Monday, September 8, 2014

Sher Kung Memorial Ride

For all my excitement to head off to NACCC the trip did start off on a sad note. A woman was killed riding her bike to work on 2nd avenue in Seattle that morning. I didn't find out any more details until the following week. As it seems is usual in these cases the victim isn't a reckless scofflaw riding through stop lights giving the finger to the cops, it is someone just like Sher Kung. A regular person with a regular job. A mother of a small child. Someone who was working to make her community better. She died doing something as mundane as riding a bicycle. An activity so safe we let young kids do it.

The cyclists that I ride with had all talked about how dangerous the bike lane on 2nd was. The term "deathtrap" gets used a lot to describe it. I am sad to say that is now true. Something that makes this even more tragic is that the city knew about the dangers and had a plan to change the bike lane in place. Those changes came to late.

I am also not convinced that those changes will make a big difference. I never rode in the old bike lane. I have no intention of using the new one. I feel more comfortable moving with car traffic and having room to maneuver. Maybe other cyclists will feel more at home in the protected lane. I am not sure that the changes will eliminate the dangerous turns though. I guess time will tell.

Today there was a memorial ride for Sher Kung. I was very impressed. The Seattle Police cleared the way for the group of bicycles on 2nd down to the Garden of Remembrance where the accident happened. There were some speeches and a moment of silence. The mood was somber and respectful.

The ride then continued down to pioneer square for a more charged discussion about the state of bike facilities in the city. Again, the group was guided by Seattle Police motor cycles. There wasn't much talking either.

I was struck by one image though. That is of a couple of kids no older than ten biking along with us. I don't know if they really understood what was going on. They were having a great time. Enjoying having a street all to themselves. No fear of having to dodge cars or getting honked at. Without the police escort I doubt they would be able to ride down second. Some bus or car would ride them off the road in short order. I realized that it wasn't the road that made it dangerous for these kids, it was the drivers. We have come to expect a level of danger in the people who operate very dangerous machines. There is no legal reason why those child cyclists could not be operating on the road. Instead it is our continued toleration of aggressive and callus driving that would normally regulate those kids and most others to back streets and bike lanes.

I hope that what we as a society come away from this tragedy with is not that we need more green paint on the road, but instead that we need to drive better. For all of you who drive like I do, take care. Slow down. Be aware of your surroundings. The person you share the road with may be a 10 year old boy, or the mother of a 7 month old girl.

If you want to help out the family of Sher Kung there is a fund set up here.


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