Yesterday it was reported in Seattle area news papers that a cyclist was hit and killed by a van in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. As more information became available we learned that the man was a 39 year old father of two and researcher at the University of Washington.
I admit that I don't know the guy, but this story really got to me. As a father of two little girls myself and employee of the University of Washington I have also often commuted to work by bike, probably taking almost the exact same route as Kevin Black; this guy could have been me.
I am definitely a fair-weather bike commuter; last fall my bike got put away in the shed waiting for longer warmer days. I imagine my normal bike commute is likely very similar to this Kevin Black’s: The majority of the ride is on the relatively safe Burke-Gilman trail, but between my house in Ballard and the start of the Burke-Gilman trail I have maybe a mile on the streets of Ballard. I am by no means a hard core cyclist, I often choose the least busy roads to slowly make my way though Ballard, the reason is that I’m the kind of person who is hyper-aware of cars around me…often just short of terrified to ride on the streets, but I wasn’t always like this.
The reason for my current attitude about biking around cars comes primarily from an incident a couple years ago. It was a summer day when I was commuting home from work, sometimes on nice days I would make my way from the Burke-Gilman trail West all the way to 34th Ave NW and bike casually up that hill to my house maybe going all the way up to sunset hill park to catch a little of the sunset. While biking West down Market Street in Ballard West of 24th street (this was before 24th had its current bike lane) I had a car pull out of its parking spot on my side of the street right in front of me. I was prepared for someone to pull out of their parking spot into traffic, but NOT prepared for what this guy did, which was to pull out of his spot to do a full U-turn in front of me. Luckily the guy saw me half way though his U-turn, but not before I had to swerve into the two lanes of oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the street. I managed to avoid the guy making the U-turn and avoid running head on into oncoming traffic, but I was pretty shaken up. Things could have gone different in so many ways.
Even thought the days are a bit longer and warmer, right now I’m a lot less enthusiastic about pulling out my bike out of the shed than I was a couple days ago.