City officials and stalwart supporters of the proposed pedestrian/bicyclist bridge over Highway 305 have longed claimed the $3 million structure is needed to prevent pedestrians from getting hit by cars as they cross the highway near Vineyard Lane.
It’s a dangerous spot on the highway, officials say.
But records going back more than a decade that were recently released by the city show no walkers have been hit in the area where the controversial bridge would be built.
Documents showing police responses to the area also detail just one instance of a bicyclist being hit by a car near the proposed location of the bridge. And ironically, that sole mishap — which happened in mid August — appears to be more of a road rage incident that was caused, in part, due to construction of the Sound to Olympics Trail along the highway.
The fate of the proposed Highway 305 pedestrian bridge will be the first major decision of the new city council when three new members are seated in January.
The future of the span — dubbed “the Bridge to Nowhere” by critics who say it’s too costly and not needed — was thrown into doubt earlier this year when it became a campaign issue. City council candidates who opposed the bridge were voted into office, and there now appears to be enough votes to pull the plug on the project when the bridge returns to the council’s agenda on Jan. 2.
Supporters of the bridge say it will be an important link for neighborhoods on both sides of the highway and will provide a needed connection to the Sound to Olympics Trail, which is currently under construction on the east side of Highway 305 from downtown Winslow to High School Road.
In the past month, proponents of the new bridge have been renewed their efforts to rally support for the span.
One supporter of the bridge has asked the city’s climate change advisory committee to weigh in on the project, touting its potential to increase walkability on Bainbridge. Lynn Schorn, who represents the Port Gamble section of the Sound to Olympics Trail, recently made a presentation to the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce to tout the potential safety aspects of the bridge for people who need to cross the highway.
Records obtained from the city via a public records request from the Bainbridge Review, however, detail no instances of pedestrians struck by vehicles in the stretch of highway south of High School Road to Winslow Way.
The Review requested police reports and other records going back more than a decade that would show accidents involving pedestrians or bicyclists hit by vehicles on that stretch of Highway 305.
Few crashes reported
The city provided records that detail four instances of bicyclists or walkers getting struck by vehicles near 305, going back to 2006.
Three of those four incidents, however, did not occur close to where the proposed bridge would be built.
Instead, two of the four incidents were actually at the Highway 305-High School Road intersection. One of those two mishaps occurred after an intoxicated man ran into traffic on 305, and the other crash occurred when a truck driver made a turn off the highway toward the McDonald’s restaurant and a bicyclist also headed north hit the back of the driver’s pickup.
A third case of a walker getting hit by a driver, in records provided by the city, involved a woman struck by a van that was leaving the McDonald’s parking lot on High School Road.
Road rage on 305
City records reveal just one case of a bicyclist being hit by a driver near the location of the proposed bridge.
That crash happened Thursday, Aug. 10, as the highway was filled with traffic leaving the ferry just after 6 p.m.
Witnesses said a bicyclist was heading north on the highway right behind another person on a bike when they came to a large crane alongside 305 that was working on the Sound to Olympics Trail project.
Northbound traffic was closed to one lane near the crane, and drivers let the first bicyclist merge into traffic to pass the piece of equipment. But witnesses also said when the other bicyclist made hand signals to move into the line of cars heading north, a driver in a white 2009 Chevrolet Impala became irate and started honking his horn at the biker.
When the bicyclist slipped into cars to go around the crane, the Impala driver sped up until he slammed into the rider, witnesses said.
A Bainbridge resident who was driving with his family right behind the bicyclist gave police a detailed statement of what happened. After the two bicyclists started signaling, they needed to merge into traffic. He said he slowed down to give them both space, and the first bicyclist merged into traffic two cars ahead of him.
The driver of the Impala in front of him, though, became angry when the second biker also tried to get into the line of slow-moving cars going past the crane.
“The driver of this car was furious and laid on his horn, but the bicyclist was still able to merge before hitting the large construction crane in his path. The Impala’s horn kept blasting and I could see the driver’s face scream with rage. What happened next shocked me. We were only traveling 10-15 mph, but the driver of the Impala accelerated and purposefully hit the bicyclist. I saw the bike up in the air and the bicyclist fly to the ground. I couldn’t believe it,” the witness said in a statement to police.
The man’s wife said she heard the driver in front of them gun his engine before striking the bicyclist, and she initially thought the man had run over the biker.
The cars stopped, the witness added, and the bicyclist got up and picked up his bike, which had a bent frame and a “taco’d back tire” and held it up for the driver who hit him to see.
The bicyclist, the witness said, then started to pick up all of his things that had been scattered along the highway. The driver of the Impala then inched around the bicyclist and sped away.
A motorcyclist who had been further south in ferry traffic, however, saw everything and sped around the line of cars, eventually getting in front of the Impala driver as he was stopped at the traffic light at High School Road.
The motorcycle rider then parked his bike in front of the driver to stop him from leaving the scene.
The motorcycle rider later told police the Impala driver “acted like he did nothing wrong” and asked why he was trying to stop him.
The driver of the Impala, a 59-year-old Poulsbo man, was cited for reckless driving and attempted hit-and-run.
He denied trying to get away, and told police he was just pulling forward out of traffic to stop.
Crash in the back
The only other case found involving a bicyclist hit on Highway 305 in the past 10 years was reported in June 2013. It was not near the proposed bridge site by Vineyard Lane, but at the corner of Highway 305 and High School Road.
According to a Bainbridge Island police report, a 28-year-old Bainbridge man was heading north on the highway just after 4:30 p.m. when a 40-year-old Seabeck woman made a right turn in front of him onto High School Road as they were both going through the intersection.
The cyclist struck the rear corner of her 2013 Toyota Tacoma pickup truck and was knocked off his bike. The cyclist was banged up but said he felt good enough to ride home.
The woman kept going, however, despite the attempts of a witness to flag her down.
She was later contacted by police who were investigating the case as a hit-and-run. The woman said she didn’t know she had hit a bicyclist and said she was unfamiliar with the area but had turned off the highway to use backstreets to avoid ferry traffic on 305.
The Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office later decided it would not prosecute the woman for hit-and-run, telling Bainbridge police there was insufficient evidence that could meet the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard.
Bainbridge officials could only provide one report of a pedestrian being hit on Highway 305, but that mishap occurred at the High School Road intersection with the highway.
The incident occurred just a few minutes before 1 a.m. Sept. 17, 2011.
According to a Bainbridge police investigation report, a 25-year-old Bainbridge man ran in front of a woman who was waiting to turn from 305 onto High School Road.
The woman and other witnesses said the Bainbridge man ran in front of the stopped car and made an obscene hand gesture while yelling “f-you!”
The light was green for northbound traffic, however, and after the man ran in front of the stopped car, he stepped in front of vehicle that was going through the green light and was hit.
Witnesses described the pedestrian bouncing off the windshield and landing in the street, and they also said he was drunk. The man, a resident of the nearby Stonecress neighborhood, sustained cuts on his head and arm.
Dressed in black
The only other records of a pedestrian getting hit by a vehicle on Highway 305 provided by the city happened at the entry driveway to the McDonald’s on High School Road, a decade ago.
It was just after 8:30 p.m. Jan. 17, 2006, when a woman in a Honda van was leaving the fast food restaurant and hit a woman in the crosswalk next to McDonald’s. The driver said she didn’t see the pedestrian because she was dressed in all black, and was bending down in the crosswalk to pick up books she had dropped. The driver said the woman jumped up right away and began swearing and screaming at her.
The pedestrian, though, claimed the woman in the van rolled through the stop sign and bumped into her.
Police described her as being “very slightly injured” with slight scrapes on her knees. She declined medical treatment and walked home.