Bicyclists honor a fallen friend
About 70 cyclists pedaled through Seattle on Saturday — sometimes stretching an entire block and blocking traffic — in memory...
Seattle Times staff reporter
About 70 cyclists pedaled through Seattle on Saturday — sometimes stretching an entire block and blocking traffic — in memory of Bryce Lewis, a 19-year-old who was struck and killed by a dump truck less than two months ago.
On Sept. 7, Lewis and his friend Caleb Hall were heading north on Eastlake Avenue East toward the University Bridge. Traveling in the bike lane, they were cut off by a truck that was turning right onto Fuhrman Avenue East. Hall, 20, was not seriously injured. The driver of the truck has not been charged, but the accident is still under investigation.
The memorial gave various circles in the cycling community a reason to come together to highlight concerns about bicycle safety. Many of the avid bikers on the ride didn't know Lewis but felt a connection to him.
"When a cyclist gets hit, we all feel the pain," said Beryl Fernandes, who participated in the memorial ride Saturday.
The ride started on Capitol Hill, pausing shortly at the scene of the accident, where Lewis' stepfather, Marc Paolicelli, spoke to the crowd.
Nearby, hanging on a utility pole was a "ghost bike" — a bike painted white. Along with it were pictures and artwork that demonstrated Lewis' creative interests.
Paolicelli cried and embraced Hall, who was there with his girlfriend, Lauren Brown. He thanked everyone for attending.
"Ride safe," Paolicelli said. "That's all I can tell you guys."
Hall, who moved to Seattle with Lewis, said the memorial was the first time he has biked since the accident.
"This is for my best friend, this is the best thing I can do for him," he said.
The ride served as a tribute but also highlighted concerns about bicycle safety.
Dan Heidel, who helped organize the event as a member of a club called .83, said "at a certain point it becomes about advocacy. ... There's an idea that bikes are for kids and should stay on the sidewalk, but they are a legitimate form of transportation."
On Monday, the Seattle City Council is voting to adopt the 10-year Bicycle Master Plan that will put millions of dollars to work to make the city more bike-friendly, including new bike lanes and signs.
Part of the funding, or about $27 million, comes from "Bridging the Gap," a transportation levy passed by voters in late 2006.
The plan is going into place just as more people start to ride bikes, and there are more accidents.
The city said the number of cyclists entering downtown during the morning commute has increased 31 percent in the past seven years.
Between 2002 and 2005, there were 1,088 bicycle crashes reported to the police. According to the master plan, many more accidents likely went unreported.
Since Lewis' death, the Department of Transportation has not made any changes at the intersection where the accident occurred, but Casey Hanewall, the department's chief of staff, said the plan includes a block-by-block analysis of Eastlake Avenue and how to improve it.
In addition, Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed money in the 2008 budget to start planning a trail around Lake Union to separate bike traffic from car traffic. Hanewall said if the trail is built, it would put cyclists south of the University Bridge onto the less-traveled Fairview Avenue North instead of the busier Eastlake.
"There have been a lot of accidents at that intersection," Hanewall said. "There isn't necessarily a particular fix for a particular accident because they're all a little different."
Council President Nick Licata visited the site of the accident on Eastlake the day it happened and talked to witnesses.
"It's a corner problem repeated many times around the city," Licata said. "It's a systemic problem and we need to rethink that sort of intersection."
Sharon Chan and Mike Lindblom contributed to this report. Tricia Duryee: email@example.com or 206-464-3283.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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