Bike Law Helmets might do more harm … Really?

 

Seattle is one of about 50 cities that require cyclists to wear helmets. Credit: Pronto Cycle Share

Seattle is one of about 50 cities that require cyclists to wear helmets. Credit: Pronto Cycle Share

A recent WSJ article article lends credence to a faction of cyclists who suggest that mandatory bike helmet laws do more harm than good. The thought is that it deters people from cycling and leads people to believe that cycling is unsafe because a helmet is required (in cities such as Seattle).

Personally, I think that what deters people from cycling around the city is because it’s not like San Francisco or DC., where neighborhoods are closer to each other and more densely populated. In those places, it’s more convenient to hop on a bike and cycle from the Castro District to the Haight-Ashbury or SoMa district. Here, only the more athletic and seasoned cyclists can navigate the roads and distracted drivers to get from Magnolia to Greenlake.  That’s my two cents. What do you think?

 

Cyclist, Daniel Ahrendt, Run Over By Metro Bus Continues His Long Recovery

Daniel Ahrendt pictured at Harborview soon after the incident. He was unable to move his legs or much of his upper body.

Daniel Ahrendt pictured at Harborview soon after the incident. He was unable to move his legs or much of his upper body.

A little over a month ago, cyclist commuter Daniel Ahrendt was on his way to his web developer job in the Georgetown neighborhood. A lifelong cyclist, Daniel saw that that Monday morning was

Close up of the sharrows that lead southbound cyclists to the gutter and to the right of buses.

Close up of the sharrows that lead southbound cyclists to the gutter and to the right of buses.

dry and perfect for cycling. As he made his way westbound on S. Jackson during the rush hour, he was in the bike lane with buses lined up sharing that same lane. As he crossed the intersection, he knew that the sharrows would lead him to the right of a bus directly in front of him. Making the safer choice, he aimed for the left side of the lane. That’s when his bike tire got caught in the streetcar tracks. While he was down, the rear tires of a trolley bus ran over the the lower half of his body.

Cyclists in the community and the larger public held their breath, as news reports indicated that Daniel had “life threatening injuries.

Just yesterday, a full month after the May 4th incident, Daniel was discharged from Harborview. His devoted parents have stayed by his side through this nightmare (they had learned via social media about Daniel’s incident and hopped on the next plane to Seattle from Hawaii).

While he has a long road to recovery, we are grateful that he is finally out of Harborview to regain some semblance of a “normal” life. In my conversations with him, his eternal optimism and quiet strength distinguish him. While he requires help for the most basic tasks, his fortitude and positive attitude fuel his hope for better days ahead. Full disclosure: SKW attorneys represents injured bicyclist Daniel Ahrendt.

Sarahs-grad-CROPPED-1024x967

Daniel with his sister, Sarah, at her graduation and w/mother Karrie Ahrendt.

 

What can we learn from these recent bike accidents?

 

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last monday

26 yr old cyclist was hit by a Metro bus during AM commute last Monday

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.)

How about some warning signs to both bus drivers and cyclists? There were reportedly some close calls before this horrendous accident.  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, where (our firm represented the injured cyclist, Mickey Gendler), where the cyclist’s bike tire got caught on a seam on the Montlake Bridge. Seems like these types of accidents should 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.

 

Boom in Seattle brings new Westlake/South Lake Union bike track

Bike westlake cycle track

Construction begins on the new Westlake/South Lake Union bike track, a connector for cyclists to the downtown core.

If you have to drive anytime near rush hour around South Lake Union or that section of Downtown these days, you likely experience a lot of sitting in your car rather than driving. We are feeling growing pains as Seattle continues to bring in thousands of new residents and workers every month. With cuts in public transportation funding and more looming (if the levy doeesn’t pass this fall), the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is still moving forward with its plan to construct a controversial bike track around the S. Lake Union/Westlake area.

The bike track will serve as a connector for cyclists to the downtown core. So, despite those who might oppose this component of Seattle’s Master Bike Plan, it will hopefully make the roads safer for bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians.

What are those mysterious curved arrows near Seattle’s Protected Bike Lanes?

In a post on SKW blog, 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.

NOTE: This blog post was reprinted from the SKW blog, NW-Injurylawyers.com.