At Large in Ballard: Our streets
I do leave Ballard. At least once a week I drive underneath the Ballard Bridge, southeast on Leary Way and then up onto Highway 99. I move to the middle lane southbound, having vowed to never ever drive in the far left “head-on” lane. I’m only going to the Denny exit, but it feels like I’m holding my breath the entire time until I’m safely off the highway.
Last Friday I was making that drive under cloudless skies, Mount Rainier still impossibly huge after 25 years in this town. I watch for unsecured loads, the dramatic slowing of cars ahead that signal the speed patrols are on duty. News of the bicyclist hit at Dexter and Thomas Street, the afternoon before, was on my mind. I was thinking there should be a national campaign: Our Streets Shouldn’t Be Deadly.
After exiting on Denny, I always take the first left onto Dexter and then a right at the intersection of Thomas. When I heard about the hit-and-run, I could picture the spot exactly. I have been meeting a former co-worker just two blocks east for seven years.
Our streets shouldn’t be deadly I thought as I waited on the 99 exit. They shouldn’t be deadly for drivers, for pedestrians, for bicyclists, for animals. These are our streets, where we live, where we work, not a race course with trained drivers foolish enough to be racing one another.
I made the exit, took the left onto Dexter and drove slowly towards the right at Thomas. News trucks were parked nearby with their strange telescoping poles, bouquets of flowers on the sidewalk, a clutch of people. The bicyclist died, I realized.
Dexter Avenue is the main thoroughfare for the bicycle commuters who live to the north, in Fremont, Ballard, Shoreline. The husband and father who died last week after he was struck by a vehicle making a left turn was just four blocks into his commute. He was photographer Mike Wang who worked at PATH, the non-profit that used to be in the building where I worked on Nickerson, then in Ballard. Last year they moved to South Lake Union; right at Westlake and Denny.
In front of the new PATH building there’s a long rack of bicycles that look piled rather than parked. I passed the building yesterday and looked at the bicycles, thinking about the one that was no longer there.
Although PATH is an international non-profit, dedicated to improving the health of people throughout the world, they were headquartered in Ballard for many years right beside the Ballard Bridge. I knew there would be local connections, as if the Ballard shirt worn in the photograph shown on Michael Wang in the tribute on the PATH website wasn’t an indicator.
The road rage incident on the Eastside last week, the UW researcher and bicyclist killed on 24th NW two years ago, the death of Sub Pop Records producer Andy Kotowicz last October. Our streets shouldn’t be deadly. Why are they? What is the rush? Is it worth a life? All these deaths left young children without a parent, without fathers.
After the Mike Wang’s name and employer became known last week, word of his death traveled through the connected worlds of non-profits in town and among all those bicycle commuters who take their chances on Dexter, Seaview Avenue, beneath the Ballard Bridge, and even the Burke-Gilman Trail that often offers as much danger as protection every day.
Mike Wang’s photos of PATH projects throughout the world were helping to document children in need, as well program successes providing adults and children with such basics as cleaner water and better nutrition. The driver of vehicle that didn’t stop after the collision is still at large.
What has happened to our streets?
A memorial fund has been established at BECU credit union. Donations in Mike’s memory can be dropped off at any branch or mailed: Mike Wang family c/o BECU, PO Box 34044 Seattle, WA 98124-1044
Anyone with information – even someone wanting to remain anonymous - is asked to call SPD (206) 684-8932.