Reader looking for witnesses after she was doored at 12th and Marion June 8

Jess’s bike. Her polka dot panniers could help job your memory if you saw the incident.

Reader Jess was biking down 12th Ave near Seattle University around 5:45 p.m. June 8 when she collided with a parked car door, sending her over her handlebars. Her injuries and hospital bills are significant, but the police report says she fell on her own.

The wreck knocked her out, so her memory of what happened is fuzzy. Without a witness, the police report will place the blame and bills on her. Anyone who saw what happened should email [email protected].

From Jess:

I was in a bike accident a few weeks ago on 12th riding south toward Marion. I got nicked by a car door and thrown over my handlebars. I fell on my head and left side — cracked my helmet, broke my wrist and elbow, and road rashed up. The problem is that I was knocked out at the time and the memory of the incident is hazy.

The police report says I fell on my own, and that a guy just happened to be sitting in his SUV with the door ajar, but not in the bike lane right where I fell. No damage to my bike or to his door, and no witnesses. But this happened at 6pm on a Friday evening, so I find that really hard to believe.

It’ a long shot, but do you ever help people find witnesses to their bike crashes, or have any ideas about how I could? I kind of want to put out an APB or something, just gotta be someone who saw what happened. They probably don’t think it matters, which is what I would have thought before this happened, but will make the difference between me having to pay for all my own medical bills, or the guy who hit me paying…..

Anyway, sorry if this is off base but thought I’d give it a shot. Any thoughts or ideas welcome. I’m working with John Duggan, a great bike attorney, but his hands are tied with no witnesses and nothing else to go on…

A car occupant is legally required to check for people biking before opening a car door. If the guy in the SUV opened the door into her path, it would be his fault (and it’s very unlikely, though I suppose not impossible, that someone would just run into an open car door they had time to see).

Also at issue here, in my opinion, are poorly-designed bike lanes on 12th Ave (and many other streets in town). The bike lanes are skinny and placed directly next to parked cars. If a bike lane is 5 feet and the “door zone” is 3 feet, that does not leave enough space to bike safely.

Some cities mark the door zone in their bike lanes (as seen in the photo below taken in Santa Monica by Bicycle Fixation). The city needs to take comparable action with their door zone bike lanes (yes, this will require widening the lanes). Even experienced cyclists get doored sometimes, which is evidence that the design is simply not safe.

Such a network-wide bike lane door zone update policy would be a perfect suggestion for the Bicycle Master Plan update.

Photo by Bicycle Fixation (via Flickr)


About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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16 Responses to Reader looking for witnesses after she was doored at 12th and Marion June 8

  1. Doug says:

    That sounds awful. I hope somebody who saw something sees this.

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  3. Al Dimond says:

    Just when we thought the police department in this town was starting to get the message…

  4. Andrew Squirrel says:

    Wow, that is horrible, I find this really interesting in relation to my recent accident with a car. Here is my original CL request looking for witnesses:

    This is mostly for my own sanity, perhaps if my bike ends up having serious damage.
    Were you witness to an accident at University Bridge (Eastlake & Fuhrman) in the southbound bike lane on Tuesday, June 19th ?
    I know there was at least one girl that was behind me and stopped to see if I was okay.
    I just wanted to know if you saw the driver at fault or if I “hit my brakes and flew over my handlebars with no vehicular contact” like the driver in the accident claimed.
    By the time the police & medics showed up all the witnesses had left the scene and it was just the cyclist (me) and the driver with completely different stories.
    I am just wondering if my memory serves me right and he did actually hit me.

    Thanks, I promise I won’t force you to testify in court, I just want some peace of mind for a brain that keeps second guessing itself.”

    Turns out the bike is mostly okay, wounds are healing and ringing in my left ear has ceased….but I’d still love to hear what the heck really happened.

    • Andrew Squirrel says:

      oh, I realized I left a few key pieces of info out of this:
      – I was right hooked, driver took right hand turn on Fuhrman, I was in my bike lane the whole time
      – No “fresh” scratch marks or “disturbed dust” on the man’s crappy scratched Saturn which lead to SPD officer (also a regular cyclist) to be unable to make a determination as to the sequence of events.

      • csh says:

        I think I saw the aftermath when I was riding home that day, but didn’t see the accident. I was right hooked at that corner a couple years ago, so it drew my attention right away.

        Luckily, I rolled over the trunk and bounced like a stuntwoman, so I wasn’t hurt much at all. So sorry to hear about your accident.

      • Stephen says:

        Every day my desire to buy a helmet camera increases. The complete incompetence of SPD is definitely helping my decision.

      • Andrew Squirrel says:

        It was actually in the AM not the PM, but that would be horrible if there was a bike accident in the same area that evening too. Oy Vey.

        The SPD were really concerned about me in this incident, I don’t blame the officer for making the decision she made but It would have been nice if the witnesses could have stuck around. At least I know in the future if I ever witness a crash to wait for the police before I leave the scene of the incident.

  5. Leif says:

    When two cars collide the police make darned sure they figure out what happened. If there are no witnesses and the stories conflict they basically call it 50/50 blame. This happened to someone I know when another driver veered into her lane and bumped her car. Obviously wasn’t her fault but since nobody saw it and the other driver claimed she veered into him the blame was just 50/50, which I guess is the only fair thing to do at that point. I wish the police would at least use this tactic if there are no witnesses.

    This is a reminder to all of us that even if you feel like you are okay after an accident, you should get any witness contact info in case it turns out your adrenaline was getting the best of you. Of course you can’t do that if you are unconscious and the cop and other party come to an agreement as to what happened with you laying on the ground passed out. Stay classy SPD.

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  7. Joseph says:

    wow, I hope Jess is OK. Will cross post on Facebook.

    My own experience on 12th (where I agree, the lanes are too narrow): I’m going south just past the Ferrari dealership, when a car turns into the Ferrari garage right in front of me, nearly nailing me. Police car two cars up. I catch up with the cop at Cherry and ask her if she saw that incident. Her response: “Yeah, up there by the Ferrari dealership? Saw that – be careful out there.” Granted, there wasn’t much she could do at that point, but really – “be careful out there”? As if the near-accident was the result of my inattention?


  8. Josh says:

    +1 on the ridiculously narrow bike lnes throughout Seattle (downhill on Pine is nearly as bad as 12th). The only safe thing to do is ignore them and take the lane.

    It’s a joke that Seattle gets “points” for bike-friendliness for its ill-designed bike lanes.

    • Joseph says:

      Apparently the tip of those sharrow thingies is far enough from the parked cars to clear an open car door. Taking the lane is definitely the way to go, and on street with sharrows stay on the tip of the arrow if you can.

      Interesting FAQs on sharrows from San Francisco:

      • Tamara says:

        Joseph, you’re right that *in theory* the point is supposed to be outside the door zone. In practice, I understand the initial installation was not always correct in Seattle, and entire streets have sharrows too close to parked cars. As you say, take the lane.

        Jess, that’s rotten – I hope you find your witness, and good luck with your recovery.

  9. S says:

    Might be worth asking folks at Cafe Presse, Stumptown, Lark, PCNW and any other business on that block if they saw anything.

  10. Pingback: Cyclist doored on 12th and Marion, looking for witnesses | Bicitoro: bikes and crafts

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