Traffic injuries and deaths are preventable, and we have the cure.
We’ve already planned Seattle’s safe streets upgrades corridor-by-corridor and neighborhood-by-neighborhood. The city’s traffic engineers have studied proven best practices from in town and around the world. The city is essentially holding the traffic violence vaccine in its hands, but we’re still scared to take it.
Join family members of traffic victims, city leaders and safe streets advocates Friday for a Vision Zero Vigil & Procession to remember those who have died in traffic and to raise the call for safe streets for everyone. Meet at 5 p.m. at 2nd and University (invite your friends via Facebook, more event details from Cascade Bicycle Club below).
When Sher Kung rode her bike to her office downtown one year ago this week, the final block of her commute required navigating what was commonly referred to as the city’s worst bike lane: A skinny paint-only lane in the door zone of parked cars and to the left of turning cars and trucks. Many people had been hit over the years, and people had been calling for a safer bike lane for a long time. Plans were in the works to finally fix it, but the city was ten days too late.
Kung died when someone driving a truck turned in front of her at University Street.
She was a new mother when she was killed. Her daughter has not yet turned two years old.
Kung was dedicated to working as an attorney for civil rights. She played a big role in the case to reinstate Margaret Witt, who was discharged from the military under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. That case was instrumental in getting US military policy changed, allowing service members to be themselves and love who they love without fear of getting kicked out.
Kung died next to Seattle’s Garden of Remembrance memorial to fallen soldiers, a fitting place for friends, family and those she has inspired to remember her and her work for the dignity of service members.
It’s also a fitting place for the city to come together Friday to say, “Not one more.” From the bad driving decision to turn in front of her to a bad road design that encourages dangerous mistakes, Kung did not need to die, not that day.
Neither did Andy Hulslander.
Neither did Susie Dreher.
Neither did Haochen Xu.
Neither did Michelle Jozefiak.
Neither did Eric Renz.
Neither did Caleb Shoop.
Neither did Sandhya Khadka.
Neither did James St. Clair.
Neither did Rebecca Scollard.
Neither did Leo Almanzor.
And those names are just a handful that we have written about or that Seattle Neighborhood Greenways has held memorials for since January 2014. Like Kung, Each one of the people listed had their own life stories and communities and family who loved them.
Every year, about 150 people are seriously injured and about 20 people are killed in traffic collisions just in Seattle. Traffic collisions are a leading cause of death, especially for young people. And those who survive are often left with lifelong challenges that affect relationships or their ability to continue their previous work.
We’ve heard from nearly every city elected official and City Council hopeful that safe streets are vital both for public health and for addressing the transportation crush in our growing city.
And though the city has embarked on some quality projects here and there, efforts to-date have only reached a small percentage of our city’s many dangerous streets. We need big, bold action with real funding.
We have an incredible chance this fall to bring that funding: Move Seattle. Learn how you can get involved to help pass Seattle Proposition 1 in our previous story.
But even with all the funding in the world, making our streets safer for everyone is going to take political leadership. And it takes people like you demanding change to push leaders to make the right calls.
Friday’s vigil should be the last ever vigil or memorial for traffic deaths. Sadly, it won’t be. But with enough pressure from people like you, our city can take the kind of bold action we need to eradicate traffic violence by at least 2030. And we’ll make Seattle a better place while we’re at it.
Details on the vigil from Cascade:
This Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Sher Kung’s death.
Sher was a mother, civil rights attorney and a beautiful friend to many. On the last Friday of last August, she was biking down the prior minimal separation bike lane on Second Avenue when a driver of a delivery truck turned left across her path, killing her immediately. The city installed the new protected bike lane just 10 days later.
Since Sher’s death, traffic collisions have killed another 10 people and seriously injured approximately 150 people. It’s time for the traffic violence to end. That’s why people who walk, bike, ride transit and drive will gather this Friday to honor them and call for swift action. Please join us.
Vision Zero Vigil & Procession
Friday, Aug. 28, 5-6 p.m.
Garden of Remembrance at Benaroya Hall
Corner of Second Avenue & University Street
All people deserve to arrive at their destinations safely, no matter how they choose to get around. And we know that our city leaders can design our streets to be safe.
That’s why we’re excited about the city’s goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030, and Mayor Ed Murray’s Vision Zero Action Plan to help us get there. The city’s plan for complete streets, including a network of protected bike lanes, in the Center City will also be essential. But more must be done to fund, design and enforce safer streets.
We will gather at the Garden of Remembrance this Friday at 5 p.m., starting with a moment of silence and bell ringing to remember Sher Kung and all those who’ve been killed or seriously injured in traffic violence in the last year. We will hear from the families, advocates and city councilmembers. To finish, we will walk and bike down Second Avenue to Occidental Park.
Seattle is not alone in this movement for an end to traffic violence. New York City held a Vision Zero vigil last month. Watch the StreetFilms video here:
Vision Zero Vigil with Families for Safe Streets (Union Square) from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.
It’s a shame that Cascade scheduled this in conflict with Critical Mass, respectability politics at work
Hasn’t Critical mass pretty much died out?
That’s the sense I got. Turns out the city is down with bikes being traffic and you don’t really have to demo each month about it.
Not dead yet, was just resting: seattlecriticalmass.org
CM is a joke! It’s great if you want to ride 10 blocks then party!! CM is great if it goes somewhere worthwhile ! I’ve been to at least 100-150 CM rides! Big fucking deal! You think a guy doesn’t have the right to meet up for a ride while two other groups are meeting also! Does anyone ride just to ride, ride hills and bomb hills, what about something more then 10-15 miles.
I will be there Friday, for sure. Though I still find the 2nd Avd bike lane very dangerous. I’ve had several very close calls with cars turning left into my path spite of the red arrow. Even worse, now I know to watch for cars going around those stopped for the light & turning from the middle lane! I won’t ride it anymore except during evening rush hour when there’s no choice since all roads are gridlocked.
“Kung died when someone driving a truck turned in front of her at University Street.”
What happened to the driver?
Vigils and rides will do nothing as long as there are no repercussions for killing people with motor vehicles.
I’m looking into it. Will update when I learn more.
Last I heard, he was under investigation for distracted driving.
If they can find proof of distraction, that might make this one of the rare cases where a turning truck driver clearly broke a traffic law when killing a cyclist.
It’s an unfortunate aspect of routing through traffic to the left of drivers turning left (or to the right of drivers turning right) that truck drivers who kill people often don’t break any laws doing it. The drivers yield to all visible users, then run over someone who was encouraged by the infrastructure to ride where they were invisible to the turning driver. No amount of law can make photons penetrate sheet metal.
If SDOT could rearrange the signals on 2nd so that they were unambiguous and conspicuous, that’s what having a separate bicycle phase is supposed to address — if the design has conflicting traffic routes, only one gets to go at a time. But as long as the signals are clustered and confusing, some confused drivers will continue to turn left on red in front of through cyclists, and through cyclists will occasionally run a red bike signal in front of turning drivers who have a green light.
“repercussions” for drivers who kill people will have minimal effect, since relatively few people actually do kill other people with their cars, most people will think “that won’t happen to me”. After all, bad driving is a capitol crime, subject to summary execution, no lawyer, no bail, no appeals, and not even the 8th amendment, one can be burned to death for reckless driving (or for being an innocent bystander)! but does that stop people?
Probably the best solution is going to be hardware, my bet is that in the long run silicon is going to be more effective than paint and plastic poles, but every little bit helps I suppose. As For Josh saying: ” No amount of law can make photons penetrate sheet metal.” If one has eight+ “eyes” and is in constant communication will all ones neighbors (who also have 8+ “eyes”) that should not be too much of a problem. The biggest problem I can see is the “you can take my car when you pry my cold dead body from the wreckage of said car” crowd .
In the short term, having repercussions that most people will feel, so that they know things can (and will) happen to them might help. My suggestion would be enforcing speed limits. A bit self serving I know, since it is almost never even possible for me to exceed the limit on my bike , though a few weeks ago I did, much to my surprise, find my self a couple of MPH over (of course in a car 2 over would be obstructing traffic, not speeding).
Also if the multi million civil judgments were not secret it might get a few people to pay attention to what they are doing, still falls in the “won’t happen to me” category, but it may a little more comprehensible than the abstract concept of killing or dieing.
I agree with Sharon, the 2nd Ave. bike lane is an improvement but still very dangerous.
My last trip was successful only in that I made it unscathed (heading downhill). At one intersection I had to avoid a left-turning car whose driver ignored the red arrow. At the next corner, I was distracted watching the cars, and I figured the straight-ahead green arrow applied to me (not paying attention to the “red bicycle” light on the same pole). So I rang my bell and passed in front of a car trying to turn left on the green arrow. Oops, need to be more careful I guess.
The 2nd Avenue bike lane is still flawed. SDOT knows how to fix it. They need to move the signals to be over the applicable lanes and off of the Christmas Tree Pole. They just don’t want to do it.
I’ll go to the second memorial. I found myself in the picture above from the first memorial bike ride, behind the mayor…
I was also wondering what happened to the driver that killed Sher Kung. l doubt if he got anything. Driving like a drunk is OK, as long as you aren’t actually drunk.
I wish SPD would enforce the traffic laws we have. It would go a long way towards making the streets much safer.
I’m looking into the status of the investigation.
I commute via the 2nd Ave cycle track 5 days/week, 12 months/year. As a number of you have pointed out, not all risk to cyclists has been eliminated. That said, so long as you demonstrate a reasonable degree of caution when using it (particularly when traveling southbound/downhill, since speeds are higher), it seems pretty safe. Riding in urban traffic is inherently a very heads-up affair. I don’t know what else that could be done to make the 2nd Ave cycle track safer other than more clearly separating the bike signal from the car signal. I’ve had cars turn in front of me, but it has never seemed intentional. I think they were just confused by all the arrows, etc.
With regard to what happened to the truck driver, I don’t recall whether he was doing something he shouldn’t have been doing (e.g., driving while under the influence, drowsy, distracted/cell phone, etc.), but before some of you head out to burn him at the stake, remember that you’ve all made mistakes. How many of you have been in an auto collision while you were the driver? Most people drive cars (including those who identify as cyclists), and statistically, most drivers will at some point experience an auto collision in which they are at fault. Sadly, just one little mistake like looking at the signal rather than your left side mirror when turning left through an intersection can bring life-ending consequences if a cyclist is there. What would’ve just been a minor fender-bender had a car been there instead was a tragic loss of life. This is not to eschew culpability of the driver in this case, but I would just like to point out that most of you have probably made mistakes when behind the wheel of a motor vehicle which could’ve had very similar consequences, but you simply lucked out.
I am also happy with the 2nd Ave bike lane. I am sure it could be even better, but I am delighted it exists in its current form. It is great for biking home from Science Center camp with my 8 year old. We have tried other routes, and the 2nd ave bike lane is definitely the best way to get from the Science center to Uwajimaya at rush hour with a child on his own bicycle. Each day brings us a new hazard to get around, and the hotel staff at the corner of Cherry street could be more helpful to themselves & their patrons by remembering that they are unloading into an active travel lane, but it sure beats what was there before. It’s also excellent for bicycling with children to the symphony or to Target to get a baseball bat. Oh, hooray hooray for the PBLs.
Hey tom, and word on the case/status of the driver yet?