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Another serious crash on First Hill Streetcar tracks?

A warning sign on Yesler (Image: CHS)

A warning sign on Yesler (Image: CHS)

It’s not just bicycle riders that face dangers from the First Hill Streetcar tracks. KOMO has a report on a May 20th scooter crash on the tracks at 12th and Jackson:

The Tukwila nurse was on her way to work at Group Health in Seattle when she crashed her Vespa on May 20th. Investigators are still trying to determine what happened between the scooter and the tracks of the First Hill Streetcar at 12th Avenue S. and South Jackson Street, said Det. Mark Jamieson of the Seattle Police Department, “I know that there’s some streetcar tracks there,” Jamieson said. “She may have hit that and spilled.”

As investigators are examining the role of the streetcar tracks in the crash, victim Denise Chew is also facing the indignity of having the tow yard auction off her new Vespa during her hospitalization.

CHS reported on the May death of rider Desiree McCloud in a crash involving the streetcar tracks near 13th and Yesler. The investigation of that incident has also not been concluded. “At this juncture, we do not know if the streetcar tracks played any role in the crash,” a statement from SDOT after McCloud’s death 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.” McCloud’s family has called for changes to be made to make the tracks safer. Elsewhere on the First Hill Streetcar route, planners included the separated Broadway bikeway to reduce bicyclist interactions with the tracks.

More safely separated bike routes from the streetcar tracks could be part of the answer but incidents like Chew’s crash on Jackson might be even more difficult to prevent if it turns out that standard scooter tires are also at danger of getting stuck in track beds or slipping on rails. If you are on two wheels, the City of Seattle may have inadvertently made its streets even more dangerous.

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fluffy (@fluffy)
4 years ago

Anecdotally, whenever I drive my car along the tracks on Broadway I can always feel the tires slipping whenever they line up – it doesn’t surprise me that smaller vehicles have way more trouble staying upright when crossing over them. I wonder if there’s some sort of surfacing they can do to the rails where bicycles and scooters cross them, in order to increase the friction.

NT
NT
4 years ago

Driving in my car, I can feel it slip and slide all over the road when I’m on the tracks. I drive super slow when it’s rainy. I wouldn’t be surprised if the tracks were the culprit in this crash. I’m just glad Ms. Chew is alive. Also why is the tow yard auctioning off her Vespa?

Jim98122x
Jim98122x
4 years ago
Reply to  NT

An article elsewhere said the tow yard didn’t get any indication there was a “police hold” on the scooter. They sent two registered letters to the woman, the 2nd after 21 days or the like, but she was in hospital and apparently nobody was tending to her mail. With no answer they auctioned off the scooter because they didn’t know any differently. Then the guy who won the scooter came looking for the keys. That’s when the friends found out her new scooter had been auctioned off.

Del
Del
4 years ago
Reply to  NT

You’d think if they towed the scooter from an accident site they’d contact SPD to locate the owner. Registered mail requires a signature upon delivery – kind of hard if the addressee is in the hospital. It sounds like the person who bought it at auction had little difficulty tracking down the owner.

Ella
Ella
4 years ago

I own a Vespa and no longer drive the stretch of roads where the tracks are. If you are someone who regularly drives a bike/motorcycle/scooter this should be something you are well aware of. I also live on Melrose Ave where there is a huge drop off in the pavement and almost have flipped my vespa you have to be 100% aware of your surroundings all the time. You are very vulnerable in every situation when it comes to riding around this city.

Josh
Josh
4 years ago

SDOT can’t credibly claim the added risk was inadvertent. Read their own consultant’s reports from before the SLUT tracks went in. They know streetcar tracks are hazardous for all 2-wheeled vehicles and chose not to prohibit bikes of all sorts despite the risks.

The bike lanes are substandard, mostly in the door zone, beside driveways and parkibg. SDOT knows bikes can’t safely stay in those bike lanes all the time. The bike lane stripe is a legal maneuver to evade liability, not safety infrastructure.

seattlecarol
seattlecarol
4 years ago
Reply to  Josh

Exactly my thoughts. The stretch where Desiree lost her life is an accident waiting to happen every day. The bike lane runs parallel to the tracks. If you encounter a door or other emergency and leave the bike lane you will slip into the tracks. The only choice you will have is how you want to crash because you will crash.
Remove parking and move the bike lane over or remove the bike lane.

Everyone and anyone who has been injured due to the tracks needs a lawyer and a copy of the consultant’s report. Perhaps if it gets expensive enough SDOT will be forced to make changes. Injury & loss of life apparently does not matter.

Kelly Rene
Kelly Rene
4 years ago

Jamison’s remark that “she may have hit that and spilled ” is both disingenuous and callous. ALL eye witness accounts state that her Tire hit the track and just stuck launching her from the scooter onto the pavement. This is a decades long issue that the city just continues to ignore. How many more deaths, permanent traumatic brain injury and maiming are okay? What is the magic number we need to reach in order to get remedial action?

M_Dude
M_Dude
4 years ago

It’s time we accept Mike McGinn’s street car is a disaster and remove it ASAP. Nobody rides it, it’s dangerous, nobody likes it, it’s a stupid idea, replace this stupidity with a bus.

Mattypoo
Mattypoo
4 years ago
Reply to  M_Dude

I rode it today in the early afternoon, there were a lot of people on there with me. Students, an elderly man, a woman with an infant and stroller. In fact, I’ve ridden it 4 times in the last week, many people on it each time.

Anton
Anton
4 years ago
Reply to  M_Dude

And ridership has been growing steadily too. Just because people are uninformed about safe riding of two-wheelers around tracks doesn’t mean we can’t have tracks.

M_Dude
M_Dude
4 years ago
Reply to  M_Dude

Good point, people DO ride the two-wheel death machine. The only problem is, per mile it’s far more expensive than a normal bus and it has far less ridership than most bus routes. More cost less riders more danger. Time to go.

http://www.capitolhillseattle.com/2016/05/ok-now-we-know-how-many-people-are-riding-the-first-hill-streetcar/

TM Lai
TM Lai
4 years ago

I have a 50 c.c. scooter and had an accident when turning left to cross the street car tracks at Broadway and Pike. It happened after a shower and I sensed it could be slippery so I went very slowly. Still, it’s too slippery for my scooter and it fell. Luckily I only got some bruises. Yes, 2-wheel vehicles and street-car tracks, especially after rain, can be deadly. The SDOT shall put up signs to alert riders of bikes and motorcycles or relocate the bike lane.