A month has passed since 2 cyclists and a dump truck had a fatal interaction at the intersection of Eastlake and Fuhrman here in Seattle. I went past the site on the way home tonight to see what’s changed in the last 4 weeks. What’s there is mostly paint “ painted ghostbike up on the street sign, painted signs on the sidewalk and roadway, and a touching memorial to 19 year old Bryce, the cyclist who was killed.
What is going to make this intersection safer? It only took the 10 minutes I was at the corner for me to see another close call between a car and bike. If history’s any guide, we’ll be lucky to get paint. Unfortunately I don’t think paint would have made any more difference than if the cyclists had brakes (they did), freewheels (they didn’t), or if they were wearing helmets (they weren’t, and it wouldn’t have mattered anyway).
I’ve been a bit disappointed by the local media coverage, and the citizen response. The Stranger’s gone out of their way to point out the danger of brake-free track bikes. The Seattle PI found time to fit in a note that neither cyclist was wearing a helmet in the second paragraph. Both imply that the cyclists were doing something wrong and were thus at fault in the accident. It may very well have been the case that Bryce and Caleb were doing something wrong, but these two facts have nothing to do with the accident. If you want a real chill just read the citizen comments on the PI article (although a read today suggests that the worst ones have been deleted).
World Changing has some good suggestions, courtesy of the author of the flawed Stranger articles. Denny Trimble gets it right on though: what’s Seattle doing to make things safer for cyclists?
The scenario is one of my own personal worst cycling fears: cars turning right at an intersection. Riding a bike lane (as the cyclists were) puts you in the path of danger when an automobile makes a ˜free right turn’. A recent interesting study from London highlights the subtle dangers riding the bike lanes “ cyclists who left the intersection while the light was still red were involved in far fewer accidents than those who waited for the green and got creamed by cars turning left (the equivalent of a right hand turn here in the States).
There are 3 ‘infrastructure’ solutions floating around right now:
Blue Lanes: Bike Lanes around and across intersections. I understand the safety evidence from Portland is good but I’m still not convinced these are enough. The two cyclists hit by the dump truck were in (or very near) a painted bike lane – I’m not sure how much more paint applied to the lane is going to solve the problem.
I think a more promising approach is Bike Boxes which actually put cyclists out ahead of the lane of traffic in a designated space. This has the advantage of putting the cyclist directly in the line of sight of the motorists rather than counting on them to read the street as well as the traffic lights and signs. In fact, many commuters I ride with take this approach at 34th and Stone Way, pulling our bikes into the left hand side of the right lane so we don’t get creamed as cars try to make a right.
Bike signal heads on traffic lights are another appealing option. The advantages here are again that the motorists can focus on familiar signaling, while the cyclists get a ‘head start’ from the traffic, hopefully moving them out of the intersection danger zone before many cars start to move through.
None of these are perfect, and if you read through the comments on some of the PI articles you’ll see that an option popular among motorists is to move bikes off streets. Presumably they mean on to bike paths or physically separated bike lanes. I’m still on the fence regarding bike paths. The stretch of the Burke-Gilman around the top of Lake Washington is a prime example of some of the dangers of bike paths – driveways and roads cross the path at random intervals allowing ample opportunities for automobile/bicycle interactions.
Segregated bike lanes got some press earlier this year as New York City prepared to add some. Sheldon “Ineffable” Brown has some insightful things to say about the press, and about physically separated lanes. They’re no substitute for educating all roadway users.
My unstudied opinion is that Seattle would do well to adopt Bike Boxes, and a more effective educational campaign for cyclists and motorists. “Give 3 feet” really seems a bit lame – it’s basically imploring automobiles to lend cyclists an extra bit of space, volunteer a bit of extra courtesy. I’d like to see a campaign aligned around “Give me the lane – it’s the law”. Empowering cyclists to use roads as needed to travel safely should go hand in hand with educating motorists that bicycles are actually allowed on the street.
Infrastructure may help, but I can’t think of any way more paint would have prevented the terrible events on Eastlake and Fuhrman. I’m very saddened for Bryce’s family. I sincerely hope the neighborhood council and city will sit up and take some notice of this intersection and other high-conflict areas in Seattle and take some steps to try and reduce the chances of it happening again.
The torrential rains earlier this week sparked a nascent memory – my worst ever commute. I sometimes ride a short stretch along the south side of Greenlake here in Seattle. The route’s very nice, bike lanes, slow park-bound traffic, beautiful old trees, and of course the lake itself is just a few dozen feet away. This particular late fall/early winter season had seen endless rain and I was getting used to plowing through puddles rather than trying to ride around them. I even found a set of postman’s golashes to keep my feet dry.
I should have recognized water freely flowing across the entire roadway as the first sign of trouble. Instead I rode bravely on, diving into larger and larger puddles, and hey, I was starting to enjoy the challenge.
All that came to an abrupt halt at the last and deepest puddle. Somewhere about 1/4 way across the water got so deep it came in over the top of my rubber overbooties. My choices were limited: Keep pedaling and get your feet soaked, or get off and get your calves soaked. Needless to say I pedaled through, barely making enough speed to stay up right all the way across. The post-puddle options weren’t much better, and I wet-footed it the rest of the way home.
What’s your worst?
Falling off my bike after nearly getting creamed by some lady in a white pickup 50 feet from my house. Surprised, yes, angry, yes. Worst part? My fancy cellphone screen (in my front pocket) got totally obliterated.
Doored on Greenwood: It was all over so quickly it was hard to get too mad about it. The lady was very apologetic, and my injuries were very minor (I was turning left, headed up hill). Just lucky for me there wasn’t any traffic behind me or I’d have a squashed noggin.
Something about the fact that I could avoided the puddles makes it worse than the random happanstance of injury.
One of the fun tourist activities in Hawaii is to take a bus up Haleakala, and zoom back down. No more of that for a while as the Park Service has had to suspend the activity in light of recent accidents and 3 deaths.
Beneath Interbike, some said, is where the “real bike show” was. They had a bike check room there (video podcast to follow) with all sorts of bikes. Outside of the room, I met Stephen “Speedy” Delaire of Rotator Recumbents and Brian Hall of Thunderstruck motors. Also present was Peter Poxton of Nuvinci.
I think this photo shows a newer version of the Jackal running Nuvinci, which will produce a neck-snapping 45 mph without gears. Also see an even more massive electric bike.
I’ve been meaning to review my Reelights for many months now, but the lights are so damn good I keep forgetting. The Reelights follow the K.I.S.S principal – keep it simple stupid, and this is where their genius lies. The appeal of the lights is so simple you’ve already figured it out –any time you’re moving you’re lit.
Reelights are a novel take on pedal powered lights – no ‘bottle generator’ like on your Mom’s old Schwinn, no expensive hub generator. Just two rare-earth magnets, a coil of wire, some LEDs and a fitting bracket. The light bracket fits on your wheel axel, and the magnets go on your spokes. Whenever your wheels turn, the magnets pass the wire coil in the light and power the LEDs. The high-end model has a capacitor to keep the lights blinking for a few minutes when you stop. Incredibly simple? Yes. Incredibly good? Yes. Foible free? Well…
My friend and I both ordered reelights at the same time late last year. Mine (the SL100s from Amazon) arrived quickly and intact. My friend’s (SL120s from Reelight headquarters in Denmark) arrived broken.
The mounting brackets for Reelight are pretty good. Using the simple screw fixed adjustments I can get the magnets and lights very close to each other without causing them to rub (a tricky thing actually). So the brackets are good, unless you have disc brakes – they’re too short. Reelight sells an extended bracket to accommodate 160mm rotors, but I run 185s on my xtracycle and I haven’t ordered the 160 extension for my rain bike. So, I run my front reelight on the drive side of my bike, away from traffic. Less than ideal.
The lights are down low (axle height). This is OK for traffic far away, but the scary scenario is when an automobile pulls up along side in right hand lane and wants to make a right. Reeligts aren’t going to alert the driver that you’re sitting along side them before they pull right out on top of you.
Lastly, reelights are light weight by most standards, but heavy rotational weight. For you weight weenies out there this might make the difference for you. The heaviest part of the lights are the magnets, which go right on your wheel (spokes), so you’re pushing the magnets around when you’re pushing your wheels and tires.
All things considered, these lights are a fantastic addition to any commuting bike. Incredibly reliable, always on, never out of batteries, what’s to loose? Not much if you run these as backup lights. I feel safer with a higher mounted rear flasher and helmet mounted light as well.
Folks who plan on finishing first might consider a different set of non-rotational-weight-adding lights.
So I said, “can you show us?” He did. I watched the video repeatedly before editing it and it’s impressive. Titanium frame, 20 pounds, and folds to 21” x 22” x 10”. Watch below and available on our Huggacast.
How’s I miss this? Apparently they were at the Dirt Demo at Interbike, but I didn’t see them. Sturmy-Archer is even blogging about it. We’ll see what comes of it. FSA is apparently releasing a group soon too - might be interesting here pretty soon.
Just a reminder to the masses out there. Riding in the rain is great. I did 3 hours today, got soaked mostly through, but still had a great ride. The only issue? - getting caught riding behind the guy with fenders…but no flap! The edge of his raceblade directed a constant flow of wet grit right into my teeth.