As I push my bike out the front door, my husband tells me the news: a biker was killed the day before at 2nd and University in downtown Seattle. Sher Kung, 31-year old mother and attorney, died instantly when she was struck by a left-turning truck while in a designated bike lane.
"Bad timing," I tell him. I don't want fear to cloud my judgment as I ride. I don't want to be thinking about mortality when I need to be alert to every car and pedestrian, every bump, crack or broken bottle in the road, every parked car with a door that could fly open without a glance in the side mirror. Drivers are accustomed to car traffic. A biker is at greater risk and must be super alert. Always.
I pass an adolescent as I ride up my neighborhood street. Her long hair trails over her shoulders. Her helmet hangs from her handlebars. I know she doesn't want helmet hair. "You might want to put that on," I tell her as I pedal passed. She gives me a sheepish smile, and wonders, I'm sure, if I know her parents.
Alki Beach is sunny summer weekend insanity. I opt for the road instead of the beachside bike path. On busy days, the bike path is full of pedestrians. The drivers are usually more predictable than the kids, dogs, and tourists. I am alert and cautious. I see the small white car back out of a driveway just ahead of me. I expect him to pull forward and drive off. Instead, I realize, he's pulling back into the bike lane just as I approach. "No" I scream. He stops. His window is down and he hollers, "Don't you see me?"
I am shaking with anger. Would he holler this to another driver if he crossed their right-of-way? If bikers are expected to follow the rules of the road, then we must be treated with the same caution and respect as other drivers. The truck driver who struck and killed Sher Kung last week is quoted as saying she came out of his blind spot. A block later I see the white car again. This time he's making a U-turn. I realize he wasn't pulling out of a driveway when he almost hit me. He was trying to maneuver an illegal U-turn as he cruised Alki. Another danger to watch for, I tell myself.
Arleen Williams is the author of two books: Running Secrets, the first novel in
The Alki Trilogy, and The Thirty-Ninth Victim, a memoir of her family’s journey
before and after her sister’s murder. She teaches English as a Second
Language at South Seattle College and has worked with immigrants and
refugees for close to three decades. Arleen lives and writes in West Seattle.
To learn more, please visit www.arleenwilliams.com.