Kent’s Zero Vision Plan Injures and Kills People

     Washington Bike Law believes in #VisionZero. Many people haven’t heard of Vision Zero, which is fine if they don’t have anything to do with transportation or law enforcement, but outrageous if they do.
    The following is a search on Kent’s website for Vision Zero plan:
   The website’s search asks, “did you mean vision AND eros?”  Well sure, we’d LOVE for Kent to have shown a vision for safe streets, but alas, nothing is to be found… #ZeroVision.
     We  represent a client who was seriously injured in Kent, Washington when he was stuck in a marked crosswalk. He is suing Kent for having Zero Vision– meaning in that case, not just that Kent failed to adopt Vision Zero, but that it failed to meet the bare legal minimum of having streets reasonably safe for ordinary travel.
     Our client was riding to work on the Interurban Trail, but had to cross Willis Street along the way.
     Unfortunately for our client (and others who use crosswalks there) the City of Kent was not thinking about Vision Zero when it designed the crosswalk where our client was struck and– apparently– others in the city.
     The city intentionally designed traffic lights to default to red for anyone using the Interurban Trail. Our client stopped and pressed what is sometimes called a Beg Button to get a green light to cross the street. Only after he had a green light did he enter the street.
     Traffic on 74th Avenue South, which is more or less parallel to the Interurban Trail, also had a red light. The driver who struck our client stopped for that red light and was in a right-turn-only lane with a separate signal. Drivers on 74th Avenue get a green light AT THE SAME TIME AS THE GREEN LIGHT FOR THE CROSSWALK.
     This is a “T” intersection. Traffic from this conflicting light could ONLY turn through the crosswalk with the conflicting signal. While this is obviously dangerous, the City of Kent claimed that it was fine even after we called their attention to it and asked them to make changes.
     By the way, if a municipality (or any defendant) makes changes after an injury due to its negligence, the fact that they made these changes (usually called “subsequent remedial measures”) is generally not admissible to prove negligence. This evidence rule is intended to promote safety, but the City of Kent apparently didn’t see it that way.
     From 2016 to 2018 Washington Bike Law wrote the city of Kent on six separate occasions asking them to please make changes.
     In our last letter before they hired a law firm to write our office to demand that we stop writing them, we wrote as follows:

Pedestrians and bicyclists using the marked crosswalk after waiting for the green light are lured into a false sense of safety while right-turning motorists are also given the green light.

Please let me know if the City has made any changes or, if not, if there anything I can do to convince it to do so before others are seriously injured or killed.

     The lawyer representing the city wrote back in October of 2018 stating that “the traffic signals comply with applicable guidelines and accident data shows the intersection is safe.” The City made no changes to this intersection or any other similarly dangerous intersection, despite our multiple explicit warnings.

     In November of 2018 a driver struck a woman pushing a stroller with two children in another marked crosswalk in Kent, killing the woman and injuring the children. The driver admitted that she saw another person in the crosswalk, but chose to turn anyway, intending to drive through the crosswalk in front of him. Instead, she killed the woman pushing the stroller, who was entering the crosswalk from the opposite direction.
     Of course, what these drivers did was negligent. But in both these cases, the people using the crosswalks and the drivers turning through them had green lights. Drivers have a duty to stop for people in crosswalks.
     But the real tragedy is that the City of Kent could have prevented this death and other serious injuries but chose not to act. This is Zero Vision.
     A recent article in the Kent Reporter by reporter Steve Hunter entitled “Seven Months, Seven Pedestrian Deaths in Kent” provides a sad overview of how dangerous Kent’s streets are for pedestrians.

Adding insult to many needless injuries and senseless deaths, the article quotes Kent Police Assistant Chief Jarod Kasner  regarding the death of the woman pushing the stroller:

“We forwarded all the information we had to King County, we expect a decline on this,” Kasner said about whether a charge would be filed by prosecutors. “The suspect was sober and not on her phone, with no excessive speed or other contributing factors, it was truly a tragic accident.”

     This was no accident. It was tragic that the driver chose to violate the law and drive into a marked crosswalk when she admitted that she saw another pedestrian in it.
    This was no accident. This death was the direct result of what I am calling Kent’s #ZeroVision policy. The City of Kent knew or should have known that their crosswalks were a trap for pedestrians years before our client was seriously injured in 2016.
     There can be no doubt that the City intentionally ignored our repeated warnings of this danger.  The City’s lawyer wrote in response to our last request to fix this danger:
“Obviously a city needs to follow the advice of traffic engineers– not lawyers– when deciding what traffic signals are appropriate.”
     I can understand the defense lawyer’s point. But I wasn’t writing Kent so that I could write this now and say “I told you so.”  I really wanted safer streets. What did they want?
     It remains to be seen what, if any, analysis the City’s traffic engineers did in our case. But the fact that so many people are still being injured and killed makes me think that the engineers should reconsider Kent’s #ZeroVision policy.

Happy New Year! Let’s Make 2019 the year our streets become safe for everyone!

We were happy to help many clients in 2018, but we ended the year with an almost month-long jury trial involving a collision in a marked crosswalk where the jury found ZERO responsibility on the part of the defendant.

The collision occurred when our client was more than halfway across the street in the crosswalk shown above and had the right to assume that the driver would obey the law and stop for her.

Sadly, the jury decided that the defendant driver exercised “ordinary care” in failing to stop for the crosswalk and in passing another vehicle that had stopped for our client to use the crosswalk.

This is ZERO VISION, not VISION ZERO. This is why we need to legislate Presumed Liability NOW.

You’ve probably heard about #PresumedLiability from us (and others) before. We didn’t expect to need it in this trial, because the state laws requiring drivers to stop for crosswalks appear to be straightforward and strong. But, as you probably know all too well, those laws are frequently not obeyed and are rarely enforced.

A King County Jury decided that NOT following those clear crosswalk laws constituted Ordinary Care. Here’s what that means: Injured people have the burden to prove negligence. Negligence is the failure to exercise Ordinary Care.  In most situations, injured people are only compensated by insurance companies (even their own) if they can prove negligence on the part of another person.

The Court instructed the jury that the driver had a duty to stop at the crosswalk and that the driver had a duty not to pass another vehicle that was stopped for our client to use the crosswalk. Nevertheless, the jury found that the driver exercised Ordinary Care.

Until we change the law and create Presumed Liability, many drivers will not stop at crosswalks. And it’s not just crosswalks. Our streets are not and will not be safe without a change in the law. Better education, better enforcement, and (especially) better infrastructure will all help, but reforming our laws can be done without without protracted budget battles to secure funding—all it takes is the political will.

Let’s DO this! Please join us in working to pass legislation creating a presumption of liability for drivers who collide with pedestrians or people riding bikes. This is not #StrictLiability. Drivers could still prove that a pedestrian or person riding a bike was at fault, but drivers would have the burden to prove fault.

We should pass a presumption of liability law state-wide. Particularly in Seattle, the danger of riding bikes or even walking makes some people drive who would otherwise walk or ride. With our increasing density and #PeriodOfMaximumConstraint a/k/a #JennyJam coming up, we need to do everything possible to move people and make our streets safe for everyone. We need to pass this law.

Washington Bike Law is committed to making our streets safer for everyone and will do our best in 2019 to make this law a reality.

If you want to be involved in legislative efforts to pass a presumption of liability law state-wide and/or just in Seattle, please contact kimberly@washingtonbikelaw.com.  We will be resuming regular meetings with interested parties soon.

An Advocacy Organization or a Law Firm Representing Individuals? Yes.

One of our takeaways from Bike Everywhere Day is that many people don’t quite know what Washington Bike Law (WBL) does… are we an advocacy organization or are we a law firm? In short, yes…

What we do: WBL is a law office that represents individuals who have been injured in bike crashes AND we advocate for safer streets for everyone. We also represent people who were not injured on bikes (like people walking and even occasionally people driving), but more than 90% of our clients are bicyclists.

Who we are: We are three advocate/attorneys (Bob, Rob and Jessica), two advocate/paralegals (Lauranne and Kimberly) and one advocate/law clerk (Nick). Also joining us at work are up to four office dogs, Moses, Millie, Raffi, and Laci.

Washington Bike Law

More about our advocacy: WBL helps to make our streets safer for everyone, not just by advocating for injured individuals, but by working on bigger picture issues directly and with other organizations.

WBL is one of Bike Works largest financial contributors. Bob has volunteered for more than a decade there and sits on its board. Bob is also on the board of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways. Bob has been a Major Donor to Cascade Bicycle Club as well as a contributor to Washington Bikes and to Washington Bike PAC.

Jessica started and runs the nonprofit NWCX Project and is a volunteer coach with the Washington Student Cycling League.

Kimberly came to WBL from PeopleForBikes and founded NYCBiketrain to encourage and support new bike commuters.

WBL advocates outside of the courtroom for legislative changes to the law like a presumption of liability against drivers involved in collisions with pedestrians or bicyclists. More on that here.

Want to know more about how we help injured individuals? Check here.

Takeaway for you: Contact WBL if you or a loved one need legal representation. While we earn our living helping people after crashes, know that we are also working to PREVENT injuries and deaths. Consultations are free and we are frequently able to help people resolve issues without formal representation.

Don’t Miss Washington Bike Law’s Bike Everywhere Day Celebration Station May 18

Don’t pass us by without stopping… our Celebration Station will be open 7 am to 9 am May 18, 2018. We’ll be across the street from our office at Second and Cherry on the Second Avenue Bike Lane.

Seattle Neighborhood Greenways (SNG) will be joining us on May 18. SNG is the grass-roots based Safe Streets Advocacy organization that is probably in your neighborhood. Get involved with SNG!

Also joining us for the third year will be World Pizza… who can resist fabulous free breakfast pizza?!

We’ll also have world-famous Cherry Street coffee. Fuel up. We’ll even have water.

But wait, there’s more… you can win fabulous prizes… like T-shirts, flat repair kits, our famous waterproof Bike Law spoke cards, stickers, and more!

Come on down… or up. Come by and say hi!

The PeopleWay

A lot of #BikeNYC commuters, when you ask, will tell you that they first started cycling during large-scale disruptions to the city’s subway system – the transit strikes of 1980 and 2005, the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, and in the days after Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

It’s not often cities get advance notice of such disruptions. Next year when the MTA shuts down the L-train for 15 months to repair damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, Brooklyn residents will lose a critical transit link to Lower Manhattan. New York City knows this is coming, and needs to do better than its currently woefully inadequate plans to make those 15 months bearable for transit riders – and for everyone else who lives or works along the affected sections of the route. So kudos to Transportation Alternatives for getting out in front of the #LTrain shutdown with its PeopleWay campaign.  Part of the campaign to pressure the city to improve its response to the shutdown includes running weekly biketrains – group bike commutes meant to be inviting for newer riders. I (Kimberly) might be biased — I co-founded  NYCBiketrain, from which TA’s #Biketrain effort draws some inspiration – but they are a great way to invite new folks who think biking might work for them, but could use a little support to get started.

Here in Seattle, transportation advocates are looking at our city’s plans  for when light rail nudges our buses out of the downtown transit tunnel and onto surface streets. And we are seeing signs of the same woefully inadequate response from city and regional agencies. The bus shift to the surface is just one reason we can’t wait for the #BasicBikeNetwork – are you listening, Seattle DOT, Metro, SoundTransit, Mayor Durkan? We need to prioritize moving people over moving cars, today and tomorrow. It doesn’t take a physicist or a transportation engineer to see that establishing dedicated space for people busing and biking that cars cannot easily impinge on is the most efficient way to do that.  It’s also the most fair. PeopleWay Seattle, anyone?