EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is by Taylor McAvoy through our partnership with UW’s Community News Lab journalism course.
Riding home at night a few years ago, Haley Keller had to cross the Ballard Bridge with its notoriously skinny three-foot-wide sidewalks. She usually carries only one bag on the left side of her bike rack to avoid the occasional concrete pillars that protrude into the sidewalk on that section of the bridge. That night she carried two, one on each side.
“I don’t know exactly what it was,” she said. “Whether it was a gust of a wind or a car had come by that had pushed me a little bit but I went over and my bike bag hit the side wall.”
Catching on the wall, Keller’s bag threw her off balance and over a ten-inch-high curb, into the oncoming traffic lane.
“I was able to pick myself up and get off the bridge quickly,” She said. “But if it had been in the middle of traffic on a busy day, I don’t know what would have happened.”
Terry McMacken was biking on the bridge in July 2007 when something similar happened. He fell over the curb, too, but someone driving struck him. He died in November 2008 from complications from the injuries he sustained.
McMacken and his wife filed a lawsuit against the City of Seattle in July 2008. His estate settled with the City a year after his death.
“The fixes are very simple,” attorney Jack Connelly told the Seattle P.I. in 2008. “The concern that we have is that there were people telling the city about this problem well before this incident.”
But the city of Seattle has noticed and is taking steps to improve bicycle safety.
Seattle launched Vision Zero in 2015 as a goal to end serious injuries and deaths in Seattle’s streets by 2030. As a 2016 campaign for the project, volunteers for Seattle Neighborhood Greenways and Cascade Bicycle Club placed white silhouettes around the city representing the people who died in traffic over the previous ten years.
“You hear about an accident or a collision and you have to realize there are real people affected by that,” Connect Ballard activist Sean Cryan said. “And the number of those things that were around the city just from ten years was really startling, that that many people have died on the roadways. I think that is something to keep in mind as all of this moves forward. Really the goal is to not have any more white silhouettes out on the streets.”