BIKES ARE VEHICLES
HELLO AGAIN, ERICA: Your recent article in The Stranger ["Collision Course," Sept 20] was well written and very interesting, both for content and for attitude.
I particularly liked your analysis of the "fixie."
Unfortunately, you continue to miss the point about bicycle safety.
The precise facts of the collision are uncertain, because eyewitnesses always differ. One thing is abundantly clear—bike-lane stripes are implicated in this fatal crash. The two young men made a fatal error. No competent cyclist would expect a bike lane to protect them at an intersection or, indeed, anywhere else on the road. Lane positioning is vitally important. They failed to take due care, they failed to slow or stop in time, and they failed to be in the center of the traffic lane, riding side by side, which is legal, where they could have safely passed on the left side of the truck.
Washington law about bicycles is not consistent, but nevertheless, a bicycle is a vehicle and a cyclist has all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver. RCW 46.61.755: It is a principle of our training.
Competence defines safety, not the other way around.
Executive Director, Bicycle Driver Training Institute
TO ERICA C. BARNETT: Trying to blame this kid's death on his riding a fixed-gear bike is infuriating. I ride a fixed-gear bike very safely. This is not a new phenomenon. I know friends who have been riding fixed-gears instead of road bikes for years. They are simple, silent machines that give the rider full control of the bike. Coasting down a steep hill makes me feel unsafe and out of control and my speed is much greater than when I ride my fixed-gear down a steep hill. A fixed-gear rider must focus more on riding, which can make them much safer riders.
It is tragic that the dump-truck driver was not cited for taking this kid's life. I have been hit twice by cars while riding my bike and I am a very reserved, safe rider, and both times I was riding a free-wheeled road bike with gears and two brakes. Drivers don't see cyclists, and when that driver is driving a gigantic dump truck, the results cause a poor kid to lose his life.
You ought to be ashamed of yourself to blame this accident on the fact that this kid chose to ride a fixed-gear bike. Try talking to a bike shop that caters to fixed-gear riders instead of the snobbish Velo Bike Shop on Capitol Hill. Try talking to Elliott Bay Bicycles, who knows and understands the classic element of fixed-gear bicycles. Try talking to Counterbalance Bicycles about catering to the people like me who choose a sweet, silent ride.
TO THE EDITOR: Let's say I go out and buy a firearm that I'm not qualified to use. And further manage to kill myself with said firearm, all the while ignoring accepted safety practices for the use of firearms (sort of like how wearing a helmet is an accepted safety practice for cycling).
Would you publish an article saying that the firearm and the irresponsibility weren't the real root of the problem? Would you say that what is really needed is better training and more laws that favor people who carry firearms around?
The main reasons that Bryce Lewis is dead is that he was using a vehicle that he couldn't control, and he wasn't equipped with even the most basic of safety equipment (a brake and a helmet). If there is blame to be laid for the death of Bryce Lewis, that blame sits squarely at his own feet. You gave up your objectivity, and thereby your credibility, by glossing over this fact in favor of a fawning review of your lovely experience riding a fixie.
ERICA C. BARNETT RESPONDS: I didn't "blame the victim" for being hit, nor did I exonerate the truck driver. As I said in my original Slog post about the accident, even if you're going slowly, drivers in that intersection still pay way too little attention. Looking out for cars—hell, assuming they don't see you and don't care if they hit you—is how you avoid being hit. If a driver hits you, it may be the driver's fault, but that doesn't matter if you're dead.
As I said explicitly in my story, fixed-gear bikes are not the problem in and of themselves. However, problems can arise when you're new to riding one—as are many, many of the people I see tearing around on these bikes, usually helmetless, all over the city. And bombing helmetless down a hill, with a front brake or without, is dangerous no matter how experienced you are.
Finally, there are some things I got wrong about the mechanics of fixed-gear bikes—specifically, I said they go faster than freewheel bikes downhill, when in fact they're just harder to stop going downhill. Frankly, I would much rather see cycling folks lobbying for more punitive laws against hitting cyclists—say, automatic license revocation if the driver is at fault—than sniping about who knows more about bicycles and whether this accident was avoidable or not.
SCHOOL FOR TOOLS
DEAR STRANGER: Exemplary work there, kids! Your "Back to School" guide [Sept 20] was a real piece of shit. Just another excuse to spew the elitist vomit The Stranger is so fond of. If you're so afraid of drugs and comfortable outerwear, why don't you just hire a D.A.R.E. narc to do this worthless "guide"? That would at least provide some of the amusement, which you so boringly lack. Why don't you leave the derisive, condescending wit to pros like Vice who can at least display a knack for sharp, original insults and whose observations are not pathetically predictable soccer- mom-style cookie-cutter diatribes disguised as a "back to school" guide.
Have some balls, Stranger, and tell the kids to avoid reading jaded, incompetent ass rags like yours! That would be a useful tip. Here's one more: Condescending twits, like your writers, make great target practice for flinging bags of feces! Or was your "back to school" guide not really meant for fun-loving kids? (It seemed like a perfect guide for you paranoid, washed-up thirtysomethings.) The Stranger would be far more successful to avoid pretending to preach to kids. Stick to the lame band reviews and incestuous music-scene backslapping, please!
P.S. Thanks for the movie times.