Amid all the grief and remembrances of Vivace’s Brian Fairbrother, who suffered a tragic cycling accident in late August and sustained brain damage that has led to his removal from life support, there is the nagging question of how such an experienced, helmet-wearing cyclist crashed so catastrophically. As I read the account–that Fairbrother wiped out on some dirt near the bike path, but was found on nearby stairs–I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
Then I was sent these photos of the “bike path” in question.
As you can see, it’s not apparent (or even reasonable to assume) that the bike path veers suddenly into the street against oncoming car traffic (and oncoming cyclists, even if you do make the mental adjustment). Nor can you see that there are stairs ahead until right upon them.
I heard about Brian’s accident (like many, many others on Capitol Hill, I knew him from his 20 years of work for Vivace Espresso) not long after writing this post: “The Economist to Seattle: Car Speed Kills,” about failures of Seattle’s biking infrastructure. As it happens, I had just met the cyclist killed in that incident about three weeks before he was hit by a car. These accidents are beginning to feel less and less truly accidental.
Photo can’t testify in court, but this one testifies publicly to the danger bicyclists are often put in as they make their gerrymandered way around the city.
UPDATE: This comment from Barry felt worth bringing up to the body of the post:
So sorry so many of us ride this route every day and didn’t take the time to point out the dangers and prevent this. It would have only taken one of us to stop and report this. Let’s all be aware of other dangers we see every day and get them reported and/or put up a marker ourselves to protect our bike community. Paint and chalk are cheap.
Several people have mentioned an interest in doing something to improve the signage in this spot. I will check with SDOT about the possibility of making improvements, and whether funding is needed. Stay tuned.