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Old 09-09-11, 01:46 PM   #1
percy kittens
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Did a Bike Path Just Kill a Seattle Cyclist?

If you have ever ridden down Eastlake onto Fairview you may know this spot. Going with traffic and choosing the street-side option it is of little danger, but an experienced cyclist was recently killed there. He was traveling in the "against traffic" side, but that is the side where there is a bike lane, of sorts. The trouble happens when part of the path abruptly turns into a staircase. From the approach, it looks like a path, maybe with a dip or a ramp. I haven't experienced it as I stay on the street.
.
The link to the article (worst MSPaint captions ever but you'll get the general idea):

http://thesunbreak.com/2011/09/08/di...attle-cyclist/


What do you think? Is it the City of Seattle's responsibility to improve the safety by posting visible warnings about the upcoming change in terrain? Or is the cyclist at fault (not that it matters, he is dead) for riding on the "wrong" side of the road? For that matter, do you think the recent barrage of headlines about cyclists being killed is working for or against getting people out there on bikes?

RIP Brian Fairbrother.
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Old 09-09-11, 03:37 PM   #2
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I agree that that path needs to be marked "danger - stairs" or something indicating to cyclists that they need to dismount. Those stairs would be even less clear at dusk.

SDOT should be called to task about this since they are routing cyclists around the lake via sidewalk.

Note that SDOT is very much not adverse to installing bike infrastructure so cyclists are "salmoning" against traffic. There is a detour (luckily not required) that cyclists are routed onto at S. Massachusetts and Alaskan Way S that has cyclists riding northbound on a southbound shoulder, against traffic and against cyclists heading south, and crossing a fairly busy intersection (controlled with one stop sign) to boot.

Further south, SDOT installed another detour that routed northbound cyclists on the sidewalk along the southbound lanes, against traffic, through an intersection, and against other detoured cycle traffic. A temporary "bike boulevard" was also installed, right against southbound traffic as well. After what I bet was much anger from cyclists, a temporary barrier (consisting of plastic poles - nothing that would stop a car from crossing into the bike boulevard...by the end of the detour several of these poles were destroyed) was installed indicating the separation between lanes.

So no, I do not think SDOT really, truly knows what they are doing half the time and should be called onto the carpet each time.
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Old 09-09-11, 08:18 PM   #3
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Wow, thanks for sharing this post with pics. I've been wondering about this horrible accident since I read about it last week on Seattle Bike Blog. In looking at the photos, I could totally see how you wouldn't realize that a stairwell was coming up, and not just a dip in the road. I don't generally ride fast enough that I think it would have such an awful end for me, but more experienced riders go pretty fast.

If the cyclist is being routed around the lake on this path and is expected to go against traffic (which no one likes) instead of down the stairwell, it seems like that needs to be clearly stated -- including a warning about the upcoming stairs.
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Old 09-09-11, 09:24 PM   #4
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How tragic! And so UTTERLY preventable. I hope the man's family is getting some legal advice.
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Old 09-10-11, 12:42 AM   #5
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Catgrrl, thank you for your very coherent observations. I rarely ride past the West Seattle Bridge (Spokane street) with relation to the south industrial area. My main kvetch about THAT place is how bike access is constantly changing due to construction, followed closely by the amount of diesel fumes I am privileged to feast upon.

A google search of the victim's name led to just one mention in a major regional publication. I say this because the average Joe and Mary, who do not ride, tend to never hear about these things when they are kept within community-based publications, be that Seattle Bike Blog or The Capitol Hill Times. But I have faith that Joe and Mary's attention would be aroused and their concern secured were they to be informed of and exposed to the full details of the story. This is how, I believe, change happens- when people who lack any apparent personal investment in an issue become emotionally involved.

Scrolling past the anecdotes about the victim's community contributions I found, at the article's end, the following blurb regarding SDOT's official response. In it, blame appears to be placed squarely on bike riders, with the routine advice to cyclists to pay more attention. While this defense would never be used in a car-bike collision where the driver was found clearly at fault, it appears that SDOT willingly exploited a handy way out:

Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan said the city has not received complaints about that area and is not aware of previous incidents involving the steps.

"We'll review the areas on both sides of the pedestrian bridge to determine whether additional signage or markings would be beneficial," he said. "Our hearts go out to the cyclist's family and friends. This incident does reinforce that cyclists unfamiliar with a trail or sidewalk need to ride with caution."

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...brother09.html




SDOT states that it was unaware of the stairs being a hazard, as no one had yet complained about them. I am taken now to Catgrrl's post in which she clearly identifies areas requiring urgent attention and wonder how many dangerous areas are reported to SDOT, or any branch of city government, and how they are handled? Do they wait until a certain number of complaints are filed before taking action? It bears further investigation.
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Old 09-10-11, 12:58 AM   #6
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Even ignoring cyclists altogether, shouldn't there be some warning for wheelchairs?
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Old 09-11-11, 10:21 PM   #7
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My guess is that since wheelies generally roll slower than cyclists, those who make the rules would assume them to be at less risk, having more time to assess the situation.

I'm giving the city a call tomorrow to see how these hazardous bike areas are handled. I'm curious. Will report back my findings.
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Old 09-12-11, 06:19 PM   #8
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Only wish SDOT moved that fast.

Thanks to Point83 for hanging the ghost bike. I'll hazard that they are the ones who also provided the new road markings. If so, thanks P83.

The approach from Eastlake:



Detail:



The southwestern approach (where Brian F died):




and just in case a rider misses the detour arrows:


Last edited by percy kittens; 09-12-11 at 06:20 PM. Reason: with to wish
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Old 09-12-11, 11:02 PM   #9
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If that doesn't shame DOT into action, I don't know what will.

I still hope the family is getting some legal advice. Unfortunately, unless NOT acting turns out to cost DOT more than ACTING, they probably WON'T.
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Old 09-13-11, 05:08 PM   #10
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Regarding people not contacting SDOT to report dangerous situations, I think that people in general lean to the "it's easier to let someone else do it" category. Since I ride every day through the south end, it was shocking to ride northbound several years ago. The infrastructure was leaps and bounds over what we had (and still is) in the south. That ticked me off; that and the upcoming work on the Alaskan Way Viaduct in which I read and read about perusing many documents and found it lacking in information about how cyclists were going to be effected - both before, during and after construction.

It's incredibly easy to contact SDOT, or any government agency about problems, but it takes time an perseverance to get things changed. Networking, getting to know (at least via email) the SDOT groups and people that are involved in bicycle facilities - and very likely those people are spread out through many different groups, and providing follow up to them when/if things do/don't change is key. And it takes effort. But is rewarding. Sometimes things don't change, and all one can do is post about it when one can, and keep records that it was reported to the (SDOT) appropriate contacts and hold one's breath. Until SDOT, to be region specific, quits pandering to drivers (oh, and they do, they are scared to death of ticking off the driver contingency) and being much more vocal about supporting infrastructure that supports ALL road users, we won't see much change.
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Old 09-13-11, 06:23 PM   #11
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Some Resources

Bicycle Spot Improvement Program
http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikespot.htm

The Bicycle Spot Improvement Program makes low cost improvements to enhance bicycle safety and convenience for bicyclists by allowing them to use the existing street system more comfortably. Projects include:
Surface Improvements - pothole patching, drain grate replacement, etc.

Signing and Striping - motor vehicle warning signs at trail crossings, bicycle lane striping and stenciling, etc.

Access Improvements - adjusting of electronic detection for bicyclists at traffic signals, traffic island modification, etc.

Sidewalk Bike Rack Installation - over 2,300 sidewalk bicycle racks have been installed in business districts since September of 1993.
More bike rack information or requests for rack installations can be made by citizens and business owners by calling the Seattle Bicycle Program at (206) 684-7583.

If you have complaints or concerns, WalkAndBike@Seattle.gov email the Bike Spot Program.




Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board

http://www.seattle.gov/sbab/

The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board was created through Resolution 25534 on May 11th, 1977 to advise the City on the concerns and needs of the growing bicycling community. It is composed of 11 Seattle residents that serve for up to two 2-year terms. In 2001 it added an additional position for the YMCA Get Engaged Program that serves for a 1-year term.

What We Do: The Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board advises the Mayor, City Council, and City Departments and Divisions on projects, policies, and programs that improve and/or affect bicycling conditions in Seattle.

Vision: Make Seattle a world-class city for bicycling. Make bicycling a viable transportation choice by encouraging active participation in policy and planning efforts through all levels of government. Build a more inclusive bicycling community by representing the needs of the diverse population of bicyclists in the city.

Meetings: Open to the public and are generally held 6-8 pm on the first Wednesday of every month in room L280 in City Hall (600 4th Ave). Please enter via the 5th Ave entrance and take the elevators down to L2. Because the doors lock promptly at 6:00 , please try to arrive a few minutes early. To receive monthly meeting agendas by email, please contact Douglas Cox at Douglas.Cox@seattle.gov
Excerpt from Feb 2011 Minutes:

- A local bike messenger expressed appreciation that the counterflow lane in the area around 1700 7th Avenue didn’t go through and is hoping that it doesn’t. Traffic to I-5 is very heavy there and would create a conflict if the lane was implemented.

- Doug Beeman mentioned that the City has a tracking system for reporting street lights that are out. One must list the pole number when reporting. There is a delay related to the fact that the tracking system uses the pole number as an address, and they don’t run on the same system as the street numbering, so the map tracks incorrect locations for the lights.

Excerpt from March 2011:

- Merlin Rainwater stated that Smith Cove Cruise Terminal 91 (site of the Seattle Bicycle Expo) and Nordstrom (which is directly above the Westlake Transit Center) do not include bicycle directions on their websites. She also stated that the Amtrak station does not have bike parking. She is encouraging them all to include more information and facilities for cyclists.

Excerpt from April 2011:


- There is a bike detour in the Terminal 46 area. The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has, however, removed its restriction of bicycles from the street. Now bicycles can use the street both directions. They have also changed signage to read “bicycles merge with traffic”. Navigating the construction is still difficult southbound.

- Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw – Reported on her visit to Portland to see their Neighborhood Greenways. Thirty delegates from Seattle attended this visit. Delegates went on a bicycle tour to see converted residential streets. Noted that process of developing these greenways was very participatory; the City went door-to-door to assess neighborhood interest. Of special interest to Councilmember Bagshaw were the traffic-calming “sleeping policemen” speed bumps that slow vehicle



BikeWise.org
http://www.bikewise.org/
About Us

Bikewise is run by Cascade Bicycle Club, in partnership with sustainability activist and software developer Phil Mitchell. We're based in Seattle, Washington, but this site is meant to be useful anywhere in the world. We started bikewise in the belief that we can make biking safer and more fun by gathering good data on the things that sometimes go wrong.

Crashes: It's estimated that 75% or more of all crashes go unreported. We believe that by gathering detailed information on how and why crashes happen, we'll be able to ride smarter. Also, we hope that knowing where crash hotspots are will help us to identify issues with traffic behavior and road design.

Hazards: How many times have you ridden past a dangerous sewer grate or overgrown vegetation and wished there were someplace to report it? Now there is. We aim to not only collect hazard reports, but to pass these on to the appropriate authorities. (Please note: we're still putting this part of the system in place.)

Thefts: Tracking where and how bikes get stolen is a key part of making preventing thefts. We're currently working on other pieces of this system, so that if your bike does get stolen, you have a better chance of getting it back. More to come on that.
You can contact us at support email address . For press, please contact: M.J. Kelly at 206-853-2188 or m.j.kelly at cascadebicycleclub.org.


Click on the red, yellow and blue markers on the map, then click "view full report".

This sounds like the area referred to in catgrrl's post: http://www.bikewise.org/pub/report/hazard/921
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Old 09-13-11, 09:19 PM   #12
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I've reported a couple of potholes to SDOT and they were fixed shortly afterwards. Not sure if it was my email, but I was happy to see they were fixed.
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Old 09-14-11, 12:37 AM   #13
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Quote:
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I've reported a couple of potholes to SDOT and they were fixed shortly afterwards. Not sure if it was my email, but I was happy to see they were fixed.
That's good to hear.
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Old 09-14-11, 05:17 AM   #14
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I had to read the OP and the article twice, and go over the photos several times to even begin to comprehend what I'm looking at. I imagine on a bike the situation would be equally confusing.

It looks and sounds like the designated bike path is the sidewalk except for one short spot where the designated path veers into the road for a short distance to avoid the steps. Is that correct? Am I understanding the photos and the article correctly? If that's really the case, then the design is just plain shoddy. Painting arrows on the pavement is just a band-aid. What's lacking is a design feature (curve in the sidewalk, curved railing, posts in the ground, something) to subtly guide a cyclist in the correct way to go.

If the sidewalk is not specifically designated as a "bike path", then my opinion changes.
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Old 09-14-11, 09:15 AM   #15
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When the path opened (it's meant for bikes and pedestrians according to SDOT and the Parks Department) Seattle Bike Blog had some comments about the very path from Valley to Fairview Ave E that is so dangerous.

http://seattlebikeblog.com/2010/09/2...to-completion/
"Unfortunately, the sidewalk — ahem, excuse me … “trail” — along Fairview Ave N from Valley to Fairview Ave E is completely unacceptable and dangerous."

Links also to Publicola who also notes the sidewalk along the east side of the lake as a "bike path" is dangerous...http://publicola.com/2010/09/22/i-sh...my-own-advice/
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Old 09-14-11, 12:21 PM   #16
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seriously? a blind staircase on a "bike path" ?!
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Old 09-14-11, 01:05 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
I've reported a couple of potholes to SDOT and they were fixed shortly afterwards. Not sure if it was my email, but I was happy to see they were fixed.
Me too. The next day in one case. I used their web form.
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Old 09-14-11, 04:59 PM   #18
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I lived in Eastlake for about two and a half years. I navigated this stretch of road almost every time I left my house going south, which was at least a daily occurrence. I've never, ever had a problem here, and it's hard to imagine how somebody could ride a bike down those stairs. You'd have to be going a lot faster than it's safe to on a sidewalk to be unable to stop in time.

You can see a gap as you approach the stairs. And you can see the sidewalk at the bottom. They just don't make ramps that steep. That really should have been a clue.

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seriously? a blind staircase on a "bike path" ?!
No, not seriously. It's a stair case on a sidewalk.
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Old 09-14-11, 10:11 PM   #19
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but it wasn't and brian is dead.
congrats on not dying all those times riding around those stairs.
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Old 09-14-11, 10:47 PM   #20
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Wow, that's a pretty hairy situation there. I've only biked the roads in that area but was once skateboarding that path in the opposite direction and the stairs were a bit of a surprise!

Google maps bicycling overlay has taking the road as just an option there. Guess they weren't quite sure how to depict that area.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=lake+u...&lci=bike&z=18

Official markings should go even further in advance of the DIY markings. A couple of bikes with arrows pointing to the right in the 25 yards or so leading up to the jog.
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Old 09-14-11, 10:53 PM   #21
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Quote:
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I lived in Eastlake for about two and a half years. I navigated this stretch of road almost every time I left my house going south, which was at least a daily occurrence. I've never, ever had a problem here, and it's hard to imagine how somebody could ride a bike down those stairs. You'd have to be going a lot faster than it's safe to on a sidewalk to be unable to stop in time.
The rider that died was going northbound.

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No, not seriously. It's a stair case on a sidewalk.
Google maps identifies it as Lake Union Trail. Cheslahud Lake Union Loop is the city's name for it and the city identifies it as a Multi-use path.

EDIT: actually the staircase could be called a sidewalk but there is no clear indication that cyclists and wheel chairs should jog to the right prior to entering that sidewalk and the sidewalk and staircase definitely LOOK like they're part of the MUP.

Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 09-14-11 at 11:02 PM.
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Old 09-14-11, 11:44 PM   #22
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That is seriously sh.itty design.
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Old 09-15-11, 12:13 AM   #23
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I'd say that curb cut should be at least twice as wide to accomodate 2-way bicycle/wheelchair traffic also.
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Old 09-15-11, 12:16 AM   #24
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I've reported a couple of potholes to SDOT and they were fixed shortly afterwards. Not sure if it was my email, but I was happy to see they were fixed.
Not sure about SDOT, but in many municipalities, the city is only responsible for the damage you incur to your vehicle AFTER they "officially" know of the pothole's existence, so once that's the case, they can be swift to act.
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Old 09-15-11, 10:25 AM   #25
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Not sure about SDOT, but in many municipalities, the city is only responsible for the damage you incur to your vehicle AFTER they "officially" know of the pothole's existence, so once that's the case, they can be swift to act.
Exactly. Here in Seattle we recently had the case of the cyclist who slipped and fell crossing a bridge; the cyclist suffered severe damage and eventually died of his injury. His estate collected a pretty large settlement last year because it turned out that the problem with the bridge grating had been previously identified and improperly fixed.

Another case I've followed recently -- the retired athletic director at the University of Kansas died a year or so after hitting a pothole on his bike (this happened in Lawrence, Kansas). Turns out the pothole had been improperly fixed *and,* as I recall, the mistake in the fix had been reported. The city and/or the construction company just paid out a settlement on that one as well.

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