Video: SPD officer hits person biking next to East Precinct wall

A Seattle Police officer driving a police cruiser turned in front of and struck a person biking near the East Precinct Tuesday evening.

The 31-year-old man was checked out by Seattle Fire Department medics, but was not transported to the hospital, according to SPD. Hopefully this means his injuries were not serious.

The incident was caught on camera and posted to Twitter by @MarcusKulik (it happens at the 0.09 mark in the upper left corner):

In the video, the officer appears to pass the victim near the Pine Street intersection, and both of them continue southbound on 12th Avenue. Then the officer makes a right turn mid-block directly in front of the man on the bike, who does not have enough time to stop and collides with the cruiser. It is the responsibility of the person turning to check for people biking and yield.

To make matters worse, there is technically a bike lane on 12th Ave, but the city constructed a wall out of concrete blocks that infringes on the usable bike lane space in addition to closing the sidewalk and decreasing visibility of the precinct garage entrance. Central Seattle Greenways has been trying to get the city to remove the wall, writing in November:

it was shocking to see SDOT fabricate this concrete and steel wall around the East Precinct, blocking sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes, seemingly overnight, with not a single word of outreach or advance notice.

SPD told Capitol Hill Seattle in early April that the department would remove the wall, but has not yet done so.

I have questions out to SPD to see if the officer was cited and to learn more details. I will update if I get more information.

But in the meantime, tear down this wall, Mayor Durkan. And send these concrete blocks to Stay Healthy Streets and bike lanes that need them for safety.

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33 Responses to Video: SPD officer hits person biking next to East Precinct wall

  1. DOUG. says:

    The driveway where the cop turned is the garage for SPD. Those guys turn make that turn EVERY DAY. The cop should’ve known to look before initiating his turn. Maybe he did and just didn’t care.

  2. Alfonso says:

    Those comfortable enough to do so. should simply take the lane on pine and on 12th. It’s uncomfortable and will annoy drivers but is simply the only safe way to navigate SPD’s little security blanket while on a bike.

    I like to indulge some pettiness and slow down if SPD is behind me. Though likely that is unwise.

    • Peri Hartman says:

      I completely agree. While the cop is certainly liable for not yielding (and how could he not have known ?), it’s safer to prevent such situations from being possible.

      This goes for anywhere with any driver anywhere. Be safety conscious !!!

  3. Gary Yngve says:

    I strongly disagree with the description that the cyclist didn’t have time to react. The cyclist had three full seconds from when the brake lights went on to when the car turned. If you cannot stop within 3 seconds, you are going too fast or following too close. And just don’t pass on the right! If you see a car slow down in front of you, just slow down too. Or if absolutely sure of what the car is doing, pass on the left with plenty of space. What if the car were slowing down for a pedestrian in the road and the cyclist decided to pass and ran into the pedestrian?
    In an ideal world, yes, the driver sees the cyclist as they go in and out of car’s blindspot, but really, the brunt of the responsibility is on the cyclist back not to be stupid.

    • btwn says:

      Gary, the bike lane is there and is wide enough for a bike (see https://twitter.com/dreeves/status/1384907492224798723). Passing cars on the right in the bike lane is to use it as designed; it’s completely legal and the intended use.

      Brake lights are a signal that the car is slowing, not that it’s going to turn. Criticizing the cyclist for not immediately reacting when the brake lights went on doesn’t make any sense.Did the police car signal a turn?

      • Gary Yngve says:

        That bike lane is not wide enough to bike in. A car cannot pass a cyclist while still giving 3 feet clearance and staying within the lane. If the bike lane is not safe, then don’t ride on it. If you want it to be safe, that is fine, as SDOT to fix it. If you do insist on edge riding, then don’t filter forward unless traffic is truly stopped. Control the lane here you are way safer, way more visible, and way more predictable.

      • btwn says:

        “A car cannot pass a cyclist while still giving 3 feet clearance and staying within the lane.”

        That describes the entire 12th Ave bike lane from John to Yesler.

        There are two questions that it seems like we’re mixing:
        1) was the cyclist legally at fault, and
        2) is it safer to ride in the bike lane or to take the entire lane all the way down 12th?

        I have also ridden there daily, and I can tell you that there’s about the same amount of room with and without the ecoblocks, especially between pine and union.

      • btwn says:

        Also: “That bike lane is not wide enough to bike in”

        Care to share where this statement comes from? I biked in it this morning.

      • Gary Yngve says:

        I’d have to measure it to be sure, but it looks like the obstructed bike lane is maybe 4 ft wide, and the general purpose lane 10 feet wide? A cyclist would want their left elbow at least 4 ft from that wall; a car’s right mirror would need to be 7 feet from wall (3 feet in the gp lane) to pass safely. A small car may still fit in the lane, but a truck would be crossing the centerline. If a truck would need to cross the centerline, I am controlling the lane, not riding in the gutter like I don’t belong on the road.

      • Ballard Biker says:

        That bike lane is not wide enough to bike in. A car cannot pass a cyclist while still giving 3 feet clearance and staying within the lane. If the bike lane is not safe, then don’t ride on it.

        So if I understand Gary correctly, not only is the SPD officer liable for failing to yield right-of-way while turning across a bike lane, but SPD as a whole is liable for an illegal encroachment into a bike lane resulting in non-compliant and therefore dangerous infrastructure.

        Glad we’re on the same page here.

    • Richard says:

      Gary, what TF are you even saying, that this guy CHOSE to run into the SPD vehicle?? c’mon, there are ALWAYS things we “could have done” to avoid a crash, even when that crash is someone else’s fault. But if we let the conversation focus on how we failed to accommodate for drivers we KNEW were going to screw up, rather than, you know, the actual driver that screwed up and tried to vehicular homicide this guy, that accomplishes nothing but derails our efforts to get actual accountability.

      As is usually the outcome of victim blaming.

  4. bill says:

    I’m with Gary. The cyclist was dumb. It is possible the cop signals just before turning. It will take closer examination of the video than I can do. The cop either fails to signal or signals too late. At any rate, if you don’t know why a car is slowing down it’s best not to pass it at high speed. And the bike lane as presently obstructed is not wide enough. I’ve ridden that block of 12th. I wonder if the bike lane legally exists?

    • Richard says:

      I too would have chosen not to pass under those circumstances, and I recommend others also avoid it.

      But critically: If you do, and are injured, I’ll also recognize that you’re the victim – and focus my attention on holding those responsible accountable. The fact that you could have taken steps to avoid a motorist-at-fault crash and didn’t is IMMATERIAL to the immediate circumstances.

      In this context, there’s simply nothing to gain from focusing on what the cyclist could have done to avoid this inarguably motorist-at-fault crash. Your advice cannot possibly prevent his crash. Fellow readers of this blog aren’t going to gain from your sharing of wisdom; we’re quite familiar with this safety tactic. And we as safety-conscious cyclists VERY frequently have conversations about avoiding motorist-caused crashes; it’s not like there’s a lack of discussion or awareness among the cyclists who actively read Seattle Bike Blog. This particular conversation should be focused on holding those who are actually, legally at fault for this crash – trying to direct the conversation to focus on what the victim did wrong achieves nothing except watering down a valid, critical call for accountability – especially important since the person actually at fault here is one who holds a key role in ensuring those at fault are held accountable.

      I fully support your desire to help people learn to be safer (giving benefit of the doubt and assuming that actually is your intent) – but this is not only an ineffective context to accomplish that, it’s also actively harmful since this strategy (victim blaming) is frequently exploited by those who wish to avoid accountability for drivers.

  5. bill says:

    I’m curious about the editing of the video. At the beginning it appears traffic is accelerating from a stop light. But we don’t know for sure. At the beginning it seems the cop must have passed the cyclist and should have known the cyclist was behind, but maybe not. It could be the cop was at the head of the line at the red light and the cyclist too far back for the cop to know he was there.

    • Richard says:

      Curious: Why does that matter, exactly? Whether he passed the cyclist or not doesn’t change his responsibility not to right hook him.

      • bill says:

        Editing matters because if the complete video shows the cop passed the cyclist then there is the expectation that the cop should have known a cyclist was close behind. But if the cyclist was always behind the cop, and for much of the time too far away to be noticed in the mirrors, then the cop is less culpable and one begins to wonder if the video was edited to maximize outrage. If so, I would say it is succeeding.

      • Richard says:

        Bill, you stated: “…if the complete video shows the cop passed the cyclist then there is the expectation that the cop should have known a cyclist was close behind…”

        Which by law is absolutely false. It makes no difference if he passed first. He was right turning across the bike lane, it was his legal, ethical, and moral responsibility to check the lane first. This point of law is very clear.

    • Andrew says:

      That is what side and rear view mirrors are for.

    • Ballard Biker says:

      The amount of mental gymnastics you and Gary are doing to try to blame the victim here is astounding. I hope you don’t tear a mental ACL.

  6. Andy B says:

    It is possible for there to have been ways for the cyclist to have avoided being negligently assaulted by a vehicle without needing to jump to blaming the victim. Whether that is true or not, the cop was clearly in the wrong from the video.

    It’s an understandable tendency – we want to feel like if we can identify what the cyclist did “wrong” because it gives us the feeling that we are in control on the streets.

    But especially before we know how seriously someone was injured, maybe think about how they or their family members would perceive these victim blaming comments before making them?

  7. Skylar says:

    It’s really dismaying to see the victim-blaming here given that it’s clear the police officer was at fault by making a right turn from the left lane, full stop, end of discussion. Just because one of those lanes happens to be a bike lane, and just because that lane happens to be skinny or otherwise dangerous makes no difference, nor does the cyclist’s speed make a difference as long as they were below the 25mph limit (they clearly were). The proper way to make a right turn there is to merge into the rightmost (bike) lane when it’s clear, and then make the turn. Hopefully the police officer gets sent off to some remedial driver’s ed before getting the keys back, and hopefully the cyclist is OK with all expenses paid by the city.

  8. bobco85 says:

    This is a failure on SDOT, the SPD, and the specific driver.

    SDOT should never have approved this dangerous setup that has clear accessibility issues. One of the reasons they were unable to place the eco-blocks on Lake Washington Blvd last summer (when the barriers kept being moved out of the way so drivers could illegally pass through) was that they were being used for this and the West Precinct fortresses.

    SPD instead of pushing for reform decided to instead erect these barriers, a clear sign of the hostility they felt towards the community around them. It’s hard to be part of a community when you gas entire neighborhoods, dress up like soldiers, use military equipment, and build fortresses.

    The specific driver failed to check their surroundings, i.e. look in the bike lane next to them, and also failed to signal their right turn (you’re supposed to signal BEFORE you turn).

    It’s shameful that people are victim-blaming the cyclist for not mind controlling the driver to see them or using psychokinesis to prevent the car from moving in front of them, but hey, that’s car culture for ya!

    • Gary Yngve says:

      I agree that SDOT failed. They should have barricaded the whole bike lane. It’s above my pay grade to say if SPD failed here. It is inconclusive from video when driver signalled turn, earlier the better. But some fault does go to the cyclist. I will not budge from that position. If you glissade while wearing crampons, you will get hurt. If you undertake on the right, you will eventually get hurt. This isn’t rocket science. This is a repeatable pattern of thousands of collisions over many years. Don’t put yourself into a right hook. Don’t trust the driver to see you. I drive maybe once every two weeks and I probably forget to check a mirror sometimes. Not sure what will happen first, me driving and colliding with a cyclist or me being the cyclist and colliding with a car. Even the best drivers are not infallible. Knowing the state of car-centric America, you bear some responsibility if you assume the cars around you to be magical and omniscient and surprise they are not.

      • Richard says:

        This video is inconclusive? Yeah ok.

      • bobco85 says:

        You’re right. It isn’t rocket science that a driver should not leave their lane and cross into the adjacent lane without looking for other people. If they cause a collision, it would be considered their fault. It’s not rocket science because it’s traffic law.

        But you’ve somehow decided that no, the cyclist is also at fault, and you’ve made up an illogical argument and then tried to gaslight everyone pointing out the facts of the situation that was caught on camera.

        This is why people hate the proselytization of vehicular cycling. Every situation is somehow 100% controllable by the cyclist, but whenever a cyclist gets injured/killed, they get blamed for it.

      • Gary Yngve says:

        “But logically it doesn’t follow that a cyclist becomes responsible for not reacting fast enough to a sudden situation they could not control.”

        The cyclist put himself at risk of a sudden situation by choosing to undertake on the right. He controlled that decision.

        “Your ideas are outdated, and the bike community has moved on from placing sole responsibility on cyclists to have superhuman powers to navigate roads built for fast vehicles.”

        You don’t need to have superhuman powers to ride a bicycle in the lane on 20-25 mph street. You need to have some basic education and confidence. Yes, I would like every kid to be able to ride a bike to school. We’re a long way to go to get there. If there isn’t safe infra to get from A to B, then the old boomer ways of VC will get you there in the safest way, while we wait for safe infra.

    • Gary Yngve says:

      Bob, I’m not saying cyclist is 100% at fault. I also disagree vehemently with saying driver is 100% at fault. If this article took a balanced approach and pointed out the dangers of passing on the right as well, I wouldn’t have an issue. If you don’t want victim-blaming, then don’t blame it one-sided on everyone but the victim. I’ve hauled enough dead bodies out of the mountains to know that it takes multiple compounded mistakes to cause most serious accidents, and these accidents have repeated patterns.
      Even with defensive/savvy cycling tactics, not everything is preventable. But your odds increase. Maybe from one collision in ten years to one collision on forty years (i’m just making up numbers). I’m not opposed to bike infra either, as long as we are open and honest about its tradeoffs and are sensible about taking local context into account. The bike community is getting too tribal, and articles like this are examples of it.

      • bobco85 says:

        I’m blaming it on everyone who is responsible for this situation, and I described how each party was responsible in my first comment. The cyclist is not responsible for the driver breaking the law and making an unsafe maneuver.

        This isn’t cable news, and we don’t need to “both sides” this clear violation of traffic law by the driver.

        I can understand that it feels empowering to think that as a cyclist one can control the world around them, preventing potential situations where crashes may occur. And you know what? There can be some truth to it. But logically it doesn’t follow that a cyclist becomes responsible for not reacting fast enough to a sudden situation they could not control.

        Your ideas are outdated, and the bike community has moved on from placing sole responsibility on cyclists to have superhuman powers to navigate roads built for fast vehicles. The embrace of traffic calming, people using e-bikes and e-scooters for transportation, protected bicycle facilities, holding drivers accountable, and stronger emphasis on inclusion of people of all levels of skill, fitness, ability, and wealth are here to stay.

  9. AW says:

    This incident really highlights a lot of what is wrong with how bicycles riders have to use the transportation system and the attitudes of people for bicycle riders.

    * The fact that a driver of a car hit a person on a bicycle should automatically place blame on the driver. The driver should have a duty to watch out and avoid bicycle riders and pedestrians since the driver is effectively wielding a deadly weapon. This is obviously not the case in the USA and all of the victim blaming (even by people who ride bicycles !) just illustrates how deeply ingrained this wrong thinking has become.

    * The road design of 12th Avenue is not at all friendly to people who ride bicycles at all even if you do not take into account the fact that the bicycle lane was blocked off by concrete barriers. Giving bicycle riders a narrow strip of road on the edge with no protection from cars is inherently dangerous to people riding a bicycle. Basically this is just throwing a bone at the bicycle riders while politicians take credit for making the city so bicycle friendly. Even the “protected” bicycle lanes are BS, like a plastic bollard is going to protect me from a 2 ton SUV. Oh and in the case where a bicycle facility might slow down or inconvenience car traffic then the facility just isn’t built regardless of the impact to the rider or the overall route network.

    * And the fact that the bicycle lane was walled off without any kind of community input or a viable alternative just shows the complete lack of consideration for people riding bicycles. The need for the wall is arguable however even if it was needed then it could have been place on the sidewalk and not on the bicycle lane.

    Unfortunately in this country people and the leaders don’t care about bicycle riders or their lives.

    • Gary Yngve says:

      “Unfortunately in this country people and the leaders don’t care about bicycle riders or their lives.”
      We do care, but we also weigh that against the cost of efficient car commuting and truck delivery. It isn’t a binary answer. Should we pay $1B/yr in increased taxes or prices of consumer goods to save 10 lives/yr? No. 100 lives/yr? Maybe. 1000 lives/yr? Definitely.

      • Kimberly Kinchen says:

        Gary,

        More people on bikes and transit, the parts of our transportation system that cost less to build and maintain (which one factors in external costs, including health impacts and climate impacts), is far more efficient than moving people in cars. (Commute trips aren’t even the largest portion of car trips, btw.) The cost of so-called “efficient” (by which I assume you mean “fast”) car commutes far outweighs other costs, both quantifiable and qualatative. There’s really no contest.

        As for consumer goods…a vast amount of those goods are wants, not necessities. Your post reads like you want to prioritize Amazon Prime delivery to satisfy instant gratification habits over lives. That is, at the very least, the logic of your comment. It’s pretty astounding.

      • RachaelL says:

        Do we even live in the same world? I think cost analyses are over used, but sure, let’s talk about it. In the world I live in, we routinely spend hundreds of millions (and sometimes billions) to expand roadways, make them faster and less safe for everyone (not to mention climate change!). So it’s not like the question is “spend large amount to save how many lives”. It’s actually often “we could spend less money and save lives” or “we could spend money on something else instead of expanding roadways, and save lives”.

        There’s also the practical reality that injury and death on our roadways cost society: families lose income (and the government taxes) when wage earners are out of work from injury or death (let’s just ignore the family’s grief). People lose “time” waiting for emergency responders to clear incidents. I really recommend Should Law Subsidize Driving? by law professor Greg Shill (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3345366). Ostensibly it’s about laws, but a lot of them relate to the money and resources we spend on expanding and preferring driving which makes us both less safe and costs us more money. Making our transportation system safer will save us the billions we “spend” per year on death and injury.

        In the very concrete case of the East Precinct, the city SPENT MONEY to put up a concrete wall that blocked a bike lane and sidewalk which makes people less safe. For people on bikes, you have to choose taking the lane, which sounds fine, except a significant fraction of people lose their ability for calm when forced to follow a person on a bike, so for many people who bike taking the lane is a scary invitation for revved engines and intentionally close passes. Thus many cyclists chose the often less fraught “ride to the right” strategy which puts them at greater risk of being hit in another way. But whatever the cyclist’s choice here, it was the CITY’s choice to spend money to make the area less comfortable and safe feeling for people walking or rolling by putting up that wall. It was the CITY’s choice to allow frequent garage entrances on a street with a bike lane. We SPENT MONEY we did not have to and it made everyone less safe.

  10. btwn says:

    Section 11.53.190 DRIVING IN A BICYCLE LANE.
    The operator of a motor vehicle shall not drive in a bicycle lane except to execute a turning maneuver, yielding to all persons riding bicycles thereon.

    https://www.seattle.gov/transportation/projects-and-programs/programs/bike-program/rules-of-the-road

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