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Bike News Roundup: 1975 report suggests building transit tunnel to replace the Viaduct

It’s time for the Bike News Roundup! Here’s a look at some of the bikey stuff floating around the web recently.

First up! This 1975 archive report from KOMO about mass transit in Seattle is worth all 25 minutes of your time. They even talk about how a transit tunnel downtown could allow us to tear down the viaduct. Hey, we built that tunnel decades ago. Let’s get going on that teardown!

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Pacific Northwest News

Halftime Show! This one’s pretty scary: Surveillance video in Ballard captures a very near miss:

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12 responses to “Bike News Roundup: 1975 report suggests building transit tunnel to replace the Viaduct”

  1. Josh

    Frightening how many people disagree about right-of-way in that Ballard video crash.

    I’m not an attorney, but as I understand it from insurance experience, Washington law for uncontrolled intersections *strongly* favors the driver on the right, even if the driver on the left arrives slightly sooner — in fact, being hit broadside from the right in this situation is taken as evidence that you should have yielded because the driver on the right was near enough to pose a risk of collision.

    Uncontrolled intersections in Washington are not first-come, first-served. Instead, if you arrive at approximately the same time as another vehicle, the person on the left yields to the person on the right, even if the person on the left is arriving a little bit earlier. If the you’re arriving in close enough proximity that you might collide, you’re arriving at “approximately” the same time.

    Pardon the long quote, but a case out of Grays Harbor shows just how strong the presumption in favor of the driver on the right can be:

    On the night of September 1, 1986, a vehicle driven by Tim McBride collided with a vehicle driven by Shanna Whitchurch. The collision was at the uncontrolled intersection of North Scammel and Pacific Avenue in Aberdeen. Whitchurch was traveling north on Scammel, and McBride was traveling west on Pacific. Thus, McBride was on Whitchurch’s right.

    Pacific is straight and level for westbound traffic approaching Scammel, and except that it was dark, a reasonable person driving McBride’s route would be able to see straight ahead into it. The intersection was in a residential area, and the nearby lots were developed with homes. A house stood on the lot at the southeast corner of the intersection, and no evidence was produced to show whether a reasonable person driving McBride’s route could see to the south on Scammel or, if so, from what point or for how far. In other words, no evidence showed the angles or fields of view available to westbound drivers approaching the intersection.

    According to Whitchurch’s expert, McBride was traveling 43 m.p.h. when he struck Whitchurch. Whitchurch was traveling 22 m.p.h. The speed limit on both streets was 25 m.p.h. There is no evidence that either driver applied the brakes or tried to avoid the collision.

    So, driver on the left is obeying the speed limit, driver on the right is driving nearly twice the speed limit.

    Driver on the left arrives slightly before the driver on the right, and is hit broadside in the intersection.

    The court’s decision — driver on the left is at fault for failing to yield. And it was upheld on appeal.

    When a disfavored driver seeks to recover from a favored driver for damages suffered in an accident at an uncontrolled intersection, the evidence produced at trial will be sufficient to support a finding that the defendant’s negligent conduct was a cause in fact (i.e., will be sufficient to support a finding that the accident would not have occurred but for the defendant’s negligent conduct) only if it supports a reasonable inference as to approximately where the favored driver was when, in the exercise of reasonable care, he or she should have realized that the disfavored driver was not going to yield. At an uncontrolled intersection, the driver on the right has the right of way, and the driver on the left must yield. RCW 46.61.180(1). Each must still exercise reasonable care, RCW 5.40.050; Whisler v. Weiss, 26 Wn.2d 446, 459-60, 174 P.2d 766 (1946) (favored driver); White v. Fenner, 16 Wn.2d 226, 235, 133 P.2d 270 (1943) (same); Kilde v. Sorwak, 1 Wn. App. 742, 746, 463 P.2d 265 (disfavored driver), review denied, 77 Wn.2d 963 (1970), but whether each does is measured in light of all the circumstances, including whether a reasonable person in the position of one driver or the other would have expected to have the right of way. Because a reasonable person in the favored driver’s position would justifiably expect to have the right of way, the favored driver is entitled to rely on the disfavored driver’s yielding the right of way until the favored driver reaches that point at which a reasonable person exercising reasonable care would realize that the disfavored driver is not going to yield. Olpinski v. Clement, 73 Wn.2d 944, 949, 442 P.2d 260 (1968); Kilde, 1 Wn. App. at 746. It is from and after that point that a reasonable person’s hypothetical conduct is compared with the favored driver’s actual conduct 3 in order to determine whether there is evidence sufficient to support a verdict that the accident would not have happened but for the favored driver’s negligence. 4 If there is no evidence showing the approximate location of that point, the reasonable person’s conduct cannot be compared with the favored driver’s, and the plaintiff has not borne the burden of producing evidence sufficient to support a finding that the accident would not have happened but for the favored driver’s negligence.


    Translating that into plain English by a non-lawyer, and applying it to the Ballard video:

    The driver on the right is the “favored driver.”

    The favored driver is allowed to assume the driver on the left will yield.

    If the two collide, that’s evidence that they were arriving at approximately the same time, and the disfavored driver should have yielded to the favored driver.

    The only way the cyclist could push fault onto the driver is by demonstrating that the driver should have recognized the cyclist’s failure to yield early enough to have avoided a collision.

    Again, I’m not a lawyer, but if you’re going through an uncontrolled intersection and get hit from your right, my insurance experience agrees with this case — it’s your fault, even if you got there first.

    1. That’s how I learned uncontrolled intersections. I also learned that you’d better look both ways and not go too fast, because most people don’t know the rules.

      Of course, if an intersection is controlled by a mini-roundabout, as so many are in the residential neighborhoods of Seattle, you yield to whoever is in the roundabout, and they should be to your left… and, again, you always have to look both ways, because people often cut left turns the short way.

      So the car happened to come from the right and the cyclist didn’t have the right-of-way. If it had come from the left the cyclist wouldn’t have been at fault, but he’d have taken the same fall. It’s wise to ride defensively — for one thing, to keep a speed that allows you to react to common situations, not just common legal situations. We all know that common behavior on the side streets is a lot wider than legal behavior. I’d be pretty pissed off at myself if I lost my summer due to a collision I could have prevented by simply riding defensively. Or if I took someone else’s, for that matter. The driver’s approach isn’t as clear, but the cyclist was definitely approaching the intersection too fast. That’s what I’d tell him if I was his dad. Regardless of which side the car in fact came from.

      1. bidab

        The presence of a roundabout (“rotary traffic island” in the WA lawbooks) actually has no effect on right of way. At all intersections, you yield to vehicles on the right. In an intersection with a stop or yield sign, you also yield to any vehicles already in the intersection. So if there’s a traffic circle in an uncontrolled intersection, it actually doesn’t matter who gets to the intersection first – the vehicle approaching from the left should yield.

        But in practice, hopefully, you’re a safe driver who doesn’t want to get in an accident, so you yield to the jerk on the left who rushed around the roundabout.

    2. Ben P

      Before I make my comment I just want to note that I think that cycist was going far to fast for safety.

      I don’t know law, but if that case is the proper interpretation, the law is perverse. The person on the right being favored makes perfect sense if both see each other and decide to proceed. But in this case neither saw the other to yield. The fact that Whitechurch happened to be traveling north instead of south wouldn’t have made any difference in the crash but somehow makes all the difference in law. I’m only mildly annoyed by how arbitrary this is. What really annoys me is the negligence. Both cars where going to fast for avoiding collision, but McBride was going 18 over through the uncontrolled intersection. Going 22 through uncontrolled intersections makes collisions likely. Going 43 through uncontrolled intersections makes those collisions likely to result in major damage and or deaths. I honestly don’t see why who should wave at who as they both mozy up to the intersection is relevant. Someone was speeding in a reckless fashion and indeed wrecked. Why does the law not penalize that?

      Anyhow, this at least is very informative. Thanks for sharing, Josh.

      1. Josh

        It is arbitrary, that’s why all drivers are supposed to memorize the rule before they get their license.

        In practice, it means that when you come to an uncontrolled intersection, you should *always* slow down and look carefully to your right, not just glance to the right but pull forward slowly and really look down the road a ways.

  2. Ballard Resident

    Here’s another good article from the LA times . Reminds me of the missing link problem.


    I have a traffic/pedestrian question.

    Is a vehicle allowed to pull into a crosswalk at an unmarked intersection and sit there waiting for traffic to clear when they want to make a right turn? This happened yesterday down at the waterfront. A truck pulled into the clearly marked crosswalk so that pedestrians were unable to safely crossing the road until he turned right. He sat there a while because traffic was backed up through the construction zone.

    This same situation has also happened at the train crossing in the same area. A train comes, the gate goes down and a car decides to pull into the crosswalk to wait for the train to pass so they can turn right. In the meantime they’ve blocked the crosswalk.

    1. HTupolev

      I have no idea as to legality, but on many intersections there isn’t a reasonable alternative due to visibility. Sometimes it’s because of a car parked too close to an intersection, sometimes it’s because someone felt that an intersection really needed to be prettied up with a huge bush jutting out into a corner. Pulling into traffic blind would be insane, so you move forward and block the crosswalk.

      1. Ballard Resident

        This guy had no problem seeing traffic from his huge truck. There were no bushes or obstructions to the left for two or more blocks, just a pedestrian path with no on street parking near it.

        The car waiting for the train … no excuse. I think they can see the train just fine from behind the crosswalk.

      2. Josh

        The reasonable alternative if you can’t make a legal right-on-red is to wait for a green light. Right on red is never mandatory.

    2. Josh

      In Seattle, it is specifically prohibited to stop a car over a crosswalk.

      If you can’t see to make a right on red without blocking the crosswalk, you have to wait for a green.

      Of course, there’s almost zero enforcement. I don’t know why SDOT doesn’t identify intersections where the sight distances aren’t adequate for right-on-red and post them no-right-on-red.

      11.72.080 – Crosswalk—On.
      No person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle on a crosswalk.

  3. LWC

    In that NYMag piece, they say “By October 2007, we had installed the first parking-protected bike lane in North America on Ninth Avenue.”

    The Alki parking-protected on-street lane existed long before that.

    1. People often have a tendency to assume they’re doing something new when they’re actually doing something that others have done before for the exact same reasons.

      Cascade called Linden the city’s first cycletrack, which was, at best, true in name only (that post, even, missed a ton of stuff that existed long before 2012).

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