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KOMO Video: Woman visiting her sister victim of hit and run at Dexter/Nickerson – UPDATED

Maile and Alana. Photo from Maile Martinez, used with permission
Maile and Alana. Photo from Maile Martinez, used with permission

Jake Vanderplas’ story of a road rage hit and run in West Seattle we published yesterday drudged up a lot of scary stories from readers, who left their tales in the comments.

One of those comments was from a friend of mine: Maile Martinez. Her sister is in town visiting and has been biking around town during her stay. But she was the victim of a nasty hit and run Saturday night at Dexter and Nickerson (see more details on Maile’s blog).

She was struck from behind in the bike lane heading south on Dexter. The person driving did not slow or yield (as is clearly marked) when turning from eastbound Nickerson to southbound Dexter. Alana Martinez never saw the car.

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Adding to the frustration, the person driving never stopped and fled the scene. Neither Alana or her husband biking behind her got a good look at the make, model, license plate or suspect. They are hoping that someone out there saw what happened and can help out by calling SPD.

Or better yet, maybe the person responsible will do the right thing and contact police.

Alana is very sore and has bad bumps and scrapes, but is luckily not more injured. She credits her helmet for bearing the brunt of the fall.

Maile’s blog post made the rounds yesterday and KOMO picked up the story. Here’s their report:

UPDATE: Biking by the location of the hit and run today, I noticed something troubling: Reflective plastic bollard intended to corral right-turning traffic into a safer bike lane crossing have been destroyed and are missing. Without the bollards, people driving do not have to slow down and cross the bike lane at a 90-degree angle, which is safer. Alana describes being hit from behind, suggesting that this is exactly what happened in her situation.

IMG_0090Plastic bollards have a vital flaw: They are easily destroyed. In the comments below, Ted Diamond describes a very similar serious collision at the same spot. Clearly, the plastic bollards and yield sign combination is not enough.

I don’t have the exact answer for what would make it safer, but it seems that something more permanent than the bollards are needed. Perhaps a more permanent curb of some kind is more appropriate. Also, while a signal might be overkill (as SDOT’s response to Ted suggests), perhaps a stop sign would be more effective.

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34 responses to “KOMO Video: Woman visiting her sister victim of hit and run at Dexter/Nickerson – UPDATED”

  1. Eli

    First: So glad Maile is OK.

    As someone who doesn’t ride a bike in Seattle due to safety considerations (but just enjoyed taking a friend all over Eugene and Portland by bike this past weekend – about 100 miles of biking), I guess I don’t really get the newscaster’s narrative.

    How does the newscaster call Seattle “bike-friendly” when Maile was hit at an intersection in which the infrastructure apparently provided no actual signalization protection to the cyclist, and relied on compliance with “yield” signs (and the ability to see a cyclist in the dark when we know drivers are often distracted)? Wouldn’t an injury like this (or worse) be the inevitable consequence?

    Anyway, I’m super glad she’s OK, but I’m afraid stories like these keep me off a bike on the streets of Seattle until we have safer infrastructure that doesn’t require a helmet being cracked in two to prevent my brain from being pulverized.

    1. JAT

      Eli, are you Dutch or something? Road users of every modality rely on compliance with yield signs all day every day. A yield sign is, by definition, traffic signalization just as much as as a light or a lane marking.

      Grade separated infrastructure, which you seem to be suggesting is the only thing which would make cycling in Seattle safe for you, and which is not ubiquitous in Portland or Eugene, will always have compromises at intersections, and at those intersections we depend on compliance with the law.

      Don’t blame the city for this one; blame the felonious hit-and-run driver.

      1. One way that the infrastructure arguably makes this worse at this particular intersection is by providing a “channelized” right turn that encourages right-turning traffic to move through the intersection without slowing down much. Chicago, for example, has a plan to remove channelized right turns (almost all of them, apparently) as part of its pedestrian master plan.

      2. I was hit in exactly the same spot in January of this year, and suffered serious injuries.

        I re-visited the site later, and watched what drivers were doing as they made the turn from Nickerson to Dexter. The usual behavior of drivers was to speed up approaching the yield sign, and to look over their left shoulders for traffic coming from 4th/Fremont Bridge. I feel that a rider who is crossing the merging lane to reach the bike lane, or a pedestrian who is crossing the merging lane to reach the bus stop, is apt not to be seen by merging drivers.

        The opposite corner, going from northbound Westlake onto the Fremont Bridge, is controlled by a traffic light. I feel that the Nickerson-to-Dexter merge should also be controlled by a light.

        I expressed my concern to SDOT, but they declined to act on it. Their response was: “As this is a signalized intersection, we would not add a separate signal for the merge lane. The yield sign is clearly visible to motorists. If some drivers are ignoring the sign, that is a matter of poor driver behavior rather than a design flaw. I contacted the traffic enforcement section of the Seattle Police Department and relayed your concerns about speeding motorists failing to yield.”

      3. Tom Fucoloro

        Scary, Ted. Thanks for sharing. I mentioned your comments in the update to the story above.

      4. Dman

        I witnessed a nasty crash there back around that time (I hope that wasn’t you), and I can surely attest how dangerous that intersection is

      5. Can we stop with this stuff:

        “…and the ability to see a cyclist in the dark when we know drivers are often distracted”

        Replace “cyclist” with “pedestrian”, and it becomes so obvious how this shifts blame to the cyclist… The driver, of whatever vehicle, has the onus to not hit others. You have to be especially vigilant if it’s dark.

        Why would anyone drive… when we know drivers are often drunk?

      6. It’s definitely the case, indeed, that the particular design of this channelized right turn is particularly bad in that it has a really wide mouth out onto Dexter and the shape, length, very wide turn radius, and the merge angle encourage acceleration into the merge. The whole thing maximizes the amount of time cyclists are exposed to cross traffic. Not to mention the situation for pedestrians making various movements.

        I think the absurdity of having a channel that’s signalized, or reshaped to intersect the target road at a steeper angle than the road it diverges from, leads the way here. The best solution would be to remove the channel entirely. It would be better if the right turn lane was along the main roadway instead, incorporated into the signalized intersection instead of bypassing it. This isn’t a highway interchange! This is an intersection between two streets (Dexter and Nickerson) that have received road diets or complete-streets redesigns just within the last few years (in addition to the bike counters and lane markings around the Fremont Bridge, the South Ship Canal Trail, and the upcoming Westlake Cycletrack)! The intersection between them shouldn’t look like a highway interchange.

      7. Al Dimond: I think you hit the nail on the head. The merge is configured like an on-ramp to a highway.

      8. Tom Fucoloro

        Here’s a look at the “channelized” turn lane: https://www.google.com/maps?ll=47.646359,-122.350254&spn=0.000914,0.002033&t=h&z=19&layer=c&cbll=47.646359,-122.350254&panoid=FYBNVGVzKj2H3AmERUiDMA&cbp=12,144.67,,0,3.44

        I agree, let’s just close that off. There can’t be enough turning traffic to even begin to justify it.

      9. One interesting thing in Google Maps (as of last night) is that StreetView imagery shows the old configuration of Dexter and overhead imagery the new one. In the old configuration traffic in the channel went straight into its own lane on Dexter. In the new configuration traffic from the channel has to cross the bike lane and then merge into the general-purpose lane to its left.

        The old layout clearly had its flaws, especially for cycling, but it’s at least clear how the channelization worked within its logic. With the new intersection layout there’s really no logic behind the channelization. It’s there because it was there when things were the way they were and things are not the way they were and should never be again!

      10. Eli

        JAT: nee, ik ben geen Nederlander — daar heb ik toch familieleden! ;-)

    2. Matt

      I’m sure there is a reason for the merge lane, probably to reduce traffic. You can keep the merge lane if cyclists had a larger floating sidewalk and could stop on it, in which case they could safely cross the merge lane with a crosswalk and then have the dedicated bike lane and not have to merge at all. This same situation is @ Montlake and 520 for cyclists getting off the west bound 520 freeway station and crossing the offramp.

  2. Eli

    Oops: I mean, so glad Maile’s sister is OK! ;-)

  3. meanie

    I am really pleased she is OK, but the helmet FUD seems to be the focus of the segment.

  4. Matthew

    I have cycled in Seattle for 26 years an I have seen it all. It is way past time for Seattle to do the right thing and restrict cars to certain lanes and make a wider lane for bikes hat has physical separation from cars, not just a painted line. Ideally Seattle should be a car-free city. Personal vehicles have led to nothing but urban sprawl, noise, obsecene amounts of pavement, obesity, laziness and pollution. Time to get fat-assed lazy people out of their cars. If they are too torpid to ride or walk, they can take a bus.

    1. Doug

      Uh…. Good luck with that.

    2. Doug

      Also, I love pavement because it lets me ride way out in the country. Pavement ist rad.

  5. Matthew

    I have cycled in Seattle for 26 years and I have seen it all. It is way past time for Seattle to do the right thing and restrict cars to certain lanes and make a wider lane for bikes that has physical separation from cars, not just a painted line. Ideally Seattle should be a car-free city. Personal vehicles have led to nothing but urban sprawl, noise, obscene amounts of pavement, obesity, laziness and pollution. Time to get fat-assed lazy people out of their cars. If they are too torpid to ride or walk, they can take a bus.

  6. Joseph Singer

    You can have all the bike infrastructure available and you can still have a driver who doesn’t care do a hit and run.

  7. Thank you so much for covering this story, Tom! Thanks for sharing your story too, @Ted Diamond. It’s depressing how common these incidents are, and SDOT’s attitude about that intersection is incredibly frustrating. I guess we just need to keep the pressure on them. @Eli I want Seattle to be a city where it feels safe to get around by bike or on foot.

    In solidarity!

  8. Leif Espelund

    I ride through this intersection every day and always watch for cars doing exactly what happened here. If the plastic bollards are being destroyed like this then it proves there is a problem with the design, contrary to what SDOT reported to Ted. Seems that putting a nice little curb bulb there (maybe with a rain garden!) would go a long way towards slowing down drivers and forcing them to look. As a temporary, low-cost solution, SDOT could drop a Jersey Barrier there to force the correct behavior. Paint does little to nothing.

  9. Bob Hall

    Navigating southbound from the Fremont Bridge onto Dexter is a disaster. Here’s a list of things a cyclist needs to keep in mind in a mere 0.1 mile stretch:

    – Vehicles making a right-hand turn directly south of Fremont Bridge
    – Transition from sidewalk to road
    – Vehicles making yet another right-hand turn just before the traffic signal
    – Vehicles merging from Nickerson onto Dexter who may not look out for you
    – Bus pulling into or out of bus stop just after Nickerson merge
    – All the while, yield to pedestrians and watch for oncoming cyclists

    Keep in mind this is supposed to be part of Seattle’s premiere on-street bicycle facility.

    Many people successfully navigate this stretch because it’s their daily commute and they know the dangers. Also, most cars that are used to the right turns know to watch for cyclists and for that I’m grateful. However, designing facilities for frequent users isn’t good enough. Out of town visitors should be able to pass safely through designated bike routes without needing to identify and avoid multiple “gotchas” in 1/10 of a mile. It’s bad enough to have a dangerous design, but it’s even more infuriating for SDOT to hold this route up as some kind of model for the whole city.

    1. Leif Espelund

      Florentia should be capped off at that end. It is almost entirely used as a short cut to Nickerson and is super dangerous.

    2. kommish

      Don’t forget, the Fremont Bridge sidewalks are super narrow with bikes and pedestrians going both ways. Then when you get past all the obstacles you named, Dexter starts to incline right where the bus stop is, so the bike traffic is often slowing down pretty significantly. Sooooooper funsies!

    3. AMEN! PREACH! Couldn’t have said it better myself – thank you!

    4. Breadbaker

      Bob Hall pretty much nails it. Whenever I ride it, I assume that cars will ignore the big signs telling them to yield to bikes when turning onto Florentia, then if there is a bus coming south across the bridge I wonder how I’m going to navigate both the cars I assume will be accelerating up from Nickerson (one reason they gun their engines of course is they want to get past those buses and the other is they’re about to go uphill) and around the bus while keeping up enough momentum to bike uphill. Is there really so much Nickerson to Dexter traffic that this can’t just be a right turn onto the main traffic lanes of Dexter?

  10. Brian

    Three comments:
    First, I’m glad that this ended without too serious an injury. Very scary.
    Second, This seems like a perfect intersection for additional improvements. The jersey barrier, maybe combined with a few “rumble” strips or something to catch a driver’s attention seem like cheap and easy interim fixes until a permanent solution can be installed. It seems clear from the wear on the paint where drivers are going. That’s a failed “improvement.”
    Third, the reporting angle in the KOMO video is depressing: it’s more of a human interest segment “poor little cyclist out playing with the big dogs gets hurt,” with nice garnish of finger-wagging “wear your helmet if you know what’s good for you.” Why not take the angle of outrage that there is a driver out there mowing people down with impunity? Where is the interview with a city official demanding a response plan? It shows how the media and much of the general population have come to view this sort of road carnage as an acceptable cost of driving.

    1. sally

      This is “bicycle friendly Seattle”. Why would we need to make any changes to our infrastructure?

  11. KC Lewis

    I think it’s about time we remove all highway style roadway configurations from this state’s largest city. No more channelized turns! Those are highway infrastructure for high speed limited access highways! The ideal in the city is a grid formation when possible, with ninety degree intersections.

  12. Kent

    I’m happy she is going to be OK physically, emotionally may be another story. This is mostly a bike friendly town with more than it’s share of bike haters, with a few going out of their way to hit bikers. I’ve bicycled and led rides here–in town and outside of the city–and I’ve personally seen people try to hit bike riders. It’s very hard to get their license and vehicle make when you are trying to look after the person who was hit, or almost so.

  13. […] intentionally or by drivers who never stop. That Seattle Bike Blog story on Vanderplas unearthed another recent hit-and-run story in the comments, this time on the mean streets of Dexter and Nickerson. “Alana Martinez never […]

  14. […] after publishing a post about the collision July 10, I happened to bike by the spot and noticed that a series of plastic […]

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