don't sound like the type of driver who acknowledges that bikers own a lane, regardless of speed. So which is it?

Posted by PCE | September 8, 2007 5:58 PM

@38 "In any collision involving a ped or bike, regardless of fault, mandate automatic no-fault suspension of the drivers' license"

This is the law in many European countries: hit a bike or pedestrian, lose your license (temporarily) on the spot. The idea is that peds and bikes are risking their skin. The possibility of a temporary license suspension is an effective way to remind drivers that the stakes are real.

@38 "create suggested bike routes on side streets"
Turning accidents (such as this one) and backing out of driveways are the major causes of harm to bikers. In some *limited* cases, side streets offer less overall risk to bikers. But this is unusual. Arterials are generally safer for bikes, because there is less cross traffic. The people who make bike maps more or less know what they're doing.

Posted by Erik Nilsson | September 8, 2007 6:16 PM

@53 "I've seen a cyclist hit a 4 year old girl"

My son, when he was 4, was hit and knocked down by a bike on the sidewalk, while standing next to me, by a bike. This happened a few hundred feet from the incident you saw. There are lots of irresponsible bikes. I'd say that there is probably a somewhat higher percentage irresponsible bikers than car drivers, but I have no data so I'm just guessing.

Irresponsible bike riders are a hazard to themselves, but more importantly, they are a hazard to me on my bike or on foot. I see no reason for bikers to close ranks and pretend that dangerous biking behavior is not a problem.

Anyway, bikes are safest when riding in a way that does not frighten or disturb drivers. Think of drivers as large, dangerous mammals. Do not provoke or startle them.

Posted by Erik Nilsson | September 8, 2007 6:33 PM

Here's why a rule making the faultless driver lose makes sense: This rule works in Europe where it is law in some countries and the accident rates are way, way lower. QED. Reality should speak more loudly than any theories you or I could propose.

2. Generally the vehile criver IS at fault but you can't prove it in a court of law (or this costs money (do you know what an accident reconstruction epxert costs?), or its too drawn out (try 2-6 years for a result) or the juries (full of drivers not cyclists) are prejudiced against cyclists. The idea that a fault based system works is an illusion. The only way to make most at fault drivers pay is through a no fault system. YEs, very unfair, but better than the carnage.

3. The natural advantage of a weighty vehicle v. a bike is a pretty good guarantee & incentive to help prevent bike negligence. See: Darwin. Self interest works here to help make cyclists ride safely. Self interest is not currently present for drivers in the flawed fault based system so you have to put it in place through a no fault system.

Re: sarcastic reply concerning licensing bikes: Anyone using the streets should have a license. No "special rights" for anyone. A holier than everyone attitude hurts the cause of cyclists, BTW. You want more from the drivers, you gotta give something, too.

To whoever said the side street route would not work at this particular intersection.

You could be right -- but this particular perhaps can be fixed ( for gosh sakes, let's fix the bumpy pavement and if one stop sign is a problem maybe we can let it not apply to bikes--worth checking out) and anyway this does not change the general conclusion that the suggested bike routes should be on parallel, longish, low-traffic-volume side streets and not on arterials that unsafely mix bikes with vehicles and where the bikes have to stop all the time.

Also note I said "suggested bike routes" -- cyclists would retain all rights to go on arterials.

Creating bike arterials along single-family-home side streets that parallel the main vehicular arterials is giving something more to bikes, not taking something away. If there are some places where this can't be done, then okay.

Posted by Cleve | September 8, 2007 6:35 PM

Take the lane. Keep to the right unless taking the lane is necessary or beneficial to safety. If you're going downhill in town & hit 25+ mph you can keep up with traffic. When I fly down Harvard I pull out into traffic. It makes you more visible & you're not holding up traffic anyways.

The converse to this rule is don't go back to the bike lane to pass cars on the right at high speed.

Posted by daniel | September 8, 2007 6:53 PM

@63 "That's like putting trains and cars next to each other"

Actually, putting trains and cars next to each other works pretty well. The problem comes when roads cross train tracks. Unless you want to build a whole separate road network for bikes, bikes will still have to cross all of the busy roads. The difference will be that they are crossing where they aren't expected.

I don't personally like riding in bike lanes. They seem so small. But the best data for the US is from Portland, where the only obvious interpretation of the data is that bike lanes reduce the absolute number of bike injuries while increasing ridership.

A perception of safety or danger is almost worthless. You need to gather data to find out if something helps or hurts. My perception is that bike lanes are less safe than the same street without a bike lane, but the data strongly suggests otherwise.

Posted by Erik Nilsson | September 8, 2007 7:45 PM

Bryce Lewis

That's the name of somebody's son who died at Fuhrman and Eastlake.

There is a natural temptation to blame Bryce for what happened, at least a little in our heads, because it helps us believe that what happened wasn't random, and by doing the right thing (wearing a helmet, riding more cautiously, whatever) we can escape his fate.

Or, blame the driver, which makes it easier to believe that if we just drive carefully, we'll never be in his place.

The fact is, everyone makes driving/riding errors. Some more than others, surely, but we all make mistakes. By luck, we escape horrible consequences of ours and others' mistakes. It's mostly just luck.

When there are more bikes on the street, drivers are more used to them. When bikers have been riding in traffic a few years, they learn how to do it better. (I suspect bikers who have drivers' licenses have fewer street accidents, because they better understand how cars are operated.) So more bikes on the street makes things temporarily worse and ultimately better.

But the structure of the roads, the signage, and other factors of the environment have a huge impact on accident rates. Broken pavement results in more bikes swerving. Bike boxes at intersections make bikes much more visible to turning drivers. Bikers with training are less of a danger to themselves and others. And people yakking on cell phones are often oblivious to their surroundings.

We don't have to pretend every accident has a simple cause. We don't have to pretend that every person who is in an accident brought it on themselves. We can reduce the accident rate for everyone if we can get SDOT to do things that are known to work and try things that have reasonable evidence that they can work.

Posted by Erik Nilsson | September 8, 2007 8:52 PM


tsm: Sorry I didn't notice your question earlier. "I stand corrected; my apologies for any confusion," quoth she who put the C in quality.

The Stranger is growing up right before our eyes, and I, I just feel so... So useless. Will they need me any more? Will they call?

Posted by elenchos | September 8, 2007 10:07 PM


Posted by YOUR DEGENERATE SLUT OF A SISTER | September 9, 2007 1:37 AM

There but for the grace of god go I.

My heart goes out to Bryce Lewis' family, and to the tuck driver who killed him.

To all who debate the various rules of the road, I say watch out for cars, watch out for trucks, and watch out for bikes. I don't want to be killed by someone who was on the phone, or who was drinking their latte, or who just assumed that traffic is predictable.

Posted by SeattleGuy | September 9, 2007 2:54 AM

There are dicks in trucks and dicks on bikes. Once again Dan (who should be the mayor or governor because he is fucking smart AND has common fucking sense, but he can't be because he writes a sex column)applies logic and evaluates the evidence.

Posted by Natalya | September 9, 2007 4:22 AM

big honkin speed bumps tend to slow both cars and bikes down...
bike tags might help and, dare I say it, cameras for red light runners really slow people down.

Posted by MSW | September 9, 2007 5:55 AM

Wow! A lot of comments. No one will see this, but why don't they just build a network of above the street bridges for bikers? Like a monorail for bike riders. hehe. Wouldn't that be cool? Then no one would get killed...unless they fell off the bridge...I supposed they could put railing around it. It could be like doubledecker sidewalks: top for bikes bottom for walkers. Now that would be weird!

Posted by Kristin Bell | September 9, 2007 8:54 AM

Also, cyclists need to have the sense to look out for vehicles turning right, into their bike paths. If you're moving too fast to do this, then SLOW DOWN.

It's not rocket science, and it's not a violation of your rights to ask you to exercise caution and be responsible.

Posted by Gomez | September 9, 2007 10:25 AM

I am a cyclist. I have been shouted at, spat at, flipped off, cut off, almost squished by a motorcycle that sidled up next to me and a parked car and almost squished me into large truck to my left. Last winter I broke a bone in my left hand while commuting home from work when I crashing headlong into a chain link fence placed obliquely across the Myrtle Edwards Trail by the Sculpture Garden construction crew. There was no warning that the invisible fence was there--no flashing sandwich board, no reflective cone, not even a measly piece flagging tape. I will not be re-upping my SAM membership this year, since I have already allocated the fee to medical copays. Yes Mud Baby is sad that one of these riders was killed, and the other one was severely injured. But mostly Mud Baby is angry that the City of Seattle has done close to diddly squat in 20 years I have lived here to improve conditions for cyclists. I have ridden in the sharerows on Stone Way and I think they suck compared to the full bore bike lanes that should have been painted there. There is NO NIGHT LIGHTING WHATSOEVER along the Myrtle Edwards/Pier 91 trail other than the red neon "&" in the Sculpture Garden, the glaring behemoth of the grain loading terminal and the faint ambient glow of the city. (Gee, do you think that had something to do with a woman getting RAPED in there a few weeks ago?!) Mud Baby is also extremely angry at STUPID cyclists who ride on our dangerous streets without helmets, night lights, bells and bright, visible clothing. Ditto with respect to joggers and pedestrians who lollygag on bike trails at night in dark clothing. ALL OF YOU PISS ME OFF!!! We need to DEMAND better from the City than its limp-dick efforts to create what Greg "FAT BOY" Nickels make piggy, squeally noises about when he spewing forth his "vision" to create a world class bike trail system here. Judging by his Pillsbury Dough Boy persona, he hasn't hauled his fat ass onto a bike saddle in the past 40 years. Meanwhile, we cyclists need to PROTECT OURSELVES AND PEDESTRIANS BY MAKING OURSELVES AS VISIBLE AS POSSIBLE--
PHYSICALLY AND POLITICALLY. Unless we do, more cyclists will die. OK, Mud Baby is done ranting now.

Posted by Mud Baby | September 9, 2007 11:46 AM

I'm a cyclist who commutes every work day, but I have to say from this description that it sounds like the cyclist is at fault here.

Unless I got this wrong, both the truck and the bicycles were northbound on Eastlake. The truck was going slow and turning right onto Fuhrman, and the bicycles were heading straight northbound to go over the bridge.

If so, it was the responsibility of the bicyclists to navigate the intersection without crossing the path of any cars in the same lane of traffic. That means not passing on the right, ever. If traffic is going slower than bicycles, you don't take the bicycle lane on the right, you TAKE THE LANE behind the slow-moving traffic, slowing down if necessary to avoid running into the back of traffic. Even if you're going slower than traffic, you don't stay in a right-side bike lane unless you're turning right. You look back, negotiate with oncoming traffic, merge to the lane, and pass through the intersection.

Now, bad bicycle lane design is part of the problem here. The lane should never stay on the right through an intersection, but should merge with the right car lane or move left as others have already mentioned. I haven't passed that way northbound, so I'm not sure, but I think the bridge forces the bike lane to stay on the right, because there's not enough space after the intersection to move right again. If that's the case, it's still up to the cyclists to get in the lane behind the right-turning truck, but the bad lane design and connection to the bridge makes bad cyclist decisions more likely.

Any cyclists out there who are going through intersections on the right or passing vehicles on the right need to stop doing it immediately, and if they can't figure out how to negotiate intersections without doing that, enroll in a bicycle safety course to learn how. This accident could have been avoided by good cycling practice, regardless of whether the cyclists end up being legally at fault or not.

Posted by Cascadian | September 9, 2007 1:39 PM

three comments:
1: re automatic suspension in Europe -- thanks -- as it works there we should just adopt it here.

Of course, despite this proof, we won't, and isntead we will process bike safety for a year or so then adopt a hodgepodge of incoherent partial measures that do very little except to largely preserve the status quo and keep all stakeholders satisfied esp. car owners and drivers.

that's our car-lovin' Seattle Way.

2: bike routes on side streets -- yes, cross traffic and turning vehicles are dangers, but since arterials have so much more of this this means we should put the bike routes on the side streets.

Arterials have cars turning left and right that cross the bike paths, busses pulling in and out of stops, peds that cross the bike lanes, vehicles cross the bike laes to park then fling open their doors, vehicles going into and out of parking lots and garages, large cement and garbage trucks and so on. Side streets don't so much. QED put the bike routes on side streets.

3: whether or not folks who plan bike lanes knwo what they are doing:

I don't buy it.

I don't think any of us should accept staff conclusions in any area (Iraq, the budget, transportation) without question.

Here the planners are telling cyclists to ride in a bike lane while they are telling garbage truck drivers who have large blind spots to cross across the same bike lane.

At the same time, they are planning for a future of more traffic (the growth is coming, there are huge condos being built in the Eastlake corridor and SLU) and (hopefully) more bike riders.

The inevitable -- planned -- result is more turning-acrost-bike-lane accidents.
WE know the cyclists will lose. As a result the average folks who don't ride bikes now won't become bike riders in the future. It's just too damn dangerous to ride in this kind of traffic.
So: our intended design will cause more accidents, create more congestion, and cause autos/more global warming.

Seems like a _bad_ plan.

Posted by Cleve | September 9, 2007 1:39 PM

Ok this should be a call to action for all the concerned. I am remiss in not calling SDOT on this intersection in that, as primarily a driver and frequently at this very intersection, I knew that this set-up would be trouble the day they put in the bike lane. I will call tomorrow and email requesting that they remove the lane immediately and redesign the intersection.

I'm sure there are other bad intersections or roadway configurations that need improvement forthwith - please let them know directly and if you have the energy (from not stopping at red lights :D) contact the bike groups, the ped groups, your favorite city councilmember, etc.

Part of the blame for this rests with SDOT - and at this time I see no reason to look for blame in anybody else and cause hurt to the living and the friends of the dead - but SDOT should get the Chinese treatment.

Posted by whatever | September 9, 2007 2:21 PM

Riding without a helmet is like barebacking Lindsey Lohan. Fun, but a very very very bad idea.

Posted by Big Sven | September 9, 2007 3:35 PM


By "Chinese treatment," do you mean summarily executed? That would certainly clear a path at the top of a few departments.

Posted by chas Redmond | September 9, 2007 5:16 PM

of course not - only after a fair show trial - they should be treated as fairly as they treat citizens

Posted by whatever | September 9, 2007 6:30 PM

And in the real world people are still being maimed and killed everyday in a war that the pro-life asshole George W.Bush started with the support of America\'s favorite cocksucker Dan Savage. Here is an excerpt from Dan\'s article \"Say Yes To War\" October 2002

In the meantime, invading and rebuilding Iraq will not only free the Iraqi people, it will also make the Saudis aware of the consequences they face if they continue to oppress their own people while exporting terrorism and terrorists. The War on Iraq will make it clear to our friends and enemies in the Middle East (and elsewhere) that we mean business: Free your people, reform your societies, liberalize, and democratize... or we\'re going to come over there, remove you from power, free your people, and reform your societies for ourselves.

Posted by ... | September 9, 2007 8:49 PM


Thanks for being mostly impartial on this. But like another commenter said: you've got a kid now dude, wear an effing helmet, ok?

Not to mention how bummed a lot of us would be without your writing.

Posted by mookie | September 9, 2007 9:20 PM

@81 "I haven't passed that way northbound, so I'm not sure, but I think the bridge forces the bike lane to stay on the right, because there's not enough space after the intersection to move right again."

The bicycle lane aligns with a dedicated bike lane, separate from both cars and pedestrians, over the University Bridge. The rightmost car lane permits both straight and turning traffic. There really isn't any other place to put the bike lane without radically rethinking the whole intersection. (A bike box would work, but of course SDOT doesn't do bike boxes, perhaps because they were invented after the Great War.)

Completely separate lanes for bikes are preferable in the case of the bridge, because the bridge deck is a huge steel mesh. You could drop a small dog on the bridge, and it would go right through and hit the water. (OK, a very small dog.) Riding this deck is a challenge. It's like riding over big, wet snakes. I've done it, but I don't like it, and many bikers just would not do it, and would be on the sidewalk, where they don't belong either.

One thing I think you are confused about, and I think many posters are confused about, is the difference between the legal responsibilities of bikers and what a wise biker should do.

A comparison with pedestrians is instructive. We all know you should look both ways before you cross the street, but if a car hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk, it's pretty much always the driver's fault. The car driver can't say, "the pedestrian didn't look both ways." The pedestrian should look both ways, but the pedestrian does not have the responsibility to look both ways. (This is true in part because some pedestrians, blind ones for example, are not able to reliably look both ways or even one way.)

In the case of bikes, the wise course of action is to assume that all drivers fail to see you, and everyone may decide to turn at the last possible second without putting on a turn signal. But failing to make these conservative assumptions does not make it the biker's fault for being hit by a turning car. In the normal case, if the turning car hits the bike, then (IANAL, but) it's the car driver's fault. It's only the biker's fault if the car was correctly signaling their turn, and the bike hits the car.

As far as overtaking on the right, I do it all the time, and I'll keep doing it. I see no reason to add 20 minutes to my commute waiting for stationary cars I wish weren't there anyway. (Even though I am sometimes one of those cars, enviously watching the bikes go by as I sit in traffic.) But I'll also continue to do it conservatively. I do not and will not blast into an intersection making optimistic assumptions about who will turn and who will not. I ride through the Bryce's intersection twice a day. His accident will not change how I ride the intersection, because the way I ride it now adequately balances what I stand to gain against what I stand to lose. I pass cars that are not moving, or are moving slowly and have nowhere to turn right against me. I assume any car that is not clearly headed straight through the intersection is driven by a tourist from Boise who will turn right at the last possible second. I ride day and night with a big, honking flashing light that is as bright as the sun and makes people wince if they are standing next to it. I protect against knowable risks.

Posted by Erik Nilsson | September 9, 2007 10:58 PM

1. Wear a helmet and eye protection, always.
2. Ride defensively. Besides cars, always look for pedestrians - they don't look, either, and can be victims as well.
3. The truck in this case would have had to come almost to a stop at this sharp right turn. The bike riders in this case should have gritted their teeth and taken a brief pause. I feel sadness for the families of the riders, but I am also feel bad for the truck driver; he was a victim here as well.

Posted by Bob | September 10, 2007 7:39 AM

As they say let's try to make something positive come out of this. Are there other intersections as badly designed as this one? If so, tell us. The Stranger should a investigative report on what intersections are the most dangerous and why.

Posted by whatever | September 10, 2007 9:02 AM
I am also feel bad for the truck driver; he was a victim here as well.

Really? You mean his blood is smeared into the grooved pavement leading up to that intersection? He's dead on a slab somewhere? He was crushed to death by a dumptruck? No? Then not a victim.

Automobiles kill people. Having cars on the road turns the world into a place where you can be killed horribly simply for not paying attention to what's going on around you at the wrong moment. There is no opt-out: refusing to use an automobile doesn't mean you can't be killed by one.

Ultimately, you're either okay with that fact or you're not. If you are okay with it, nothing else matters because your basic position is that car/pedestrian or car/bicycle accidents are an inevitable consequence of an inalterable reality: cars. People who are killed by cars are like people who drown in the ocean; the thing that killed them is a given and the only question was whether they took ever possible precaution in the face of it. It's only ever a horrible tragedy. What it is not, to people who believe that cars are a fixed component of human society, is the inevitable result of an immoral choice made by hundreds of millions of people.

If you're in the "cars are like the ocean" camp, then when a dump kills a cyclist you think, "Oh, it's so hard to pay see bikers when they're zipping around on the road like that."

To someone who isn't in the "cars are like the ocean" camp, the first question that pops into your head is, "Why do people think it's okay to operate these things with such regularity that they aren't 100% engaged every time they get behind the wheel?"

That's the basic line of division, and never the twain shall meet.

Posted by Judah | September 10, 2007 9:15 AM

I do wear a helmet. I don't think anyone else does.

Posted by Dan Savage | September 10, 2007 9:42 AM

There is so much mis-information in this thread and the PI's SoundOff thread that it's just amazing (and sad).

I'll just say this: the average cyclist is more aware of his/her surroundings than the average motorist. I (and I'm sure others) can point you to plenty of intersections right now that you can go and stand at and witness numerous drivers blow through lights, talking on their phones, etc. And if you're (un)lucky you'll get to see an accident (car-on-car accidents rarely make the news like this car-bike story).

There are some intersections in this city in which you could place nude celebrities on all four corners and many drivers would never notice.

Posted by stinkbug | September 10, 2007 10:17 AM

I love bicyclists who don't wear helmets, especially all of those really fit ones I see downtown working as bike messengers. Every time I see one of them, pedaling in and out of traffic, ignoring stop signs and red lights and generally acting as if being on a bicycle means that they're invulnerable I think "There's where my next set of kidneys is coming from". I mean really, these guys and gals are ideal organ donors and we should all be grateful to them and indicate our gratitude by buying them an espresso when they're hanging out at Monorail Espresso while discreetly inquiring as to their blood type.

The problem with bicyclists is that there are just as many people on bicycles who are useless asshats as there are people in cars who are useless asshats, as witness the guy who ran into me on the Burke Gilman last July because he was going too fast around a blind curve, head down over his aerobars and on the wrong side of the trail. He slammed into me head on, bending the frame of my bike beyond repair and breaking my wrist. But what makes so many bicyclists really annoying though is their assumption that their asshattery is somehow lessened by the fact that they've got a bicycle between their legs. Admittedly the damage they can do is a lot less than they can do in a car, but that's not due to any reduction in asshattery, that's just physics.

Posted by wile_e_quixote | September 10, 2007 11:29 AM
Admittedly the damage they can do is a lot less than they can do in a car, but that's not due to any reduction in asshattery, that's just physics.

No, actually, that is due to a reduction in asshattery. You have to be a much bigger asshat to get behind the wheel of a vehicle that is likely to kill or maim someone in an accident than you do to climb onto a bicycle.

To put it another way:

"Someone came into my store yesterday and robbed me with a pointy stick. He acted like he was somehow better than someone who robs people with a shotgun. Of course, I was a lot less likely to be killed by the pointy stick, but that's not because the guy with the pointy stick made a conscious choice to use a weapon that was less likely to kill me, that's just physics."

Posted by Judah | September 10, 2007 12:09 PM

I used to bike downhill from Rossland, BC to Trail, BC.

With no helmet.

On a racing bike.

Tucked. For low air resistance.

I frequently was going faster than the cars ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 10, 2007 12:30 PM

oh, and @38 "do not route suggested bike lanes on major arterials" ...


You're just encouraging accidents.

Hey, how come they're not enforcing the ban on talking on cell phones while operating a motor vehicle (car/SUV/truck)?

Posted by Will in Seattle | September 10, 2007 12:34 PM

Judah, I don't think people bike out of a conscious choice to save pedestrians, or to save the planet, etc.. If anything, that is just one of many reasons. There are a lot of other motivations, including but not limited to: they think it is cooler, they like exercise, they live in the city, they had a nice neighbor who was really into biking, etc. They are not bikers because they are good people, although there are hopefully some positive externalities to them being bikers (less CO2). This does not diminish whether or not they are also "asshats". Plus, most people have a few things that make them feel good about themselves, but do other things that are harmful. Thus some environmentalist friends of mine eat organic but drive all the time; others bike but eat meat, etc. We all still manage to feel self-righteous though.

P.S. I can't believe this thread is still going!

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 10, 2007 12:36 PM

P.P.S. I just wanted to have the 100th comment.

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 10, 2007 12:37 PM


The text-messaging ban takes effect Jan. 1 2008. The cell-phone law will be enforced starting in July 2008.

Posted by stinkbug | September 10, 2007 12:46 PM
They are not bikers because they are good people

I didn't say they were bikers because they were good people. Nor did I say -- or even suggest -- that biking makes them better people. What I said was that the decision to bike is morally superior to the decision to drive. Because it is. That doesn't mean a cyclist is morally superior to a driver: Bush could spend the rest of his life on a bike and still be a mass murderer. It just means that, on very specific terms, cycling is morally superior to driving and that the decision to bicycle is more moral than the decision to drive.

Posted by Judah | September 10, 2007 1:31 PM

Geez, and riders wonder why lots of folks think bicyclists are self-righteous pricks....

Note to Judah - people used to get killed back in the days of the horse and buggy, too.

With convenience comes risk, deal with it.

Posted by Schwinn | September 10, 2007 1:38 PM


Interesting. Maybe this was covered this in Phil. 101, but to me the issue of morality depends on intent. If the biker is biking purely because he or she thinks it is cooler, it is almost coincidental that he is biking, and not morally superior.

Question: Is walking more moral than biking? (since it is less likely to kill someone)

Furthermore, maybe I should not even be having this discussion because I find the whole concept of morality, at least in this context, questionable...

Posted by Jude Fawley | September 10, 2007 1:38 PM

jude when you used to tear down harvard and jumped onto the sidewalk and back after running the red light, you were morally superior to an ambulance driver.

BTW if you really drove the way you described it, you were putting peds at some big risk - but it remains the fact that you were morally superior.

Posted by whatever | September 10, 2007 3:08 PM
Note to Judah - people used to get killed back in the days of the horse and buggy, too.

They did. But if you think nobody was aware of or complained about the dangers created by fast-moving buggies, you're mistaken. London newspapers complained about rich people running over children with their buggies during the Restoration. Dickens wrote a short essay about it.

With convenience comes risk, deal with it.

Well I don't have much choice, do I?

Posted by Judah | September 10, 2007 5:34 PM

@92 @96 @103 and so on

1. Biking is not a priori morally superior to driving. That is just nonsense, and I suspect most adults can recognize why, so I'm not going to belabor the point. However, I suspect the "biking is morally superior" mentality is an important source of dangerous biking behavior. If my actions are a prior morally superior, than I am justified in otherwise morally unjustifiable actions relative to morally inferior cars. This way leads to a Nietzsche-esque hall of mirrors and a lot of traffic accidents.

2. "With convenience comes risk"
I reject the notion that you are allowed to impose risk on me for your convenience. Want more convenience? Take your own risks.

But, in fact, the reverse is often true, and we should insist on it. New technologies should be both safer and more convenient. Jetliners crash less than prop planes. Modern elevators are faster and far less dangerous than what they replaced. Schwinn, are you literally in favor of a world that becomes progressively more dangerous in the pursuit of an elusive convenience?

In fact, as city densities increase, cars are increasingly inconvenient. When I'm really short on time, I ride my bike to work, because with backups on Eastlake and time spent to find parking, it's faster to bike than drive.

Posted by Erik Nilsson | September 10, 2007 9:02 PM

I was an eyewitness to this accident which actually occured on Furhman, not Eastlake as many writers seem to suppose. The two cyclists (both 19), Bryce Lewis and Caleb, had just turned onto Furhman, when the dump truck turned right just after and struck the cyclists. I was astounded to see this unfold and felt no sense of danger just prior the turn. Once the truck turned onto Furman, there was not escape for the cyclists. The truck driver was right up against the curb and so there was no room for Bryce and Caleb to maneuver.

I am not exactly sure of the truck's position before it turned. I can only reason that since it was right up against the curb, it must have turned from an outside lane. It is impossible for a truck to be up against the curb, then take a 90 degree angle turn, because it would not be possible for the rear wheels to clear the curb. And I can assure you the truck driver had good speed on the turn when it plowed into the cyclists.

The cyclists and truck driver might have both been suffering from a sense of false security just prior to the accident. I say this because a flagman was stopping northbound traffic on Eastlake and allowing bikes and pedestrians to go around a blocked sidewalk. The flagman waved me through (I was jogging North on Eastlake), then I saw him wave Bryce and Caleb through. I heard them laugh as they passed me. They were having fun, just enjoying ride on a beautiful day with the northbound lane to themselves. The only vehicle Northbound at that time was the dump truck. I'm thinking that the dump truck driver, seeing that traffic was stopped, had a false sense of security and did not bother to looking into his right mirror to see the cyclists coming up on his right in the bike lane.

I saw the cyclists struck immediately after the turn, but did not see the aftermath until I arrived at the intersection about 5 seconds after the accident. I arrived to find Caleb (the other cyclist) shouting "Oh my God" Help Me Help Me Help Me," and to see Bryce obviously dead from a head wound lying in an impossible position on the roadway.

I saw the truck driver get out of the truck and witness the aftermath. He had no words. He saw a scene that will undoubtedly haunt him (and me) for the rest of his life.

I've noticed that the reaction that my friends have when I tell them this story is that the cyclists were at fault. But as a runner and cyclist, I've become very good at sensing danger over my 45 years of life and I felt none. I did not see this coming. So do not be quick to assign blame. I'm thinking that assigning blame is convenient for people not wanting to admit that it can happen to them too. I think the appropriate response is positive action (how can the interesection be fixed?) and compassion. As a father of an 11-year-old boy, this hurts deeply to think about this 19-year-old, just moving away from home struck dead.

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