An unforgettable safety message

On a warm and sunny spring day on Wednesday, April 9, Anni, Hanne and little Button were enjoying a midday walk in Discovery Park. They come here frequently, escaping the busy city life.

“You come here to enjoy nature and because you feel safe,” Anni said.

But as they were crossing Illinois Avenue in the fading crosswalk, three cyclists came tearing down the steep descent. With an 8% grade, getting up to speed is easily done.

The cyclists avoided the ladies but didn’t see little Button who, as he usually did, walked behind Anni.

“I heard a yelp and then Anni screamed,” Hanne said. Anni screamed three times at the sight of her Chihuahua bleeding, dying.

Unable to stop immediately, the cyclist returned up the hill and apologized for hitting –and killing– Button.

“We rode single-file, 50 feet apart from each other on the far right of the road. We never saw the dog. We still can’t figure out where it came from,” one of the cyclists commented later.

The cyclist that struck the dog offered to walk Annie and Hanne home or call a cab to carry them there. In disbelief about what had happened, he continued to apologize profusely and offer assistance but nothing registered with Anni who was traumatized and in shock. And so Anni and Hanne walked home with the dead dog in their arms.

Anni, a bicyclist and supporter of Cascade Bicycle Club, reached out to us soon after the incident. Not in anger and not in animosity toward the cyclists, but to share a message of safety.

This incident is appalling to us because it could have easily been prevented if proper traffic calming measures and signage had been in place. Even a simple stop sign could have brought the cyclists to a complete stop, allowing them to see the dog.

We visited the incident site with Anni and were alarmed by the speeds cars as well as bicyclist travel on that steep road.

Additionally, visibility is poor. The striping is fading and the sign indicating a crosswalk appears too late down the hill.

We believe that speed bumps and increased visibility through better signage and striping can prevent incidents like this from happening again.

“From my point of view – and I bike and use a car and walk – I think this park is primarily for people who walk, to get away from vehicles to enjoy nature. And the safety of pedestrians, the most vulnerable of road users, has to be prioritized. You don’t expect to have to fend for yourself here like you do elsewhere. What happened here shows that we are not safe,” said Anni.

Cascade staff is meeting with SDOT, Councilmember Jean Godden's office and others to enhance safety features in places like Discovery Park.

While we work on making these roads safer through infrastructure, we’d like to remind all bicyclists that we are not the only vulnerable road and trail users out there. Please adhere to posted speed limits, be mindful of your fellow road users and slow down in pedestrians mixing zones.