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  1. #1
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    Article in The Stranger (Seattle) on a bicyclist death and fixies

    http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=322254

    The above link is to an article published in today's (9/20/07) edition of the Stranger, an alternative newspaper in Seattle. The article describes a recent traffic accident in Seattle resulting in the injury of one cyclist and the death of another. The article also discusses fixies and issues related to riding fixies in traffic and steep hills.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

  2. #2
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Here's the intersection:

    Eastlake and Fuhrman

    I know the area well - I used to go to UW just to the north of University bridge and I came through this intersection all the time from the University bridge, turning left onto Fuhrman.

    It sounds like a right hook, with the cyclist to the right of the garbage truck and the truck gunning it on a right turn from eastlake to fuhrman. I very much doubt that this has much to do with fixies. It is more to do with inattentive drivers - I can imagine that the garbage man was late to on his route through the neighborhoods on Fuhrman and was driving a bit more recklessly than usual - combined with overly agressive cyclists. I'm glad they marked the deaths of those riders. It will serve as a reminder for all road users to try to be as defensive and attentive as possible.

    And I very much doubt a helmet would have helped here either. My $.02.

    1... 2... 3... Full A&S scrum!!!
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 09-20-07 at 11:45 AM.
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  3. #3
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    Bryce Lewis was a close friend of mine. We went to the same school in Colorado. I had left him a phone message a few days before and he never got back to me. When I heard from a friend, I almost couldn't believe it.
    Bryce worked at a bike shop here, and commuted from his home to the shop several miles by bike, I don't believe he ever had any accident worth note here in Denver. I never rode with him other than a couple times from our school to his house which was only a few blocks away, and I don't recall him being particular reckless, if anything he handled his bikes better and with more confidence than I can. I seriously doubt the idea of him going 30 (around a right hand corner no less) could be true. Although I lived in Seattle for a while, I'm not too familiar with that intersection, I primarily rode around the southern side of the city, and would use my car when I was going up to that area.
    I don't think the fixed gear contributed to this accident anymore than the coaster brake on my old roadster contributed to my accident just about a year ago (also in Seattle). In fact, I think it's kind of cheap (maybe even insulting to me) that they'd use this accident as way to debate the safety of fixed gear bicycles.
    Last edited by Mos6502; 09-20-07 at 03:34 PM.

  4. #4
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mos6502 View Post
    Bryce Lewis was a close friend of mine. We went to the same school in Colorado. I had left him a phone message a few days before and he never got back to me. When I heard from a friend, I almost couldn't believe it.
    Bryce worked at a bike shop here, and commuted from his home to the shop several miles by bike, I don't believe he ever had any accident worth note here in Denver. I never rode with him other than a couple times from our school to his house which was only a few blocks away, and I don't recall him being particular reckless, if anything he handled his bikes better and with more confidence than I can. I seriously doubt the idea of him going 30 (around a right hand corner no less) could be true. Although I lived in Seattle for a while, I'm not too familiar with that intersection, I primarily rode around the southern side of the city, and would use my car when I was going up to that area.
    I don't think the fixed gear contributed to this accident anymore than the coaster brake on my old roadster contributed to my accident just about a year ago (also in Seattle). In fact, I think it's kind of cheap (maybe even insulting to me) that they'd use this accident as way to debate the safety of fixed gear bicycles.
    I feel for you and the rest of Bryce's friends and loved ones.

    Cyclists can only be as careful as they know to be, and riding in a manner that avoids right hook situations is not common knowledge in the cycling world. So most cyclists don't know to do that. Most cyclists seem to ride as if they assume that as long as they are keeping right they can just keep on going, relatively oblivious to traffic around them, even if they are approaching and entering an intersection where "keeping right" means riding in space normally used by right turning traffic.

    Pick any intersection where bicycle traffic is fairly common and observe for an hour or so. Note how through cyclists are positioned as they approach the intersection, and count how many show any signs whatsoever of being aware of the potential precariousness of their situation. Do they look back? Do they move left? You will find that very few, if any, do either, and that most just blindly proceed along their trajectory. If someone is about to pass them and turn right, or some ahead is about to slow down and turn right, right in front of them, they are oblivious. And if same-direction is not present, they probably don't notice that, much less adjust for it by looking, and adjusting left to be more conspicuous, for oncoming traffic that might turn left in front of them. We need to get cyclists to learn to do this.

  5. #5
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head View Post
    Pick any intersection where bicycle traffic is fairly common and observe for an hour or so. Note how through cyclists are positioned as they approach the intersection, and count how many show any signs whatsoever of being aware of the potential precariousness of their situation. Do they look back? Do they move left? You will find that very few, if any, do either, and that most just blindly proceed along their trajectory. If someone is about to pass them and turn right, or some ahead is about to slow down and turn right, right in front of them, they are oblivious. And if same-direction is not present, they probably don't notice that, much less adjust for it by looking, and adjusting left to be more conspicuous, for oncoming traffic that might turn left in front of them. We need to get cyclists to learn to do this.
    While I somewhat agree... as I do have these habits... it sure irritates me that what you as a cyclist are doing is compensating for someone coming up behind you (where they can clearly see you better) and then making guesses based on what they might do.

    This is one of those things that just drives me nuts as it is due to motorists' not doing their job, that we have to be so darn cautious... just like peds being run over in the crosswalk while crossing with a green light... simply because some motorist did not look before they turned right on red.

    Yeah, I know we bear the burden, due to our vulnerability, but it just irks me that we let motorists do this to us.

  6. #6
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    I should also point out that the article contains factual faults, such as claiming that a fixed gear will go down hill faster than a bike with a freewheel - and there seems to be a lot of speculation and conjecture about the safety of fixed gear bikes but little actual info.

    I think I'd be willing to call this yellow journalism.

    More info:
    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/330848_fatal08.html
    "In the past three years, there have been two vehicle-pedestrian collisions and four vehicle-bike collisions at the intersection of Fuhrman Avenue East and Eastlake Avenue East...All the collisions involved vehicles turning into the path of the pedestrians or cyclists..."
    You think they should look into doing something about this by now???
    Last edited by Mos6502; 09-20-07 at 07:39 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member MrCjolsen's Avatar
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    A fixed gear bike with a brake is every bit as safe as a bike with a freewheel, if not more so. Moreover, there is no special skill in riding one other than remembering that you can't stand up and coast if your legs get tired. It probably took me about 30 seconds to figure out how to ride one and I didn't even have any trouble unclipping from a stop.

    If I have to choose between riding my geared Surly or my fixed gear bike in city traffic, I invariable choose the fixed gear because I feel as though I have much more control. I especially like it in wet weather because of the additional means I have of slowing or stopping the bike.

    A fixed gear bike will go slower down a hill. On my 27 speed Surly, I can get in my biggest gear and blast down a steep hill at 35-40 mph. But my fixed gear is limited to about 25 mph because my legs can't spin any faster. Usually I'm hitting the brakes before that.

    Also, if I don't use the brakes, I can still stop from 20 mph down a hill in about 60 feet. And that's not knowing how to skid, either.

  8. #8
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    The one thing that seems quite clear is that the bike being a fixie had nothing to do with the accident. I really don't see the relevance of the long essay on the pros and cons of fixies. An essay on lane positioning and watching for traffic might have been a positive contribution.

    Paul

  9. #9
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    ^^^
    1+

    The Stranger should stick to the cultural/music scene it usually covers.
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  10. #10
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    While I somewhat agree... as I do have these habits... it sure irritates me that what you as a cyclist are doing is compensating for someone coming up behind you (where they can clearly see you better) and then making guesses based on what they might do.

    This is one of those things that just drives me nuts as it is due to motorists' not doing their job, that we have to be so darn cautious... just like peds being run over in the crosswalk while crossing with a green light... simply because some motorist did not look before they turned right on red.

    Yeah, I know we bear the burden, due to our vulnerability, but it just irks me that we let motorists do this to us.
    Just to point out that we are not alone, motorists also have to drive in a manner that considers what other drivers are doing. Although I concur that a person in an auto has more protection than those of us on two wheels.

    A big problem, in my opinion, is the lackadaisical approach some motorists take when driving.

  11. #11
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    dudes. Seattle is OVERRUN with helmetless, clueless fixed gear riders and people that have no clue about traffic skills riding fixed gear bikes.

    The Stranger article was meant as a cautionary tale to the hipster crowd. I've seen more than one rider, flailing down steep hills on a fixed gear bike, feet off the pedals, cranks doing 120RPM.

    RIP, Bryce.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    It seems to me that the author, while well intentioned and sympathetic to cyclists’ plight (especially the dreaded right-hook), relied overly on anecdote and intuition.

    * After cycling for a number of years (presumably), she decided to try out some of those new fangled fixies. She felt awkward and out of control, but that doesn’t suggest that riding a fixed gear is more dangerous or difficult, just that it’s different. I know that after riding a fixed gear exclusively for a few months, I rode a freewheel, geared bike in traffic and found it disconcerting trying to maneuver in low speed traffic without being able to apply backward pressure. I’m not saying his reporting was dishonest or anything (he should be commended for actually going out and doing first-person reporting), just that it isn’t likely to cast light on what it’s like to be an experienced fixed gear rider in traffic.

    * I’m not an engineer, but (as others have pointed out) I don’t understand the assumption that fixed gear bikes go faster down hill. If anything, I would suspect the resistance incurred by having to “pedal” the rider’s legs would make them slower than coasting on a free wheel. It’s not hard, however, to see where he could get that impression. Fixed gear bikes defiantly register changes in speed and momentum more viscerally than geared bikes. This is a safety feature. Modern SUVs are dangerous in large part because their powerful engines, suspensions and high ground clearance detach the rider from the road surface. It’s easy to forget you’re operating a machine that requires you’re constant attention to prevent tragedy. Fixed gear bikes make the rider feel the inherent precariousness of traveling at high speeds among larger, more powerful vehicles.

    *It may well be the case that there are lots of dangerously inexperienced fixed gear riders in America’s cities. But I think the author is in danger of confusing causation and correlation. When the mass production of automobiles began, this likely unleashed a great many inexperienced, comparatively dangerous drivers onto the roads where they were a danger to themselves and other traffic. The solution, of course, was not to restrict driving to an elite corps of custom horseless carriage enthusiasts. As car ownership increased, awareness of other drivers and traffic patterns (probably even among horse and buggy owners) increased with it. I’m afraid that the casual reader may take away the implication from the article that the solution to this tragedy is to clamp down on those dangerous, thrill seeking fixed gear riders. When, counter intuitively (to someone who doesn’t ride a bike), the way to make biking less dangerous is to make it more common. Cars will only learn to avoid dangerous behavior like the right-hook if they are used to looking for bikes everywhere they go. The example of several northern European countries makes this obvious. The only way that is going to happen is if more novice riders take to the streets. Fear is a vicious circle.

    Apologies for the length and stridency of this post. Most people who read this board are aware of these arguments already.
    Last edited by PlayWithSlurry; 09-21-07 at 01:06 PM. Reason: Misattribution of gendered pronouns.

  13. #13
    Electrical Hazard
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    I wrote the author a letter, asking to explain the physics behind a freewheel stopping you from gaining to much speed.. Here's her reply:

    "If you're pedaling, you build up more speed than if you're coasting. That's the physics behind it. If you're braking or pushing back with your legs that's obviously different--I was comparing the ability to coast to the need to constantly pedal. "

    Wha? ..umm thanks Erica.

    I agree that Bryce's death had ZERO to do with the type of bicycle he was riding. RIP.

  14. #14
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lyledriver View Post
    I wrote the author a letter, asking to explain the physics behind a freewheel stopping you from gaining to much speed.. Here's her reply:

    "If you're pedaling, you build up more speed than if you're coasting. That's the physics behind it. If you're braking or pushing back with your legs that's obviously different--I was comparing the ability to coast to the need to constantly pedal. "

    Wha? ..umm thanks Erica.

    I agree that Bryce's death had ZERO to do with the type of bicycle he was riding. RIP.
    Erica is indeed obviously clueless regarding the physics and the physiology of pedaling a bicycle. From what I read, as one with an admittedly extremely strong personal bias for gears over fixed wheels, defensive cycling and attentive motoring, rather than one's choice of transmissions, are the issues here.
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  15. #15
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    While I somewhat agree... as I do have these habits... it sure irritates me that what you as a cyclist are doing is compensating for someone coming up behind you (where they can clearly see you better) and then making guesses based on what they might do.

    This is one of those things that just drives me nuts as it is due to motorists' not doing their job, that we have to be so darn cautious... just like peds being run over in the crosswalk while crossing with a green light... simply because some motorist did not look before they turned right on red.

    Yeah, I know we bear the burden, due to our vulnerability, but it just irks me that we let motorists do this to us.
    Gene, I know what you are saying, but we face this same issue of the need to be defensive, whether we are walking, bicycling, or motoring. As I told my sons when they were learning how to drive, they have two obligations: 1) Do not cause a collision; 2) Take appropriate evasive action to avoid a collision someone else is trying to cause. Both are vital; it's a sad commentary on the driving skills and level of attentiveness of some individuals out there. Last Sunday I had to swerve the car to the right and abort a startup from a 4-way stop sign when another motorist blasted through the intersection across my path at 30mph, without even slowing.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  16. #16
    Senior Member
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    I rode through that same intersection a few hours before the accident occurred, and wrote up the conditions at that intersection on that day in an earlier thread:

    Cyclist killed in Seattle near University bridge

    The article makes little mention of the construction zone on Eastlake, which had blocked off both the right northbound lane of Eastlake and the bike lane alongside it. It made this intersection particularly hazardous that morning as all northbound traffic was disrupted, and traffic turning right onto Fuhrman (like the gravel truck that struck the cyclists) did so from the inner northbound lane. Not trying to assess blame here, just pointing out unusual conditions at that intersection that probably contributed to the accident, and haven't been sufficiently mentioned in news articles.

    My deepest sympathies to the friends and family of the victim. Hopefully the injuries of the other cyclist are healing well.

  17. #17
    Elitest Murray Owner Mos6502's Avatar
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    I spoke with the other cyclist briefly, he is already out of the hospital. He had only minor injuries, and was in Colorado to attend Bryce's funeral.

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    Holy shiat Lyle... how clueless can you get? For anyone who doesn't know, fixed gears are almost always slower on downhills bacause most peoples' legs can't spin any faster than 140 or 160 rpms and will start to act as a brake if the rider doesn't get tired of spinning and use their hand brake instead. On my fixed bike I can keep up with my roadie friends just about everywhere but on descents... while they effortlessly tuck and coast, I'm spinning like a hamster, sitting upright trying to catch as much wind as possible, and riding my front brake.

    Helmet Head is right... watch for that right hook kids. In my daily riding I'm learning to give up on trusting other drivers until the evidence indicates they are going to do something stupid; instead I assume that they will do something stupid until the evidence indicates that they won't. Someone else charaterized this strategy as riding as if you are invisible.

    My condolences to any friends or family of the deceased who might be reading this.
    Last edited by mander; 09-22-07 at 02:25 PM.

  19. #19
    proud of his bunny Zinn-X's Avatar
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    Why does the mouse over text on the main image in that article read "Ha!"

    That left a really bad taste in my mouth.
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  20. #20
    Italian Stallion mcafiero's Avatar
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    I ws just looking this over this and in this case, it doesn't sound like the "fixie" is the problem. More likely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's a sad story. I know how quickly these accidents happen, I have been hit by three cars and 2 of the three times I didn't even have time to even THINK about touching my brakes.

    On the other hand, riding a fixie with no brake, no helmet, is a lot more dangerous. There's no question about it and shouldn't even be room for debate. You can get really ****ed. I have seen comments of people saying with much confidence that the helmet wouldn't have done anything. Yeah right. It most certainly could have saved his life. It saved my life at least once for sure.

    That said, I love my fixie, it's a fun ride, but a brake is a must and helmet is a must...er.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member filtersweep's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PlayWithSlurry View Post
    It seems to me that the author, while well intentioned and sympathetic to cyclists’ plight (especially the dreaded right-hook), relied overly on anecdote and intuition.
    I disagree (well, partially)- if that were the case (re: "plight"), the FOCUS of the article would have been about lane positioning, the cyclists RIGHT to take the lane, and general cycling advocacy rather than the alarmist, sensationalist, and ill-informed fixed gear article that it actually was. It was another missed opportunity.

    Then again, if the truck turned right from the LEFT lane without yielding to the cyclists, it should be about negligent vehicular manslaughter or some other vehicular crime.

  22. #22
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    <i>The result has been that some bikers have ended up with tickets, while others have simply <b>attached fake brake levers and cables to their handlebars</b> in hopes of eluding unobservant police</i>

    Now this is just stupid. Some people really do that?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zinn-X View Post
    Why does the mouse over text on the main image in that article read "Ha!"

    That left a really bad taste in my mouth.
    Dear God . . .

  24. #24
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    It's a disturbingly clueless set of articles by someone who usually is pretty good about transport articles (and is supposedly an avid biker.) What's really disturbing is that she continues to spew nonsense after many folks have tried to set her straight.

    * On dry pavement most of your braking comes from the front brake (over 80%). So a fixie with a front brake can stop nearly as quickly as a freewheel bike

    * fixies go slower down a hill than freewheel bikes go

    So it's really hard to see what the fixie thing has to do with the accident.

    (And I say this as someone who prefers freewheel multi-speed bikes for the likes of Seattle.)

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycleup View Post
    It's a disturbingly clueless set of articles by someone who usually is pretty good about transport articles (and is supposedly an avid biker.) What's really disturbing is that she continues to spew nonsense after many folks have tried to set her straight.

    * On dry pavement most of your braking comes from the front brake (over 80%). So a fixie with a front brake can stop nearly as quickly as a freewheel bike

    * fixies go slower down a hill than freewheel bikes go

    So it's really hard to see what the fixie thing has to do with the accident.

    (And I say this as someone who prefers freewheel multi-speed bikes for the likes of Seattle.)
    That's what kills me -- after so many people who know a lot more than her tried to politely correct her, she simply digs her heels in even more. She isn't just ignorant, she's willfully ignorant. So while a (supposedly) alternative paper has a POS article pretty much blaming this accident on fixed-gear bikes, yesterday the local non-alternative daily paper had a very positive article on bike polo and how it's gotten really big here in Seattle, without a single scolding word about how they don't wear helmets or anything like that. Strange.

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