Paul Andrews

Posts Tagged ‘David Hiller’

Police arrest cyclist: A double standard?

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on November 20, 2009 at 9:49 am

Seattle Times: “A 32-year-old bicyclist accused of running over a 6-year-old boy near Pike Place Market on Friday, leaving the child hospitalized with serious facial injuries, was charged today with vehicular assault and hit and run.”

Re this incident, where a man on a bike apparently hit a 6-year-old boy in a crosswalk, we are impressed with the alacrity that police exercised in tracking down and arresting a suspect.

We can’t help but make some observations, though:

If a car had hit the boy, it would not have made the news. The boy was injured, but if you don’t die in a car-pedestrian accident, you don’t get a headline.

If a car had hit the boy, it’s doubtful an arrest would have been made so quickly.

If a car had hit a cyclist in similar circumstances, no way would an arrest have been made so quickly — if ever. Cars can kill cyclists with no arrest being made. It’s already happened 4 times this year in Seattle, the most notorious being Kevin Black, run over by a van. The investigation took months, and the judicial system wound up declaring it could take no action. (Black’s distraught family subsequently filed a wrongful death suit.)

We think the case with the 6-year-old is the way traffic justice should work. If the police report is correct, this is indeed a case of vehicular assault and hit-and-run. Neither should be tolerated in Seattle.

Our concern is that this is the first indication we’ve seen of any change to a status quo that generally ignores or minimizes such incidents, and it happens to involve a cyclist hitting a small child.

In other words, the cyclist is being made an example of. I’m no psychologist, and in any case it’s difficult to impute motive. But in making a big deal out of this, police seem to be sending a message that, as usual, cyclists need to watch their back. This is particularly pertinent given that the new mayor of Seattle, the new county executive and at least three City Council members are big bike supporters.

This apparent double standard already has resulted in a request from Cascade Bicycle Club’s advocacy director, David Hiller, for a meeting with County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. Hiller notes “an issue of perceived bias in the prosecution of motor vehicle offenses,” relating that “of 81 collisions in King County in 2007 that seem to meet the same standard of intent that Mr. Araneta (cyclist defendant who ran into boy) is being held to, none were prosecuted.”

We await with intense interest the response of police and media to the next car-bicycle or car-pedestrian accident in Seattle — the typical one, where the cyclist or walker is the obvious victim. If there’s a new wind blowing through law enforcement, it should show up summarily.

See Cascade Bicycle Club forum comments queue for additional observations.

Can Elected Bike Riders Impel Change We Can Believe In?

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Obama Bikes on November 11, 2009 at 1:55 am

With the election of Mike McGinn as mayor of Seattle and re-election of Council president Richard Conlin, it now looks as though the two most powerful office-holders in the city are, of all things, bike commuters. The third most powerful, newly elected County Executive Dow Constantine, is a bike lover, as is another newcomer, Council member Mike O’Brien, Together they comprise a two-wheeled coalition atop local government unlike any other municipality of Seattle’s size and prominence.

Will it make a difference? And if so, how much?

Conlin’s 12-year tenure, crossover popularity and political capital gained from a resounding victory in last Tuesday’s election have led some to designate him Seattle’s “interim” mayor while McGinn learns the ropes. There may be some truth in the appellation, but we think McGinn’s dedication to civic causes over the years gives him considerable momentum going into the job. And as anyone who has worked with Mike knows, he typically has a pretty good idea going in what he wants to do on any given issue.

We think McGinn’s infamous “flip-flop”— more like a soft-pedal (given his avocation) — actually won the election for him. It didn’t lose him any votes; what were tunnel haters going to do, vote for build-baby-build Mallahan? Instead it won crucial votes from the rule-book set, traditionalist Seattleites who needed a sign from McGinn that he could put aside personal conviction when due process dictated a different track. That said, we still hope Mike finds a way out of the geologic insanity and bottomless money pit of the Deep Bore.

If the tunnel does proceed, cyclists hopefully will benefit from increased surface options in the city. But the big imprint that cycling leadership can leave on the city will involve long-sought integration of bikes into Seattle’s traffic grid and transportation infrastructure. With downtown bike counts continuing to escalate exponentially — the Seattle Bicycle Master Plan calls for tripling the amount of bicycling in Seattle by 2017 — such integration is not only prudent but necessary.

Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club and the City will spend much of 2010 developing a 5-year update of the Master Plan. It will be fascinating to watch a transportation blueprint put together with cyclists as equal participants rather than afterthoughts. What might cyclists hope for in a McGinn administration?

Our wish list includes:

Completing Ballard’s “missing link” on the Burke-Gilman Trail. This is under litigation, but there are pressures and bargainings that a McGinn administration can bring to bear to “ameliorate” the process. Let’s git ‘er done guys.

More bike lanes. A recent study showed that bike lanes are safer for cyclists than is competing with cars on streets and highways, and with pedestrians, dogs and strollers on bike paths (although bike-only paths are safer). Yet the city has in crucial corridors moved away from lanes in favor of “sharrows,” or on-pavement arrows indicating that vehicles need to “share” the pavement with bikes.

Sharrows hold some symbolic persuasion. But we feel they’re more a sop than solution. The painted arrows soon wear off. “Shared” lanes invite “dooring” from parked cars. And we all know when push comes to shove who gets shoved out of the right-of-way.

True bike lanes on North 45th Street and on Stone Way should be a high priority. And while you’re at it, on Broadway, Queen Anne Avenue, Rainier and Columbia Way. I’m missing some, I know. North 80th or 85th (McGinn lives up there!). And more. (Check out Page yll of the Master Plan for a graphic of what the ideal bike grid should look like.)

North-south bike corridors are in pretty good shape; east-west needs to be beefed up. Cyclists shouldn’t have to fear for their lives just getting between the city’s main districts. It will mean pinching already heavy car flow on major arterials, but that’s an inconvenient truth of reducing car dependence.

More bike racks. It sounds screwy, but Seattle is running out of places to lock up bikes, particularly downtown. Especially at festivals, conferences and conventions, or grocery and department stores — anywhere large numbers of people converge — not only are existing racks woefully inadequate, even light pole availability becomes scarce. New construction still fails to take increased cycling traffic into account, an example being Trader Joe’s in Ballard. As we’ve noted on several occasions as well, bike racks should not be put in the nether regions of underground or covered parking garages, where theft is easier and the “door-to-door” time advantage and convenience of riding a bike is lost.

Better law enforcement. Cascade will resume its valiant efforts to pass legislation at the state level to improve traffic justice for riders and walkers. Although the state Supreme Court ruled that state law overrides local jurisdictions, police can still give out tickets and otherwise make their presence known when drivers endanger cyclists. There needs to be heightened awareness that cyclists truly do belong on city corridors and do not relinquish the legal system’s protections for street users simply because they are not sitting behind the wheel of a car.

Setting an example. McGinn drew attention during the campaign for commenting how he would change the go-everywhere-by-car policy of gas-guzzling Mayor Greg Nickels. Now’s his chance to show exactly how, and to provide a model for dignitaries everywhere about what it means to reduce four-wheel transport to two.

Bicycle advocacy in city government. We’re no fan of bureaucratic featherbedding, but cyclists have been under-represented in City Hall for so long (even though Nickels improved somewhat) that enhancing their presence at the planning table with a few good administrators would be well worth the salary allocations. Any McGinn/Constantine vision of transportation in Puget Sound that moves commuters out of cars needs to contain huge incentives to go by bike. Mass transit especially should give discounts or other benefits to velo travelers. We need fertile thinking to enter the post-carbon society, and there are a lot of creative bike minds in Seattle that can be tapped by City Hall.

At Cascade, advocacy director David Hiller says the club is looking forward to blue-skying about the future, and to being a driver (so to speak) of policy rather than a check-box constituency to be informed after decisions have been made. Cascade’s tireless efforts to broaden its own identity as well as McGinn’s appeal throughout Seattle, especially among Asian and minority communities, were undoubtedly the difference in the narrow election. The payoff will come with a local political clout rivaled only by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition among urban cycling organizations.

“We’re dreaming the big dreams, all of us, right now,” Hiller said.

Let There Be Justice

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes, Rider Down on October 28, 2009 at 9:01 am

I was out of town and unable to attend the Traffic Justice Summit at Seattle’s City Hall a couple of weeks ago, but thanks to great work by the folks at Seattle Channel, a video has been posted on the Web. The presentation also will broadcast on TV via Seattle Channel (21 on Comcast cable) over the next few days (link and showtimes below).

This show is well worth watching, for a penetrating look not only at how the judicial process marginalizes cyclists and pedestrians, the second-class citizens of our transportation network, but at the crushing impact that senseless, careless, negligent actions behind the wheel of a vehicle have on friends and families of those struck down.

The key word here is “justice.” Without a socio-judicial response equivalent to the severe injury or death suffered in a bike or pedestrian accident, there can be no sense of closure from loved ones, and — most significantly — no disincentive for others or even the same perpetrator to repeat the offense.

A horrific case in point was offered at the Summit. A bike rider, Ilsa Govan, told how she had been struck by a car driving on the wrong side of the road. She subsequently discovered that the driver, Rabbi Ephraim Schwartz, had a history of poor driving, and yet had been permitted back behind the wheel of a car time and again.

Eighteen months after her accident, the same driver killed Tatsuo Nakata, a City Council aide, while he was walking across a street in a crosswalk. As Govan put it, the rabbi “is not a bad person. He’s just a bad driver.”

Under current law, about all traffic enforcement officers can do in a case lacking clear intent to harm is issue a traffic ticket, even in the case of death where the victim clearly had right of way. Efforts in Olympia to address the legal discrepancy with “vehicular assault” legislation have stumbled in the past. At the Summit, Seattle city attorney Tom Carr and state senator Adam Kline brought us up to date on renewed efforts spearheaded by Cascade Bicycle Club and its tireless advocacy director, David Hiller, who emceed the event.

If any one segment encapsulated the shame, outrage and agony of the current situation, it was the moving testimony of Michele Black, widow of Ballard cyclist Kevin Black, who was killed by a van driver last February making a u-turn on 24th Avenue Northwest.

The driver was “in such a hurry to get to where she wanted to go,” Michele noted, that she not only ignored common sense and broke the law, she killed a human being. Or, as one of Kevin’s daughters put it in a card “to Daddy” posted at a memorial at the intersection where he died, “ran you over like a speed bump.”

“I want justice for Kevin, and I want justice for every person who has been killed,” said Michele, who had the added horror of coming onto the scene of her husband’s death shortly after the accident without knowing what had happened. “I don’t want another family to feel that pain.”

After Michele spoke, Hiller noted in a choking voice that last year’s legislation “got dropped on the day Kevin was hit. The day sticks in my head as well.”

Numerous other testimonials were offered, including from survivors of car collisions. Congratulations to Cascade and Hiller for putting together a session that was not only informative but struck a human chord as well and was not afraid to confront the pathos and tragedy of loss. As daunting as accident statistics are — and they’re going up as more bike commuters hit the streets and bicycling in general increases as an alternative transportation method and recreational activity — it’s people’s stories like those at the Summit which ultimately drive change.

We’ll keep you posted on legislative efforts in the upcoming session. The Seattle Channel link and showings:

Web link

TV (Channel 21):

Tomorrow, October 29, 2009  5:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 31, 2009  2:30 a.m.

Saturday, October 31, 2009  2:00 p.m.

Sunday, November 01, 2009  11:00 a.m.

Sunday, November 01, 2009 10:00 p.m.

Monday, November 02, 2009 3:00 a.m.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009 9:00 p.m.

Velocide: Death on a bike, even as loved ones testify

In Rider Down on October 15, 2009 at 1:24 am

While loved ones of cyclists killed in car collisions testified at Seattle City Hall yesterday…

A heartbreaking story at Traffic Justice Summit in Seattle

A heartbreaking story at Traffic Justice Summit in Seattle

With a sobering reminder posted outside …

Killed on bikes by careless drivers

Killed on bikes by careless drivers

Cyclists were mourning the death of Mary Yonkers by hit-and-run trailer truck in San Mateo CA. Far away geographically, perhaps, but united in cause. Best of luck to Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club and advocacy director David Hiller as they work in the Washington State legislature to pass a “vulnerable user” law.

A Chance for Cycling Justice

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on October 5, 2009 at 2:04 am

Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club, the nation’s largest local cycling club with more than 11,000 members, continues to do yeoman advocacy work on behalf of cyclists mowed down by careless— and uncaring — drivers.

At City Hall from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14, the club will host a traffic justice summit with city attorney Tom Carr and Tim Burgess, who chairs the city council’s public safety committee. The summit’s aim: To move forward on a new state “vulnerable user” law protecting riders and walkers from vehicular injury and death.

“We are committed to bringing the Vulnerable User Bill back to the legislature for 2010,” said David Hiller, advocacy director for Cascade Bicycle Club, in a press statement. (Last winter a similar bill got unprecedented early traction but failed to make it out of committee.)  “Our goal with this summit is to broaden public dialogue about the current laws surrounding vulnerable roadway users.  It is clear to us that vehicles involved in pedestrian or cyclist injuries or fatalities should be subject to legal repercussions more serious than a traffic ticket. We welcome the opportunity to educate the public about this issue and to listen to feedback about our efforts.”

The issue here isn’t spite or revenge against drivers who hurt or kill cyclists. It’s to make drivers take cyclists and pedestrians as seriously as they do other drivers. The only way to accomplish this is to give more gravity to law enforcement. If a driver runs into another driver, whether it’s injury or death, the legal system is set up to determine who was responsible and penalizes the culpable party accordingly. The same laws should apply if a driver hits someone on wheels or foot.

The city tried to address the inequity with its own statute in 2005. Unfortunately, last August the State Court of Appeals ruled that state law supersedes local statute. So only a bill passed in Olympia can provide a real remedy.

Four cyclists struck by vehicles have died in Seattle this year, and in only one case was the cyclist’s right-of-way unclear. Other severe car-bike accidents have been reported with “life-threatening injuries” to the riders as well. Annually more than 500 cyclists and pedestrians in the state are killed or disabled by motor vehicles.

With bike commuting on the rise and the bike culture reviving in general due to “green” concerns, healthier lifestyles, higher gas prices and just the joy of riding two wheels, it’s time to recognize cyclists’ traffic rights. Riders and walkers should not lose their right to equal justice under the law simply because they aren’t sitting behind a steering wheel when they are hit by a car.

Good discussion on the Cascade club forum.


Carnage on the Roadways: Be safe out there!

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Obama Bikes on August 8, 2009 at 9:11 am

A 26-year-old male cyclist hit a car which was turning left into a driveway on the south side of Northeast 45th Street in Wallingford (Google street view here). The cyclist was taken to Harborview with life-threatening injuries. The Seattle Police Department is investigating.

As someone who rides this route nearly every day, some thoughts:

The rider was eastbound on a section of N.E. 45th fraught with peril. At that particular point the rider would typically be traveling very fast. It’s at the end of a medium-length downhill which, although not particularly steep, will put speed on a bike fairly quickly.

There are numerous traffic hazards from cars doing all sorts of things, including pulling out from Dick’s Drive-In. There also are stoplights at the bottom which usually are green (for 45th St. traffic), but cars typically want to make free right turns on red. Finally, it’s just plain busy along here all the time.

The police report suggests the colliding driver was waved through on a left turn by a stopped vehicle. This is a real legal hornets’ nest. Drivers acting as traffic cops can be legally liable when their actions cause accidents. In Seattle, you see a lot of this, and it endangers other drivers as well as cyclists.

In any case, this is a tragedy that gives all cyclists pause as we consider how often we narrowly miss this kind of accident every day.

Until full details are in, it’s a bit sticky to blame the driver of the colliding car at this point. That driver was responding to the yielding driver’s actions and undoubtedly did not think about needing to yield to a bike as well.

Whether negligence is a factor here or not, though, Erica C. Barnett’s points on Publicola about vehicular assault are well-taken. Police need to take bike accidents far more seriously and issue tickets on the same basis as if a car were hit instead of a bike. It’s pure insanity that drivers are not prosecuted for hitting and/or killing cyclists simply because they didn’t mean to. By that logic, no traffic tickets would be issued.

David Hiller, Cascade Bicycle Club’s advocacy director quoted in Erica’s story, notes the club will try (I assume he means once again) for new legislation in Olympia that would force the legal system to take bicycling accidents more seriously. A Vehicular Assault bill failed to make it out of committee earlier this year.

To correct the comments queue in Erica’s piece, there are decidedly NO bike lanes on N.E. 45th St. There are fading sharrows, but at BikeIntelligencer we think sharrows are next to worthless, a sop to the cycling community that has no effect whatsoever on actual traffic conduct.

Cycling accidents are up this year. If the cyclist dies he will be the fifth killed already in Seattle; in 2007 only six cyclists were killed for the entire year in the four-county Puget Sound region (3 in King County). Undoubtedly the surge in cycling’s popularity contributes, with more trips and less experienced riders on the road adding to the mix. But the fatality statistic alone begs the need for stricter laws and better enforcement of the laws already on the books.

[Although not in response to this accident, Michael Snyder at SeattleLikesBikes makes a similar case.]

And at, Richard notes there are enlightened drivers out there.

Meanwhile, the carnage continues nation-wide.

Stanford University law profession, 72, “family members have said the nature of his injuries may indicate a hit-and-run.”

Baltimore man, 67, “got tangled in the rear wheels of a truck.”

Pennsylvania woman, 68, RIP.

Texas lawmaker will fight Gov. Rick Perry’s veto of “3-feet-please” law, which Perry was encouraged to do on grounds it would give cyclists “a false sense of security.”

Ride safely!

Daily Roundup: Catching up on 3-feet-please and Lance

In Bicycling, Daily Roundup on April 28, 2009 at 5:16 am

Traveling back from the hugely successful Sea Otter Classic and brought back to Seattle some digitally compressed California sunshine, 1,000/1 ratio enabling an entire afternoon of sunlight to be transported in a container the size of a bike water bottle. US Patent No. A3587468bbT It’s all in the algorithm. I have enough in store to last thru the week and the big Fluidride Cup race this weekend in Port Angeles.

Am sorry to hear from David Hiller at Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club that the 3-feet-please law died in the Senate transportation committee earlier this month. Colorado fared better and things are going down to the wire in Oregon. More wins than losses these days, though, and that means progress.

Wishing Lance all the best at Gila, but is it a warmup for Giro or…? Nothing much has been said recently about Lance competing in Italy and the Giro starts a week from Saturday. My best wild guess: Teammate Levi was sent out to consult with Lance, get a read on Lance’s conditioning, mindset, etc., and report back to Team Astana director Johan Bruyneel. Lance is probably all systems go but it may not be his decision to make. A ceremonial appearance may be the best compromise. I must say it’s remarkable that Lance is back racing already, albeit a bit risky if he’s truly counting on doing the Giro. Best of luck!

Good to be back!