Michael Wang, 44, killed in a bicycle collision in Seattle Thursday afternoon, was the second cyclist to die on the road in the area in the past eight days.
Michael Wang’s portraits are on display in PATH offices around the world — the faces of people he met and put at ease taking photographs for the global health nonprofit in Seattle.
Wang, 44, who worked at PATH for six years, died Friday after he was struck while riding his bicycle Thursday. The driver of the SUV fled and has not been found by police.
Seattle police spokesman Jeff Kappel described the vehicle as a brown, American-made SUV with tinted windows and a chrome roof rack.
On Thursday, Wang was riding home from work on Dexter Avenue North in South Lake Union, as hundreds of commuters do every day.
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He’d been commuting by bike to his Shoreline home for years, said his wife, Claire Allen.
“It was to be healthy. It was to keep one more car off the road. It was to save us money, and it was to have a minute alone in between taking care of his kids and taking care of his work.”
Wang is the second bike commuter to die in recent days. On July 22, an 18-year-old driver swerved into John Przychodzen, 49, an installation foreman who had moved recently to Kirkland from Connecticut. Przychodzen was struck and killed on a curvy portion of Northeast Juanita Drive.
In a city poised to invest more money in bike lanes, where even the mayor often rides two wheels along Dexter Avenue to work, the two deaths are upsetting.
Members of the Cascade Bicycle Club, of which Wang was a member, declined Friday to talk about bike safety in light of the two accidents.
“We’re really shaken,” said spokeswoman M.J. Kelly. “It’s always scary when you hear that a bicyclist is killed that way.”
Although hundreds of bicyclists are injured each year in Seattle in collisions, it’s rare for a cyclist to die. In 2010, there was one fatality in Seattle, according to state data. Four cyclists died in collisions in 2009 in the city.
A 2009 Seattle count found an average of 145 riders an hour rode along Dexter during the morning commute. The stretch saw 14 bicyclists get hit by cars between 2008 and 2010, according to state transportation data.
The driver was at fault in almost every case, usually for failing to yield to the cyclist.
A scene of mourning
Wang was riding along Seattle’s busiest bicycle corridor when the SUV driver making a left turn onto Thomas Street hit him at about 3:45 p.m. Thursday.
Jon Cunningham, who works at a building at Dexter and Thomas, watched emergency responders attempt to revive Wang.
He had his own close call two years ago when a driver making a left-hand turn off Dexter hit him as he rode home on his bike.
“I, especially after that accident, expect cars to do unanticipated things,” he said.
At the accident scene Friday, mourners brought bouquets and notes. They put them at the base of a nearby sign.
“Thanks for being such a good friend,” said one note. “I’ll miss our runs to the I.D. for ‘Blue Collar’ Taiwanese lunch. I’ll miss your tips for kids and family life and most of all your talents as a true artist and photographer.”
A “ghost” bicycle, one painted all in white, was placed at the site, too, with a sign attached that read: “A cyclist died here.”
Wang was born in Taiwan and moved to New York City at age 9. When he was 17, his mother disappeared, said Wang’s wife. Wang’s father was so distraught that he left, leaving Wang to finish high school on his own.
Wang discovered his love of photography while in community college. He began doing magazine and commercial work, but, Allen said, “what he really loved to do was portraits.”
Allen described her husband as unpretentious and thoughtful.
“This was the happiest time of Michael’s life,” she said. “He loved being a father. He had come to some peace with the difficulty of his past.”
Wang and Allen had two children: Walter, 12, and Sylvie, 9. On his photography business website, Wang wrote about his love for photographing children.
“My son was born at 9:49 p.m.,” he wrote. “At 9:50 p.m., I shot the first picture of him: my first attempt at a portrait of a child. Since that night I’ve photographed almost exclusively children.”
His favorite photos from his work at PATH are on the organization’s website: small faces of Nicaraguan families, a Ukrainian mother with her newborn, the serious faces of Kenyan children.
“His images are iconic to PATH,” said Amy McIver, the organization’s spokeswoman. “He’s quite an amazing photographer.”
The family of the Kirkland cyclist is on the East Coast this week for his funeral. They have hired personal-injury attorneys to investigate his crash.
Attorney Chris Davis says Przychodzen was on the shoulder. Davis says the driver told investigators he swerved to avoid an oncoming car. After he hit Przychodzen his truck struck a pole.
Police have not yet released a report on the incident, which was in a part of King County that Kirkland annexed in June.
Bicycle safety and commuting are big political topics here, with more people choosing a two-wheeled commute, a bicycling mayor, and lots of tax dollars going toward improvements to bicycle lanes.
Bicycle advocates persuaded state lawmakers to pass a vulnerable-user bill in the last legislative session, which toughens penalties for negligent motorists who injure or kill a bicyclist, pedestrian or a motorcyclist.
But Seattle attorney James Rogers, who recently represented a bicyclist killed in Ballard, said nothing will help until drivers start paying more attention.
“People don’t know where there are bike lanes, or a lot of people don’t realize what they are,” he said.
“It’s a process of raising the consciousness of drivers of vehicles.”
Seattle Times staff reporters J.B. Wogan and Susan Gilmore and Times news researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report.
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org