Post navigation

Prev: (02/18/14) | Next: (02/19/14)

Man attacks cyclist for (lawfully) riding up Denny Way sidewalk

A man struck a cyclist and knocked him off his bike for riding past him on a Denny Way sidewalk near Summit Ave, according to Seattle Police. The suspect, who police were unable to locate, then told the victim “this is what you get for riding on the sidewalk.” The victim was not seriously injured. For the record, bicycling on Seattle sidewalks is perfectly legal as long as cyclists yield to pedestrians. Here’s the SPD Blotter report:

Seattle police were called to the western slope of Capitol Hill Saturday afternoon after a cyclist called 911 and said he was attacked for riding on the sidewalk.

The cyclist called police around 1 pm and told officers he was slowly riding east up Denny Way near Summit Ave when he passed a man on the sidewalk.

The man, who was carrying a full can of soda in his hand, took a swing at the cyclist, striking him in the neck and knocking him off his bike.

The suspect then told the victim ”this is what you get for riding on the sidewalk.”

The victim—who was not seriously injured—collected himself and walked up the hill away from the suspect, who continued screaming obscenities at the cyclist.

After returning home, the cyclist called police to report the incident. Officers searched the neighborhood, but weren’t able to find the suspect.

Now we’d like to remind all of you that, yes, cyclists (including SPD and King County Sheriff’s Office bike patrol officers) are able to lawfully ride on sidewalks, as long as they pedal carefully and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. From the Seattle Municipal Code:

11.44.120 Riding on sidewalk or public path.

Every person operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk or public path shall operate the same in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the amount and character of pedestrian traffic, grade and width of sidewalk or public path, and condition of surface, and shall obey all traffic-control devices. Every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk or public path shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian thereon, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing any pedestrian.


Subscribe and support CHS Contributors -- $1/$5/$10 per month

57 thoughts on “Man attacks cyclist for (lawfully) riding up Denny Way sidewalk

  1. Oh man, I don’t know whose side I’m on. Yes, it is wrong to attack someone, yes it is legal to ride on the sidewalk, but I can recall 3 occasions in the last 3 decades when a bicycle rider gave me an audible signal before passing, and so few manage to conform to all of the above listed rules of operation. So, did the bicycle rider get what he deserved? Wouldn’t surprise me at all. If he did get what he deserved will he be more considerate of pedestrians in the future? I strongly doubt it, but I hope so. Road rage incidents of all kinds almost always start because someone did something selfish.

    Oh, SPD bike officers don’t know how to ride properly either…or don’t care, so I don’t expect to ever see enforcement. It’s anarchy on the sidewalks.

    • Pedestrians attacking strangers and cursing them on the street with impunity for minor offenses real or imagined is pretty much the definition of anarchy. But you think that might be an okay way to educate your neighbors to be more considerate. Road rage incidents? Usually the fault of the victims.

      You are evidently on the side of not thinking too clearly.

      • YOU don’t get a personal dictionary…. you pretty much have to use the same one everyone else does–it’s called conforming to societal standards or, simply…. “getting along.”

    • Road rage starts when someone is a raging idiot who feels insecure enough to need to give others “what they deserve.” Nice victim blaming, though.

  2. At some level, this is a nice reminder, but what do you think the chances are that the behavior of this apparent mental-defective would be affected in any way by knowing that the cyclist was riding legally? Striking a stranger- battery- is a pretty serious offense. Let’s guess that the cyclist’s actual sin was getting within punching distance. I guess we need a reminder that unprovoked assaults are criminal offense.

  3. Just because something is within the bounds of legality does not mean that it is a reasonable or responsible thing to do.

    For instance: it is perfectly legal for me to let my dog go potty in the planted median between the sidewalk and the road. It is also perfectly legal for someone to plant a vegetable garden in the planter strip in front of her house. It would be legal, but an awfully bad idea, for me to let my dog piss all over her vegetables.

    I have no doubt that the person who attacked this cyclist was a crazy person. I also have no doubt that a grown-ass adult has absolutely no goddamn business riding a bicycle on a sidewalk unless the road conditions leave no other alternative – and even then, the cyclist ought to creep along at a pedestrian’s pace.

    • I’m sorry you don’t like cyclists on the sidewalk. There are many things I do not like, but me not liking them does not make those things unreasonable or irresponsible.

      This section of Denny leaves no alternative but to ride on the sidewalk. It is also extremely difficult to exceed pedestrian speed on such an incline, and this the very thing that makes climbing that hill in traffic unsafe.

  4. It does say that he was riding slowly, and up the hill, which is pretty steep at that particular location. It is actually safer for everyone if you just walk your bike on the sidewalk there, but riding slowly is also not a big deal. There are plenty of times when it is reasonable to ride on the sidewalk, that is why the law is written to allow for it. People are becoming so openly hostile to bicyclists, and to see these attempts to justify it with such tortured logic is upsetting.

    It is actually never okay to strike somebody because you don’t like what they’re doing. Just like it wouldn’t be okay for me to punch you if you let your dog piss on my vegetables.

  5. Of course my comment, all the other comments, and the original story itself only tell one persons side of the story. It is possible that the bicyclist struck the pedestrian or yelled at him to get out of the way. We will never know the whole truth, or even another version of the truth, as long as we only have one side.

    What’s that old saying — There are three sides to every story-your side, my side and the truth.

    • Good point. We do not know what kind of behavior on the part of the cyclist led to the incident. It is entirely possible that he was riding recklessly and not in accordance with the regulations. But no matter what, an assault was not justified, and I hope they find the suspect.

      I didn’t realize an audible warning by sidewalk cyclists is required….I have never experienced this….but it is a good requirement, and would help ensure pedestrian safety.

      • So I ride this section of Denny sidewalk daily but do not give an audible warning when passing for a couple reasons. First, when I’m the pedestrian I find it irritating when a cyclist yells at me or otherwise tries to get me to move over. Second, the number of people with their headphones in or otherwise engaged with their smart devices makes it an almost pointless exercise, and third, the only times I’ve been yelled at for “illegally” riding on the sidewalk were when I said calm voice “Excuse me, I’m going to come by on your left” (did I mention that I HATE cyclists that yell at pedestrians?)

        I’m willing to give it a try again. I certainly do not want to be the ugly cyclist. I will say though that the complaints on this blog in no way reflect my 3 decades of experience as a pedestrian in Seattle – I’ve only seen a couple examples of stupid sidewalk riders in that time. Anyway, we’ll see how it goes!

      • I just remembered that I have occasionally been given a “warning” when a cyclist approaches from behind…and that has been in the form of an old-fashioned bell/ringer. This seems a lot better than a loud shout, which can startle a pedestrian, and usually comes across as a demand to get out of the way. The bell/ringer is much more polite, and would still be effective. Cyclists, what do you think?

      • Yes, bells are an excellent idea. I have a bell on my bike and use it all the time. Many places in Europe where cycling is better integrated into the overall transportation system actually require bikes to carry bells, because they are such a valuable safety device in crowded areas – not just for pedestrians, but also other bikes. I am generally against more regulation on bicycles, but I would certainly support a law requiring bikes to have bells.

  6. “bicycling on Seattle sidewalks is perfectly legal”

    This needs to change.

    If there is a bike lane, then using it should be mandatory for cyclists.

  7. As a cyclist, it’s comforting to know that in spite of the fact that it’s legal for me to ride either in the street or on the sidewalk, I can get yelled at from folks when I do either. I agree that generally it’s best for bikes to be on the road. I just wish my fellow cyclists would give drivers less reason to be angry at all of us. Oh well.

    • Some of you “cyclists” have such a boohoo poor me victim mentality. No, if you walk on the sidewalk like an asshole, you will get yelled at. If you drive on the street like an asshole, you will get yelled at. If you bike like an asshole on the street or the sidewalk, you will get yelled at.

      Next you’re going to tell me no cyclist has ever done anything deserving of being yelled at right.

      • Did you read his whole post?

        Hugh: I just wish my fellow cyclists would give drivers less reason to be angry at all of us.

        really: Next you’re going to tell me no cyclist has ever done anything deserving of being yelled at right.

        So are you going to tell me no driver has ever yelled at a cyclist who was following the law and not being an asshole?

  8. Not enough facts to be sure, but the only way I can imagine striking such a cyclist passing me on a sidewalk would be if the approach was so sudden that it startled me and my swing was a mere reflexive action. But then, I’d be apologetic, help the guy up, see that he was not hurt, offer aid, etc. which is hardly much like what this guy said or did.

    • your reaction to being startled is to punch wildly? where did you grow up, in the woods with bears? when i’m startled i usually jump or flinch. my natural inclination isn’t to beat someone.

  9. i just want to get this straight: what happened was that a cyclist was legally riding up denny and some maniac clocks him, and folks are somehow–tortuously–injecting their own imagined spin on the story so that the cyclist must have “got what he deserved” and “has absolutely no goddam business riding on the sidewalk.” you know what block we’re talking about here, right? riding uphill on that very narrow street would be pretty dangerous, not to mention it would tie up traffic. but i guess it might be safer than riding on the sidewalk, which the cyclist is perfectly entitled to do, because it might offend the crybabies like JayH and white boy to the point that they’re willing to rationalize someone getting punched for riding their bike up a hill.

    if this story was about some guy in his car getting randomly punched by a pedestrian he just passed, i wonder what the likelihood is that we’d assume the driver had done something terrible? why is it that people don’t get all hot and bothered about the awful driving that goes on everywhere, all the time, and carry on this fiction that cyclists are the only ones capable of being jerks?

    • Also consider the ramifications of punching someone. If that person is on blood thinners, has had a brain injury in the past, has their head held together with metal or their spine erector set held together, you might very well kill that person. I’ve just described my brother, who must travel always now on the sidewalk because an inattentive driver already almost ground him in to paste riding in the bike lane. Anyone defending a lunatic for punching a stranger for a perceived slight needs anger management counseling, seriously. Y’all are disturbed.

  10. It’s not okay to hit someone who is riding their bike on the sidewalk. That said, I think a lot of people are getting fed up with the manner that many cyclists in Seattle use the sidewalks, which are not an extension of bike paths. You cyclists need to slow down, give an audible passing warning, and simply be more considerate to pedestrians. And yes, some cyclists in Seattle can take that hill at a good clip, even going up.

    And Seattle needs to do something about Denny Way. A lot of cyclists use it, and it’s rotten for them. Sidewalks are crowded, no bike paths, no marked sharrows and it’s not like there are other streets they can use to get up Capitol Hill.

  11. I say the glass is half-full. All the dickhead sidewalk bicyclists reading this post may reconsider doing so in the future. Alas, I wish all of them could read.

  12. I’d never NORMALLY ride on the sidewalk, but if I recall correctly Denny Way at Summit is VERY hilly. Assuming he was riding uphill, he himself is far safer and he’s much less in the way of others if he’s on the sidewalk, as opposed to holding up traffic and putting himself at risk on the street. In my opinion, this is one place riding on the sidewalk is more than warranted.

  13. Without getting into the cyclist vs. not-cyclist contest, I must say that this section of Denny is a pretty appalling example of 1950s-style highway engineering in all its glory. Denny is a major pedestrian connection between downtown and Cap Hill, and we get no sidewalk on the north side of the bridge – how messed up is that. Further up the hill, tiny little 6-foot sidewalks next to four lanes of zooming traffic – no wonder people are punching and shoving over the little scraps of leftover space. I have sympathy for both pedestrians and cyclists in this type of setting, and the bottom line is that in a crowded city it is far more logical and efficient to provide generous space to those modes of transportation than to private automobiles.

  14. For starters, violence is simply wrong. As a pedestrian, I’ll attest that I’ve been endangered quite a number of times while walking on sidewalks by bicyclists. Always young men going very fast and giving no warning at all. If I had for some reason moved six inches or so I would have been slammed into and probably been badly hurt. Folks, please, please, please, be aware of pedestrians on sidewalks and give us verbal warning. Thanks.

  15. Okay, I’m just going to say that it’s totally wrong to rape someone. But I can think of at least three different occasions where I saw a lady wearing way too revealing clothing around here. And, like, my friend or something once saw some lady bend over in a short dress to pick up something in front of him. I mean, I’m not justifying attacking women on the street or anything, but these ladies need to respect that some people just can’t help themselves.

    Oh wait, sorry, we were talking about why it is that every time a story comes out about an unprovoked attack on a cyclist people start injecting irrelevant anecdotes to assume that it was somehow the cyclists fault. Kind of messed up reasoning, yeah?

    Assaulting people for WHATEVER reason is not okay. Period. Some of you should remember that.

    • Crappy strawman argument & absurd. Most agree with you that retaliatory violence is wrong. But you’re scaring people, dude, with your bike. And not just old people with fragile hips. Slow down.

      • You obviously don’t know what a strawman is. Everything else you said is irrelevant to what was described in this article. If the suspect felt threatened or was accosted by the cyclist, he could have stayed and made his report. Instead he attacked somebody and ran.

        And I don’t ride a bike on Capitol Hill. Too many terrible drivers. And people who are more than happy to blame victims of random attacks, apparently.

      • And there’s no evidence that this attack was “retaliatory,” just that it was an attack. You are just injecting your own personal bias into a situation where you don’t have all the facts, like seemingly every other sociopath on here who thinks it’s okay to attack people because they have an axe to grind with a certain subset of cyclists.

  16. Can’t we all just get along. Some bike riders are total a-holes, but most aren’t. I grew up in Virginia Beach and it is absolutely illegal to ride a bike on any sidewalk for any reason. If you must go on the sidewalk you have to get off and walk your bike. Also, if you are a licensed driver you must have your license on your person when riding a bike and cops actually do cite bicyclists for speeding and other traffic infractions and they go onto your driving record as if you were driving a car!

    I don’t think it’s practical to ban bicyclists from the sidewalks of Seattle. Virginia Beach was mostly built after cars so the roads are a little more friendly. But I do think that more needs to be done for the few bicyclists who don’t obey traffic laws at all.

    I have come very close a few times to knocking people off their bikes because they startled me. This is partially my fault because I never leave the house without headphones in to drown out panhandlers and tweakers. Sometimes the person just warning me that they are passing me startles the piss out of me. But it’s as much my responsibility to be aware of what is going on around me as it is for bicyclists to share the sidewalk in a friendly and safe way. All of those sidewalk cafe’s on Broadway make things so dangerous for everyone though. If they are going to allow the sidewalk cafes they should widen the sidewalks and take out the parking, IMHO.

      • You clearly didn’t read my entire post, because I clearly stated that I didn’t think it was reasonable for Seattle. I was simply making an anecdotal comparison of two cities that I have lived in. I don’t think I was making any suggestion that Seattle become more like Virginia Beach. But feel free to keep on trolling.

  17. Denny way is so steep near bellevue/summit, I definitely would ride my bike up the sidewalk as opposed to the narrow, overcrowded, 4 lane road with no bike lane as I am going uphill on Denny so that I don’t get hit by a car or get some road-raged driver messing up my uphill momentum. The sidewalk is also quite wide and all paved on that side of the street. Sounds like this bicyclist was minding their own business (and abiding by the law) and some a-hole sidewalk-rager assaulted him. I probably would’ve called the cops much sooner.

  18. If the pedestrian in this case punched the cyclist, that is assault and is unacceptable. That being said, pedestrians almost always have much more to fear from cyclists.

    In my almost 25 years as a pedestrian commuter in Seattle, I have only had one audible notice by a cyclist on a sidewalk. She was within six inches of me when she yelled “your left,” and it really startled me. Bikes are a lot quieter than footsteps when approaching, so you cannot hear them until they are right on you. For safety reasons I never use headphones or a phone when walking, and I still can’t hear people on bikes. I don’t understand why a cyclist doesn’t have to yield to pedestrians at all times while on the sidewalk. Why does the pedestrian have to move out of the way when a cyclist comes up behind them?

    Another thing I have noted is that a cyclist has never once stopped to let me cross in a marked sidewalk, even when I have stepped off the curb with a clear intention to cross. Over the years, this has happened thousands of times; they just ride by like the rules don’t apply to them.

    I walk year-round, and in all types of weather, and have almost been hit by both cyclists and motorists. Without fail, the cyclists are extremely rude and never apologize.

    If cyclists had to carry liability insurance, they might be a little more careful of others.

    • This post has a reasoned tone to it overall, but I must say that when people start talking about bicycles being insured and licensed it generally strikes me as a cynical attempt to take a fundamentally very simple, inexpensive and safe form of transportation and basically regulate it out of existence.

    • A cyclist does, by law (RCW 46.61.261), have to yield to you as a pedestrian. If you maintain your course you might even find that they are trying to do so (all cyclists are also pedestrians once they get off their bicycles). Many pedestrians feel the need to start dancing around the sidewalk as soon as they see a bicycle. Don’t do that! Just keep walking and the bicycle will go around you. You have no idea how irritating it is for the cyclist when you try to move out of the way!

      As for liability insurance, I don’t get that argument. If a cyclist injures you and is found to be at fault, they are liable, insurance or no. If they have insurance, they do not have to personally pay. That seems like LESS of an incentive if you ask me. If you want proof just look at how careless autombile drivers are.

  19. I am far less concerned about cyclists than skateboarders. I have been knocked over and run into a number of times by these people, and they always just laugh. I hate them being there.

  20. In my opinion, the law in Seattle should be revised to require cyclists to walk their bikes when on the sidewalk. It just isn’t that much to ask, and would obviously increase pedestrian safety. If I’m not mistaken, cyclists usually switch from road to sidewalk for just a few blocks, in areas that are steeper or more dangerous to stay on the road. Everyone is in such a hurry. Is it really that big a deal if you have to slow down your transit time a little bit in order to make the sidewalks safer for everyone?

    • You say it would obviously increase pedestrian safety. Do you have numbers that back this up? Is there proof that cyclist-pedestrian collisions have gotten to a point where we need legislature?

      • No, I don’t have any numbers. But it’s just common sense. Do we always have to wait until there are more problems before we act in a preventive way?

      • I agree we should be proactive about these type of issues – but with more bicycle infrastructure, not more regulations. Cycling is becoming more and more popular because it is a fun, healthy, inexpensive, environmentally friendly and very efficient way of getting around in a crowded city. There needs to be a dedicated bike route between Capitol Hill and downtown, then there would be fewer bike-pedestrian and bike-car incidents like this.

      • Good point. But I think, in addition to your suggestions, a ban on sidewalk cycling would help in the short term….until we have more bicycle infrastructure in place.

      • A ban on sidewalk cycling would make a tiny improvement in safety for pedestrians and drastically more dangerous for cyclists and aggravating for motorists. And at the rate Seattle is going, it’s going to be another twenty years before we really have a robust system of cycle tracks in the city. Anyway, the real hazard to pedestrians is not from bicycles but from motor vehicles – if we want to improve safety for people on foot there is a lot we can do with sidewalks and crosswalks to address the threat from cars.

  21. I live in north Carolina I ride my bike every day almost I try to stick to the back roads an side streets even them are dangerous. I have almost been hit once i was coming up a hill on the right and a car from the left was way over in the middle of the road i could not get over any fother then i was do to cars being parked on the side.They speed down these little roads like its nothing to them. When I’m in town I don’t bother to ride on the road its just to much trafick for me I just hop on the side walk when I see people I get off my bike if its more then one person I’m passing.