Bicyclists say roadways with streetcar infrastructure are dangerous because bike tires can get stuck in the tracks.
After a somber memorial walk Monday night in Seattle’s Central District, cyclists called for changes to the bike infrastructure on East Yesler Way and for examination of how Seattle streetcar tracks are designed to interact with bicycles.
The memorial, organized by Seattle Greenways, was for Desiree McCloud, a 27-year-old cyclist who was killed in a collision about a month ago near streetcar tracks on East Yesler Way. Police are investigating whether the streetcar tracks played a role.
Family, friends and other cyclists said the stretch of roadway and others with streetcar infrastructure are dangerous because bike tires can get stuck in the tracks.
Organizers of a community meeting after the memorial called for a show of hands, asking how many people had fallen on streetcar tracks. About one-quarter of the 40 people in attendance raised their hands.
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Cody McCloud, Desiree’s brother, said he’s fallen on streetcar tracks in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
“Sometimes you just choose where you (fall). … Sometimes you can’t choose,” he said.
Cyclists were most concerned about the intersection of 14th Avenue and East Yesler Way. Riders traveling west face a number of obstacles at that intersection, said Adam Dodge, a friend of Desiree McCloud’s.
As cyclists travel west on East Yesler Way, riders are part of car traffic until they reach 14th Avenue. Once across the intersection, they can ride in a painted bike lane. Streetcar tracks from the south curve along East Yesler Way and run alongside the bike lane after 14th.
Dodge noted that the intersection is at the bottom of a hill, which gives cyclists little time to navigate the transition, avoid streetcar tracks and watch for car doors next to the bike lane.
Dodge suggested extending an existing protected bike lane to 14th Avenue.
Jeff Dubrule, who had not ridden in the area before, said he found the intersection confusing and lacking sufficient markings or signs.
“I didn’t know what the right place to go was,” he said.
Maria Antoniak, a friend of Desiree McCloud, said the two were riding together when McCloud crashed.
“We chose Yesler on purpose. We thought it would be a safe route,” she said.
Antoniak said she did not see McCloud crash but believed the streetcar tracks played a role.
“I feel personally convinced they (the streetcar tracks) were involved in the crash. Even if her tire didn’t get caught, it likely distracted her,” Antoniak said. “I didn’t know there were tracks. I didn’t know it was coming. … It’s clear to me the design was poor.”
Two Seattle Department of Transportation representatives attended the meeting.
City traffic engineer Dongho Chang said the city would look to implement short-term changes in the area.
“We don’t want people to get hurt … we want to make changes if it makes the traffic experience easier and more comfortable,” Chang said. “We are still waiting for our Police Department to produce some additional data. We heard feedback from the community and we’ll take that back for spot changes.”
Chang said it was helpful to hear from cyclists who regularly use the bike lanes.
As Seattle considers a third streetcar line on First Avenue, some cyclists wondered how to prevent conflict.
“If the streetcar project is going to harm people, we need to consider the bike lane as a mitigation plan,” said Kelli Refer of Cascade Bicycle Club.
Cody McCloud wondered why Seattle invested in streetcars in the first place.
“Can you name one thing, one positive thing, a streetcar can do that a bus can’t?“ he asked.
His sister’s death does not feel real to him, he said.
“It hits me like a ton of bricks every day. Desiree’s not here right now,” he said. “I was supposed to grow old and fat with my sister always telling me what to do.”