City mourns popular barista, questions bike path's safety

Sep 9, 2011

The morning routine has irrevocably changed for thousands of Seattle coffee drinkers. A popular barista at Espresso Vivaci, Brian Fairbrother, died yesterday from head injuries sustained in a bicycle accident last month. He was 50.  

According to the Seattle Times, Fairbrother crashed his bicycle on a path between the South lake Union and the Eastlake neighborhoods. He hit stairs on Fairview Avenue North, where the path abruptly diverts cyclists from a pedestrian bridge to a poorly marked bike lane that runs against traffic on the west side of the street.

His death has inspired outpourings of sorrow and remembrance of a lifelong learner whose pastimes included travel, cooking, bellydancing and a Spanish-language book club. For several days after his accident, friends and colleagues dressed in orange – his favorite color.  

And cycling advocates are picking apart the accident and asking tough questions about the circumstances of his death.

Fairbrother was found face down and unconscious. There was a bike helmet at the scene.

"Did a bike path just kill a Seattle cyclist?" asks blogger Michael van Baker on the SunBreak blog, which has several photos of the path, showing with red arrows and scribbles how treacherous the route could be if unfamiliar and taken at high speed.  

Police detectives say they're investigating the site to determine whether additional signage is needed.

Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan tells the Seattle Times the city has not received complaints about that area and is not aware of previous incidents involving the steps.

"We'll review the areas on both sides of the pedestrian bridge to determine whether additional signage or markings would be beneficial," he said. "Our hearts go out to the cyclist's family and friends. This incident does reinforce that cyclists unfamiliar with a trail or sidewalk need to ride with caution."