Tag Archives: bike safety

seven years


One second. That’s how quickly it happened.


Seven years ago this morning, I was riding my bike to work. A driver who was lost and late for a job interview, turned his F150 right in front of me. I hit the side of the truck and rolled under his rear wheel. Many injuries – most seriously a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) that threatened my life and livelihood.


by the outline the police drew of my bike, 10 weeks after the accident.

A week in the Neuro ICU – much of it in an induced coma, a month in the hospital, and nearly six months away from work. I had people with me 24/7 for the scary and difficult first few weeks. All that love and support from family and friends helped me focus forward, one small step at a time.

I’m probably the luckiest person you’ll ever meet. I’m able to do the things I love, with the people I love, and am very grateful.

Going from running marathons and earning my living with my brain, to requiring full-time care in the space of a second forces perspective on things. I learned a lot about what it means to be human in the space of those months. And I try to remember these lessons every day.

Hug the people you love this morning. You’ll be happy you did.


our kids visiting me in the hospital, three weeks after the accident


five years

Five years ago, we’d just gotten back from a nice trip to Minnesota, where we’d spent a week visiting Kris’ family.  We’d spent time with our friends just east of the Twin Cities, and the kids played together a bunch.  Our younger daughter learned to ride a bike on this trip.  We celebrated our eldest daughter’s 11th birthday.  We took a family picture outside Kris’ parents’ cabin that I have up on my office wall. 


visiting the northern woods of Wisconsin, the week before our lives changed.

Memories are funny things.  I remember these things very well five years on, probably because of what happened next.

At about 8:30 on the morning of July 1, 2008,  I was hit by a pickup truck while riding my bicycle to workReading the police report tells me that I’m probably the luckiest person on the planet.


two days after the accident – it would be another four or five days before I’d wake up.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think about what happened five years ago.  The first few months were very tough.  Beyond the physical pain, it was very hard to reset my own goals and expectations.  Within a few seconds, I’d gone from being a marathoner who earned his living (with his brain) as a software engineer, to needing help doing the most basic of tasks.  With recovery, there’s often no clear roadmap.  That’s hard to wrap your mind around.

Taking one step at a time, so much is possible.  I had the benefit of good health and a runner’s mindset before the accident.  Most importantly, I have family and friends who gave me the great gift of hope.  They seemed to believe in me – which made it much easier to believe in myself.  This gift of hope is the most powerful thing we can give each other.


visiting Harborview’s Neuro ICU in December of 2009

Last week I was at Harborview Hospital, visiting a friend  who had been hit a car up in Woodinville last week while commuting on bicycle to work.  While I was there, I dropped by the Neuro ICU, where I’d been taken immediately after my accident.  I told these people working at the premier trauma center in the Pacific Northwest just how much it meant to me that I’m around to see my kids’ cello recitals, and school musicals.


visiting Redmond Fire Station #12 back in 2010

And on July 1st I stopped by Redmond Fire Station #12, the first responders who answered the call.  I rode the same bicycle, along the same route I’d taken five years before.  I thanked all of them for what they do.  I told them how blessed I feel to be able watch my kids grow.  The lieutenant looked up the accident report from 2008.  The language was succinct : “bicycle v. pickup truck”.  He was thoughtful enough to look up the crew members who answered the call, and let them know that I’d come by.

The quick response and care I received saved my life, and prevented more profound damage to my brain.  It’s an amazing experience to visit these people, and say “thanks for everything” and to really mean everything.

hug your cyclists

A busy weekend. 

Kris completed the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.  This is a 200 mile ride (not a race, not timed) that’s happened for over thirty years (other than in 1980 when it was cancelled due to the ash from Mount St. Helens).

Kris did about 140 miles the first day, leaving just 60 for the second day.  I’d tried to goad her into doing it all in a single day, but she pointed out that we’re both registered to run a marathon in a couple of weeks, so technically she’s in her taper for that.

Kayla was down at a theater camp in Portland this past week, so with Kris riding I needed to get down there on Saturday morning to catch her show and pick her up.  Side note – great camp – the Columbia River Gorge School of Theater does a great job at keeping things fun, safe, and challenging the kids to improve there performance skills.  Definitely recommended for interested kids!

Logistically, this posed a bi of a challenge.  The younger child would spend Friday evening and Saturday with my parents while Kris was riding, and I was between here and Portland.  I got a chance to visit with some family in Portland on Friday evening.  Saturday, it’d be showtime and then back up to Seattle.

Aside from a hellish ride south on Friday, things went well.  Great visit, and the performance was great.  Kayla had a great time at the camp – and was already lobbying for more time there.

We hit the road shortly before noon.  I figured we’d stop[ to get something to eat early afternoon, hopefully getting home around 4 or so.  As luck would have it, we ended up stopping for lunch in Castle Rock, which is where Kris would stop for the night.  She’d texted me about her progress, and I figured we were about 60-90 minutes ahead of her.  It seemed silly not to try to say hello.

So Kayla and I finished lunch and headed over to the high school where Kris would arrive.  When we got there, I looked around for a place to leave her a message if we didn’t catch her.  Kayla hung out outside, waiting for Kris to roll in.  Suddenly, I heard a horrible crashing sound, and then some people saying “cyclist down – call an ambulance!”.

I turned and looked – there was a small crowd of people gathered over by the entrance to the parking lot.  Incoming cyclists need to make a left turn across traffic here.  We’re still not sure what happened, but the driver of a Honda Civic had run into a cyclist on his way into the lot.  The rider had been been knocked about 12 feet or so, but appeared to be conscious.

I checked on Kayla.  She’d apparently seen the accident – not well enough to see precisely who was where, and when.  I asked her if she was okay – and then we walked over.  The cyclist was indeed awake and moving around.  He was banged up, and definitely shaken up – but was responsive to questions like “what year is it”, “what’s your name”, etc.

I’ve tried to find out how the cyclist is doing – but have not yet heard.  I can only hope he’s okay.  I honestly didn’t know whether it would have been better for us to move away from the scene, because of the feelings a cyclist getting hit stirs in both of us. Both Kayla and I are definitely still processing what happened to us.

Today I heard that another friend riding with his son, had a very close call. Around mile 167 or so, he was hit by a pink tricycle that had been unsecured in the back of a pickup truck coming the other way. It hit Greg’s tire, wiping out his front fork, and causing him to fly over his handlebars. Very fortunately, he’s just bruised and scraped. Wow.

Well – after that, there was really no question that we’d stay and see Kris ride in.  And she did, still smiling after riding farther than she had in a single day.  She had a decent ride the next day, and was in Portland in time to catch the first bus back up to Seattle.  We’re very proud of her, and are really happy that she had a safe ride.

If you’ve got a cyclist friend or family – give ‘em a hug.


greeting Kris in Castle Rock after she’d completed her first day’s ride for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.

vulnerable user bill–signed into law

Just got back from a trip down to Olympia today, where Governor Christine Gregoire has signed SB 5326, the Vulnerable User Bill into law.  This is the culmination of three years of advocacy work by the Cascade Bicycle Club and others.  Having attended three Judiciary Committee hearings, and testified at two – I’m pleased to see this come to fruition.  SB 5326 was among the final bills signed from this legislative year. 


pictures snapped from tvw.org’s video feed

Shortly before four this afternoon, I got to shake the governor’s hand, and to tell her that my family and I appreciate this new law.  It will go into effect on July 1, 2012, four years to the day after my accident.

If you are interested, you can view the video of the bill signing here (the Vulnerable User Law signing occurs at time 33:25) :


This experience was valuable for me in a number of ways.  First – it’s an education to see the legislative process in action.  Definitely not always pretty, but definitely good to understand.  Watching the Advocacy folks with Cascade work with the bill sponsors to help navigate the process was interesting.  Speaking with my legislators, as well as others about why it’s good to build awareness and accountability into our driving laws, was incredible.  Obviously, the opportunity to participate in positive change following my own brush with an inattentive driver was powerful too – good things from bad, and all that. 

The person I really have to thank for this is my wife Kris.  During my recovery back in late 2008, she and I were talking about the motorist vs. cyclist dynamic – how each seems to incite the other endlessly concerning road safety.  Kris pointed out that rather than complaining, it’s a far better use of energy to work to change the laws.  Naturally when the opportunity to participate arose a couple of months later, I couldn’t pass it up.

All in all, a good day.

the vulnerable user bill advances

Got word yesterday that the Vulnerable User Bill has passed a floor vote in the Washington State Senate (as SB 5326).  Now it’s on to the House, and the companion bill HB 1339.

Having taken several trips to Olympia over the past two in support of these bills, it’s nice to see positive change.  Being a part of this has been a way for my family and I to apply our own experience with a negligent driver two and a half years ago and hopefully prevent what happened to me from happening to someone else.  Channeling positive energy into this has been a great way for us to continue our healing process.

Watching the coverage of the floor vote in TVW’s Weekly Legislative Review allowed me to see some impact that the testimony we delivered to the Senate Judiciary Committee had (the segment on SB 5326 begins at 12:10).

Senator Adam Kline speaks first.  In addition to being the Judiciary Committee Chair, he was the primary sponsor of the bill.  The second speaker was Senator Cheryl Pflug.  During the hearing, she’d asked several questions about whether civil action wasn’t a viable avenue for victims to secure recourse from the offender.  Several of us spoke to this point directly –in my case, the driver was uninsured and unemployed.  Additionally, pursuing civil action means subjecting one’s family to a legal process fraught with emotional consequences.  Senator Pflug incorporated this into her message today as she spoke in support of the bill prior to the floor vote.  I’ve already written thank-you note to her for this. 

If you are interested, you can see the debate and vote here (discussion of SB 5326 begins at 31:00 and is less than seven minutes long).

Watching how the legislative process works has been an education.  It has taken three years to get this far, and given my experience last year – I’m definitely encouraged to see things come together like this.  The biggest lesson for me has been that legislating is a lot more like sausage-making than making software.  The end result might taste okay, but generally you don’t want to visit the kitchen and watch it being made.  On the positive side, it’s been a great way to show the kids how bills become laws :

The Cascade Bicycle Club folks have posted the below diagram on their advocacy blog to help explain where we are now :

The diagram doesn’t show that the Senate bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee today, and that it is scheduled for a public hearing next Wednesday, March 2.  There are just a couple of weeks left in the session to get this done.  With all of the focus on fiscal issues, there’s the possibility that even with the apparent support behind this bill, it will get left by the wayside.  This effectively this happened last year in the Senate, when the bill died “on the calendar” (did not come to a vote prior to the imposed deadline).

Washington State voters should contact their legislators and convey support for HB 1339 – it definitely can’t hurt.

to the state house for better negligent driving laws

This morning I was one of several people to testify before the Washington State House Judiciary Committee in favor of HB 1339 – the Vulnerable Users Bill.  This is the companion to Senate Bill 5326.

You can find the video here.  Reading and discussion of the bill begins about 0:47:30 minutes in.  Testimony by some of us affected by negligent drivers begins at 1:11:00.

This is the third year the bill has been considered, which demonstrates that it apparently takes time to debate and consider a legislative equivalent of motherhood and apple pie.

I was impressed with how well-organized the Cascade Bicycle Club folks were.  We met prior to the hearing, talked about what we needed to accomplish, and decided on an order for testimony.  Last time, the folks who had lost family members went first.  This time, they wanted the testimony related to cycling accidents to go first, with the pedestrian accidents finishing. 

Some people apparently feel that cyclists are too reckless – a feeling that shows up in just about any conversation about cyclist-motorist accidents.  It’s immaterial, because as David Hiller of the Cascade Bicycle Club testified, a motorist is only charged with negligent driving if there is not “contributory negligence” on the part of the cyclist.  In the Senate hearing, one of the members seemed to require this rudimentary reminder.

Hearing the stories brought tears to my eyes.  Simple cause, with big effect.  In the pictures below, the caption “concerned citizen” really means “person who lost someone because of negligent driving”.

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Stricter laws will not bring Melissa Brulotte’s daughter, Colleen Zakar’s nephew, or Nancy Norton’s father back.  What I do like about the proposed penalties are that they attack a root cause (negligence) with better awareness, and better education.

the vulnerable user bill–another try

An act relating to negligent driving resulting in substantial bodily harm, great bodily harm, or death of a vulnerable user of a public way.

– From the Washington State Senate Bill Report on SB 5326.

For the past two years, Washington State has been considering a law that fills the gap between simple traffic tickets and crime, where the driver’s actions maim or kill someone.  Last year, there was a Senate bill that made it out of committee.  It didn’t make it to the floor before the deadline for house-senate debate.  The technical term is that it apparently “died on the calendar”.

This time around there are very similar bills progressing through the state house and senate.  These are SB 5326 and HR 1339.

I was contacted by Cascade Bicycle Club about joining them in Olympia for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill.  So – on Friday January 21st, we found ourselves ready to share our stories in support on SB 5326.

You can find the video here.  Discussion of SB 5326 begins about 31 minutes in.  Testimony by families and accident victims begins around 59:50.


Four of us who were affected by negligent drivers got the opportunity to speak.  Melissa Brulotte shared her account of how a negligent driver hit and killed her two year old daughter.  Melissa herself was hit and injured, and her other children witnessed this terrible thing.  Colleen Zakar shared her account of losing her nephew Kevin Black to a negligent driver – and told us a bit about the conversations they’d had with Kevin’s children about this.  Their stories are incredibly stirring.  They also establish a real connection from a driver’s actions to the people affected.

I shared this statement with the members of the committee :

Mr. Chair, and members of the committee, I am Paul David from Kirkland. I am a very fortunate survivor of a negligent driver, representing myself before you today to discuss the Vulnerable User Bill.

On the morning of July 1st, 2008, I kissed my wife and two daughters goodbye, and set out to ride my bicycle to work. It was a nice morning, and I was travelling within the bike lane in line with the rules of the road, when the driver of a Ford F150 Truck suddenly turned in front of me. The driver had seen me, and thought he’d be able to make it in front of me – he was in a hurry you see.

I struck his truck just behind his passenger door and rolled under. His rear wheel actually passed over my head. Biking helmets are generally not designed to support the several thousand pounds that an F150 weighs. It is fair to say that I’m lucky to be alive and speaking before you.

I sustained a collapsed lung, and many broken bones. I had a fracture to my c5 vertebrae – had this been one inch over to the right, I would have been killed or rendered a paraplegic. I suffered loss of vision in my left eye. Most seriously, I suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury. A hemorrhage required that a flap of skull bone be removed to permit my brain to swell, then heal.

I spent a week in an induced coma in the ICU, and month in the hospital. I wore a helmet to protect my head for two months, until the bone flap was reattached to my skull. I spent much of that time unable to walk much, and requiring full-time care. I needed help with such things as bathing and getting to the bathroom. I was unable to be an active, engaged parent to my girls. I was unable to work (or drive) for nearly six months.

In contrast, the driver who hit me was able to drive off that very day, and return to life as usual.  He faced a $500 fine. It only would have been about half that, but he was also uninsured. Consider that for a minute. He exercised very poor judgment, nearly costing me my life. But he was able to simply drive away afterwards. In fact, he did not have to show up in court. Just had to drop a check in the mail, and be done with it.

Think about the positive effect that sentencing this driver to community service in a trauma center might have. He would see the consequences of his poor driving judgment up close, connecting people with his own actions. I imagine he’d remember doing something like that longer than writing a check and dropping it in the mail.

Laws need not be punitive, but they do need to encourage people to practice their driving privileges with good judgment and with careful attention to others on the road. They need to understand and to remember that they are operating machines that have the power to take lives, or to profoundly alter them. This is possible with the passage of this bill.

Thank you very much for your time.

The senators are optimistic that the bill will pass this time around.  Last year, it was passed by the judiciary committee by a 5-3 vote.  This time around the hope is that the vote is even more decisive.  If you watch the video, you’ll note that there’s very little debate that the bill is a good idea in principle.  The central point of debate was around the delineation between “reckless” and “negligent” driving (intent), and about whether they should consider making Negligent Driving II a criminal offense (verses an “enhanced violation”).  Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles shared her story about being cut off by a truck while she was doing the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic some years back.  She’d been very lucky – she was bruised and rattled, but not too seriously injured.

An ironic footnote here is that Rodney Tom, our own state senator failed to support this bill last year.  Cascade tells me that he’s on board this year.  I have letter out to him, and to Ross Hunter and Deb Eddy (our state reps who supported this bill last year) to confirm their support now.  I would encourage my fellow Washington State voters to contact their senators and representatives as well.

Engaging in the political process as a means to work for change is – interesting.  I strongly believe that in this case, the real goal is both to hold drivers accountable for their actions and to build awareness that there’s a problem in the first place. 

Taking this approach defuses the argument that victims want punitive laws.  Having thought about this a lot, I know very well that a new law won’t erase what happened to me, nor would it even be applied to my own situation.  But it will help prevent what happened to me from happening to others.