With her memorial “ghost bike” now marking the spot where she suffered her fatal crash on E Yesler along the First Hill Streetcar tracks, the family of Desiree McCloud is calling for the city to act to make the tracks safer.
“If they want to promote cycling in this town, then throwing something that is so hazardous in [bikers’] way doesn’t seem an intelligent thing to do,” McCloud’s mother told KOMO.
With McCloud’s death last week after 11 days of hospitalization following the May 13th crash at 13th and Yesler, CHS asked Seattle Department of Transportation officials what was being done to make the area where she crashed safer for bike riders. “At this juncture, we do not know if the streetcar tracks played any role in the crash,” a SDOT statement sent to CHS read. “The bike lanes are separate and outside of the streetcar’s trackway at this location on Yesler. Careful consideration about bike facilities occurred during the design of the First Hill Streetcar’s alignment, with bike lanes placed away from the rails and rail crossing points designed as near to perpendicular as possible.”
According to the police report on the incident, friends riding with McCloud the morning of the 10 AM crash told police that she appeared to wobble as they rode together westbound on E Yesler. One said she appeared to slip on or near the First Hill Streetcar tracks which run along E Yesler starting at 12th Ave. Two of the riders crashed and McCloud reportedly flipped over her handlebars and hit the pavement. Arriving medics found her face down in the middle of E Yesler, her body and her face scraped from the crash despite her helmet. McCloud’s family members and friends say her wheel got stuck in the track.
Any safety improvements by SDOT are unlikely to involve the actual track beds which are designed for streetcar train tires used around the world. But there appear to be several options for making the area where McCloud crashed safer. On E Yesler where she fell, the tracks curve onto the street to and from 14th Ave and are adjacent marked bike lanes and yellow signs warn of the tracks. There is nothing to prevent a rider from inadvertently crossing into the track line where tires get easily stuck. Removing street parking and creating a more robust bike lane for westbound riders could be one option — though we’re not sure how to squeeze in something safer for eastbound riders. Elsewhere on the First Hill Streetcar route, planners included the separated Broadway bikeway. For any new Seattle streetcar tracks, the incident will hopefully boost support for separated cycle tracks along new lines.