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Nine days after bicycle wreck, Espresso Vivace Manager Brian Fairbrother dies

Photo from the Vivace website

In a big hit to Capitol Hill, the city and coffee lovers everywhere, long-time Espresso Vivace barista and general manager Brian Fairborther has passed away after injuries sustained from a bicycle crash. He was 50 years old.

Since news of the seriousness of his crash hit the city yesterday, there has been an outpouring of support both online (see comments at Capitol Hill Seattle and our previous post) and at a memorial established at the Vivace walk-up stand at Broadway and Harrison.

The Seattle Times has also put together a good story about Fairbrother’s impact on the city:

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For thousands of Seattleites over the years, Brian Fairbrother was the face of morning.

A longtime barista and manager at Espresso Vivace, he pulled together coffee, pastries and ambience like nobody else — making sure customers were served in a timely fashion and got a little conversation if they wanted it, on subjects ranging from the arts to cooking to linguistics.

Fairbrother, 50, died Thursday from head injuries sustained in a bicycling accident Aug. 30.

It is almost impossible for his co-workers, friends and customers to imagine life — or Vivace — without him.

… read more

From what we have been able to piece together about the crash, Fairbrother was riding northbound on the west sidewalk near 1177 Fairview Ave N, according to the traffic investigation report. He crashed on the stairway near the south side of the bridge, landing face first on the sidewalk.

Approximate location:

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 using a small curb cutout and use a bicycle lane at street level. Instead, it appears Fairbrother continued straight and crashed on a stairway leading to a pedestrian walkway below:

Image from Google Street View

The cause for the wreck is not yet known, but police said they do not believe there was another party involved. Though it is not clear if poor signage or design was a factor in the wreck, the staircases at both ends of the bridge are known hazards, and there are few signs clearly directing people on bicycles where to go. The SunBreak points out how confusing the spot is.

Whether the very poor bicycle facilities (or lack thereof) in this spot contributed to the wreck or not, it has definitely highlighted the problem. Signage or paint in the immediate future seems like an easy Band-Aid solution until a safe bicycle facility can be designed for the roadway. Here’s the staircase:

Meanwhile, people continue to share their memories of Brian. Here’s a video that has been making the rounds, showing Brian giving a tour of Capitol Hill, the neighborhood he loved:

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13 responses to “Nine days after bicycle wreck, Espresso Vivace Manager Brian Fairbrother dies”

  1. […] again. Hurray, seasons changing, making me feel all weird. And there was this very sad news about iconic Seattle barista and generally well-loved person Brian Fairbrother. From what I hear in the air, it’s been kind of a hard week all over. I guess the thing to do […]

  2. Gary

    Signage??? There’s no signage at ALL!

    I could easily see someone barreling along, miss the turnout and riding/flying down the stairs. Especially if it was dark, those trees shade those stairs pretty well.

    Ugh. What a poor design. And it cost us a life too. I hope his heir’s sue the city to fix it.

    1. Leif

      Hopefully the city can correct the problem without needing a lawsuit. Seems like a couple signs, a physical barrier that only pedestrians can get around easily and better lighting could fix this problem.

      1. doug in seattle

        If the city doesn’t or can’t, perhaps a citizen with high-viz spraypaint can?

  3. Frank

    I haven’t seen this addressed in any of the stories about this tragic loss, so I’ll ask it here: was Fairbrother wearing a helmet?

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      Yes, he was.

      1. Frank

        Thanks for the information. My sincere condolences to the family.

  4. My Other Car’s the Tardis

    Brian was a really nice guy and a lovely individual. This is truly sad news.

  5. Jody

    A huge loss for everyone and especially the staff at Vivace’s. My heart goes out to the staff, Brian’s family and friends and for all the people he has touched in his lifetime! A sad day on Thursday.

  6. Loren

    I came extremely close to riding off those stairs the first time I rode down that way, so I can easily understand how this happened. That is a very confusing switch from side-walk to road. I hope the city takes notice and does something to make sure that this type of accident does not happen again.

  7. […] The memorial started at Espresso Vivace in South Lake Union, where everyone walked together to the staircase on Fairview Ave N where Brian crashed while riding his bike August 30. He passed away nine days later. […]

  8. Beth Coyote

    My heart is broken.

  9. Capitol Hill guy

    This poor man, he was really nice, I’ve spoken with him before. What sad situation that he died like this.

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