Was it part of what some fear is a “war” between drivers and bicyclists? An isolated incident? Or? A commuter who bicycles to his West Seattle workplace says he was almost killed by a truck driver this morning, just before the final leg of his trip, and he believes it was deliberate. He has since written and sent a letter to the mayor, published in its entirety below:
Dear Mayor McGinn,
My name is Kit Newman and I am writing you to inform you about a most outrageous incident I experienced on my bike commute this morning. I have been a resident of the City of Seattle for 21 years now and nothing like this has ever happened to me.
I live in the Central District at 22nd avenue and Yesler Way. I work at a small architecture firm on California Ave. SW in West Seattle. I have been commuting by bike between the CD and West Seattle most days for the past 4 years. My normal route takes me down Jackson street to the water front and then south along East Marginal way to reach Spokane street and thus over the little bridge to West Seattle. This incident happened along the southbound lane of East Marginal way very near the Coast Guard port facility and the US Customs warehouse. Having just crossed the intersection of S. Holgate St. and E. Marginal right in front of the entrance to the Hanjin container port terminal, I proceeded south in the southbound lane of East Marginal. There were many bike commuters from West Seattle coming the northbound direction in the temporary bike lane along the west side of the street. Seeing the southbound lane ahead was clear of any vehicle traffic, I elected to ride in that lane rather than against the opposing bike lane traffic coming northbound. The long line of opposing vehicle traffic in the northbound lane of E. Marginal was stopped at that time because a freight train was using the rail crossing at S. Holgate behind me.
As I proceeded in the clear southbound lane ahead, to my utter astonishment, one of the several 18 wheeler container trucks that were stopped in the traffic of the northbound lane, pulled out of that lane, crossed the double yellow center line between lanes and proceeded to accelerate coming northbound head on to me in the southbound lane!
I was so astonished at this, that it took me several seconds to realize that the truck would not stop. He was accelerating the whole time as I could hear the upshifting of the trucks engine as it came at me head on with no extra room to spare. When I finally realized that this truck would not stop and that MY life was at stake, I immediately braked to a halt, unclipped from my pedals and threw the bike over the jersey barrier and dove over after it just as this truck sped past me. Had I not done so, I am convinced that I would be dead now under the wheels of that fully laden truck! Dead.
To add great insult to this injury I did see the face of the driver as he sped past. He was grinning triumphantly having scared me out of his way with a classic game of chicken. I was so consumed in that moment with the urgent need to save my own life that I was not able to get a clear view of the trucks license plate or any other identifying marks. All I do know is that it was a black Kenworth cab, with a container loaded behind it and it was driven by a black man. Perhaps of East African descent. It reached the north end of the southbound lane and turned left at S. Holgate into the Hanjin terminal. I could not give chase as my bike was damaged in my throwing it over the jersey barrier. I was hysterical for several minutes before I could compose myself to attempt to continue on to work. I slowly made my way to work with only one front gear available.
I am well aware that there has been much talk in the local news lately about the “war ” between cars and bikes in Seattle. I also understand that you have called for a summit soon on this issue because of the many deaths of bicyclists on our streets in recent months and years. As a citizen of the city and a bike commuter, I must urge you to do more and quicker. If there is a “war “going on it is only the bicyclists, and not the drivers, who are dying in this war. This incident I have just described to you is indicative of the deep animosity that some drivers and truck drivers hold for all bicyclists. That truck driver made the conscious decision to violate several of the most basic traffic laws we have, and did with intentional malice, put my life at direct risk! There was no way he did not see me coming. I have a bright white flashing LED headlight, which was on at the time. I was the only thing in the southbound lane. He saw me coming and decided to do what he did anyway. I am beyond outrage at this incident! Never in my life has any other human being so directly and purposefully threatened my life like he did this morning.
I know there are bad cyclists out there whose reckless actions give us all a bad name. I can understand the frustration of some drivers in light of their actions. But this is beyond outrageous!
We cyclists are DYING out here! Today I was almost another sad statistic in the death toll of the “war between cyclists and drivers.
THIS. MUST. STOP. NOW!
I urge you to bolder and quicker action to stop this contemptible “war” and help save the lives of Seattle citizens!