Anni Fuller and Hanne Clem haven’t been back to Discovery Park since April 9. That afternoon, Clem, Fuller and Fuller’s Chihuahua named Button walked from Clem’s house to do the loop trail, a walk they frequently enjoy. They were in the crosswalk crossing Discovery Park Boulevard when three cyclists came around the corner. Button always liked to walk right behind Fuller and was behind her feet when he was hit.
“They’re going so fast,” Clem said. “I hear the yelp, and there’s my friend and she’s screaming and that poor little dog is laying in the street dying.”
Six-year-old Button died in Fuller’s arms from what Clem described as internal injuries. She picked up the dog, who was bleeding badly.
The cyclist apologized and offered to call them a cab, but they came to the park empty-handed and didn’t have any money on them.
“When he realized what had happened, I’m sure he felt awful,” Fuller said. “I really truly think he was in shock, too.”
Both women have nothing against cyclists and recognize he didn’t come to the park with the intent to hurt anyone.
The cyclists, who were in their 20s or 30s Clem estimates, were going so fast that it took them about one-quarter of a mile before they could stop. The cyclist who hit Button told the women he wasn’t able to stop.
“It’s not a racetrack, but they use the park as [one],” Clem said.
To make matters worse, Button had been Fuller’s mother-in-law’s dog. When she passed away, Fuller adopted him.
“We’d known him since he was a little, tiny dog,” Fuller said. “And he was sort of an emotional link to my mother-in-law.”
The women attempted to flag down cars to get a ride back to Clem’s house, but motorists wouldn’t take them. “It’s understandable,” Fuller said. “I mean, here I am with a dead dog.”
Many of the motorists stopped in at the visitor’s center to inform the park’s employees.
Fuller was forced to carry him back to Clem’s house.
Clem and Fuller didn’t get the cyclist’s name. “When you’re standing there with a dead dog, and my friend is crying and I’m crying, you don’t think about [getting] his name,” Clem said.
Back at her house, Clem called 911, the dispatcher told her it was a civil matter.
The day after, Fuller and her husband buried Button. Fuller wanted to do something because even though she couldn’t undo what was already done, she wants to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen to another pet or person.
“You go to a park to be safe and enjoy nature and not to be afraid of speeding bicyclists,” she said. “It’s bizarre.”
It took about a week for Clem to recover from the incident and Fuller still doesn’t feel normal.
Fuller wrote an email to The Seattle Times’ Rant and Rave section. They responded and instructed her to contact her local precinct, she said. She sent an email and received a response from a sergeant saying, since it was days later, there was nothing he could do, but he would forward her email to various city departments.
The city views a pet as property of the owner that does not have the same rights as a person. An official from Seattle’s 911 call center said the response was correct because it is more of a civil matter. It may have been an area for Animal Control to get involved, but more than likely, the responsibility would have been on the owner to handle the situation.
Fuller wants to focus on safety: She wants speed bumps and stop signs put in at every crosswalk throughout the loop trail. She wants better signage at the crosswalks. Clem suggested installing a speed bump. They also would like to see clear painting so both pedestrians and drivers know where the crosswalk is.
Fuller recognizes Discovery Park is a unique situation with the treatment plant, buses and residences in the park, but it’s important to get people to slow down, she said.
Patti Petesch, recreation manager and emergency manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation, was at Discovery Park when motorists came by to tell the visitor’s center staff about the women walking with the dog. Staff started looking for the women but weren’t able to find them, Petesch said.
Petesch has only had one report of bicyclists going too fast in the park in the last eight or nine years, she said. And she’s had very few complaints about cars or trucks speeding. She wasn’t aware of any other vehicle and pedestrian accidents.
The speed limit inside the park is 15 mph, Petesch said. Bikes are considered a vehicle and are required to uphold traffic rules.
The road currently has posted crosswalk signs; Parks is currently investigating whether the signs suit the area. The signs are standard city street signs.
Parks is planning to implement a system to draw attention to the crosswalks, using a crosswalk flag system, like those popular near schools.
The department also plans to put up flyers at information kiosks to remind cars and bikes to obey the speed limits and rules of the road. Parks would pay for the flags and signs.
From there, there would be a conversation between Parks and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) about repainting the crosswalks. Discovery Park Boulevard is the only road SDOT maintains in the park.
Speed bumps aren’t a possibility, Petesch said, because the road is traveled by West Point’s trucks year-round and needs to be plowed during the winter. There is a stop sign lower down on the hill already, and it “would not be prudent to put one at the top of the hill,” she said.
Petesch and her staff’s main goal is safety in the park overall.
“We were very saddened to hear this happened,” Petesch said.
Anne-Marije Rook, communications director for the Cascade Bicycle Club, said Fuller is a big supporter of the club’s cause. They met with her to hear her story.
“We were, as you can imagine, stunned by this news,” Rook said.
The rider didn’t leave his name or contact information, and Rook still hopes that he comes forward.
“Having a nice, formal apology for Anni would be good,” she said, adding that leaving information is the right thing to do.
This incident is a warning about safety for cyclists, Rook said: Safety is something the club is “working tirelessly” on. Many people ride their bikes in parks like Discovery and Carkeek parks.
“We’re concerned about the steep descents, lack of visibility and lack of traffic-calming measures,” Rook said.
The Cascade Bike Club is working with the city and SDOT to add safety measures in Discovery Park. The club is still scheduling meetings with city officials, so there hasn’t been an outcome yet.
The club will feature Fuller’s story in its monthly newsletter to bring awareness and remind people to be courteous and slow down.
“It’s a reminder that what happened to us could happen to other people and be even more serious because it could be people who are hit,” Fuller said. “It’s not a place for people to bicycle as fast as they can down the hill without being able to stop.”
It’s a chance to talk about safety, Rook said.
“Unfortunately, Anni’s story isn’t unique,” Rook said. “Cyclists aren’t the only vulnerable road and trail users out there.”
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