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SPD officer responding to call strikes man biking downtown

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A Seattle Police officer driving a cruiser was responding to a high-priority call Monday evening when she collided with someone biking at 3rd and Pine.

The man was transported to the hospital, but SPD said his injuries were not serious.

The officer’s lights and sirens were on and SPD said she had a green light heading north on 3rd Ave when the man biking moved to the left in front of the officer.

This narrative matches up pretty closely with an account posted to reddit by someone who says they saw it happen and posted a photo from the scene.

An SPD supervisor arrived on the scene, and the incident was documented. Traffic Collision Investigators team chose not to take the case (TCI typically only investigate very serious collisions).

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27 responses to “SPD officer responding to call strikes man biking downtown”

  1. Ballard Biker

    How is that evidence of the need for a separated bike path?

    1. Marley

      Biking north out of downtown, there’s no separated bike paths once you leave the 2nd Ave PBL at Pike. It’s a choose your own adventure- 3rd Ave (Buses, cars, craziness), Sharrows on 4th, or a mishmash of other disjointed streets to get out of downtown.

    2. J

      Especially since this happened at an intersection.

      1. J

        … Where you’d still be in the main road when crossing. (Sorry, hit submit too soon).

  2. J

    Sad way to be reminded that you get out of the way and stop moving when you are in the path of a vehicle with sirens active—regardless of your means of transportation—and that you need to stop and look around if you’re not sure where they are. It astounds me every time I see my fellow cyclists and pedestrians seem to think that rule doesn’t apply to them.

    I’m pleased to see the sarcastic helmet comments on Reddit. Helmets don’t exactly prevent accidents from happening.

    1. RDPence

      Too many people on our streets have loud music blasting into their ears via earbuds. If this rider was so burdened, that might explain a lot.

      1. Law Abider

        This right here. I don’t want to jump to conclusions about if this guy was wearing earbuds, but between 50 to 75% of bikers I see during the summer have earbuds in. Wearing earbuds, would definitely drown out a siren.

        When I wear earbuds, it’s typically at work to drown out ALL sound so I can concentrate, I don’t see why anyone would think it’s a good idea while riding a bike. If you really can’t survive without music while biking, get a pair of over-the-ear headphones.

    2. Southeasterner

      Agreed. It’s amazing to see so many bikes/peds who don’t think they need to yield for emergency vehicles and police cars.

      For all you know they could be responding to another bike/ped accident and trying to save a life.

    3. Law Abider

      By not wearing a helmet, he had no regard for his safety and definitely no regard of the safety of those around him.

  3. Gary Yngve

    It’s a sad statement on society that we’ve decided that we’re too stupid for education solutions and the only answer is an infrastructure solution.

  4. Andres Salomon

    C’mon folks, what’s with the victim blaming? What if the person biking was hard of hearing? What if he accidentally swerved left because he was turning his head to look for the source of the siren noise? There’s a million different things to pay attention to while biking downtown, and it’s trivial to make a mistake. Maybe you folks were looking for the Seattle Times comment section, and ended up here by mistake?

    1. Shana

      YES! Great comment, Andres! There are so many reasons that could’ve happened. There’s no space for victim-blaming on the SBB.

      1. ODB

        Are we not allowed to question whether a cyclist who got hurt might have been at fault? Is that prohibited as “victim-blaming”? Is the cyclist always right? I’m just trying to understand the rules of polite discourse here, so that no one is offended.

        I’m sorry this happened and I’m glad the cyclist’s injuries were only minor. At the same time, I think it’s fair to question how the cyclist managed to swerve in front of a vehicle with lights and sirens on, where he was legally required to get out of its way long before the vehicle even approached him. Sure you can come up with hypothetical exculpatory explanations, like being hard of hearing, but these are pretty unlikely.

        Most cyclists are more than capable of staying out of the path of emergency vehicles. So, because of its unusual facts, I don’t think this collision makes for a very effective Exhibit A in a campaign for protected bike lanes. That’s just my personal opinion.

      2. Andres Salomon

        Note the comments above.

        “Too many people on our streets have loud music blasting into their ears via earbuds.” – wild speculation that he was among that group of people listening to music, despite no evidence.

        “It’s amazing to see so many bikes/peds who don’t think they need to yield for emergency vehicles and police cars.” – speculation that he was not getting out of the way of the police car on purpose, and therefore deserved what he got.

        I’m sure the commenters see it as public service announcement (“don’t listen to music while biking, it’s dangerous, you could end up like this guy!”). Comments like that are often a way of rationalizing things (“he was doing something wrong, that wouldn’t happen to me”). Unfortunately, comments like that are often used to legitimize crappy infrastructure and not prioritizing expensive safety improvements. I don’t know if a PBL would have helped, but I do know that comments blaming the victim *never* helps. They are read by others, internalized, and then used as a defense mechanism for why we shouldn’t actually address the real contributing factors.

        Imagine that you were the person hit, and then you read these comments. A comment like, “why did he not get out of the way?” might result in you writing, “I didn’t have time” or any number of responses. A comment like, “why did he think he didn’t have to get out of the way?” might result in you writing, “f$#k you, I didn’t WANT to get hit! I thought it was further away!” The first question feels benign, the second feels accusatory.

      3. J

        Sometimes specific happenings spark a discussion about a generic version of that thing. I had a discussion the other day about how a new author used way too much purple prose in their debut novel and that they really needed a better editor. Then we moved on to how other authors (I’m looking at you, Tolkein) seemed to have the same problem. You could say that I was blaming all authors or editors, but no.

      4. Andres Salomon

        J, did the use of purple send that author to the hospital? If so, then yes, perhaps you were victim-blaming. If not, then it was critique or constructive criticism.

      5. ODB

        Andres, I have no idea what point you were trying to convey in the last paragraph of your response to my comment. As for the rest of your response, you first seem to be making the point that no one knows what caused the collision: saying it might have been earbuds or willful failure to yield amounts to “speculation.” You even admit that you “don’t know if a PBL would have helped.” Fair enough. Then you say that comments ascribing fault to the cyclist (aka “victim blaming”) are “used as a defense mechanism for why we shouldn’t actually address the real contributing factors.”

        That makes no sense. What are the “real contributing factors”? You just spent the first half of your post making the point that no one knows what caused the collision, including you. And now suddenly you claim to know the “real contributing factors.” Bizarre.

      6. Andres Salomon

        My last paragraph was a separate train of thought. It was late, I was tired, I should have left it out. Ignore it.

        I didn’t say that no one knows the contributing factors; I said that *we* don’t. Surely there are people that do (or will, after an investigation) understand the contributing factors, but that’s not us (unless you were there). I can guess at a few contributing factors (speed, for example, based on the fact that the officer was unable to stop in time), but earbuds? That’s clearly wild speculation, based on lazy stereotypes.

        Seriously, it’s mind-boggling that you can look at the above comments and not see anything wrong with them. And they’ve just emboldened the trolls, who come out with the helmet bs.

      7. ODB

        Andres, first of all, I’m a little surprised you still aren’t willing to share your knowledge of the “real contributing factors,” since you apparently have knowledge of such things. (Otherwise, how would you know that “victim blaming” is a “defense mechanism” against addressing the “real contributing factors”?)

        Second, you say it’s “mind-boggling that you can look at the above comments and not see anything wrong with them.” This posture of astonishment, offered without any factual support or reasoned justification–simply being “mind-boggled” that someone hasn’t embraced the self-evident position that all right-thinking people naturally espouse–this is exactly the baseless, censorious, and self-righteous posturing that I’m objecting to. So, boggle away, my friend, because I think that one of the purposes of this comments section is to provide a forum for people to have a conversation about bicycle safety, including factors that may lead to collisions. I may not agree with all of the suggestions, but that’s life and part of what makes the discourse here interesting. What I object to is your efforts to shut down that part of the conversation that would ascribe any fault to a cyclist who gets injured, by employing emotionally charged language borrowed from the discourse of sexual assault–i.e., “victim blaming.” We can’t have an honest and vigorous discussion about bicycle safety if someone screams “victim blaming” every time it is suggested that the cyclist’s acts or omissions may have contributed to a collision.

      8. Andres Salomon

        I see what you’re saying. I disagree, but I get it.

        If you want to discuss safety with regards to earbuds (which, again, we have no idea if he was even wearing), perhaps start with this: http://www.vox.com/2014/8/7/5956899/bike-headphones-safe-dangerous-riding

  5. Kirk

    I’m noticing the buckets in the photo. I have seen a guy riding around with a lot of buckets on his bike, usually on the waterfront. I wonder if it is the same person.

  6. Gary Yngve

    “What if the person biking was hard of hearing? What if he accidentally swerved left because he was turning his head to look for the source of the siren noise?”
    Hard of hearing? Then get a mirror. (While I’m all for accommodation, the city can’t even get basic ADA-compliant curb ramps installed — let’s invest in that first — and PBLs might not have helped here, depending on proximity to intersection.)
    Swerved left from a shoulder check? Poor handling. A basic LAB traffic skills course should teach and practice shoulder checks.
    Experienced cyclists are saying that the reason why they’ve made it so long without being involved in a collision is that they bicycle lawfully and defensively, which requires some investment of patience and impulse control, as well as study and practice.

    1. Andres Salomon

      Right, so inexperienced cyclists or cyclists who have a head cold or people with disabilities or people who can’t afford helmets/mirrors/lights/lessons/etc SHOULD be run over by cars. I understand completely.

      1. Gary Yngve

        You can buy a helmet/mirror/light/lessons for every cyclist in the city for the cost of an average SDOT project. And it is perfectly legal to bicycle responsibly on the sidewalk, which I often do downtown (more for convenience/efficiency than for safety).
        I’m not against PBLs necessarily — I just don’t think they are the best or only solution, and I would like to see a lot more invested in education and enforcement of all road users.

  7. Gary Yngve

    For that matter, if I were in charge, we would teach safe cycling practices in middle school, the driving exam would have a lot more emphasis on bike/ped interaction, and drivers would require continuing education to keep their licenses.

  8. The fact that the guy biking here probably committed several errors of different types is part of why bike infrastructure with strong separation comes into the discussion. Even if we grant that the cyclist was entirely at-fault (in the sense of insurance or civil liability), the officer brought the vast majority of the kinetic energy: probably 10 times the mass and maybe 2-3 times the speed at impact (assuming the officer slowed significantly before impact). And the officer brought probably 5-10 times the speed of approach, limiting reaction time. Both people involved probably entered the other’s field of vision from an unusual angle. Even if we grant that the officer’s speed and general behavior on 3rd, as 3rd is, was justified by the importance of the call, and that he did an excellent job reacting to the cyclist (all this seems likely), the car’s speed and mass really brought the danger to the table.

    Sometimes the police will need to drive like this officer did, and of course sometimes other drivers will take it upon themselves to do far more dangerous things. Sometimes the actions of these drivers directly causes collisions, but even when it doesn’t it reduces the margin of error for others on the road and increases the stakes of their errors. Certainly we should strive not to commit errors when we ride, but we should have major routes where errors are rather unlikely to kill us! Police officers are trained; drivers are licensed (mostly) and insured (sometimes); cyclists and pedestrians are just people, and some of us are going to mess up. Aside from the truly crazy hill bombers and MUP time-trialists we aren’t bringing the danger to the roads. Downtown ain’t the Alps, or even the Issaquah Alps — there ought to be a way through that’s not on a roadbed where a police car might go through at 40 MPH, whether anyone with sense should have been right there right then or not. Some of us will cherish our right not to use that way, for fun or convenience or just for a change of scenery, because America (AMERICA!), and we’re owed a duty of care on every lane of every road, of course. But ought we not have routes where the imperfect, or even the terribly flawed, among us can ride?

    I’m reminded of the a cyclist that was hit out on Aurora a couple years ago. He may have been similarly at-fault (according to others’ accounts) and he may have been unwise to ride on Aurora. But maybe, given that so many destinations are very visibly on Aurora, and that the safer parallel routes are not very visible than Aurora, better signage could have helped him avoid some mistakes or make less dangerous mistakes. When I think about him riding on Aurora I remember that when I first moved here I rode long distances on a lot of notorious streets that I’d tend to avoid now (Denny, Boren, Rainier, MLK, Leary, 15th Ave NE, 4th Ave S, the speedy part of Northgate Way, Bellevue Way, Highway 524) because they were obviously there and I didn’t know the other routes yet. I like to think I’m a safe/skilled/vigilant rider, but I make mistakes, and I’d rather not anyone (self included) die over them. The first step is that lower-risk routes need to exist. While I found quieter alternatives to all these crazy places I rode, the general-purpose lanes of 3rd are no worse than any other route in that part of downtown, and that’s just not good enough.

  9. Gary Yngve

    SPD released the dash cam of the collision. Looked like a drugged out person basically jaywalking on a bicycle. Please don’t build infrastructure for these Darwin awards. Build infra for the rest of us.

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