Man biking at Rainier/Jackson seriously injured in collision with Metro bus

Traffic camera image from SDOT.

Traffic camera image from SDOT.

Police are investigating a collision Monday morning that sent a 26-year-old man on a bike to Harborview with life-threatening injuries.

A Metro trolly bus and the injured man collided shortly before 8 a.m. A reader reported (caution: graphic images) that Medics loaded him onto a stretcher and rushed him to the hospital with a police escort.

The specifics of how the collision happened are not yet available.

We’re sending him our best wishes.

More details from Seattle PD:

Detectives are on scene after a cyclist and bus collided during the Monday morning commute.

Several witnesses called 911 when they saw a collision between a bus and a bicyclist at Rainier Ave South and South Jackson Street shortly before 8 AM.

Medics have transported the 26-year-old cyclist to Harborview Medical Center with life threatening injuries.

Traffic Collision Investigators are collecting evidence and speaking with witnesses as they conduct their investigation. The driver of the bus is cooperating with investigators at the scene.

Commuters should expect traffic impacts in the area while in investigation continues.

Though the First Hill Streetcar is not yet operational, the tracks have been in place for a little over a year. Especially on Jackson, where there is no bike lane, the tracks have proven to be a significant hazard to people on bikes. The intersection of Jackson/Rainier/Boren/14th is particularly hard to navigate safely on a bike, a problem we raised during the planning phase. Again, it’s not clear how this collision happened, but this intersection scares me every time I go through.

UPDATE: For an idea of what it’s like to be on a bike in this intersection, I shot this helmet cam video in April 2014. Notice how difficult it is to cross the tracks at a safe 90-degree angle (the sharrows show you the path, but they also lead you fully out of the lane, then back again). It’s not clear yet which direction the man injured was headed, so this video is just to give you idea of the road conditions.

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39 Responses to Man biking at Rainier/Jackson seriously injured in collision with Metro bus

  1. Louis says:

    From the SDOT capture, that’s definitely one of the short trolleys that frequently run on the 14 route. I think it’s safe to assume the 14 and the cyclist were coming through the intersection around the same time, and the bus operator did not see the cyclist before pulling into the bus zone on the NW corner of Rainier/Jackson. The streetcar tracks could have played a part in this, but it’s difficult to tell.

    My thoughts are with the man who was seriously injured, as well as with the Metro operator.

    ————————————–

    The safety concerns you’ve brought up here are definitely valid. The moderately well-used bike lane traveling straight down the hill on Jackson just kind of ends right before this intersection, at a point where cars, bikes, and buses alike are at full speed making all sorts of maneuvers in a busy, five-point intersection.

    It seems like there’s enough room here to dedicate a left-turn lane for WB Jackson > SB Rainier car traffic, with WB Jackson & right-turning car traffic in the right travel lane, with the bike lane painted green and continuing through the intersection on the far right. You’ve have to orient the bike lane perpendicular to the streetcar tracks through the intersection. Deleting some street parking would be necessary on WB Jackson to make it fit.

    In a perfect world, you’d be able to restrict any and all right turns by cars off WB Jackson onto NB Boren/14th here, protecting cyclists as they travel through this intersection. Doing that would not go over well with car drivers, however.

  2. Scott Amick says:

    I cross the FH street car tracks a few times a day and I’ve been wondering if there are any warning signs for bicyclists. I haven’t noticed any at 12th/Jackson and 4th/Jackson which are the intersections I cross the tracks at. The tracks are generally located better than the SLUT’s but still warning signs seem reasonable.

    Are there any warning signs for the FH streetcar like I believe the SLUT has?

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Do you mean this one? https://pricetags.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/portland-bike-trip-sign.jpg

      Seattle has some on Westlake and on the Burke-Gilman Missing Link in Ballard.

      I don’t remember if there are any on Jackson. Anyone else know?

      I’ve always found them confusing because, while it is certainly effective at making you aware tracks can be dangerous, it doesn’t tell you how to cross safely. In fact, in the image it sort of looks like the stick figure man was crossing at 90-degrees, which is the safe way to do it. It’s probably pretty hard to quickly and clearly demonstrate the idea that crossing tracks at a shallow angle can be dangerous using only a single stick figure image.

    • Louis says:

      Warning sign or not, the sharrows used here point cyclists to cross the tracks perpendicular, but this leads to an unpredictable movement where the cyclist appears to be turning onto Boren, then suddenly returns to traveling WB on Jackson. It’s confusing to everybody.

      • Josh says:

        This would be a great place for green hazard paint — illustrate the full route, including bikes continuing into the right lane on Jackson.

        Move the whole suggested bike route further left, and paint it bright green to make it more visible to drivers.

      • Josh says:

        Also, on Jackson past the intersection, move the sharrow out of the gutter and into the center of the lane — more conspicuous to drivers out in the center of the lane, and the lane is too narrow to share side-by-side with a bus or truck anyway, so drivers should be expecting to change lanes if they have to pass a bicycle.

      • Karl says:

        NO Sharrow should be painted in the gutter! The whole point of the Sharrow is to indicate that it is unsafe for cars and bicycles to simultaneously share the lane! And yet, somehow most of the Sharrows in this city have been painted in the gutter.

      • Josh says:

        The 2014 BMP Update specifically included properly centering sharrows in travel lanes, and SDOT has indicated they’ve updated their standards for where new or refreshed sharrows will be placed. But that does leave many lane miles of legacy, improperly-placed sharrows all over the city.

        These ones could perhaps be a higher priority for fixing?

    • Louis says:

      Just walked by, can confirm there are two warning signs as you approach the intersection, plus one “Use Extreme Caution” (whatever that means)

    • RDPence says:

      There are two largish yellow traffic signs for WB traffic on Jackson approaching this intersection. They have both bike and rail track images on them, so their messages are pretty clear, at least to people who look at signs.

    • daihard says:

      I cross the First Hill streetcar tracks at 5th and Jackson twice a week. I don’t think I’ve seen any warning signs there.

  3. Josh says:

    That sharrow route is awful, puts bikes much too far to the right entering the next block, a setup for a squeeze to the curb when overtaking drivers don’t see you or don’t expect you to be swerving back into the lane so suddenly.

    Don’t know how you’d illustrate it with sharrows, but I start the intersection just right of the dashed white line, at the left edge of the right lane. Then, after crossing the first pair of tracks, I make a quick “S” to offset back to the left, so that I stay in the center of the lane when crossing the second set of tracks.

    Have to slow down a bit to do it that way, but drivers are much better at avoiding a 10 mph bike in the center of the lane than a 15-20 mph bike at the far right.

  4. Jonathan Mark says:

    I feel so sorry this happened and hope the person injured will be OK.

  5. Jeff Dubrule says:

    Ouch. The sharrow setup definitely causes a biker to make a maneuver that telegraphs a right-turn, which a reasonable driver would then respond to by waiting until biker clears the lane, then accelerating to pass & catch up to the next car, not expecting the biker to suddenly veer back into the lane.

  6. Lynn says:

    My thoughts are with the cyclist. I only hope that incidents like this can help spur the city into doing more to protect cyclists as Seattle builds a streetcar network. I don’t often ride through this intersection but maybe changing the signaling to an all way walk/bike at any intersection where the streetcars turn (and introduce odd track angles) could be a temporary/low-cost solution to remove some conflicts.

  7. Patty Lyman says:

    I was crossing on Jackson, following the angled path over Boren on a Sunday a few weeks ago and a bus coming down Jackson nearly hit me as I moved back onto Jackson. I do not think the bus drivers are aware of the bike markings. It is very unsafe there.

    • Jonathan Mark says:

      Yes, we don’t have any info from the investigation yet, but the sharrows are indeed awful, and this is compounded by the bus needing to pull over to the curb at the same spot where the bike is trying to get back into the lane.

      There is another unsafe situation that repeatedly happens to me on Jackson: head west/downhill and try to pass a bus which is stopped at a bus stop and is not flashing a left turn signal. There is only a small space between the bus and the left-lane streetcar track. Pass in this space, and the bus is likely to start moving and drifting left while the bike is alongside, forcing the bike toward the track. I find this outrageous, but they seem to do it consistently…. maybe it is hard to see me when I am close to the side of the bus?

      I have concluded that it is necessary to stop and wait behind the bus, rather than trying to pass between the bus and the track. Or better yet, take King Street. And advocate for no more streetcars.

      • Josh says:

        I suspect many drivers think they’re already in the lane, so they don’t see the need to signal left before starting from an in-lane stop.

        I see that quite frequently elsewhere, too, e.g, eastbound on Jackson in front of Union Station, with a bus stopped in the right lane, there’s enough room in the left lane to pass without hitting the streetcar rails, but not if the bus pulls left while you’re passing.

        There aren’t any streetcar rails on 5th Ave S, but buses stopped by Union Station on 5th often don’t signal before pulling away from the curb if they’re going to stay in the right lane. They do signal pretty reliably if they’re headed for the left lane.

        Like you, my real solution is to take King Street, is much more bike-friendly than Jackson, both uphill and down.

      • ODB says:

        I have a choice between commuting on Jackson or Yesler. I’ve taken Jackson a few times and every time it reminds me why I prefer Yesler, even though it is hillier. Tom’s video does a great job of illustrating how dangerous those tracks are. I think the sharrows illustrate probably the safest way to navigate the tracks, but the necessity to look behind and quickly merge into back into Jackson after having lost momentum and lane position is just inherently very hard to do safely.

  8. RDPence says:

    Another lesson to be learned here, for motorists as well as cyclists, is don’t pass a bus on the right, at least not when the bus is in the right lane and there’s a bus stop ahead.

    • daihard says:

      According to the KOMO news report, the SPD are investigating whether the cyclist got stuck in one of the streetcar tracks. That implies that he was riding in the left lane, possibly to pass the bus (on the left).

      • RDPence says:

        There’s an eyewitness report on another comment thread that says the cyclist was on the right side of the bus when he fell and was run over.

      • daihard says:

        Okay, thanks. Does it mean he fell left into the left lane where the bus was coming, or was he riding on the right of the bus in the same lane?

  9. Merlin says:

    So terribly sorry to hear this news, and hoping the best for the person who was hit. It is maddening that Jackson was made so dangerous for bikes, when the city had already seen the folly of Westlake – and was designing fully separated bike lanes on Broadway as part of the same streetcar project. I choose Yesler, or I wind through the ID on King and Weller; I never ride Jackson since the tracks went in – although Yesler is also a weird mishmash of bike infrastructure, switching from sharrow to bike lane to buffered lane to sharrow and never offering the level of safety that would feel safe riding with a kid (for example). Really hope the guy who was hit is ok.

  10. PE2 says:

    I was on the #14 when the accident happened yesterday morning. It was terrible. The biker was on the left side of the bus as he should be when the bus is pulling to the stop. the biker fell- don’t know why. He fell right under the rear tires. It was not the driver’s fault- he was terribly shaken. It is a very tragic situation, terrible to witness, and I hope so much the cyclist survives.

  11. Gary says:

    100% side note, I have an air horn, and one of my most frequent uses is the three horn tap as I pass a bus picking up passengers. I noticed that the bus drivers do this for each other and it works well as the bus driver does a hard look in the mirrors before pulling away from the curb.

    I too wish the rider well and hope he recovers fully.

  12. Jonathan Mark says:

    I know we are all still thinking about the person who was injured. Whoever you are, may you be well taken care of, and healing.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      I’m still sending best wishes, too. Thanks for posting a reminder, Jonathan. Can’t imagine how scary this must have been, no matter how it happened.

  13. Tom Fucoloro says:

    I have wondered this for a while, but I don’t know enough about the coach-buying options Metro has: Can Metro buy buses with doors on both sides? Imagine if every bus route that runs on Jackson used the streetcar platforms rather than the curb lanes. Wouldn’t that also be good for transit times? It would definitely make taking transit less confusing if all options served the same platform (and it would make it easier to turn those center lanes into transit-only lanes).

    Then we could maybe tighten up the curb lanes and add bike lanes.

    • RDPence says:

      Yes Tom, bus manufacturers will gladly build buses with doors on both sides. They have them in Eugene on their BRT line, for the same purpose you suggest. But they cost more and have fewer seats, so there are tradeoffs.

  14. Kirsi Longley says:

    I fell crossing the tracks at this intersection last August 2014 that resulted in a fractured pelvis, losing consciousness, an ambulance ride to the hospital, rehab, and now 9 months of pain. There is absolutely no way to safely cross these tracks, even when following the sharrows. It is mind boggling to me that the city installed the tracks here in this fashion. It is far too dangerous. Something must be done. If anyone else has fallen at this intersection due to the tracks please contact me.

  15. Tom Fucoloro says:

    I just spoke with Catherine Fleming, the attorney for the man injured. He is still in Harborview and has a tough recovery ahead of him. But the good news is that he does not appear to have spinal damage, and he’s determined to get back on feet and walking as soon as he can. His family is with him, and they are grateful for everyone’s support.

    • daihard says:

      Thanks for the update, Tom. Recovery must be tough, but it’s great to hear his spine and spinal cords are intact, and that he is ready to face the recovery process, which will probably be long and painful. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Wishing him the best of luck.

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