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Capitol Hill man walking his dog dies after being struck by driver at Belmont/Bellevue

The intersection where Wednesday's collision occurred (Image: CHS)

The intersection where Wednesday’s collision occurred (Image: CHS)

Max Richards at a playwriting class one week before he died. (Image: Marilyn Black)

Max Richards at a playwriting class one week before he died. (Image courtesy Marilyn Black with permission to CHS)

Max Richards was walking his Labrador Retriever Wednesday morning just blocks from his Capitol Hill apartment when the unthinkable happened.

As the 79-year-old and his dog walked across Belmont Ave E near Bellevue Place E, a vehicle struck Richards. He died later that evening from head injuries sustained in the collision. Pink, the dog, was unharmed. An officer who responded to the scene later told Richards’ wife Pink refused to leave the man’s side until he was taken to the hospital.

According to Seattle Police, the driver, a woman in her 40s, showed no signs of impairment. She was interviewed and released pending further investigation. A SPD spokesperson told CHS further details on the incident are not yet publicly available as the investigation in ongoing.

Marilyn Black, Richards’ wife of 20 years, told CHS her husband loved to walk around the neighborhood and make his daily stop inside nearby Barjot for a croissant. “It was a beautiful fall morning, I bet he just felt on top of the world,” Black said.

The area around Belmont and Bellevue — distinguished by the large heritage tree on a small patch of grass — is a steep, tightly packed stretch of road where neighbors have posted signs reminding motorists to slow down. There is no marked crosswalk at the intersection but, of course, it’s legal and expected for the hundreds of pedestrians who pass through this area every day to cross there.

Richards spent most of his career as a professor of English literature at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Two years ago this month, Richards and Black moved from Melbourne to Seattle so Black could attend a masters program at Seattle University. “He threw himself into exploring Seattle,” she said.

Pink (Image courtesy Marilyn Black with permission to CHS)

Pink (Image courtesy Marilyn Black with permission to CHS)

The couple had just recently signed a lease for a brand new condo in Melbourne overlooking the water, where they had planned to return to in 2018.

On Friday, Black wrote about the “unthinkable” tragedy in a message to friends. “In the space of a second, I lost my whole world. And the world lost a special human being,” she said, adding that she took comfort in knowing Pink and a circle of medics surrounded her husband.

I am sure that the serenity of his face as he passed was linked to these final vital experiences: a stunning Fall morning; a devoted family Labrador sharing fully in all his pleasures, and pains; and a circle of communion, holding his hand throughout the ordeal.

But how is it that he’s not lying beside me on our bed tonight? The dogs and I can’t fathom it.

UPDATE 9/26/2016: A city traffic engineer says the Seattle Department of Transportation will be conducting traffic counts at the intersection to determine need for a marked crosswalk:

UPDATE 9/29/2016: A memorial walk for Richards will take place Sunday, October 2nd:

Memorial Walk for Max Richards
Sunday, 10/2/2016 from 1 to 3 PM
Bellevue Pl E and Belmont Ave E
Max Richards was killed crossing at Bellevue and Belmont on Wednesday morning, September 21. Max was walking his dog in a legal crossing. We want to make sure this crossing and every crossing in Capitol Hill is safe for people who walk.

We will gather at the place where Max was killed. We’ll stop and remember Max, then walk to Cal Anderson Park to discuss ideas for how we can make streets better for walking on Capitol Hill. Along the way you can get to know your neighbors and hear about their stories about the difficulty of walking around Capitol Hill.

 

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caphill
caphill
4 years ago

So sad. Those streets around that end of Summit are really dangerous, narrow, and drivers routinely speed through there.

mike archambault
mike archambault
4 years ago
Reply to  caphill

So incredibly sad. I agree with everything you said except I have to point out the narrow streets aren’t the danger. It’s the wide intersections that encourage fast driving and fast turns. I mean, look at that picture…way more wide open pavement than is safe. Narrow streets and tighter turns force drivers to slow down.

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
4 years ago
Reply to  caphill

Mike, I agree with you. But this accident did not occur at the intersection pictured in this article (which is Belmont & Summit). It occurred at Belmont & Bellevue, which is a “normal” intersection.

J
J
4 years ago
Reply to  caphill

Bob, you are mistaken. The image is Belmont and Bellevue PLACE, which is where the accident occurred and not a “normal” intersection at all. As someone who used to drive on Capitol Hill for a living, I can tell you that this is very dangerous intersection indeed.

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
4 years ago
Reply to  caphill

You’re right, J, I was mistaken. Sorry. When I said it was a “normal” intersection, I was referring to it’s size. To me, it doesn’t seem any more dangerous than any other arterial intersection in Seattle. I walk through it several times a week, for years, and have never had a close call.

Kat
Kat
4 years ago

Oh, how devastating. I am so very, very sorry to read of this lovely man’s death and send condolences and prayers to his wife.

bb
bb
4 years ago

That’s a difficult place to cross. Even on a bicycle it makes me nervous as people are speeding down that hill.

genevieve
genevieve
4 years ago

This is so sad. Many condolences to Ms. Black on the loss of her beloved husband.

Former Bellevue Ave Resident
Former Bellevue Ave Resident
4 years ago

I remember him and his Lab (the dog always had a black bodysuit on for some reason?) walking by Barjot on a daily basis. So tragic and sad that this happened. I hope this brings the importance of speed control at this area of the hill. Many people zoom down and up the hill here, it’d be great to have flashing cross walks along the road periodically for pedestrians/bikes to safely cross. My condolences to the family and dog.

Hezzy
Hezzy
4 years ago

Many drivers have a fatal “I’m the only one in the world” attitude behind their wheels, as if it’s all a game. Please let us know what charges /outcome the driver will face.

boo
boo
4 years ago
Reply to  Hezzy

Probably nothing as it’s likely to be deemed an accident. At 79 it’s hard to dash across the street when there is an opening between speeding cars. People don’t stop for pedestrians as required by law very often around here.

Bob Knudson
Bob Knudson
4 years ago
Reply to  Hezzy

I think we need to know the specific facts of this incident in order to speculate that the driver should face charges. Sometimes an accident is just an accident.

Don Know
Don Know
4 years ago

It doesn’t say about this case, but it’s not just the drivers. I see so many people just hanging out in the street like it’s their living room or something, having conversations, walking in the middle of the road, running with baby carriages! At the bottom of a steep hill!! At dusk!!! I’ve seen this more than once, many, many times.

mike archambault
mike archambault
4 years ago
Reply to  Don Know

And therefore we should all drive on our neighborhood streets as if there is always someone walking in the middle of the road. If we all drive slow enough, we’ll be able to see them and stop in time without killing them.

poop
poop
4 years ago
Reply to  Don Know

Yes, the big problem with public streets is that the public uses them. They are not just for cars.

Ryan Packer
Ryan Packer
4 years ago
Reply to  Don Know

What you just described is a great urban space and is exactly why I live on the hill.

Slow down.

lulurivers
lulurivers
4 years ago

All I can say is that this street is very, very dangerous! As a driver and cyclist, I am always extremely cautious when traveling on this road.

I don’t know the specifics of this incident but if the driver was indeed going 10 to 15 MPH then I don’t know how you can go any slower than that. Accidents do happen and the reality is that this can happen to any of us as pedestrians, drivers and cyclists. What is important is for all of us to think how we can prevent this from happening again so that Max’s death is not in vain.

I suggest that this is a good opportunity for the city to find ways to make it safer for “everyone” to use.

Dennis O'Leary
Dennis O'Leary
4 years ago

I wonder if this driver was on a cell or texting.
There should be some speed control devices on that hill. Cars go very fast for what is a residential street.

Lucas T
Lucas T
4 years ago

For anyone who is interested, we are petitioning Christopher Eaves of the SDOT to place a crosswalk at this intersection. We would appreciate as much community participation as possible.

https://www.change.org/p/christopher-eaves-petition-sdot-for-a-crosswalk-at-belmont-ave-e-bellevue-place-e?recruiter=601278701&utm_source=share_for_starters&utm_medium=copyLink

CD neighbor
CD neighbor
4 years ago
Reply to  Lucas T

The sad thing is, is that there IS a crosswalk there… Any place where two or more streets come together is a crosswalk, whether or not white lines are painted on the street. Painting lines and adding signs or even flashing lights (ask the little kid who was hit in Federal Way if it helped) won’t slow people down or make them any more attentive. This is a great example of why we should have a 20 mph speed limit – that is enforced – on many of our city streets.

tangerine
tangerine
4 years ago

A total and tragic waste. Neighborhood speed limits are a big issue for pedestrian safety: survival rates goes up exponentially the slower a car is traveling. You have a 95% chance of surviving when the car is going 20mph; 55% at 30mph; 15% chance at 40mph.

wayoutwest
wayoutwest
4 years ago

I sent several emails in the past month to SDOT about sight lines blocked at this very intersection due to hedges in front of the row of condos
As Belmont descends the hedges and telephone poll can almost completely block out the views of cars coming downhill on Belmont if you are crossing from Bellevue Ave E. If the police report on the accident shows car travelling downhill on Belmont and pedestrian travelling east on Bellevue – I would say that sight lines are a factor.

jen
jen
4 years ago

I am so sad to hear of another tragic loss, car versus pedestrian! RIP Max.
Way too much speeding on capitol hill. Almost hit so many times walking and biking. Most streets need to be 20 MPH MAX, add speed bumps??!!

Andrew Gabriel
Andrew Gabriel
3 years ago

I knew Max Richards. I was taught American Lit by him 25 years ago at La Trobe Uni in Melbourne Australia. A very kind and gentle man and quite a gifted poet.