Community Post

Nasty Bike Accident on Union

As an everyday cyclist, I cringe every time I hear one of these come up on the scanner:  car vs. bicyclist accident.   This one was on Union, mid-block between 27th & MLK.  

Witnesses at the scene told me that the rider was coming down the hill and got what cyclists unlovingly call a “door prize”, where a car door suddenly opens and causes a nasty collision.  This one sent the cyclist over the handlebars, and she ended up with a really torn-up foot.  Another witness said the front of her foot was totally pulled back, with pieces of bone showing.  Medics were on the scene, preparing to transport her to Harborview for treatment.

But it could have been much worse, as the cyclist was not wearing a helmet.   Somehow she avoided hitting her head in the fall.

A couple of reminders for all of us:

  • Bikers:  Always wear a helmet
  • Drivers:  Always check carefully in your mirror for bikers before opening your door.  And even then, open it slowly
  • Bikers:  Give parked cars a generous buffer, especially if you can see that the vehicle is occupied

0 thoughts on “Nasty Bike Accident on Union

  1. First, let’s just be thankful that she wasn’t hurt to a greater degree.

    Second, I do want to point out that I believe this accident happened in what planners call a “sharow”, a shared bike/road. This is marked by the bicyclist image with an arrow in front.

    Many folks wonder why the city doesn’t just have a bike lane when there is one on the other side of the street. In many cases this comes down to space–they don’t want to either take parking out or widen the street. Yet there is a school of planner thinking that says sharows are best on steep downhills where bike traffic is more likely to merge into the road, hence shared road (sharow). The thinking also contends that door accidents are pretty rare, albeit severe.

    I tend to subscribe to another school of thought, which is that on a steep hill, not giving bike riders a dedicated lane that makes car passengers think before opening a door is a death wish. A recent visit from a friend in the bike community in Portland had him asking, “what are they thinking? that’s a death zone!”

    Just glad she’s “okay”

  2. There was an awful accident at 16th & Union tonight– when I passed, they were putting the stretchers back in the ambulance, so I can only imagine that either the result wasn’t severe enough to warrant hospitalization or was too severe to bother with the hospital, if you catch my drift.

    One of the yellow cabs had hit a cyclist and dragged his/her bike forward several feet. Did not see what happened, but there were several people in suits around.

  3. The “shared” lane seems like pure insanity to me, especially since all roads without signs prohibiting bikes (and without bike lanes) are supposed to be shared, right? I just moved here last fall from out of state, so maybe the laws are just different here, but I don’t really get how a “sharow” is any different than a regular city road.

    As a cyclist, I’m pretty sure those chevrons painted on the road neither give me more space nor do they make me safer.

  4. Wow! Bicycling can be painful! But it doesn’t have to be.

    There are cyclists who travel hundreds of thousands of miles on busy city streets without injury. My brother is one and after a few crashes, I decided to learn from him (and other successful traffic cyclists) and have been crash free for around a hundred thousand miles now.

    Unfortunately, the Shared Lane Markings and bike lanes often legitimize and prescribe popular behaviors that are directly contrary to safe bicycle driving techniques used and taught by competent bicycle drivers.

    I photographed the SLMs at Yesler and 12th and sent them out for review. Here’s the results: These markings defeat the purpose for which they were designed, and the photos inspired them to rewrite the codes to prevent this misapplication in the future. SLMs were developed as an alternative to the problems introduced by bike lanes which place cyclists in the roadside hazard zone (such as next to parked cars) and misdirect cyclists at intersections so that straight through cyclists are on the right side of right turning cars while driving through the motorists blind spot!

    NEVER (unless traveling near a walking speed) drive your bicycle within the door zone of parked cars! Yes, leave the door-zone bike lane. Don’t ride on a Sharrow if it is within the door zone. The sight lines are too poor for motorists entering the road to see you and drivers traveling in the opposite direction and turning left have a harder time seeing you. And then there is the car door. Riding outside the door zone is an excellent solution to these problems.

    ALWAYS approach an intersection based on your intended direction of travel: left side of your half of the road to turn left, center to go straight and right side to turn right. That’s right – get in line with the traffic going your direction so others can see your intention, while you prevent turning conflicts and position yourself so other drivers can see you and you can see them.

    Given the momentum of bicycle politics I don’t expect everyone to agree, but I thought that persons with common sense and a willingness to exercise personal responsibility might want to take a look at more information on bicycling.

    Here’s my web gallery with the Yesler sharrows, and the bike lane that Bryce Lewis died in just South of the University Bridge. I videotaped this bike lane in 2004 as an example of the city striping bike lanes contrary to bicycle driving instruction and in anticipation of future crashes.

    Here is an excellent booklet by John Allen “Steet Smarts” :

    Books: Effective Cycling by John Forester, CycleCraft by John Franklin

    Here are my web sites:

    I hope the cyclist recovers from her injuries, and I hope that cyclists can learn to avoid the pain and suffering of crashes that can be prevented with bicycle driving solutions.

  5. Is it really necessary to submit the bloody details? It is unimportant to the story as a whole, and there is plenty of drama without it. I for one, do not appreciate the inessential gore.

  6. Really kewl and neato laid back folks….

    The Bikery just moved from Beacon Hill to 14th and Jackson

    Thier Webiste is under construction (any helpers around?) and that is no surprise since they are running workshops on how to bike safely, workshops to help kids and others fix their bikes, etc., etc., etc.

    I HAVE heard one idea and maybe I am ‘all wet’. But, how about bike lanes in the middle of the street? I can’t visualize, but people riding and sucking bus exhaust, subject to cars entering the road or car doors opening just makes those lanes dangerous. Plus, the speed limit is such that why on earth can’t a cyclist occupy the main driving lane on the downhill?

    Caveat: I rode my bike to grammar school in a Los Angeles suburb, and exclusively biked in College in Maryland and later in DC. We were NOT allowed to be on the sidewalk. We were expected to be part of traffic on the road or else on a bike path. In both states there were classes for riders and, more important, driver education included driving while there are cyclists on some roads (they are not allowed on all highways). Believe me, negotiating a dry (or wet) stream bed daily on a rudimentary bike trail in Maryland on a regular ole 10 speed bike was ‘fun’. I moved to Seattle 30 years ago and gave up the bike. Nothing I have seen since has made me want to try again. Seems like the streets in the CD are still impossible to navigate.

  7. So do these bike lanes mean that I, as a pedestrian can have the sidewalk back and not get run over by the 10% (or less) of bicyclists that think they rule the world and laws do not apply to them?

  8. This is okay advice for bicyclists:

    “Give parked cars a generous buffer, especially if you can see that the vehicle is occupied”

    But there are two problems with it. First, what is “generous”? I’ve seen many bicyclists riding in the door zone who thought they were safe. The cyclist is this crash may well have thought she was giving the parked cars a “generous” buffer. We need to be more specific than that. Your wheel needs to be tracking at least FIVE FEET from the edge of the parked cars to be clearly out of the door zone of doors of all widths. Just nicking your handlebars with the door edge can be enough to send you careening further into the street and possibly into the path of an overtaking vehicle.

    Second, the emphasis on when you can see that the vehicle is occupied makes it seem like it maybe okay to sometimes ride in the door zone. This is the type of rule for which there should be no exceptions, because once you start compromising than you are apt to ride in door zones more and more often. Just because a car appears to be unoccupied does not mean that it is.

    Just ride at least FIVE FEET from parked cars, no exceptions, period.

  9. Many good suggestions here on avoiding the hazard of car doors opening on cyclists; but the larger issue is that many (most?) drivers seen to be unaware that is is illegal to open your car door–either from inside or outside the vehicle–any time it may interfere with the right-of-way of passing traffic, whether that traffic is automobile or bicycle or motor bike or any other street-legal vehicle. The tichet is pretty pricey, and the infraction goes on your insurance record. Some enforcement might get the word out.

  10. I am a DRIVER. I drive thru the CD to work downtown and rarely a day goes by that I do not have a NEAR MISS with a biker. Are there NO rules for bikers. How do you report their bizarre behavior on the road. I wanted to report a biker that came out of no where – road down the middle of 2 lanes of traffic and then crossed to the right lane & turned. There are NO identifying markings on bikes to report incidents. Where are the police. I’ve never seen a biker get a ticket. I’ve seen them run red lights, turn corners into on-coming traffic. The CRAZIEST is the people who bike with their BABIES in those little tents. That is Child Abuse. They cannot see the baby, they are trusting that everyone out there is a PERFECT Driver. It is not possible for a bike to go up against a car and win. I grew up in Seattle at a time where it was ILLEGAL to ride your bike in the street and there weren’t all these “Accidents”. The city should enlarge the sidewalks not paint random lines down city streets. Until this City comes up with a workable-safety oriented plan for bikers in the streets, it should not be allowed. And what about those bike lanes that just SUDDENLY quit !!!

  11. Gadnabit! I am a HORSEMAN! I ride through near and far, to fetch some vittle’s and take my weekly trip to the General Store and Saloon. I was plum bum-rushed off the trail by one of them there fancy horseless carriages – or otto-mobiles, as i’ve heard ’em called. Shoot! Where do people find them things – belching out smoke, making noise, and speeding around this fair city! A gentleman cannot ride his steed in peaceful fashion – dad-ggummit! Horsefeathers, i say! When I find the sheriff, i’m a gonna take him over near my fenceline, so he can see them there crazy fools RACING to and fro willy-nilly, henpeckety around, making the trails unsafe for man and beast!!!