Bicycle Injuries/Accidents

How can we learn from Seattle bike accidents?

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday. (Photo: SDOT)

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday. (Photo: SDOT)

How can we learn from another Seattle bike accident? The one that occurred earlier this month resulted in life threatening injuries to a 26 year old cyclist, when a Metro trolley bus hit him.

Investigators are still looking into the details of the cause. However, anyone who knows the area–Rainier Ave S and South Jackson, can probably guess what likely occurred. Cyclists familiar with that stretch of road know that there are streetcar tracks. These tracks can wreak havoc with cyclists who want to cross over or ride alongside them. (Again, the exact details of the May 4, 2015 accident are still under investigation.)

Here’s a suggestion: How about some warning signs to both bus drivers and cyclists? There were reportedly some close calls before this horrendous accident. How about painting that part of the road to alert cyclists?

At our firm, well known bike injury attorney Keith L. Kessler has presented on some of the cyclist hazards of road design (Here is one of his more recent presentations Bicycle Litigation Strategy – Roadway Safety Cases).  Recall the Gendler case (one of the largest recent settlements against the State): Our firm represented injured cyclist, Mickey Gendler, whose bike tire got caught on a seam on the Montlake Bridge. Note that the State had known about this hazard to bicyclists for years before this tragic accident. One would hope that these types of accidents would serve as red flags to road designers/engineers who know if cyclists will frequent a route that is shared with cars and street cars/trolleys. If we truly want to live up to being one of the most bike friendly cities in the country, let’s walk the walk.

NOTE: This blog post was originally published in SKWBikeLaw blog.

 

Pedestrians and cyclists: Staying visible when sun goes down

Increase your safety by wearing high visibility reflective gear.

Increase your safety by wearing high visibility reflective gear.

Some of our firm’s most tragic cases result from nighttime accidents. Once the sun goes down, a lawful pedestrian or bicyclist might not realize how invisible they are to a drunk or inattentive driver. Cars kill more than 5,000 pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers each year. The lion’s share of those accidents occur after the sun sets. But those who enjoy an evening stroll, run or bike ride need to know that not all reflective gear are equal.

Consumer Reports tested several types of reflective gear: jackets, bike shirts, and an inexpensive safety vest. A Betabrand shirt with reflective thread was marketed as easy to spot. However, in a recent Consumer Reports test, the shirt wasn’t visible from 300 feet. This is the distance for a car to stop in time, if the driver is traveling at 60 miles per hour.

To stay safe in the night, one needs to wear gear that is highly visible in the front as well as the back. The more reflective, the better. While the $180 Gore Phantom Windstopper soft-shell jacket is easy to see coming and going, it didn’t outperform the Uline safety vest, with its big, bright strips. The Uline option is much less expensive, about $15 at uline.com.

To increase your visibility, consider donning a reflective ankle band or wristband. According to Consumer Reports, these are highly visible from 300 feet. When you’re moving your legs and arms up and down, it’s hard to miss you from a distance.

Finally, don’t pooh-pooh some of the lowest cost options like iron-on reflective tape. Iron on this tape onto your own and your kids’ backpacks, hoodies, and caps to gain a little more peace of mind. Taking these extra steps, while staying clear of the road whenever possible, can only help prevent a needless tragedy.

Trek Bicycles has recalled almost 1 million bikes for safety issues,

Trek Bicycles is recalling nearly 1 million bikes in the US and almost 100,000 in Canada for a safety issue that resulted in one rider becoming paralyzed.

The Trek bike recall involves a “quick release” lever on the front wheel. The quick release lever is a problem in that it can interfere with the disk brakes, which would cause the wheel to stop turning or to separate from the bike frame, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Trek said it is aware of three incidents where the problem caused riders to be injured, including one that resulted in quadriplegia. The others involved facial and wrist injuries.

The Trek bikes are from model years 2000 to 2015 and were sold nationwide beginning in 1999. The bikes, made in Taiwan and China, were sold at prices between $480 to $1,650. Trek, a Wisconsin-based bike company, has offered to replace the quick release lever free of charge. It is also offering a $20 coupon good for bike accessories made by Bontrager.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you,” Trek says in a notice announcing the recall. “We value you as a customer and want you to safely enjoy cycling on your Trek bicycle.”

Second Avenue Redux: Solving the mystery of those curved arrows…

In a previous post, I asked if anyone knew what those curved arrows at the Madison intersection signified. Bike Man Dan (our Dan Laurence, who is an experienced cyclist, when he’s not busy representing injured clients as an attorney) wondered too, when he rode his bike down the redone 2nd Ave corridor. Certainly, two arrows from opposite directions pointing to one spot was not self-explanatory to me, Dan or anyone else I asked.

 

Strange curved arrows befuddle and distract cyclists, pedestrians & drivers.

Strange curved arrows confuse rather than clarify.

So, I searched online and found the following:

Seattle DOT offers this postcard that says it's "What you need to know." Really?

Seattle DOT offers this postcard that says it’s “What you need to know.” Really?

Hmm… “What you need to know.” Really? More like, “What you need to know is not always clear and certainly not contained on this postcard.” At least the postcard (courtesy of Seattle taxpayers) gave me an important clue by including the term Bike Box*. Thank you for that much. (Really, I’m not a cranky person, but it amazes me how this important info is laid out in such an unorganized and cryptic way. Even after a tragic and needless death of a cyclist on this specific stretch of road.)

So, I searched SDOT’s site for info about “bike box.” Lo and behold, I found this:

A whole page is devoted on SDOT's website to Bike Boxes.

A whole page is devoted on SDOT’s website to Bike Boxes.

Look carefully at the Bike Box on the screen shot of the SDOT webpage. Does it resemble those curved arrows? I will go out on a limb here and say, “No!” Why make something so important to our safety perplexing and wildly inconsistent? Aren’t these based on some uniform codes?

From the patched together bits of information, I now understand the Bike Box as the designated area for cyclists to move ahead of cars at an intersection. A draft Final Report for the City of Portland regarding Bike Boxes at Signalized Intersections is included as a reference at this SDOT page.

Stay tuned. A future blog post will include excerpts from Bike Man Dan‘s trek on the new “Protected” Bike Lane on 2nd Avenue. Hint: Cyclists should not feel protected.

*Bike Box is only capitalized in this blog post to emphasize that this is a term that SDOT assumes we know all about.

2nd Ave Corridor & downtown Seattle need to do more for bicycle safety

Email Catherine@Stritmatter.com if you know what these curved arrows mean!

Email Catherine@Stritmatter.com if you know what these curved arrows mean!

A little more than three months after the tragic and preventable death of cyclist/new mother/attorney Sher Kung, more is needed for bicyclist safety on the treacherous Second Avenue corridor in downtown Seattle.  Our own Bike Man Dan took to the roads recently on his bike, braving this stretch on 2nd Ave. We will share with you excerpts from that bike ride and let you decide where you might see additional room for improvement.

In the meantime, do you know what the heck these curved arrows in the above photo mean? Send us your insights, wisdom, comments or best guesses to Catherine@stritmatter.com.

Seattle’s Second Avenue Bike Traffic Triples

About a week after the tragic death of Sher Kung, a cyclist who was hit by a left-turning truck on 2nd Avenue, the new protected bike lane with new traffic signals were installed on that infamous corridor in downtown Seattle.

The day the new bike lane was unveiled, I had a chance to drive down it. The exact intersection where Sher was struck confused almost every driver, including me. While the rest of the lanes had a green light, the left turn lane had a red arrow which flashed quietly in the low left corner of the new traffic signal. Distracted by the heaps of flowers and photos that memorialized that fatal spot, I was prepared to make a left turn despite the red arrow. A City worker alerted me to the fact that there was a new signal, as he pointed to the red arrow. Confusing, to say the least. Not to mention–there were dozens upon dozens of small aluminum pinwheels every several feet leading up to that stretch on the road, which added to the drivers’ distraction.

2nd_Ave_counts1Regardless, the bike traffic has tripled on Second Avenue. Looks like cyclists feel more confident that they can commute safely there. But, according to the Seattle Times blog, a young woman was almost hit during morning rush hour on Sept. 16th, when “she failed to notice the red bike icon, and rode downhill near a left-turning car at Spring Street. She shrugged as if to confess her mistake, and continued south.  A couple minutes later, a driver stopped for the red arrow, then illegally made the left turn.”

The Seattle DOT shot an instructional video along Second Avenue last week and disbursed about $250 in privately-funded gift certificates to drivers and cyclists who obeyed the new traffic signals. The real reward: A safer bike route and fewer bike accidents.

In Memoriam Sher Kung: Sharp legal mind…warm and witty soul.

The past week or so I’ve been focused on the start of school for our little one (kindergarten, so this is all new to me!) and the piles of priorities at the office.  So, when I heard about another cyclist who was killed in Seattle, I didn’t catch the name. But tonight I pieced things together when I saw an old photo of Sher Kung on Seattle Times with the headline, “Dead cyclist was new mom, well-regarded attorney.”  Held my breath for a moment. Read on, not wanting to believe what I was reading. Then, I finally understood why a beloved friend had posted a wonderful photo of her and Sher pictured here.

Sher Kung with friend Nika. Sher was killed when riding her bike in the infamous 2nd Avenue corridor.

Sher Kung with friend Nika. Sher was killed when riding her bike in the infamous 2nd Avenue corridor.

Four years ago, I met Sher through Nika over pizza and beers. We hit it off instantly. She made me laugh with her sharp wit and similar politics.

Sher was 31 when she lost her life. I’m really at a loss for words. My main purpose here is to pay a small tribute to a warm, wise, and bright woman.

Sher had her entire life in front of her. She had already done so much at the ACLU, challenging the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, then at Perkins as a litigator.

To Sher’s family and closest friends: My deepest sympathies go to you.  To those of you who did not know her, please remember to stay safe especially when riding your bike in Seattle. Please also consider donating, after reading this story on The Stranger.

Rest in peace, dear Sher.

Seattle’s new Bikeshare program will address higher risk of head injuries

Want to get somewhere fast but don’t want to rent a car or wait for a cab or bus? When visiting San Francisco a few weeks ago, I noticed a variety of bike share programs offered to locals and tourists alike. Seattle seems like a good candidate for a bike share. However, a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health (led by researchers from UW and WSU) reveals that where there are bike share programs, the incidents of head injuries in bicycle related accidents increase. Why? Those who jump on the bikes often neglect to wear a helmet when the bike share doesn’t offer one for rent.

Seattle is thought to be the first to offer helmet rental with its new bike share. Pictured is a Montreal bike kiosk.

Seattle is thought to be the first to offer helmet rental with its new bike share that will begin this Sept. (Pictured : Montreal bike kiosk)

But Seattle requires all cyclists to wear a helmet. Thus, the City’s new bike share program (to start this September) is the first in the world to include helmet rentals. Wherever a bike kiosk is, helmets will also be available for rent.

Pronto Emerald City Cycle Share executive director Holly Houser said, “It looks like a vending machine. The helmet sort of drops down into kind of a mailbox bin where you pull open the door and grab it,” she said.

The helmets will cost $2 to rent, and will be sanitized and inspected after each use.

Here’s hoping that people will observe the law and take advantage of this innovative “helmet share,” when participating in this bike share.

Healthy Aging After a Catastrophic Accident

My parents are in their early 70’s. They hike up mountains, golf daily, walk for hours, garden, and travel constantly. Sometimes, I get tired just hearing what they’re up to. But I’m pleased that they’re healthy and so physically capable. But it is more difficult to age in a healthful manner for some over 65 years old–particularly those who have sustained catastrophic injuries.

Lan Remme works harder to age while staying healthy. Pictured with wife Laura. Photo credit: Ruby De Luna

Lan Remme works harder to age while staying healthy. Pictured with wife Laura. (Photo credit: KUOW Photos/ Ruby De Luna)

A local NPR reporter for KUOW, Ruby De Luna, examines the aging population with disabilities in “Aging With Grace For Boomers With Disabilities.”  Ms. De Luna’s story centers on Lan Remme, a recent bicycle injury client that Stritmatter Kessler Whelan attorneys represented.  Keith Kessler, one of the SKW lawyers on Remme’s team comments, “Lan is one of those who has handled such adversity with grace and wisdom.”

His grace and wisdom will help and so will his optimism. Ms. De Luna  reveals how people with physical disabilities, such as 67 year old Lan, face greater obstacles in aging gracefully.

A University of Washington study takes a closer look at this segment of our population with the goal of assisting them to lead healthy lifestyles. After SKW bike injury client Lan Remme hit his bicycle wheel against a defective sidewalk on the Montlake Bridge, he lost use of his legs and must now use a wheelchair to get around.

In Ms. De Luna’s interview, Lan explains that he would love to maintain his independence, despite his physical limitations. He tells Ruby,“Anytime that I can head out someplace or do something on my own without relying on someone, it’s a huge boost of independence.  But, he explains, “The thing about being in a wheelchair is that it makes you a person 50 times more dependent on others than you would be normally.”

Remme is not going to let his disability get in the way of aging gracefully. He was physically active (cycled in many events in the years and months before his tragic accident) before he was wheelchair bound. Now, he will just work that much harder to stay physically fit. Laura Remme, Lan’s wife, is a model partner in helping him navigate the rough waters. He’s starting yoga and who knows what else he will tackle in the coming years.  We salute Lan Remme for his fortitude and determination.

Listen to Ruby De Luna’s story and interview of Lan Remme.

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