Man killed and woman seriously injured in shared-bike collision with bus

A man and woman sharing a bike collided with a Sound Transit bus at 5th and Main at 10:40 p.m. Saturday night.

The woman was seriously injured, but conscious at the scene. The man died.

Our condolences to his friends and family.

KIRO TV reports that the man was 41 and the woman is 37. Photos from the scene show a mangled mountain bike in the intersection. The bus is facing southbound on 5th Ave S just south of S Main Street.

Few details have yet been released about how the collision happened. Here’s what we know so far from SPD:

Detectives are investigating after a man died and a woman was seriously injured in the International District in a crash involving a Metro bus.

Officers were called to 5 Ave. South and South Main St. at 10:40 PM Saturday, when two people riding on one bike crashed into the side of a Metro coach.  Officers found an adult male unconscious with life threatening injuries and an adult woman conscious with serious injuries. Seattle Fire Department medics transported both to Harborview Medical Center where the man later died.

A Seattle Police drug recognition expert tested the driver of the coach and found no signs of impairment.

Traffic collision detectives are investigating the incident.

This tragedy sets a somber tone for already-planned actions this week to protest the city’s delayed downtown bike lane network, which had included 5th Ave S until SDOT suddenly cut nearly all of downtown from the city’s to-do list.

We don’t know enough about this collision to determine whether bike lanes would have prevented it. And we may never know. But we do know that protected bike lanes and complete streets reduce serious collisions, and this intersection has few significant safe streets improvements. In fact, it still has some potentially hazardous dormant trolley tracks embedded in the pavement, though it is unclear if these tracks played any role in this collision.

Cascade Bicycle Club has a downtown “Hidden Gems” scavenger hunt scheduled for Monday evening, intended to be a fun way for people to explore downtown by bike and encourage the city to build a network of protected bike lanes.

Then Tuesday, Cascade and Seattle Neighborhood Greenways already planned a noon protest at City Hall calling on the Mayor and City Council to follow through with promises and stop delaying the downtown bike network. The City Council Sustainability and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hear about the delayed bike plan during their 2 p.m. Tuesday meeting (more on that soon, stay tuned).

UPDATE: The annual Ride of Silence is Wednesday. Meet 6 p.m. at Gas Works Park (leave at 7) for a quiet ride in memory of people who have died while biking.

Before the downtown bike plan was put on hold, SDOT staff held an open house that included the following, devastating map. Note that a person walking was seriously injured at the same intersection in recent years. Now we need to add more red and yellow asterisks.

EI_CenterCityBikeBoards_web-trafficviolenceEach mark on this map is a person with communities of friends and family members who love them. Each is a father or sister or friend or grandmother or beloved life partner. We must do better.

But this map won’t change over the next three years unless we take action as a city to change it. Traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable. That’s the central thesis of Seattle’s Vision Zero policy. Inaction is a choice to make a this map all over again in 2019.

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27 Responses to Man killed and woman seriously injured in shared-bike collision with bus

  1. Fred Chamois says:

    Whatever the causes of this particular collision, that area (4th, 5th, Jackson, Dearborn) is terrible for bikes.

    There is no safe route from Int’l Dist to 2nd Ave PBL (or to anywhere else downtown).

    Just another example of the fantastic bike infrastructure in America’s #1 superduper bestest bike city.

    • Gary says:

      Totally agree. Coming from the Eastside or going to it without going over Capital Hill there isn’t a good route through those blocks.

  2. Elias says:

    Well bike lanes don’t prevent collisions so I’m not sure why they get brought up.

    My condolences to the riders and families.

    • Molly says:

      Actually, bike lanes do in fact prevent collisions. There are many, solid studies that demonstrate that well designed and implemented bike lanes reduce collisions for people on bicycles AND reduce collisions involving people in cars on those streets.

  3. There has been so much traffic violence this week. Last night, a pedestrian in Fremont was seriously injured in front of Nectar Lounge, along with the 2 other bike crashes in North Seattle, and the pedestrian/car collision in Sodo.

    For a city that is supposedly implementing Vision Zero, I don’t see a whole lot of forward momentum happening to actually make our streets any safer. Sure, I got a few targeted ads on Instagram and Facebook from SDOT to put down my phone when I’m driving (duh), but it’s past time to see some structural and engineering changes that would actually make the difference for all of us who use our streets.

  4. ronp says:

    Condolences to the family. We need rapidly deployed bicycle highways, just like London. This can be done. Road diets, curb bulbs, wider sidewalks. pedestrian malls around transit stations.

    • Eli says:

      It may require regime change in City Hall and SDOT, though.

      “I think we need to recognize some of the good things that are happening… this is one of the best cities in the country for bikes and yes we have a lot of work to do and a way to go and maybe we made some bad decisions but we’re doing a great thing”
      — Nicole Freedman, SDOT Active Transportation Director (sugar-coating and rationalizing her department’s failure to deliver on taxpayer expectations)

      “They are telling us over and over again that you’re pushing things too fast, and so they’re saying, “Cool off.” Well, the only answer that we can give to that is that we’ve cooled off all too long, and that is the danger. There’s always the danger if you cool off too much that you will end up in a deep freeze.”
      — Martin Luther King

      • Roberto says:

        Don’t blame me. I voted for Mike McGinn. At least he knew what riding a bike was like. Can’t say the same for our current Dear Leader.

  5. Alexander says:

    “two people riding on one bike crashed into the side of a Metro coach”

    The side of the bus. I don’t think this crash can be blamed on SDOT. I’m not familiar with the exact intersection but it would appear as if one party didn’t stop.

    One of the keys to achieving Vision Zero is everyone following safety best practices 100% of the time. The best engineering can only go so far.

    • Ted says:

      I don’t know enough to disagree with your concerns about the contributing factors of this tragedy, but I have a different understanding of vision zero than you seem to have:

      “You should be able to make mistakes,” said Lars Darin, a senior official with the Swedish Transport Administration, “without being punished by death.”

      http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/05/13/nyregion/de-blasio-looks-toward-sweden-for-road-safety.html?referer=

      • RDPence says:

        It’s difficult to envision a safety regime that could assure running a red light on a major bus street would not be “punished by death.”

      • Andres Salomon says:

        How do you know that they were running a red light? How do you know the bus wasn’t turning? How do you know the bus wasn’t running a red light? How do you know they weren’t trying to turn? Do you have details that the rest of us don’t?

      • RDPence says:

        I frequently ride that bus route, and it was heading south on 5th Ave. and not turning. I don’t know that the bicyclist was running the red light, but I do know from personal observation that bicyclists run red lights somewhat more frequently than Metro buses do.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        I have seen bus drivers run red lights. I have also seen people on bikes run red lights. You don’t actually know, but you’re assuming the people biking were at fault.

        That’s the worst kind of victim-blaming.

      • RDPence says:

        I’m not blaming anyone, merely pointing out some possibilities. Riding with two people on a bicycle designed for one rider, that’s an inherently unsafe thing to do. Perhaps that was not the only unsafe thing the riders did that tragic evening.

        Other things that should come out in the investigation — did the rider have a headlight on, as required by law after dark, so the bus driver could see him (them)? Did the riders have helmets on, as also required in King County? Was the cyclist impaired by alcohol or drugs (the bus driver has already been checked)? (The bus has apparently been checked out and no mechanical issues detected.) When we learn the answers to such questions, we will have a better understanding of how this tragedy occurred and how it could’ve been avoided.

      • Andres Salomon says:

        And when you make assumptions that they were running a red light based on no actual data, you’re not helping anyone understand how to avoid future crashes like this.

        https://twitter.com/NEGreenways/status/734926668591157250

        Here’s a bus running a red light today. That’s a ghost bike in the background (Robert Townsend’s). If someone was biking down the hill at 20+mph today with the green light and got hit by that bus, would you just shrug your shoulders and say “There’s no way we can fix bikers who run red lights. Nothing to see here”? We haven’t fixed this intersection, thanks in part to a culture of victim-blaming.

      • iqueen says:

        Do you have to clear intersections before the light turns red? If not, how do those pictures show that a bus ran a light?

      • Andres Salomon says:

        Typically traffic signals have a delay between when a light turns red in one direction and green in the other. This is a safety feature called “all-red clearance interval” by traffic engineers. When a vehicle (which might include a slow bicycle) enters the intersection during the yellow phase, cross traffic shouldn’t get a green light while that vehicle is still trying to clear the intersection.

        Offhand I don’t know how many seconds the clearance interval is for this particular intersection, but it’s typically between 1-6 seconds. That means the light was a solid red for the bus for *at least* 1 second before the light turned green for cross traffic.

        The first pic (where the light’s already green) has the bus entering the intersection. The bus had had a red light for that for at least one second if it was a properly functioning signal. I’m guessing the driver either sped up and miscalculated the length of the yellow phase, or just flat out didn’t care.

  6. Gary says:

    The problem with this intersection is that the buses have to queue up to go through the intersection at 4th and Jackson, and so they make a run to make the light if it looks clear. If you are on a bike coming down the hill on Main, there is a light, but if the bus runs the red (happens occasionally) you need to give way. If there are two people riding a single bike, I wonder if the brakes are sufficient to stop in time if you get going. But it wasn’t a safe thing to do when I was a kid never mind as a adult in city traffic.

    As for a bike lane, that’s not going to help if you can’t stop from hitting the side of a bus. It’s not like they are small.

    • Josh says:

      Legally, riding two people on a single bike is prohibited state-wide. It’s too easy to overload the brakes or unbalance the handling of the bike, so the Legislature doesn’t leave it up to individual judgement.

      RCW 46.61.760
      Riding on bicycles.
      (1) A person propelling a bicycle shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto.
      (2) No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.

      • jay says:

        There you go again!
        Now, granted, it looks like the bike in this case was a conventional single person bike, but did you read the law you quoted? it does NOT say: “riding two people on a single bike is prohibited state-wide” it says: “… the number for which it is designed and equipped.”
        Yuba, Madson, Larry vs. Harry, and Xtracycle clearly design (and optionally equip) their bikes for passengers. Surly perhaps not so much, but I’m sure that is more QBP than Surly per se. (sorry Madi)
        It’s interesting that the law says “designed AND equipped”, does that mean putting a child seat on a conventional bike is illegal? since “AND” ain’t “OR” But on an Edgerunner factory equipped for mounting a Yepp one should be fine.

      • Josh says:

        Exactly — if you’re riding a single bike, you should be carrying only yourself.

        If you want to carry more than one person, you should be riding something else, like an Xtracycle etc., not a single bike.

      • Kirk says:

        Exactly how many bicycles is a tandem bicycle?

      • Josh says:

        A single is a bicycle with one seat.

        A tandem is a bicycle with two seats, one after the other, as opposed to a sociable, which has two seats side-by-side.

        A triple has three seats, etc.

        A tandem is zero single bicycles.

  7. Jonmichael says:

    I ride a bike in traffic +40 hrs a week, I have have seen and encountered, countless, happenings now saved in my memory as events that have taught me so much about how humans act in traffic. This bipolar pulse of humans traveling is interesting to say the least. What surprises me the most, is the lack of seriousness that SOME bus operators function with. No blinker, no hazards, tailgating (bikes and cars) unloading passengers at seemingly arbitrary locations and wiggling through traffic with a clear sign of aggravation. With that said, I see some bus drivers pull off an absolutely impressive amount of patience and tenacity. Enough that i’ve written compliments to their supervisors about their ethic and skill. A good bus driver must be a demi god. They operate at a level that the majority could not dream of. But the bad ones hold a power just as great, only not in favor of the safety of our streets.

    So here’s what’s tricky. administration cracking down on the safety of the operator, is only good food for the media. It is an ibuprofen pill of a remedy. Masking, not fixing. Probably adding to the frustration of most bus drivers.

    And getting pissed about a bunch of jerks behind the wheel doesn’t help. It’s like getting mad at water for making stuff wet

    A much more effective approach would be for all of us to change the way we are around buses.

    I see motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists treating bus drivers like dirt. And people on the inside treating them with little respect too. I see cars refusing to let them merge, cyclists selfishly & unnecessarily cutting them off, people parking in their way, and passengers saying nasty things to them, while they are just trying to do their job safely and make it back to their life safely.
    THIS IS NOT AN ISSUE THAT ONE PERSON CAN SOLVE

    This is on everyone that uses any of these roads.

    And with THAT said

    Screw where you’re going and what you’re doing, and how much of an a-hole someone might be. There is a bus full of people, and they all have something to do and that driver is the boss of how they get there once they board. And if you think that what youre doing is more important than a bus full of lives, then you better be in an ambulance reviving someone that is in critical condition, about to lose their life.

    >Respect the Metro. Avoid screwing with them, like you avoid eating rocks for nutrition.

  8. Doug Bostrom says:

    “With that said, I see some bus drivers pull off an absolutely impressive amount of patience and tenacity.”

    I’ll amend that to “most.” The patience and diligence exhibited by the large majority of Metro drivers in the face of constant stupidity and self-absorption on the part of motorists is little short of a miracle. When I’m driving and become frustrated I can calm down immediately by imagining I’m driving a bus, which puts my petty irritation in proper perspective.

    Start with the basics, in any case: drive more slowly (within the speed limit, including below the speed limit which after all is a maximum for perfect conditions), obey signals. Meeting those two objectives won’t get us to zero but they’re the first and most significant necessary steps.

    Really: DEMAND that traffic laws be enforced. We have means in place now and have had for decades to signficantly address the problems we talk about here. By tacit consent we don’t choose to use those means. It’s time to change that, or Vision Zero is simply hot air.

    How much political courage does it take to enforce traffic regulations, and if we don’t have that courage what are our chances of real improvement here? Zero.

    And this pressure needs to come from the bottom. Daddy Murray or whoever we’ve stuck in as our hood ornament doesn’t have the power to make positive change if we don’t back that person up with political impetus.

  9. Doug Bostrom says:

    I’ll just add, traffic regulations are old, boring, mundane. So is most of the eating we do and much else but we’d die if we didn’t do these things. We’re attracted to novelty and shortwave fads such as the catchy “Vision Zero” phrase but really the problems we face with traffic and people are old, boring, mundane, solved with old, boring and mundane repetition of deadly dull but necessary activities.

    Expect to continue solving this problem forever and don’t expect that a politician with no useful support is going to wave hands and leave the rest of us free to stop paying attention,

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