NOTE: We apologize that there was Bike News Roundup yesterday. We have been hard at work planning Saturday’s Safe Streets Social. Be sure to tell your friends about the ride. Look forward to seeing you there!
In a letter to Mike McGinn posted earlier today at West Seattle Blog, Kit Newman describes a near-miss experience with a truck on Alaskan Way near Atlantic (just south of the new Alaskan Way trail). A regular commuter from the Central District to West Seattle, Kit says he’s never had a closer call.
From Kit’s letter (Note: The street names have been changed. After talking with Kit, we decided the original streets in the letter were not accurate):
I live in the Central District at 22nd avenue and Yesler Way. I work at a small architecture firm on California Ave. SW in West Seattle. I have been commuting by bike between the CD and West Seattle most days for the past 4 years. My normal route takes me down Jackson street to the water front and then south along East Marginal way to reach Spokane street and thus over the little bridge to West Seattle. This incident happened along the southbound lane of Alaskan Way very near the Coast Guard port facility and the US Customs warehouse. Having just crossed the intersection of S. Atlantic St. and Alaskan Way right in front of the entrance to the Hanjin container port terminal, I proceeded south in the southbound lane of Alaskan Way. There were many bike commuters from West Seattle coming the northbound direction in the temporary bike lane along the west side of the street. Seeing the southbound lane ahead was clear of any vehicle traffic, I elected to ride in that lane rather than against the opposing bike lane traffic coming northbound. The long line of opposing vehicle traffic in the northbound lane of Alaskan was stopped at that time because a freight train was using the rail crossing at S. Atlantic behind me.
As I proceeded in the clear southbound lane ahead, to my utter astonishment, one of the several 18 wheeler container trucks that were stopped in the traffic of the northbound lane, pulled out of that lane, crossed the double yellow center line between lanes and proceeded to accelerate coming northbound head on to me in the southbound lane! I was so astonished at this, that it took me several seconds to realize that the truck would not stop. He was accelerating the whole time as I could hear the upshifting of the trucks engine as it came at me head on with no extra room to spare. When I finally realized that this truck would not stop and that MY life was at stake, I immediately braked to a halt, unclipped from my pedals and threw the bike over the jersey barrier and dove over after it just as this truck sped past me. Had I not done so, I am convinced that I would be dead now under the wheels of that fully laden truck! Dead. To add great insult to this injury I did see the face of the driver as he sped past. He was grinning triumphantly having scared me out of his way with a classic game of chicken. I was so consumed in that moment with the urgent need to save my own life that I was not able to get a clear view of the trucks license plate or any other identifying marks. All I do know is that it was a black Kenworth cab, with a container loaded behind it and it was driven by a black man. Perhaps of East African decent. It reached the north end of the southbound lane and turned left at S. Holgate into the Hanjin terminal. I could not give chase as my bike was damaged in my throwing it over the jersey barrier. I was hysterical for several minutes before I could compose myself to attempt to continue on to work. I slowly made my way to work with only one front gear available.
In the comments at WSB, several people reported that drivers often cross the double yellow line Kit describes in his letter to get around traffic waiting for a passing train. Meanwhile, we posted a story in last week’s Bike News Roundup about the struggles of short haul truckers at Seattle’s port.
We do not know this driver’s reasons for doing what he did. As Kit puts it, it sounds like complete insanity and disregard for the lives of others. That or “the driver figured I could squeeze by him in that narrow strip next to the concrete barriers you see on the left” in the photo above, he said. But it certainly doesn’t do any good to have a bunch of stressed-out truck drivers who are barely scraping by driving around on our city’s roadways.
One of the truckers’ demands is for some kind of pay for time wasted stuck in traffic. Perhaps here’s another reason for the Port to provide such a benefit: We don’t want to incentivise recklessness on our roads.