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Friday, December 7, 2007

re: Am I Wrong About the SLUT Tracks?

posted by on December 7 at 13:14 PM

Yes. The slut hurt me the worst. And I’ve been hit by cars.

It was September 2006. I was riding into work after tutoring—barreling down Harrison after being held at one of the painfully long lights on Fairview Avenue North. The hill is steep; I typically reach between twenty-five and thirty miles per hour. New grooves in the pavement, for the streetcar’s eminent birth, grabbed my front tire.

I hit the ground, left thigh first. The handlebars from my rapidly disintegrating bicycle jabbed powerfully into my ribcage, near to my heart. I heard a pop. I was only wearing a t-shirt, so my bare flesh met the pavement. I finally came to halt, having slid the length of a city block.

My rib was broken; my arms were shredded. My left thigh swelled to fill my normally baggy pants. You can bleed a fifth of your blood into the thigh—creating a trapped lake that slowly crushes into oblivion the nerves and eventually the muscles of the leg. It’s what almost happened to me; only aggressive icing and elevation saved me from needing emergency surgery.

I should have gone to the hospital. I knew I should go. I didn’t. My insurance, run by a for-profit company based in Texas, successfully weaseled out of paying for all of my cycling injuries in the past, treatments they are under contract to provide. A trip to the emergency room costs thousands; my total annual salary, as a graduate student, is about twenty-four thousand, before tax.

It took me months to heal. So, yeah, as a bicyclist in Lake Union I say fuck the Slut.

The red one is pretty, however.

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So because you don't wear proper attire and are scared of making a claim on your insurance and hence refuse neccesary medical care, we need to avoid building mass/rapid transit?

Sorry dude, you're the dumbass. Stay out of the ruts, duh...

Posted by ecce homo | December 7, 2007 1:35 PM

I always feel way less safe on a bike with no gear, than being on a motorcycle all geared up ready for a crash.

Do they make armor for bicyclists? That'd be cool.

Posted by Jake | December 7, 2007 1:36 PM

I think we should just tie ecce h. down on the tracks and use him as a cloak to keep us from spilling.

Just my humble opinion.

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 7, 2007 1:38 PM

You have shitty insurance. You hit a patch in the ground that caused you to crash. Something else could have easily have happened to you. Say, a bird swooped in front of you and caused you to hit a car. Does that mean cars and birds should be removed from the city too? This is not a valid argument. Perhaps you should spend some of your grad student time revisiting Logic 101.

Posted by areyoufingkiddingme | December 7, 2007 1:49 PM

We need bike lanes that do not have tracks in them.

We need to stop pretending that bikes can mix with cars or with tracks.

Exhibit A: Europe. (Yes, secretly I am a Social Democrat and it is in "vogue" to cite Europe. Europe, Europe and more Europe, I say).

They have LOTS of tram tracks and LOTS of bikes.

How do they do it?
Most bike routes are physicially separated. From autos and tram tracks.

Where they are not, there is good signage.

Also you get your health care as part of a national plan instead of the silly insurance-lawsuits-afraid-to-sue system we have here.

PS -- that new Ref. 67 we passed should make it easier to sue your insurer for not paying up -- you get triple damages. Plus attorneys fees (instead of the 1/3 deduction coming from your recovery).

That's the hammer. Use it!

Also you can try to sue the city for negligent design. Putting trolley tracks in a right lane, with no warning signs???? Hmmmmmm.....was your accident more than three years ago???

Posted by unPC | December 7, 2007 1:53 PM


The tracks are there permanently, which hardly makes what happened to Jonathan a freak accident. Also, apparently, the problem can be fixed. Do you have a problem with that?

Posted by keshmeshi | December 7, 2007 1:53 PM


Posted by Mr. Poe | December 7, 2007 1:56 PM

Jonathan - and you didn't sue the f*@% out of the city? Shame on you! True you didn't build the poorly designed thing in the first place, but you do have a responsibility to speak out and stand up when things go wrong.

Part of the reason that bad things get built over and over again in this city is that no one in Seattle stands up and takes action. They'd rather slink off to their hole and pray their leg doesn't fall off from life-threatening injuries - or whatever.

The city transportation department has basically said it needs a body count before it perceives a street condition as dangerous, even when the danger is apparent to the average moron. I've heard them say over and over again at public meetings when people raise issues about safety at various intersections that "their records show no collisions have occurred there, so therefore they don't perceive this as a dangerous intersection."

But the fact is that collisions and accidents have happened, it's just that the victims never tell anyone and never report it. Join the club, Jonathan.

** I wonder how many other unreported serious accidents have already occurred on the SLUT tracks which no one has ever reported? Five? Ten? A dozen?

As far as the city is concerned, if something is never reported then it never happened. And you can't really blame them if they aren't getting the info that accidents are indeed happening, now can you?

Sorry you were hurt, Jonathan, and glad you lived. I hope next time you will get medical attention AND report the damned accident. And thank you for sharing your experience, even if it is a bit after the fact.

Posted by I am your mother | December 7, 2007 1:57 PM

Now, Will be nice.

We should at least give EH a fighting chance.

I say, tie him to a bicycle, then give him a gentle push down Harrison.

We'll position AreYouFuckingKiddingMe down at Westlake, ready to catch him.

Posted by COMTE | December 7, 2007 1:58 PM

@8: "Part of the reason that bad things get built over and over again in this city is that no one in Seattle stands up and takes action."

Of course, conversely, the reason a lot of good things don't get built is because you can't propose anything that doesn't offend a half-dozen special interest groups. Projects bleed to death by a thousand cuts as everyone attacks them for not meeting their own narrow objectives.

Posted by Orv | December 7, 2007 2:22 PM

I wasn't aware that safety was a "narrow objective."

It's obvious the SLUT tracks could have been designed to reduce the danger to a multi-modal use of the Westlake Avenue N. (i.e. trolley AND bikes AND cars, etc.) instead of being designed in a way that increases the danger for one of the multiple modes (bikes).

And the city could have installed the bike lane on 9th Avenue (or wherever its supposed to go) so that it opened and was available at the same time the SLUT started running, rather than being scheduled to be available a YEAR later.

The issue is not that the trolley shouldn't have been built (although that's another can of worms). It's that it should have been built using the best practices available - which in fact were presented to they city, who apparently blew them off.

Anybody care to imagine what's going to happen the first time a bicyclist wipes on the tracks and is run over and crushed to death by either a car or the SLUT?

First of all it's going to be shut down as the protests start blocking its route. Then the consultant studies will start as will the lawsuits. And eventually the tracks will be ripped up and moved to where they should have been in the first place - all on your tax dollars.

Why? Because this is the Seattle process - never build something correctly the first time if you can f*$@ it up first and then have to go back and do it over.

The Stranger should start a contest: "Who will be the first bicyclist killed by the SLUT?"

Sad and tragic, but predictable.

Posted by I am your mother | December 7, 2007 2:38 PM

@1: The SLUT is not rapid, not is it any more mass than a bus, and for the cost of it we could have bought 100 buses, give or take.

Posted by lorax | December 7, 2007 2:40 PM

@12: But we'd have had nowhere to put the the 100 buses unless we expanded the maintenance center. Which would cost a hell of a lot more.

@11: There were tracks on Terry long before the SLUT, and inattentive bicyclists (including myself) got caught in them and fell over. At which point they/I learned to ride on other streets and/or be careful on the streets with tracks. Not a big deal.

A bigger deal: Let's get the bike lane on the %*&((^% other side of parking so more people aren't scared to ride in the city.

Posted by Steve | December 7, 2007 3:45 PM

@9 - facing forward or facing backwards?

I can get behind that if he's facing backwards ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | December 7, 2007 4:15 PM

i just made a sandwich. mayo on one side, peanut butter on the other side, and pickles in the middle.

Posted by derrickito | December 7, 2007 11:11 PM

The group "Seattle Likes Bikes" is organizing a S.L.U.T. protest ride on December 12th:

What bicyclists are asking for with respect to the S.L.U.T tracks is fairly minimal, and eminently reasonable. Portland reportedly experienced in "huge spike" in bicyclist accidents after their first streetcar line opened, but their planners learned from that experience, and subsequent streetcars were designed with more consideration for the considerable damage they could do to other users of the same street right-of-way, particularly bicyclists.

Seattle should be paying attention, frankly, and they *will* do so. The only question is when.

I sincerely hope it is sooner rather than later.

Posted by JohnCToddJr | December 8, 2007 12:13 AM

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