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Man biking on Aurora injured in collision with car

A man in his 40s went to the hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries Thursday evening after colliding with a car while biking southbound on Aurora near 90th Ave N N 90th St.

From SPD:

On October 20th, at approximately 7:39 pm, an adult male bicyclist was travelling southbound in the 8900 Block of Aurora Avenue North in the right lane.  During the same time, a Hyundai sedan was also travelling southbound in the middle lane of Aurora Avenue North.

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The two collided when the bicycle turned suddenly in front of the car.  The cyclist sustained serious head injuries and was transported to Harborview Medical Center via SFD Medics.  The driver of the car was not injured.

Officers checked the driver for any signs of possible impairment due to alcohol and/or drugs.  No signs of impairment were noted.

Detectives from the Traffic Collision Investigation Squad (TCIS) responded and began their investigation.  TCIS will continue with this investigation.

Aurora is consistently among the most dangerous streets in the city for all road users. The city and state have even been conducting a targeted traffic safety campaign recently. However, I am not aware of an effort currently to make the street safer for people biking.

Though it is legal (and really fast) to bike on most of Aurora (north of the Battery Street Tunnel), I would caution against it. Though we don’t know why this man was on the street (was it by choice or because he didn’t know a better route?), perhaps extra signage pointing to safer bicycle routes parallel to Aurora, such as the Interurban route, would help people find the alternatives that already exist. After all, many people simply bike the routes they know from driving or riding the bus unless they are taught a different way. If people felt they could trust the signs to lead them where they are going, many would likely follow them.

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13 responses to “Man biking on Aurora injured in collision with car”

  1. Tompson

    Can’t say this is unexpected, why was he riding a bike on Aurora. To be surprised by this is along the lines of being surprised that someone was killed playing Russian Roulette.

  2. I don’t think there’s a “90th Ave N” anywhere in King County… :)

    1. Tom Fucoloro

      It exists, but only in the 8th dimension…

      Thanks, I fixed it.

      1. Don’t sweat it, I see that kind of error all the time, bit of a pet peeve.

  3. Gary

    The “why was he on Aurora” occurred to me too. The city has been good about putting up bicycling signs, but they are small and tuned to be seen from a bicycle that happens to look in just the right spot. I’ve been riding the same route for a year now and I’m still seeing signs that I hadn’t seen before.

    Back in the ’80s when I first came to Seattle I too rode North on Aurora, but I didn’t a city street map never mind a bicycle oriented map. And from the state map it looks reasonable and from Downtown it’s not clear how to get to somewhere like Lynnwood which is where I was headed, via any of the back streets. In fact I think it’s still not clear.

    In early September I tried to help this French couple find the optimal route from Westlake & 7th to Mt. Rainier National park. They had only a “tourist” walking map and it didn’t show bike routes. And there isn’t any signage that would help them. And while I have the bike map they needed it wasn’t with me.

    That’s something that car drivers have, freeways with signage. Trails like the BG and the I-90 should have signboards at critical locations to help tourists go from someplace to somewhere else. Because really you can get a long way toward Mt. Rainer on bike paths/routes. (I-90 to Lake Washington blvd, to the Cedar River trail to Maple Valley is a lot of mileage on trails.)

    1. Aurora ain’t I-5. Once you’re north of Green Lake and hit all the stop lights, traffic doesn’t really get going that fast. I’ve never tried this, but I’d expect an experienced cyclist would be fairly comfortable riding on Aurora at that point. The Aurora Bridge and the part through Woodland Park might be a little more scary because of traffic speed and exit configuration.

      Bike maps are really tough. There are so many different kinds of bikes and different kinds of riders. A single map could hardly describe all the features of different routes that matter to everyone. For me, a normal street, with its consistent signage and sensibly-designed intersections, is usually the best sort of path… and I often improvise my navigation, so it’s helpful to see freeways even though I don’t ride on them, because they’re such big, obvious navigational aids. Many people operate very differently. My ideal bike map would probably be a normal street map (including things like bike paths, stairs, etc.), marked up with green and red pens where things are particularly good and bad for people on bikes, and probably no unpaved surface would even warrant mention. Some people’s maps would mostly center around bike trails, and include lots of dirt paths.

  4. Bill D

    I agree that Aurora Ave is dangerous for cyclists – between Denny Way and North Green Lake. I have found, however, that the stretch between the lake and the county line to be reasonably safe. Motor vehicle traffic is generally moving no more than moderately fast, and the curb lanes are generously wide, and/or shoulders are available. There are no curves or sharp grade changes that can hide a bicycle from overtaking vehicles, and its impossible for following or oncoming motorists to be blinded by a low sun.

    I usually ride this portion of Aurora when I travel between my home in Ravenna and the big box hardware stores at 116th and 125th on Aurora. I’ve tried other routes, which I don’t think are any safer (narrow lanes, curves, etc.), and are certainly hillier (an important consideration when towing a loaded cargo trailer).

    There are other major arterials that I’ve ridden in Seattle that are slower than Aurora-north-of-Green-Lake and yet more dangerous. Lake City Way, Rainier Ave and Westlake come to mind (narrow lanes, curves, etc.). There are others. The only section of Aurora (north of the lake) that I find a bit dicey is southbound between 85th and 83rd, mainly because I hang a left onto Green Lake Dr at 83rd.

    Any street will be dangerous for the cyclist who swerves into the path of overtaking cars.

    1. JAT

      “Any street will be dangerous for the cyclist who swerves into the path of overtaking cars.”

      Totally correct. I don’t like this Blame-the-road approach – over on the P-I there’s a ferequent commenter saying (totally sweet) Juanita Dr is dangerous for bikes and they should be banned there. Bad riding (and driving) behavior leads to danger, collisions, and injuries.

      I would avoid Aurora between the Battery St Tunnel and Greenlake, but my 25 year-old self wouldn’t have (but he was a little stupid).

      I know “vehicular cycling” gets a bad rap among some, but charging off across parallel lanes without looking is not part of the plan.

  5. Bryan Willman

    OK, so aurora isn’t the best route. I’d like to ask a different question:

    Did the cyclist really turn left in front of the car, and if so why? Was this a failed attempt to merge left to make a left turn? An attempt to avoid some hazard in the road? Caused by a mechanical problem such as a deflated tire?

    On lots of roads, the greatest real hazard is merging left to make a left turn from the proper lane.

    1. Bryan, do you have any evidence that that’s the “greatest real hazard”? I don’t know of many studies on bike accidents, but I’ve never heard this cited as a leading cause of bike accidents. This is important. If moving left isn’t really very dangerous, and we believe it is or say it is, we may end up ushering in policies and road designs that aren’t really in our interests. And if there’s a danger that’s not inherent in the maneuver, but caused by lack of cyclist skill, we should probably focus on education before calling the maneuver dangerous. Based on the numbers I’ve seen, I’d guess that either of these are more likely than changing lanes to make turns being a major danger.

      The reason I’m specifically skeptical of this claim is that left turns really aren’t that hard to do. Lane changes are a basic traffic skill, and it’s no harder to judge a vehicle’s closing speed on a bike than from any other vantage point. And though many cyclists make it hard on themselves by preparing for their maneuver too late, and though sometimes traffic is too heavy and fast to get through, there’s almost always an alternative: the two-stage hook turn.



    1. JAT

      Oh, jeez, sorry Patrick. I hope you recover quickly.

      Are you saying that the impact didn’t happen where the police report says it did – was the driver passing the truck on the right? What was cut and dried in my mind a moment ago is now a bit cloudy and unclear.

      best of luck to you.

  7. Bryan Willman

    Well first, Patrick, I hope you heal quickly…

    Al Dimond – I should rephrase – there are a number of roads where the only time I feel I’m in the way, or at much real risk of being hit from behind, is when I’m trying to merge into a busy left turn lane. (And I’ve recently taken up a right hook in one spot to solve this.)

    But of course, as Patrick’s case seems to prove, risk can be anywhere.

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