Person biking dies after colliding with car on the Ave – UPDATED

A person was killed in a collision with a turning car on University Way in the U District Saturday evening. He was traveling southbound (downhill) around 6:18 p.m. when he collided with a car making a left turn onto westbound Campus Parkway.

UPDATE 1:27 pm: KOMO reports he was delivering sandwiches for Jimmy John’s at the time of the collision.

Initial information from the SPD Blotter:

On September 10th, at approximately 6:18 pm, a cyclist was traveling southbound on University Way NE when he collided with a car turning from northbound on University Way NE to westbound on NE Campus Parkway.

The collision caused the cyclist to be thrown from his bicycle, where he landed in the street. Seattle Fire Department Medics transported the male victim to Harborview Medical Center … Traffic Collision Investigation Sqaud (TCIS) detectives responded and conducted their investigation at the scene. The driver of the vehicle was evaluated for any signs of impairment, and none were detected. TCIS detectives will be responsible for the follow up investigation.

In an update, SPD says he died while being treated at Harborview.

Condolences to his friends and family.

UPDATE 1:27 pm: Here’s a look at the intersection. There is no left turn signal on University, so a left-turning vehicle would legally be required to yield to oncoming traffic.

The intersection of University Way and NE Campus Parkway, facing south:

From Google Street View

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47 Responses to Person biking dies after colliding with car on the Ave – UPDATED

  1. Gary says:

    In the defense of the car driver, turning left onto Campus Parkway would have meant turning “into the sun.” Perhaps the bicyclist was lost in the light? It’s not a reason to make a turn, but low level sunlight at 6pm is pretty bright and it’s easy to not see people, other cars, bicyclists etc.

    Still though a disaster. I hope the rider recovers.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      To be clear, we don’t yet know sun glare was a factor. Facing north is not directly into the sun, I wouldn’t think (though, yes, the turn would have been into the sun). The reports do not list sun glare as a factor yet, though investigation is ongoing.

      • Poco Ritard says:

        I was there. He passed me southbound on the ave a couple mins after 6. I’m sure it was him, dark shirt, messenger bag, hauling ass (but stopped at the light). I remember thinking at the time that he was making deliveries. If I hadn’t been feeling lazy I would have caught his wheel. Instead I stopped in a bookstore for 5 minutes, came out and the intersection was full of lights.

        There were no sun issues AFAICT (I was headed west too but that doesn’t prove anything). The accident appears to be a classic “left hook” – same scenario as killed the cyclist on Dexter a couple weeks ago.

        Anectdotes are not data, but the aggro level on the streets is really high last few weeks. It’s scary out there.

  2. Rich says:

    Truth. Thirty years ago today I suffered my worst bicycle accident riding into the setting sun, lost in the glare on the windshield of the car that rear ended me. Be careful folks, and don’t assume drivers can always see what’s out there.

  3. tony says:

    Additional information on last night’s collision : The cyclist sustained life-threatening injuries from the collision. Unfortunately, he succumbed to those injuries and died while being treated in the Emergency Room at Harborview Medical Center. Traffic Collision Investigation Squad (TCIS) detectives will continue to handle the investigation.

  4. Eli says:

    For anyone interested in getting involved with safe bikeways in the U-District and helping prevent future tragedies like this one, please consider getting involved (see above website link.)

  5. Condolences indeed. Yet another grizzly statistic.

    FYI: Despite prescription polarized lenses and properly adjusted window shades I’ve been in situations where I can’t be 100% sure when making a turn. I always proceed with due caution but if I truly can’t see you, please leave yourself an out.

    Better road or signal design or bikeways would mostly solve these issues. Until then, we’re stuck with trying to look out for each other.

  6. another mother on a bike says:

    This death makes me very angry. A guy doing bike sandwich deliveries, mere blocks from his origin is cut off by a car that made an improper left turn, killing the person on a bike. Get ready for the “I didn’t see him” defense. (I wonder if they signaled and/or were driving around aimlessly like the U-District drivers I see on a regular basis.)

    I ride this intersection on my commute twice a week. It’s yet another intersection where the lack of turn arrows creates conflicts. Let’s take cars off of University once and for all, returning the streets to pedestrians, bicycles and buses only. I bet the entire road would be safer, more pleasant and see more activity.

    Sun in the eyes? Really guys? That’s simply not good enough for me. At 6:18 it’s full freaking daylight! If someone can’t handle their vehicle safely on a dry day at 6:18 in early September… well, I just don’t know how I feel about them driving at night, during winter, when it’s raining, etc.

    • ruach says:

      While I did not see the accident itself, I did see the immediate aftermath. The sun was definitely bright at the time, but not quite at an angle that would easily impair either party. At the time, the sun was right to the right of the street view screenshot shown in this post.

  7. Bruce Newman says:

    While unlikely, it is possible that the driver and cyclist both had red lights, the driver stopped and turned legally on red to a one-way street, and the cyclist was at fault.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Anything’s possible, but there have been no reports anyone ran a red light. We’ll see as info develops.

    • ph says:

      um, no. left on a red light is not legal last i checked. unless it’s from a one way onto a one way. university ave is not one way.

      • Karena says:

        In Washington, a left from a two-way onto a one-way is legal on red (assuming, of course, that you’re not turning to travel the wrong way on the one-way…)

        http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.055

        Scroll down to section 3c.

      • Bruce Newman says:

        A left turn from a two-way street to a one-way street, while facing a red circular or arrow traffic signal, is legal in Washington, after a complete stop. See RCW 46.61.055(3)(a). That’s probably not what happened, but let’s wait for more details before assuming the driver was at fault.

  8. Jake Jackson says:

    I encourage people to read the comments attached to the Seattle Times account. A “JF Johnson,” claiming to be a bus driver who arrived just after the accident, said the cyclist was riding a “fixie” without brakes, and without a helmet:

    The accident happened just after 6pm. The cyclist had no helmet and was riding one of those fixies which looked like had no brakes and a 12 inch straight bar instead of handlebars. The depression in the glass on the driver-side windshield was huge, so he must have been traveling at a high rate of speed. The driver of the car was a young girl, high school or college freshman. Her car was just 18 inches or so across the centerline into the turn from northbound U-way onto westbound Campus Parkway, so she must have stopped once she saw him but it was too late. The cops and medics had her stay in the car for a long time after the accident happened, and it looked like she was crying

    We can’t be certain about the commenter or his comment, but it does have the ring of truth to it.

    The reality is that motorists and cyclists make mistakes on the roads. I once did exactly what that motorist did, but fortunately I hit a car. I was turning left and looking right, stupid me, and T-boned him. It was 100% my fault, and all I could do was apologize profusely, accept the moving violation, and breathe a gigantic sigh of relief that no one was injured.

    If you are on two wheels, or four for that matter, you have to assume that they won’t see you, won’t care, or both. If “JF Johnson” is who he claims to be and his story his accurate, the additional lessons for cyclists ought to be obvious. It is utterly ludicrous to ride any vehicle without brakes on a street or bike path, and it certainly sounds like the cyclist was driving much too fast for conditions.

    • ruach says:

      I can back up his claims that there was an awfully large depression on the windshield and, judging by the amount of blood on the pavement, I can’t imagine he was wearing a helmet.

  9. Andres says:

    This is my first year in Seattle, but it seems like a large number of bike deaths have occurred in the past month alone..

    Also, Jake, I can’t believe you’re comparing Boston to Seattle. They call themselves “massholes” with pride, the streets are complete chaos, they stopped bothering to put street signs up ages ago, and the weather varies from sheets of ice to oppressive heat and sudden downpours. Seattle streets are downright civil in comparison.

    • Jake Jackson says:

      I have a lot of experience in both places. You’re right, Boston is the Vatican of traffic craziness in America. It’s a great place to learn how to drive.

      I remember dropping someone off at the train station in Florence, Italy, and making it back to my hotel about 4 miles away, in a car, with a map printed in Italian, on a Friday afternoon. I backed down one-way streets. I created new lanes. I cut people off using only my peripheral vision. As I did it, I thanked Boston for training me. To top it off, I found a parking place within two blocks of where I was staying. Then I was sick for a week.

      Anyway, I’ve definitely noticed a significant deterioration in Seattle’s road manners. I attribute most of it to congestion. In particular, the disaster between downtown and Lake Union, which reminds me of the Big Dig. What a headache.

      Another reason, I think, is the passing of the older generation. Seattle was once a big small town, with slow, polite drivers. Now it’s a big city, and people are in a bigger hurry. And these road diets and bike lanes sure don’t help. They are pointless, confusing, and irritating, especially when you realize that they get little use yet make vehicular transit significantly harder.

      The cyclists here have always been smug, self-righteous, and reckless. In Boston, they don’t dare. Here, if the cyclists keep it up, I think they’ll be the losers in the long run. Right of way or no right of way, two tons of steel wins the contest. You see this in Portland, by the way. They’re a notch or two ahead of Seattle on the “Boston random bullshit on the road” meter. If the cyclists keep it up here, that’s our future.

      • BikePhysics says:

        What do ‘road diets’ have to do with this?

        A young man died from injuries sustained bicycling due to the negligence of a driver.

        It is a tragedy. There is no reason to drag all cyclists and cycling infrastructure through the mud to make some sort of nonsensical, overarching point.

        Cars and bicycles need to learn to share the road. Neither one is going away.

  10. BikePhysics says:

    If you can’t see, you shouldn’t be making a left turn. Period.

    I am really tired of the ‘I didn’t see the cyclist’ excuse.

    Just too many dead cyclists this summer.

    • anseio says:

      Given that you weren’t there, you don’t know if the driver was able to “see” or not. Perhaps she “saw”, but didn’t see enough to notice a bike that was potentially speeding in the opposite direction? You don’t know if she saw too late and stopped. You don’t anything… because you weren’t there.

      Not all bicycle deaths are the fault of a driver. So, get off your high horse.

      • another mother on a bike says:

        It is a driver’s responsibility to “see”. Not seeing is not an excuse for killing someone.

      • BikePhysics says:

        There is no indication that the cyclist was speeding.

        When you make a left turn, you are responsible for making sure that your way is clear.

        The fault is obvious.

        And, I repeat, ‘I didn’t see the cyclist’ is not a good excuse when driving a motor vehicle itself requires that you follow the laws of the road.

        I have ridden bicycles, motorcycles, and cars. I have turned left in a car, and been T-boned by an oncoming vehicle. And, IT WAS MY FAULT. I was 21, and an inexperienced driver. But, it was still my fault. And my insurance company at the time was sure to note that fact.

        People need to take responsibility for their actions.

        And cities need to take responsibility for have shitty infrastructure such that people who use it (particularly pedestrians and cyclists) are injured regularly.

        Furthermore, all experienced riders of two wheels know the familiar Left-Hook: not being seen by a motorist who is making a left turn. As a pedestrian, I have nearly been hit (within an inch of a bumper) by a driver making such a left turn. And, as a cyclist, I am well-aware of that possibility, and this is why I never drive quickly down hills. I’m a nervous rider, always keeping my hand on my break in case I’m not seen. Perhaps the cyclist’s one problem was that he didn’t ride defensively enough, and instead chose to ride as he was entitled to by law, at the speed limit, down the hill. Regardless, he is NOT AT FAULT. The driver is at fault. Left turners always yield to oncoming traffic, whether a cyclist or a driver.

        There is no high horse to ride on here, just facts. The type of bicycle he was riding has nothing to do with the fact that he had the right of way.

        My deepest sympathies and condolences to his friends and family for the death of a young man dear to them.

  11. another mother on a bike says:

    So you’re quick to condemn someone because of the type of bike they may have been riding? Have you verified that it didn’t have a hand brake? Or is that just your uninformed assumption about fixies? Many fixies do have brakes.

    If he had no helmet, does that mean he deserved to have a car turn in front of him? (That’ll teach you, people who ride without helmets!)

    That’s just great. Pile it on people, pile it on.

    If he left Jimmy John’s that’s just a couple of blocks away. 30mph… really?

    That someone died because a car (likely) made an improper left turn into oncoming traffic IS. NOT. O.K. If he was a helmetless fixie rider doesn’t make him more expendable. If he was an asshat, that doesn’t make is death justifiable.

    If the report is true, I’m glad the driver cried. I’m sure the bike rider’s family is crying right now as well.

    • anseio says:

      Wow, so you’re jumping to the conclusion that the poster thinks the cyclist deserved it, because he wasn’t wearing a helmet? Get a grip!

      Tell me though… you’re so happy to condemn this girl based upon your assumption that everything was her fault, as it is with all drivers. But, at the same time, you’re going to ignore the very obvious possibility that if the cyclist head been wearing a helmet, which is King Co. law, that he could have survived this?

      I’m sure that she was in a rush and her brain was looking for oncoming cars. Tragic mistakes happen and the guilt of what has happened, whether her complete fault or not, will most likely tear her apart. YOU have no right adding to it from your high horse.

      The cyclist should have been wearing a helmet, and the driver should have looked more carefully. Shoulda-effing-coulda-effing-woulda.

    • anseio says:

      No sh*t, it’s the driver’s responsibility to “see”. Does that mean that every driver sees everything at all times? I can tell you a lot of what I “see”… cyclists running red lights. It’s dangerous. It angers me. I’m not allowed to drive through a red light, even from a complete stop, because it takes 4-5 seconds to cross an intersection from a stop. In that time, unseen tragedy can happen. So, why does a cyclist think it’s ok to go through that red light with no armor whatsoever?

      You, and many others, need to remember one thing… I DID NOT HAPPEN TO YOU. Be grateful for that. Be more vigilant. If you’re a driver… LOOK more!!! If you’re a cyclist, be cautious… you never know who might not be seeing you.

      • another mother on a bike says:

        Being young, having a new license, being new to town, being lost, being in a hurry, will not absolve the driver if she did indeed make an improper left turn. I’m sorry. Should it be different?

        Insofar as your comment about how wearing a helmet *might* have saved him. Well, we’ll never know. But one thing we do know… not having a vehicle turn left into his lane of travel would have certainly saved him.

        I probably drive 75% of my miles and bike 25%. I see drivers break the law every time I’m out there. Without fail. Whether I’m driving or biking. It angers me. I would bike more if I felt that drivers were looking out for my law-abiding body on a bike. I don’t like bicyclists breaking the laws either. We can sit here and talk about how many bicyclists or drivers we see blowing red lights, rolling stop signs, speeding, failing to yield until we’re blue in the face. Lacking any true data, we’ll get no where. (Though here is some: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Allstate-says-Seattle-drivers-are-bad-2150920.php) But make no mistake @anseio, driving a car is a privilege. Every time you and I get into the car, we have the ability to do great harm. Perhaps we ought to be treating that privilege more seriously: http://www.economist.com/node/21528302.

        And by the way, it has happened to me. I still grieve for the wonderful person ripped from my life under the wheels of an inattentive driver. I still feel the horror of the phone call that dropped me to my knees. Imagining another family somewhere is going through the same thing right now makes me angry.

    • Jake Jackson says:

      If he was a helmetless fixie rider doesn’t make him more expendable. If he was an asshat, that doesn’t make is death justifiable.

      You’re right. I agree, and quite strongly. No matter what, the delivery man did not “deserve to die.” However, if — remember, we don’t yet know for sure — he was traveling at excess speed, on a fixie, without a helmet, then his death would primarily be a matter of his negligence.

      Even though the motorist cut him off, or so it appears, the man did not have to die. If he’d been traveling slower, with brakes, and wearing a helmet, maybe he’d be alive. Again, we still don’t know all of those details, so for the moment this is all speculation.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Jake, a fixed gear bike has at least one brake (the pedals) and is a legal vehicle. You don’t like them, fine, but the law says they’re legal. And the odds of someone topping 30 (or 40, if we’re to use the de facto speeding standard applied to motor vehicles) is slim to none, especially on a fixie.

        We don’t have all the details, you’re right. I don’t understand why you are so eager to find a way to make this the victim’s fault.

      • Jake Jackson says:

        That’s bullshit and you know it. The pedals are not brakes. That’s the kind of attitude that gets cyclists killed. The obliviousness of your crowd is stunning. It’s very hard to take your crocodile tears very seriously when you tell me that a “fixie” has brakes.

      • ODB says:

        “Again, we still don’t know all of those details, so for the moment this is all speculation.”

        Exactly. Which leads me to my next question: why bother?

      • Qamuuqin says:

        The fact that people take this opportunity to add more fuel to the fire of bikes vs. cars is “stunning”.

        Fixed gear bikes DO have brakes in the form of the pedals and that is a fact. Having ridding fixies for many years, I can promise you that it is perfectly possible to slow them down and stop in a VERY short amount of time and space. The catch is it takes experience/fast reflexes to do that and I would not bet that the majority of fixed gear riders on the road have perfected that skill. Or don’t care. It’s unfortunate.

        When it comes down to it, there were a lot of factors that went into this tragic incident and who’s job is it to place blame? Too many drivers feel a sense of ownership to the roads and too many bikers feel endangered and take measures to ensure their safety. Are either going away? No. Is calling names and pointing fingers on a forum board going to solve things for the future? No.

        There are a lot of lessons to take away from this, and all the other sad stories of this year, but making broad generalizations is not a part of that. I’ve had friends die in car crashes, bike crashes, even longboard crashes, and it’s heartbreaking. I hope that we find a way to talk about our differences and get along in a way that works for everyone so that my kids will find a safer and more tolerant world to drive/bike/walk/live/play in.

  12. raku says:

    Two bicycle deaths in a week is absolutely unacceptable. The $60 fee on the ballot will help make our city safer, but I don’t think it will be nearly enough. It’s time for McGinn and the city council to step up NOW for safer streets. Find creative solutions for funding – more red light cams, higher parking fees in neighborhoods, money from elsewhere in the city budget.

    A dog died from a faulty power connection and the city spared no expense in checking the entire city and fixing the root cause, as they should have. It’s time to do the same for bicycle infrastructure – NOW.

  13. Doug Bostrom says:

    This is a sorry shame, whatever the true facts of the situation. The bicyclist is dead, the driver likely warped for her lifetime.

    One thing that Tom’s photo does not convey is the situational awareness challenge posed by the Univ. Ave/Campus Parkway intersection. It’s not uncommon to confront a dozen or more moving objects of interest (motorists, cyclists, pedestrians) in the immediate field of view there, within a few 100ths of a second travel time. It’s not improbable that both drivers here were confronting too much activity in too little time, leaving both with insufficient attention to anticipate their collision.

    The intersection itself is a pretty unfortunate design, basically jamming a lot of intersecting lanes into a very short space, really two intersections and all their complications in the space of one. This kind of scenario is what leads drivers to fall behind the processing curve, making a serious mistake of the kind we see here.

    If there’s too much going on, the only solution is to reduce the input rate by slowing down, coming to a dead halt if need be. That’s a remarkably hard decision to make in a world where folks are readily prone to use their horns.

    • john pepys says:

      Quote: “If there’s too much going on, the only solution is to reduce the input rate by slowing down, …”
      Amen, Doug.

      • JStr says:

        +1!! It can be frustrating to slow down, but you shouldn’t walk/bike/drive past your ability to comprehend what’s going on around you and control your reaction to it. For a terrifying indictment of our actual ability to ‘see’ our environment I recommend “The Invisible Gorilla”. It has changed the way I approach all my modes of transportation.

  14. john pepys says:

    another tragic fatality in what’s proving to be a very long summer for cyclists…
    my heart goes out to the family of the young man who died, and to the girl driving, who’s life will never be the same.

    and for those of you quick to point fingers, i would just say to remember that this was an accident, and from what i’ve read here and in the seattle times, there’s enough blame to go around. from a legal standpoint, the driver was clearly in the wrong for attempting a left turn without yielding to on-coming traffic.

    however, this does not absolve the cyclist from his/her responsibilities either. if the bus driver’s account is accurate: no helmet, no brakes. heading downhill at high speed through a busy intersection at rush hour. this is the portait of “living dangerously.” a more thoughtful/serious urban cyclist would certainly excercise more caution in this scenario.

    the other thing to keep in mind is that both the cyclist and the driver were apparently very young–and i expect that, like most teenage drivers, the driver was fairly inexperienced. and for the cyclist, youth probably played into his willingness to live so dangerously. (i know when i was 24, i felt rather more invincible than i did at 35.)

    what we all need to remind ourselves is that we are all out there together: regardless of our chosen mode of transit, we all are trying to get from A to B, we all are trying to do so without killing anyone or being killed. and accidents sometimes are inevitable. the best we can do–motorists and cyclists alike–is to stay alert, patient, and courteous. it sounds so simple, but if everyone on the road were to make a concerted effort to implement these 3 things, it would go a long way towards making our roads safer (and less aggravating) for all.

    now, some points of clarification regarding some of the above posts:
    1. yes, on a fixie, legs are brakes–but leg power alone cannot stop you nearly as quickly as leg power plus a solid front caliper brake–especially heading downhill as was the case here. fixies without brakes are fine for sidewalks, residential streets, uncrowded trails, etc. but if one’s gonna take his or her fixie out onto arterials at rush hour, do yourself a favor and install a front brake.

    2. unless we’re talking about glare off of someone else’s chrome bumper, (which can be very bad,) sun glare is unlikely to be an issue here. the driver was heading northbound–even on the summer solstice at high noon, the sun will not be in your eyes facing due north. and in late summer at 6:18 pm when this accident occurred, the sun would have been fairly low in the southwestern sky–and thus would have been shining from behind and to the left of the driver, not glaring in her eyes.

    • john pepys says:

      that said, had she completed her turn onto campus parkway heading west, the low-in-the-sky sun would be very much in her eyes. but this is not the direction she was heading when the accident occurred, nor was this the direction from which the cyclist was approaching.

    • LWC says:

      Actually, in the summertime in the northern hemisphere, the sun sets to the Northwest. It’s about 23 degrees north of west at the summer solstace, and migrates to 23 degrees south of west in the winter. It could easily have been a factor at the time of the accident.

  15. Rob says:

    If indeed the guy was riding a fixed gear bicycle without a braking mechanism, it was not a street legal bike.

    State Of Washington Bicycle Laws

    “(2) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the
    operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement”

    http://www.genesbmx.com/WaBikeLaw.html

    That still won’t absolve the driver, if she was making an improper left turn. There’s not yet enough details to place blame.

  16. charlie says:

    It really shouldn’t matter whether he had brakes or a helmet. He was struck by a car that didn’t recognize his right of way, and he died. More than likely, this fallen cyclist will be remembered with a massive amount of pain and a lot of heart. Please think of his grief-stricken family and friends when you discuss the how and why this tragedy happened, especially on a blog accessible to all and frequented by many. I will continue to eat at that shop solely because these workers have so much heart for what they do. But more than any small token of respect and gratitude I’ll show, I’d wish people would refrain from tired discussions about what makes a bike streetable. Bikes and cars don’t kill people, people kill people. Condolences to all. Please don’t kill me on my brakeless fixie…

    • Jimmi says:

      “He was struck by a car that didn’t recognize his right of way,”

      How do you know he had the right of way? If she was in the intersection waiting to turn left and the light turned red, and Rob was not in the intersection at the time, and he blew a red – she would have the right of way. If they were both in the intersection on the red – he would. If they both had a green – he would. If she had sun in her eyes on a green – he would.

      There are so many factors that you all seem to have made up you mind on, I guess you are assuming?

  17. Sara says:

    Accidents happen. A life has been lost and another life has been changed dramatically. We have all had close calls either on our bicycles or in our cars, but got lucky enough that they were just close calls and didnt’ end in the stargic way. like others have said, we need to figure out how to live together on the roads because neither one is going away. Blaming isn’t going to change the fact that an incredible tragedy occurred, trying to fix the hostility and bring awareness and better roadways will hopefully help.

  18. ireina says:

    I happened to be there immediately after it happened, and I will point out two things. There were actually there and both detained. One was an suv with a young girl and her friend. The other was a middle aged woman and her husband. Both parties were visibally upset. One may have hit him but the other could have done something that caused a stir or was simply a witness. We don’t know who actually hit him. Another thing to put your mind at rest, was the biker was in fact wearing a helment. I saw it on the pavement, with a lot of blood surrounding it.

  19. BikePhysics says:

    So the biker was, in fact, wearing a helmet.

    Thanks for the info, @ireina.

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