Tammy Shoop and her husband Ben have had to go through the worst that parents can experience: Their son Caleb was killed while biking in a Kenmore crosswalk in March. He was only 19.
There will be a memorial walk for Caleb September 17, planned in part by Kirkland Greenways and Lake City Greenways. Meet 5 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer at 62nd Ave NE and NE 182nd Street. (UPDATE: More details via FB)
But their grief was compounded by an insult from the City of Kenmore and King County, who gave a mere $175 traffic ticket to Joshua Tucker, the person who failed to yield and struck Caleb. Despite the fact that Tucker’s negligent traffic error caused Caleb’s death, the City of Kenmore would not pursue the 2nd degree negligent driving charges created by the state’s Vulnerable User Law.
“We have never meant the driver any harm, but feel our son’s death warrants a just outcome,” Tammy wrote in a recent letter on the Cascade Bicycle Club website. The negligent driving charge is not a felony, but it would have come with a possible license suspension, hefty fines, community service and/or education. It’s nothing compared to losing a son, but it is much more significant and could put the person responsible on the path to making amends to society as best they can.
You must read Tammy’s whole letter. Here’s an excerpt:
I would love to have been able to say that in the aftermath of this tragedy, grief was our only chore. Instead, we found ourselves galvanized into action with the rest of our community to improve safety in our city; wondered how we would pay the medical bills not covered by the driver’s minimal insurance policy; struggled to go back to work and care for our traumatized children; and waited to find out the outcome of his legal case. Months passed, and finally the verdict was out, the driver was fined only $175 dollars for failure to stop at a crosswalk. Case closed.
We were heartbroken. We have never meant the driver any harm, but feel our son’s death warrants a just outcome. We reached out to the community for answers as to why the Vulnerable User Law had not been used in his case. His case was reviewed by lawyers who stated it met the statute. We met with the city of Kenmore who decided that since the driver did not see Caleb on the crosswalk (because his view was blocked by the other cars stopped at the crosswalk for Caleb) it did not constitute negligence. There will never be justice for Caleb.
In addition to the memorial ride, there are also efforts to help communities properly understand how to use the Vulnerable User Law.
“Cascade is working with Washington Bikes, John Duggan, State Senator Adam Kline and others to educate city and county prosecuting attorneys and police officers about the Vulnerable User Law and when and how to apply [the Vulnerable User Law],” according to Cascade’s Brock Howell.
And efforts continue to make streets in Kenmore safer for people biking and walking so no more families go through what the Shoop family has. There is a lot of work left to do.