The steepness of Cedar Street is just one element police are investigating as they reconstruct the events leading to Wednesday night's fatal crash between a three-wheel pedicab and a minivan. The crash killed a 60-year-old man who was celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary.
It’s not the biggest hill in the city, but bike messengers and cycling enthusiasts say the stretch of Cedar Street between First and Western avenues is steep enough that you’d have to be nuts to try to pedal down it.
The hill’s grade is just one element police are investigating as they reconstruct the events leading to Wednesday night’s fatal crash between a three-wheel pedicab and a minivan. The crash killed a 60-year-old man who was celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary.
The pedicab — a for-hire tricycle with a rear seat for passengers — experienced an equipment malfunction, said Seattle police spokesman Officer Mark Jamieson. Traffic-collision investigators “are looking at everything” — from the weight of the driver and his two passengers to whether the brakes were overloaded as the pedicab descended the hill, he said.
Most Read Local Stories
- Even after a superspreader infects 10% of a town, the solution to COVID remains a tough sell
- King County will drop mask mandate, now that it's reached COVID vaccination benchmark
- Highly transmissible strain causing COVID spreads in Washington state, say UW virologists
- Did a police officer’s lie lead a Seattle man to take his own life? Women file wrongful-death lawsuit
- Amazon provides $100 million to build affordable housing near Sound Transit stations
Jamieson and other public officials acknowledged that before Wednesday’s crash, pedicabs haven’t ranked high on the list of public-safety concerns. Pedicabs aren’t regulated in Seattle and the man’s death is likely the state’s first to be linked to one.
“Since they’ve come to Seattle, this is really the first incident — and certainly the first fatality — connected to pedicabs,” Jamieson said. “It hasn’t been on our radar.”
The victim was identified Thursday as Peter Dzioba of Watertown, Conn., according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
His wife, 55-year-old Mary Dzioba, was in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center on Thursday, said hospital spokeswoman Staishy Bostick Siem. The pedicab driver, a 23-year-old Seattle man, was also in satisfactory condition, she said. The driver’s name has not been released. Both declined requests for media interviews, Bostick Siem said.
A relative who answered the phone at the Dzioba residence said the family was too overwhelmed to talk.
How it happened
According to a police accident report, the pedicab — owned by Cascadia Cabs of Seattle — was westbound on Cedar Street around 7 p.m. Wednesday when it failed to slow or stop as it approached the intersection with Western Avenue, a one-way, northbound street. Witnesses said the pedicab blew through a red light, glanced off a scooter and collided with a minivan, according to Seattle police.
Peter Dzioba was thrown under the van and crushed. He died at the scene, according to police. His wife was tossed to the left of the van; the pedicab driver was struck by the front of the vehicle and became lodged beneath the bumper and right front tire, according to the accident report.
Ron Swartz, a 41-year-old contractor who lives in a condo at the intersection, was going out for pizza when he heard the pedicab driver yell an expletive, followed by the sound of the crash. The driver, he said, was bleeding from the head and screamed, “Oh my God, help me!” The woman, who Swartz said was pinned beneath the van’s left tire, glanced around and asked, “How’s my husband?” It was then that Swartz noticed a man’s legs sticking from beneath the van.
“I couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead,” Swartz said.
Ryan Hashagen, the owner of Cascadia Cabs, expressed sympathy for everyone involved.
“We’re as interested in getting to the bottom of this situation as anyone,” Hashagen, 25, said, adding that his company is cooperating with police and is conducting its own investigation.
Out of respect for the victims of Wednesday’s crash, Hashagen said his business will remain closed until he concludes his own investigation. Cascadia Cabs is housed in the historic Colman Building on Marion Street between First and Post avenues, sharing space with a couple of Irish pubs, a barbershop, restaurants and coffee shops on the edge of Pioneer Square.
In the last year, Hashagen has expanded his business from a single pedicab in Bellingham to a fleet of 46 from Vancouver, B.C., to Eugene, Ore., including the 17 “urban chariots” that operate here, mostly along the waterfront and in the neighborhoods between Seattle Center and the Sodo District.
Even though he isn’t required by Seattle officials to have liability insurance, Hashagen says his fleet is insured. He said drivers — who operate as independent contractors and rent his pedicabs — undergo safety training, and staff mechanics inspect the cabs before each shift.
“We have strict rules governing the area of operation,” he said. “Drivers are not allowed to go down steep hills.”
Though Hashagen declined to discuss details of Wednesday’s accident because of the ongoing police investigation, bike messenger David Audino questioned why the driver would even attempt to ride down Cedar Street.
“On a regular bike, stopping power down a hill can be pretty hard sometimes, but … going down a grade that steep is just retarded,” said Audino, who on Thursday stopped by Monorail Espresso on Pike Street, a popular hangout for bike messengers.
Glenn Doren, who lives in a condominium building at Cedar Street and Western Avenue, also thinks the hill is too treacherous for two wheels.
“Why would a pedicab be coming down Cedar?! A dinky bike with 3 adults on it?!” Doren wrote in an e-mail to The Seattle Times. “When going down Cedar on our mountain bikes, we’ll sometimes walk it because of traffic and the hill. That seems messed up, especially when the pedicab driver is responsible for the passengers as well.”
Even though pedicabs have a long history in Seattle — and even made their North American debut here at the 1962 World’s Fair — officials with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission can’t recall a single pedicab-related fatality before Wednesday’s crash.
“This is the first time I’ve ever heard of a pedicab fatality,” said Dick Doane, the commission’s research manager. “It’s never shown up in our data before.”
Seattle Times researcher David Turim contributed to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sean Rose: 206-464-2292 or email@example.com