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Long-time Vivace general manager seriously injured in bicycle crash – UPDATED

From the Vivace website

Brian Fairbrother, a 20-year veteran of Espresso Vivace, was seriously injured in a late-August bicycle crash, Capitol Hill Seattle reports. Comments from long-time customers are pouring in expressing their condolences.

CHS reports that Fairbrother will be taken off life support Thursday in accordance to his wishes.

Details of the wreck are not clear, but a September 1 post on the CaringBridge site set up for Brian says he was cycling on Fairview Ave E and hit a dirt patch near a stairwell. Medics found him on the stairs, and he was not breathing. It does not appear a car was involved in the incident, and details of what caused the wreck and where it occurred are not yet clear.

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More about Brian from the Vivace website:

King manager of 321 since before it was a store (he managed the cart at 301 Broadway before that), Brian is now the general manager of Espresso Vivace and also manages Alley 24. Besides being a very unique soul, he is our third leg on our decision stool. Brian, Geneva and I are the “board of directors” for Vivace Inc.. We know that if all three of us endorse a course of action for Espresso Vivace, it is the right course of action. He has earned our respect countless times. He was very crucial to holding the company together during our horrendous transition from carts to stores in 1992. And he has earned the respect of his staff for fair, but tough standards. It is Brian that is the principal architect for our customer service philosophy: compassion for the foibles of humanity. Brian practices his compassionate service, and considerable skills as a master barista and manages Alley 24 five days a week. He has been with us for twenty years. If a problem pops up on his watch he is fond of telling me “not to worry my artistic little head over it.” Thank you Brian

Condolences to Brian, his friends and his family during this very difficult time. We will update as we learn more.

UPDATE 4 PM: With the help of Capitol Hill Seattle, we have pieced together a few more details about what happened. A large 911 call went out around 5:50 p.m. August 30 to the intersection of Fairview Ave E and Fairview Ave N for a bicycle accident. Medics found a male in his 40s unconscious but breathing and transported him to the hospital.

Details from the CaringBridge site and discussions with people familiar with the incident suggest that he crashed down a stairway, and that the evening sun may have been in his eyes. His brain injuries were caused by a lack of oxygen.

Though we do not know for sure what caused the crash, the intersection of Fairview E and Fairview N has a somewhat infamous hazard  where what appears to be a trail (especially in difficult seeing conditions) actually leads to a staircase. Just south of the intersection, Fairview Ave E goes over a bridge leading towards South Lake Union. At both the north and south ends of the bridge, there are staircases leading to a walking path, but bicycle users are meant to ride in a bicycle lane at street level. It is not yet clear whether the incident happened at the north or south staircase.

The city is in the process of redesigning the intersection of Fairview N and Fairview E, with construction scheduled to start in 2012.

UPDATE 4:11 PM: Espresso Vivace’s walk-up location at Broadway and Harrison is hosting a tribute to Fairbrother, CHS reports. They also have a box so people can leave notes of support.

UPDATE 6:35 PM: SPD was able to provide a few more details on the incident. Fairbrother was riding northbound on the west sidewalk, according to the traffic investigation report. He crashed on the stairway near the south side of the bridge, landing face first on the sidewalk. When riding northbound on the sidewalk, which is part of the city’s Cheshiahud Loop trail, people biking are meant to exit the sidewalk at the south end of the bridge and use a bicycle lane at street level. The stairwell leads to a floating pedestrian pathway:

UPDATE 9/8: Brian has passed away. He was 50 years old.

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19 responses to “Long-time Vivace general manager seriously injured in bicycle crash – UPDATED”

  1. Doug Bostrom

    Wretched, truly.

    Pedal safely, with circumspection. Lots of people are waiting to see you again, don’t care if you’re a little late, are happy when you just show up.

  2. Gary


    R.I.P. Brian. My condolences to the family.

  3. Bob Weinberg

    I experienced you for a week and wish you peace…………………

  4. Brandon Carr

    Damn! I see Brian every Mon-Fri for the past 1 1/2 years. we had a daily morning routine with my vivace doughnut addiction. I am not sure if I’ll be able to buy another doughnut from someone else. We had a system. He was a great guy and new his customers. My condolences to his family.

  5. Jocelyne Houghton

    This is terrible. Holding Brian in my heart. Blessed be, Fair Brother.

  6. mik

    thank you for putting these pieces together.

    as i just mentioned to friends on fb when linking here: although this does not make it any easier to lose a person i have known for a couple decades and who is very close to many of my friends, this puts to rest the how and why of it.

    now i can get back to the hugs and conversation and any other way i can help a bunch of great people through this.

  7. paul knight

    I was a bad drug addict on capitol hill for ten years, i worked at baskin and robbins across the street from brian from 1994thru 1995 and worked in the espresso stand in the b and r parking lot, in the latter part of my addiction brian helped me several times with free coffe and kind words and although i may not have appreciated it at the time i do believe it is because of brians kindness as well as other people like him that i can say im clean off of methamphetamines for ten yrs! brian you will be missed

  8. Rabah from Paris

    I can’t believe it! We all miss you Brian. My sincere condolences to your family.

  9. Jeremy Racca

    One of the nicest people I have ever known. This is so sad. Rest in peace, Brian. My prayers are with your family.

  10. Christopher Kelly

    One of the things I have missed about Seattle since I relocated to Minnesota was Brian and his amazing wit. “Are you together or separate, economically speaking…” was one of my favorite Brian quotes. My God bless you, your family and friends during this time. I love you and will see you on the other side my old friend.

  11. Jason williams

    Heartbreaking. Love and condolences to all that knew or had the pleasure of experiencing him. Rest well Brian. We love you<3

  12. J

    Oh this is awful – so sad. The second I read Fairview and stairs I cringed – that is a tricky spot, especially w/ sun in your eyes.

    Having *known* him from the other side of the counter since the early 90’s, he was always sweet. Ever know a person that somehow consistently seems with-it? That’s how he struck me. I kick myself for not being bold or brave enough to compliment him on his photo in the Seattle Mag.

    All the best to his family and friends.

  13. Libby Nichols

    I met Brian as a barista. After two decades of our chit chat, sometimes light sometimes heavy as our lives changed, I can truly say he was a dear friend. The last few years I have not seen him as often but he was always ready to take the time and stop, connect- even hug -when I would drop in at his work. I am deeply saddened by this loss of life and I will miss him. He had a generous spirit and was full of life and I will celebrate the memory of his vivaciousness as I grieve our loss. I currently know not where else to take these thoughts and grief. Thank you for giving us a place. Love and blessings to his family, friends and co-workers. The article I read in the paper lead me here and after the shock subsided, tears…. I just want to share that Brian touched my life. We made a connection that I am grateful for. Although anyone CAN reach out and make these connections not many take the time and have the sincerity Brian had. Thank you, Brian. We often have no idea what a profound impact we can have on another human life in a public space through seemingly trivial interactions. Blessed be to you, Brian. Rest in peace. You are loved.
    Libby Nichols
    Seattleite, Gardener, Vivace coffee drinker, Friend

  14. Asherah

    I read the comments on here a few days ago, and three separate people said they’d fallen at that same spot, and that it wasn’t well marked or that there used to be a sign there and then wasn’t. Then I read in the Times that the city had received no complaints about it…..No sense blaming or second-guessing now, but PLEASE bikers when you find a particularly unsafe, unmarked spot in a Seattle bike trail or lane, let the police and city know.

  15. Jake Jackson

    Let’s see if the Seattle Bike Blog cares one bit about safety.

    I had an errand to do on Westlake this morning. I decided that, since I had commented here and some other places, I ought to go check out the site of his accident. Which, I’d like to say, was tragic. The man did not “deserve it,” no matter what he did. But no one should do anything other than tell the truth here, as they see it, and let the chips fall where they may.

    1. The city should have had a sign there, and at the other entrance to the lower walkway. More generally, the bicycling community of Seattle should use this as a wakeup call. Cascade Bicycle Club ought to perform a comprehensive inventory of cycling hazards, and get with the city to erect signs where needed, and make some repairs where needed.

    2. The sun was not an issue. The cyclist was traveling northeast. The sun would have been to his left rear. One blog suggestion that the sun might have been in the cyclist’s eyes, contributing to the accident. They were wrong, period.

    3. The stairs (10 of them) are not visible from where the cyclist was. However, it’s obvious as you approach the accident site that there is a steep dropoff. This is especially the case when you consider that a cyclist sits a few inches higher than a pedestrian. A prudent cyclist would have slowed down before getting to the stairs. There is no other reasonable conclusion to draw as you stand there that the cyclist came up on those stairs much, much too quickly.

    4. It’s inconceivable to me that the cyclist would have been pulling a daredevil stunt. I do realize that there are some crazy people out there, but a 50-year-old man on a “city touring” bike wouldn’t have intentionally taken the stairs at full speed. What’s much, much more likely is that he misjudged his own speed, and/or his attention lapsed.

    5. The “trail” is in fact a city sidewalk, used by cyclists and pedestrians, and which in a fairly short space, crosses several sidestreets. It is not a place where a prudent cyclist ought to be going fast enough to get himself killed by falling down a flight of 10 stairs.

    6. If I was sitting on the jury called to render a personal injury judgment, my amateur judgment (i.e., never having been on such a jury, and currently lacking any instructions on how to apportion responsibility) would be that the cyclist bears three-quarters of the responsibility for the accident, on account of imprudent speed and/or inattentive cycling, and that the city bears one-quarter of the responsibility on account of not having a warning sign there.

    It’s terrible that this man died. Cyclists need to remember that they are not immune from accidents; that going too fast can kill them. Cycling organizations should spread that message, and should mount a concerted effort to work WITH the city to identify similar spots that need better signage, or in this case, signs at all.

    1. Jake Jackson

      By the way, Cascade Bicycle Club’s website has said nothing about this tragic accident. Their ex-director works for the mayor. If anyone is in a position to coordinate a constructive response — identifying hazardous intersections, raising money for signs, obtaining city cooperation in placing them, and educating cyclists about safety — it sure seems like they ought to be right out in front.

      Is anyone really interested in having this tragedy make a difference at all? Or will this be just one more occasion for the usual Seattle behavior: concerned clucking, followed by nothing in particular?

      I don’t ride a bicycle, but you people do. And you must be aware of not just this spot where a sign is needed, but other places. The Cascade Bicycle Club has a 501(c)(3) foundation, which means money, and they have connections. And they have a need and desire to promote the image of cycling and cyclists.

      So, what’ll it be from your crowd? Talk, or action? If someone’s needless death won’t get you moving, what will?

  16. Renee

    RIP Brian- You were always so kind to me when I would come in with all of my pregnancy cravings, my first visit after he was born I found out about your accident. I’m so so sorry, blessings to you and your family.

  17. Amy Fairbrother

    Brian was my brother-in-law. Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts. Speaking for his family, we do appreciate it.

  18. Amelia


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