Bicycle fatality raises safety issues
At least 12 bicyclists have died so far this year across the state — including nine in crashes with motor vehicles, one who accidentally fell into a stairwell and one who was struck by a train.
Seattle Times staff reporters
As friends of sandwich-delivery man Robert Townsend mourn his death in a weekend bike crash, Seattle-area cycling advocates are wondering how to encourage safety on the streets.
At least 12 bicyclists have died so far this year across the state — nine in crashes with motor vehicles, one who accidentally fell into a stairwell, one who was struck by a train, and one who was tripped up on a trail. On average, there are 10 in an entire year.
Townsend, who worked for Jimmy John's sandwich shop Saturday night, was going downhill on University Way Northeast when his bicycle and a car turning left onto Campus Parkway Northeast collided. Police are still investigating and have not determined fault.
Flowers and sandwiches had been left at a memorial there, where Bill Anderson, a bike commuter from Bothell, stopped by Monday.
"Drivers look for vehicles; they don't look for bikes," he said, adding that he's had close calls on his bicycle. "You have to be a vigilant rider and more aware of your surroundings."
Meanwhile, another memorial is planned Tuesday honoring Brian Fairbrother, 50, who died last week of head injuries suffered in an Aug. 30 crash, when he accidentally biked down a staircase near Fairview Avenue North. The event will start at his workplace, the Vivace coffeehouse next to the REI store in South Lake Union, continue at the crash site and then at a picnic at Volunteer Park. Someone has painted orange warning signs at the accident scene, while the city Transportation Department is studying signs or changes.
Tom Fucoloro, editor of Seattle Bike Blog, has suggested a mass ride to remember all those killed cycling this summer.
And the 10,000-plus-member Cascade Bicycle Club plans a news conference Thursday, which was earlier scheduled for Wednesday, to talk about a need for both infrastructure improvements and greater community among motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. "We all need to use the roadway in a predictable manner," spokeswoman M.J. Kelly said.
Townsend, the deliveryman, loved skateboarding and snowboarding as well as cycling. He had just received a bike-shop sponsorship and was starting to race. His nickname was Storm, which was his middle name.
"He was an amazing guy," said Townsend's mother, Brigitte Schaefer. "He overcame obstacles and mountains in his life."
Townsend, 23, moved from his home in Arlington to Seattle last year after being laid off from a welding shop. His younger sister, Alexandria, committed suicide in 2005, Schaefer said. "Now I know they're together."
In July, commuter Mike Wang, 44, was killed on Dexter Avenue North by a hit-and-run driver, while John Przychodzen, 49, was struck on a curved part of Northeast Juanita Drive in Kirkland. In August, George Demendoza, 69, of Federal Way, died after he was struck on Logan Avenue North in Renton.
Also in July, Wendell Hultman, 73, died after his bike was tangled in a dog leash on a trail, according to the Cascade Bicycle Club.
Two cyclists died this summer on Highway 112 near Port Angeles — one was hit head on, the other from behind. A rider in Mattawa, Grant County, was hit while turning left on Highway 243, another on a busy Spokane street during a dawn exercise ride, and one in Kent was hit by a train at a gated crossing.
Sally Eustis, 61, of West Seattle was killed in late May when she was struck by an SUV while riding on a country road outside Walla Walla.
Seattle is considering wider markings along the lower Dexter Avenue bike lanes, while reducing the outer road lanes from 14 feet to 12 feet, to calm traffic, spokesman Rick Sheridan said.
Washington is ranked first in safety programs by the League of American Cyclists.
Riders here have felt tensions with motorists rise in recent months, said Josh Miller, a project manager for the Bicycle Alliance of Washington.
The crashes haven't noticeably deterred the bike commuters using either Dexter or nearby routes, he said.
But traffic is challenging enough that Miller says he blasts his air horn on his commute, from Wallingford to Pioneer Square, 20 times a week.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or email@example.com
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