A Tragic Intersection

Image by Denny Trimble via our Flirckr pool [+]

On Friday 9/7, Bryce Lewis was killed when a dump truck turned right across his path [PI]. He was 19 years old, a Colorado native who moved to Seattle 3 weeks ago to live with his best friend Caleb (also injured) and to attend school at the University of Washington.


While there are many complicating factors that make it difficult to place blame, this tragedy strikes me as an opportunity to ask ourselves – as a city, are we doing enough to provide a safe bicycling environment?

As discussed on Slog, this intersection is remarkably dangerous for cyclists. Traveling northbound in the bicycle lane on Eastlake, cyclists usually carry some speed after descending Harvard, to help with the climb up the University bridge. The bicycle lane continues through the intersection, though it is unmarked. Car traffic must turn right across the bicycle lane to access Fuhrman avenue.

Bicycling meccas like Portland and Copenhagen have implemented an intersection marking technique called Blue Lanes [+]. Requiring nothing but road paint, these lanes make it clear to drivers that the bicycle lane continues through the intersection, and that they must yield to bicyclists when crossing this lane.

So, as the Mayor backpedals on implementing the Bicycle Master Plan, I wonder if this city is really doing enough to provide its citizens with clearly marked roads. How many gallons of road paint is a young man’s life worth?

Blue Lane image by Andy Clarke, courtesy of US Department of Transportation [+]

11 Comments so far

  1. eldan (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 10:13 am

    Well said. I think the saddest thing about this accident is that it sounds like both the driver and the cyclist were acting perfectly normally – it’s just a place where the road design makes the normal thing to do dangerous.

  2. Denny (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 10:39 am

    More information about Bryce, from his uncle Jose:

    Bryce was an amazing kid. As Dan wrote, he loved riding, and that is something he and I shared. Bryce did ride a fixed gear bike and road bike in Denver. I am uncertain if he took either bike with him to Seattle, or if he got a new one after moving there. A few years ago his passion for riding led him to get a job at a bike shop near his home. I know that he was safety conscious while riding as he always encouraged me to wear a helmet. (Honestly I never do unless riding long distances). He told me that he would only ride the fixed gear bike under certain circumstances.
    Bryce was a very kind, compassionate person. A vegetarian since birth (and before), he attended a progressive and alternative learning school. Besides riding, his other passions were music and film making. He played guitar and drums in a rock and roll band. His mom, dad, and step dad encouraged his pursuits and were always supportive. His band (including brother Tyler,) played frequently at venues in Denver. Often times our family would attend. My parents (Bryce’s grandparents,) learned to stay clear of the mosh pit.

    Being in New York City I was lucky to have seen Bryce before his departure to Seattle. Bryce, Tyler, and sister Austin stayed with me and my boyfriend Aron for a few days in August. During his visit he expressed how happy he was to be moving. His long time best friend Caleb (the other accident victim), had been living there since earlier in the year. He had visited Caleb, and knew that Seattle was the place for him. He planed for some time, to move with Tyler. He was to attend fall classes at UW. It was his first attempt at life as an adult, away from family.

  3. Denny (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 10:48 am
  4. Kuyper (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 11:10 am

    Please tell me that blue paint is not the same slick stuff roadmarkings are made of – I shudder to think of trying to brake on a wide swath of shiny paint in the rain…. other than that I love the idea.

  5. Denny (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 11:18 am

    As noted in the ‘Commonly-Asked Questions’ section of the Portland DOT Blue Bike Lanes Report, no, the paint is no more slippery than normal asphalt. It rains in Portland too, and their bike culture kicks our bike culture’s ass.


  6. eldan (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 1:02 pm

    Kuyper: several British cities have coloured bike lanes too, and I hadn’t even realised they were painted on, because it feels like you’re riding on normal asphalt that just happens to be red|blue|green.

  7. dw (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

    I think the bike safety question — and Portland’s blue paint — are good things to put in front of the city council candidates.

    And maybe one day, once the Stranger gets off its Tim Burgess obsession, they will. I’m not holding my breath, though. So maybe we’ll have to do it.

  8. Gomez (unregistered) on September 10th, 2007 @ 6:32 pm

    Portland is mostly flat land. That helps the cycling culture a great deal.

  9. Rich Hinrichsen (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 11:27 am

    I was an eyewitness to this accident, which actually occured on Furhman, not Eastlake, after the cyclists Bryce Lewis and Caleb made a righthand turn from northbound Eastlake. The cyclists had both just made a sharp right onto Fuhrman when the large dump truck plowed into them. I was astounded at the speed of the dump truck as it made the turn. And the dump truck was right up against the curb with no opportunity for the cyclists to escape a collision. I am not 100% positive about the position of the dump truck before it made the turn onto Fuhrman, my eyes were focused on the cyclists in front of me. But I can reason that the dump truck must have been in an outside (perhaps not completely), otherwise it could not have made that sharp of turn with its front right wheel right up against the curve. It is impossible for a truck up against the curb to make a 90 degree turn with front tire against the curve and have its rear wheel clear the curb as well.

    Now here are some more details that people may not know. On Eastlake, there was a flagman stopping northbound vehicle traffic about 300 feet south of the Eastlake-Fuhrman interesection. He was holding traffic to allow pedestrians to walk in a traffic lane because the sidewalk was blocked. As I jogged up to the flagman (I was running home from work), the flagman waved me through, so I continued my jog and just after I was waved through, Caleb and Bryce passed me on the left and continued biking toward the Furhman intersection. This was a beautiful day, and they had the lane all to themselves (except for the one dump truck), because traffic was stopped for us pedestrians.

    I am thinking that the fact that traffic was stopped gave the truck driver and the cyclists and sense of security. The truck drive may not have known that cyclists were also allowed to pass the flagman. The flagman’s intention must have been to keep pedestrians save, and thought that were not not endangered by a couple of cyclists out enjoying a beautiful day together.

    I continued to job north, and watch the cyclists. They turned the corner and were struck. My heart sank. I ran 100 feet to the interestion and saw a site I will never forget. Caleb was jumping up and down yellinng, “Oh my God, Help me, Help me, Help me!” and I looked at Bryce with a massive head would face up and he was obviously dead on the roadway. The truck driver got out of his truck looked at the same horrible sight I just witnessed and had no words.

    I want to reiterate that I am an experienced biker and jogger who has this far avoided being struck by a car or truck in my 45 years of life. And I can honestly say to anyone, that I felt no sense of danger for the cyclists in this situation until the truck made that quick right turn. It was unexpected. Although it may be convenient to blame the victim, as some sort of “it-could-not-happen-to-me” defense mechanism. Believe me. It could happen to you.

    The appropriate response, I believe, it to actively start thinking about how to improve this intersection. Is obviously dangerous as hell. Also, compassion. There is a memorial at the intersection, and a wonderful, young human being was just killed. His mother worked hard to raise him, and sent him out into the world full of promise. And now he is dead after just a few weeks away from the nest. As a Father, this hurts me very deeply. Let’s face this situation with compassion and positive action.

    God Bless

  10. Kristen (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

    As I walked to work together, I passed by the flowers on the corner of Fuhman and Eastlake. My heart sank. I had felt for a long time now, that a pedestrian or bicyclist would die at this intersection….and now it has happened.

    I often walk to work from Eastlake to the U-District. Without exagerating, at least one out of three times that I walk in the crosswalk here, I am almost struck by a car (I walk going across Eastlake from the Romios or Red Robin corners to the west side of Eastlake Ave). That said, this is me, walking in a marked crosswalk, with the green walk signal. The cars on Fuhrman are allowed to talk a left turn going north or south onto Eastlake when there is a green light, which allows cars to speed through the intersection and take a left into the crosswalk. I have jumped out of the way of cars, avoiding being struck, more than 20 times. I enjoy walking to work, but absolutely hate this intersection.

    A few months ago, I passed through this intersection right after a bike had been struck by a car. This was the corner at Red Robin, across the street from where this recent fatality occurred.

    This intersection needs help, both for pedestrian and bicyclist’s safety. The bike lane causes trouble, a false sense of security, and confusion for cars. The crosswalk signal needs to be changed so that pedestrians cross when all other stoplights are red, to avoid allowing turns into the crosswalk.

    I am so sad for Bryce’s family and his friend Caleb.

  11. john Christensen (unregistered) on September 25th, 2007 @ 11:36 am

    I have been asked by the family of Bryce Lewis to investigate the facts of this tragic event. If you or anyone you know were present and saw what happened, please contact John Christensen or Maribeth Messina at 1 800 992 9529.

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