A cyclist was killed this morning after being struck by a truck on the notoriously-dangerous-for-cyclists 2nd Avenue, confirms Seattle Police Department spokesman Sergeant Sean Whitcomb. He says he's working to get more details. I'll update this post when we have more information.
Second and Fourth Avenues are the primary downtown thoroughfares for bicycles, but the lanes are counter-intuitively on the left side of the street (because buses pull over on the right), and the traffic is all one direction. Vehicles that turn left or pull in into paring spaces can unexpectedly hit cyclists. The SPD Blotter explains this accident happened when the "driver of a large box truck was headed south on 2nd Avenue and turned left on to University Street, where he struck and fatally injured the cyclist."
#q13fox bicyclist was hit and killed on 2nd and university pic.twitter.com/6TzRM8XqqO
— Marc LeCuyer (@MlecuyerQ13FOX) August 29, 2014
- Courtesty Slog Tipper Anonymous
- The view north on Second Avenue, at University Street.
The Seattle City Council has finally funded a cycle track on 2nd Avenue, a separated bicycle lane that helps prevent fatal accidents, but it has yet to be built. The cycle track should have been built years ago. It's impossible to know if the cycle track would have prevented this accident, but the reason bicycle infrastructure takes so long to build—besides the foot-dragging of our city council—is that people politicize cyclists as whipping boys and politicians like Council Member Tom Rasmussen, chair of the city's transportation committee, withhold funding for safety infrastructure.
In January 2013, I witnessed the aftermath of an accident on 2nd Avenue. I wrote this post about it titled, "This Is Why We Need Protected Bicycle Lanes in Downtown Seattle":
We need more infrastructure to delineate where cyclists have right of way, obviously, but there's a problem.
Anti-cyclists propagandists, columnists like Joni Balter, and the Seattle Times editorial board have attempted to make cycling a political act. They say cars are being "shoved aside" for the "transfer of asphalt to bicycle lanes" and all cyclists are "militant." They say a "war on cars" and "road diets" that are proven to improve cyclist safety are driving people out of the city. Riding a bike isn't a political act. It's a means of transportation. But because these people—Balter, writers in her cadre, people who call cyclists "militant," local politicians who refuse to denounce that language, and others who we wrote about last year on this issue—are making it a political issue, and they make it more difficult for elected leaders to fund bicycle infrastructure.
The city's Bicycle Master Plan, created in 2007, has barely been funded. At five years into the 10-year plan, we've paid for only $36 million of the $240 million goal. That's less than one-quarter of the funding it needs, while the council finds political unity around spending $930 million for an underperforming freeway tunnel (that contains no accommodations for bikes or transit). Meanwhile, data from the Seattle Department of Transportation and other sources show that, as more people are riding bikes in Seattle, collisions and cyclist fatalities are on the rise. This has to end.
Treating cycling like a political football has to stop. Deferring cycling investments needs to stop. People's safety and their lives are on the line—and they're not activists. They're just people, commuters. Bicycle accidents can't be eliminated entirely by protected bicycle lanes, and I don't mean to say they can, but it would have eliminated this one and countless others just like it.
After hearing about the crash this morning, Slog reader Ella wrote, "As a bike commuter (work and everywhere else). I look forward to the enhancements that are proposed for 2nd and many other streets in Seattle." On Twitter, Sedge was more blunt: "Horrific cyclist fatality on 2nd ave and University this morning. How many ppl have to die before we get a barrier?"
So I posed a similar question—"How long till the bike track on 2nd is complete?"—to the mayor's office and city's transportation department. Transportation department spokeswoman Marybeth Turner estimates it will be complete in the second week of September, but adds a caveat that "it depends on how construction progresses."
Jeff Reading in the mayor's office says the cycle track will be done September 8, adding that is "a week too late—would likely have prevented the crash."
This post has been updated with comments from the mayor's office, transportation department, and SPD Blotter.