KIRO Radio editor’s bike crash proves South Lake Union streetcar tracks are dangerous
KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson got a text message from a colleague Friday evening that confirmed one of his most firmly-held views — that the South Lake Union streetcar tracks are dangerous.
“Dori, you are right,” the message read. “The South Lake Union streetcar is a menace to society.”
KIRO’s Midday News Editor Jillian Raftery sent the text from a place she had not planned to spend her Friday night — the emergency room.
“I was in so much pain, I was so angry,” she said.
Raftery had been riding her bike from the KIRO Radio studios in Eastlake into downtown Seattle when her bike tire was caught in the South Lake Union streetcar tracks at Fairview Avenue and Valley Street.
“I was turning and my wheel just got sucked straight into the tracks, and I just flew off and I broke both my foot and my ankle,” Raftery said.
Now Raftery needs surgery to correct the break; she described her bone as doing “a corkscrew maneuver.” She is now the latest in a long line of cyclists who report dangerous interactions with the streetcar tracks — and the second KIRO Radio employee.
Being down with an injury is hard for an avid runner and cyclist like Raftery, especially when she had been making an effort to stay active every day.
“I had been doing all the right things, riding my bike into work from Bellevue,” Raftery said.
A pedestrian who witnessed Raftery’s accident told her that he has seen so many bicyclists crash over the tracks at that spot.
“The bike lane goes right over the streetcar track — right over it,” she said. “And they come kind of at an angle so that even if you’re just going straight across, it’s not straight across, so you could kind of fall in there.”
South Lake Union streetcar tracks vs bikes
Desiree McCloud died after her bike met with the streetcar tracks and crashed in South Lake Union in 2016. But it wasn’t the first indication the tracks could be dangerous to cyclists. The city has received several reports from cyclists about the tracks dating back to 2011, with injuries ranging from broken wrists to stitches.
“My tire was caught in the newly laid tracks for the lightrail in front of SCCC … I was thrown from my bike and ended up with stitches in my face as a result,” one cyclist wrote to the Seattle Department of Transportation in 2012. “This is a serious hazard and should be addressed.”
“My bike was caught in the streetcar tracks along Westlake Avenue … I was thrown over the handlebars and have road rash on my face and legs,” a cyclist wrote to SDOT in 2015.
“While I was going slow and did attempt to cross the tracks at 90 degrees, I crashed my bike, breaking my shoulder and going to the ER,” another rider wrote to the city. “Those trolley tracks are extremely dangerous for bikers.”
Raftery is also not the only KIRO Radio employee with a bad experience with the streetcar path. In April, Ron Upshaw of the Ron and Don Show also crashed and ended up laying in the street after his tire got stuck in the tracks.
“There are people with TBI, traumatic brain injury from this, there are people who have died, and the city continues to embrace this because they’re in bed with the streetcar company,” Dori said of Seattle’s politicians.
Like other cyclists, Raftery plans to email the city letting officials know that the tracks are very dangerous for cyclists.
Dori went a step further and suggested that she file a lawsuit against the city.
“If the city has a hazard that is that great that they know about and they aren’t doing anything to mitigate it, that sounds like unbelievable legal and financial exposure for the city,” Dori said.
- Tune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.