Cyclists on crash course to set deadly record

Cyclists on crash course to set deadly record »Play Video
SEATTLE -- Bike riders are on a crash course to set a deadly record in Seattle.

More cyclists are dying as the city spends more money to make them safer.

If you go with the analysis of a local cycling club, it's not a lack of bike paths or crosswalks causing the trouble. It's drivers who don't yield when cyclists have the right of way.

Jennifer Ervin bikes to work every day. She lives in Ballard, and likes the improvements Seattle is making for cyclists.

"This little bike lane here -- I think it makes people aware that there are bikes on the street, and that definitely does help," she said.

But bicycles can be tough to spot, and Ervin doesn't take any chances.

"You have to always assume that people can't really see you," she said.

The problem of not seeing people on bikes is getting especially bad. Four bicyclists have died in Seattle this year, and it's only August. That's twice as many deadly accidents as all of 2008, and well above previous years.

It's a disturbing statistic, given the city just spent $12 million to make cycling safer.

David Hiller of the Cascade Bicycle Club is analyzing the data, and says it's not a lack of bike lanes or signage.

"We don't see it as an engineering problem," he said. "We're seeing in these crashes that it's usually a failure to yield the right of way on the part of a motor vehicle."

It was a driver's failure to yield that killed Susanne Scaringi in West Seattle three years ago. The driver said he simply didn't see her.

"There's plenty of times where it's difficult for a car to see you and I don't think it's their fault," said bicycle rider Kelly Phillips.

Right now, only 60 traffic violations can be prosecuted criminally. Cascade Bicycle club is trying to change state law so courts can review traffic incidents that hurt and kill people.

"Is there no real responsibility beyond paying a $101 failure to yield ticket?" Hiller wondered.

Just this week, an appeals court rejected an attempt to charge a driver with a crime for killing a cyclist when he failed to yield the right of way.

The bike club is in for a tough legal fight to change that.