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Longtime bike commuter left with severed thumb after drunk driver hit her on Westlake, is glad it wasn’t worse

Karlyn Beer was biking north on Westlake Ave Friday evening when a drunk driver made a left turn directly in front of her.

“I slammed on my brakes of course, but plowed into the side of him,” she said via phone Saturday, still recovering from the trauma the night before.

“The top of my thumb is literally gone,” she said. Friendly passersby came to her aid after the wreck, pouring water from her water bottle on her hand to wash off the blood. But after all that, she’s glad it wasn’t even worse.

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“I feel lucky that I came out of it alright,” she said. “My helmet was cracked, so it did its job.”

Beer has been a bike commuter for over ten years, and this is the first time she has been in a collision.

“Everyone else out there going on a decade accident-free is still at risk,” she said. “Shit like that is still happening.”

The driver stopped at the scene and was evaluated by police, who determined he was under the influence. It was 8 p.m. and still light out, but he apparently did not see her biking in the right northbound lane. The 56-year-old man has had a previous DUI on his record and was arrested at the scene and booked on investigation of vehicular assault, according to SPD.

The collision splintered the carbon fiber fork on Beer’s bike, which is still in police evidence.

Beer was on her way to Ballard from her job in a South Lake Union lab when she was struck. She said that she has thought a lot about whether it is safer to bike in the road on Westlake or through the parking lot, with cars backing out unexpectedly in front of you.

“I feel safer on the street, where vehicles are going the same direction as me,” she said. And while Dexter is just a hilly block over from Westlake, she said she prefers Westlake because it “is faster and flatter and the path of least resistance,” a sentiment shared by many people who bike from SLU to the Fremont Bridge.

She was also glad to hear that plans for an actually safe bikeway on Westlake are in the works.

While she is mainly concerned now about getting her medical bills and bike damage paid for, when she heard that the person driving was drunk and a repeat offender, that made her mad.

“I do feel really strongly about getting people who are repeat offenders off the road.”

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14 responses to “Longtime bike commuter left with severed thumb after drunk driver hit her on Westlake, is glad it wasn’t worse”

  1. Ric

    Wa state has a vulnerable user law. Up to a $5,000 fine and/or a year in jail. I hope you are able to get this law applied and put him in jail. There needs to be punishment, not just for you but for others that hear of this. Good luck with your medical bills. My best.

    1. joseph


  2. no traffic lights

    This is mafia style – skip the hill, you pay with thumb.

    1. Sadly, it’s not tough enough. Impounding and auctioning the cars of repeat offenders should be in there.

  3. The laws on this stuff are very strange.

    The normal definition of assault involves an intentional threat plus the capability to back it up. DUI is a reprehensible act of recklessness that should be punished, and beyond punishment should result in loss of license (as a public safety measure). But it’s not really assault in any normal sense of the word. Meanwhile most acts of recklessness and assault on the road go completely ignored.

    It’s like we’re using assault to mean, “It’s something really bad,” or in the collective sense that institutionalized recklessness is an assault on public safety. While I’d hardly begrudge casual use of the first sense, or rhetorical use of the second, shouldn’t our laws use words by their meanings? Wouldn’t that be clearer and lead us toward consistent, fair laws instead of arbitrary ones? DUI is an act of recklessness (willfull irresponsibility), a severe one warranting real punishment and loss of driving privilege. Drinking is just one grossly irresponsible thing you can do on the road, and all should warrant real punishment and loss of driving privilege. As for assault, because of the capability of a car to cause injury, pretty much any intentional threat or aggressive action made behind the wheel of a car qualifies. That should really give us pause.

    1. merlin

      Thanks, Al. If we could find a way to REALLY enforce “loss of driving privilege” that would be the best consequence for irresponsible driving. We really don’t need more people in jail, we need fewer irresponsible people on the roads, drunk or sober. And sober people cause more collisions and deaths than drunk people.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        Yeah, the truth is, a vigorous, difficult-but-achievable path back to driving privileges is a must. If none is offered, people will just drive without a license, which is really a worst-case scenario.

        But perhaps with a path back that involves lots of education, relevant community service (like, say, in a trauma ward or something as I think Merlin suggested once), etc, people would be more educated and careful once they get back behind the wheel. I wish we could just take away a license and expect people not to drive, but that’s not how people work…

  4. Breadbaker

    Unfortunately, we know that the suspension or revocation of the “privilege” of driving is not an effective way of stopping drunk people from driving. We also know that ignition interlocks don’t work when they aren’t installed and don’t apply to lent or stolen vehicles.

    I’m sure you’ve all read about the woman in Florida with the 20 year mandatory sentence because she fired her firearm allegedly in the commission of a “crime” (although I still don’t understand it because the “crime” was exactly the discharge of her firearm). Why we don’t have a mandatory year in prison for any damage to any person while armed with a car while drunk is the real question for me.

  5. RJ

    Damned if you do and damned if you don’t—I passed a bike/taxi collision on Sunday afternoon in the parking lot next to Kenmore Air, with police and ambulance responding, and I almost hit a pack of clueless girls walking all over the middle of the parking lot along Westlake. It just seems bizarre that with all the improvements to SLU and bike lines on Dexter and the east side of Lake Union, there’s nothing on Westlake to safely get between SLU and Fremont.

    1. Breadbaker

      What, the Cheshiahud trail isn’t perfect bike infrastructure? I could swear Greg Nickels claimed it was.

  6. […] Beer, who we spoke with over the weekend shortly after she was struck by an apparently drunk driver on Westlake Ave, went on KOMO News to […]

  7. […] choose to bike on the fast, four-lane street. But as Karlyn Beer discovered, that can be dangerous as well. She was struck by an allegedly drunk man who turned his truck in […]

  8. […] who have been, or will be, injured while biking in the dangerous parking lot or four-lane road. Is Karlyn Beer not a “stakeholder” too? What about the people who live and work on Westlake and are excited about the idea of a safe and […]

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