I had a beautiful ride into work this morning. It was clear, sunny, and surprisingly crisp (my fingers didn’t unfreeze until about mile 5).
My interactions with cars were generally positive or at least benign. I saw many more cyclists than normal—which reminded me that today is the first day of Bike Month. That lifted my spirits even more. An uneventful ride on a gorgeous day, accompanied by other actual bike commuters is just about tops.
And then I got to work. I was a couple minutes late, which shouldn’t have been a big deal, but my boss was obviously relieved to see me. “I’m so glad you’re safe,” she told me. “They said on the radio that a cyclist was killed on East Marginal, and I thought ‘Oh, shit, that’s Jessie’s route.’”
(Note: In almost 2 years, I have never heard this woman swear.)
I spent the morning trying to work and piecing together details as they trickled in. The man was killed by a semi truck at S. Hanford while trying to cross E. Marginal. The West Seattle Blog has more details.
I know that intersection well. Although it’s north of my work route, I rode through it regularly while the Argo Bridge was closed and I needed to get downtown. It’s sketchy as hell—in addition to being riddled with potholes and train tracks, it’s always busy with trucks taking containers from the docks to the railroad.
It is absolutely not the sort of place a person on a bicycle should need to ride.
I hate every second that I ride on E. Marginal Way, both when I’m headed north and when I’m on my way south to work. As I assured my boss this morning—and I’m assuring you, too, Mom—I always ride on the sidewalk* when I’m on the southern stretch of E. Marginal Way, unless I’m with Rob. Two cyclists is more visible than one, I hope.
Quite a few people today have proposed a separated cycle track along the West Seattle commute section of E. Marginal Way. I think that’s absolutely necessary—and I can’t imagine who would oppose it. Especially the Port and all the local companies. I mean, who would want to be that poor semi truck driver? By all the early accounts, he wasn’t at fault, it was just a shitty situation on both ends.
I know I’m being overly optimistic about a cycle track being supported by the industrial residents of SODO (see also: the Missing Link), but seriously. It’s not a matter of bikes vs. cars, commuters vs. industry, or whatever vs. whoever. It’s a matter of two very different usages of the same stretch of road. The problem’s not going to go away on its own, and neither side is going to “win.”
There are no safe routes for cyclists through SODO.
Yet we still ride through it. Every day.
Trucks are not going away. Cyclists are not going away.
What can we do to make this work?
* Before you point out that riding on the sidewalk can be dangerous, too, let me just say that it puts me in control. I’d rather be on the offensive, riding more slowly and watching for cars at driveways than trust that each semi speeding along at 20 mph over the limit is going to see me. On the sidewalk, I can 100% control whether I put myself in the path of a car. On the roadway, I am just 100% in the path of cars, and it’s up to them whether or not they run me over.
After a Seattle Metro bus put me on the ground last April**, I just don’t trust drivers anymore.
** I just noticed that the date on that post is also May 1, just in 2012 (although my “accident” was earlier). Creepy.