A year ago, Mike Wang was killed as he bicycled home from work in Seattle. More is needed to make the roads safer.
A YEAR ago, Mike Wang — husband, father, friend and colleague at PATH — was riding his bicycle home from work when he was killed in a hit-and-run collision.
Mike was an experienced bicycle commuter. He was traveling in a marked bicycle lane on Dexter Avenue North, a known cycling corridor, and he had the right of way. It was midafternoon on a clear summer day. He was wearing a helmet. Mike did everything he could to be safe and obey the law.
But that wasn’t enough. More is needed to make roads safer.
Many lives were shattered that day. While the driver was recently caught and pleaded guilty earlier this month, the fact remains that Mike’s death altered the remarkable constellation of people who cared deeply for Mike, a photographer at global health nonprofit PATH.
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Mike wasn’t the only person to die on a Seattle-area road last summer. The level of danger on our roads is still too high despite bicycle lanes and crosswalks. To prevent these kinds of tragedies, bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers alike need to pay attention.
Sharing the road requires patience and consideration for each other, and it requires knowing the rules of the road for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. When these are absent, everyone’s safety is affected. If it is not safe to walk across or bike on our streets, we all feel the impact of more congestion and less health and wellness.
Cyclists, drivers, pedestrians — we’re in this together. To prevent any more unnecessary deaths and injuries, we need to think differently about how we behave on the road. Seattle is on the forefront of technology, music, art and health. Let’s direct some of that entrepreneurial and creative spirit toward figuring out how to safely and courteously share our roads.
Mayor Mike McGinn began this process last year when he convened a Road Safety Summit to discuss the issue and invited us to co-chair with David Fleming, director of public health. After examining the data and gathering community input, we narrowed road safety down to five E’s, or five fundamental principles for safer streets in Seattle: education about the rules of the road; creating a safer transportation environment; enforcing the laws for everyone who uses the roads; evaluating how we are doing and what we can do better; and empathy in the sense that we need to look out for each other. The mayor is expected to announce a road-safety campaign in August.
An important first step for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists is to take responsibility and improve your knowledge of the rules of the road.
Second, as commuters, employers and residents we currently all have an opportunity to engage online in the city’s update to the bike master plan, which will improve roads for bicyclists and drivers alike.
Finally, and most important, remember that the person in that car, in that crosswalk, or on that bike is a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member, a friend. Being more mindful on the roads makes them safer for everyone. Paying attention as a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian is adhering to the most fundamental rule of the road. When you climb on your bike, get behind the wheel, or step out for your walk — slow down and pay attention.
Jamie Cheney, left, executive director at Commute Seattle, works with downtown Seattle businesses to improve transportation options and safety for their employees. Doug Palm, director of global facilities at PATH, works to improve transportation safety for employees.