Brother of dead cyclist accepts settlement, but is still battling over safety

Two years after Desiree McCloud's death, her 26-year old brother Cody McCloud still has a hard time expressing how angry he is.

"I don't think there's anything I can say to the public that would really express how I feel toward the Seattle Department of Transportation or the City of Seattle," McCloud told KIRO 7 on Wednesday. "You killed a member of my family and you don't give a (expletive)."

Desiree McCloud, 27, died in May 2016 after her bicycle's front wheel got caught in a First Hill Streetcar track gap on East Yesler Way near 13th Avenue in Seattle. She was passing another cyclist at the time.

Late last year, the younger McCloud sued the City of Seattle.

"The purpose of the lawsuit above anything else was to address the City as directly as I possibly could," he said.

Within days of Desiree's death, family and friends started calling for safety improvements at the site of her crash. KIRO 7 took those concerns to the Seattle Department of Transportation. SDOT City Traffic Engineer Dongho Chang told a KIRO 7 news crew on June 20, 2016 that "some simple things" might be changed, "like signing" near the site.

However, the McCloud family has always believed either physical barriers, such as those that separate cyclists from the streetcar tracks on Broadway, or rubber flanging as installed on a crosswalk across the tracks at Dearborn, would be safer.

Neither has been implemented.

"They'll put flange filler in one gap in one spot," Cody McCloud explained, "but the rest of it, to hell with you if you crash and die there.  That's your problem."

McCloud believes the $490,000 the City of Seattle paid him to settle his complaint is "an admission of guilt in my eyes." He believes the City admitted it's "responsible for the death of my sister," but is very frustrated by the City's reluctance to make any safety improvements.

Which is why he agreed to tell his story.

Since 2013, the City of Seattle has faced six other legal claims because of First Hill Streetcar track-related bicycle injuries.

McCloud's lawyer told KIRO 7, before the line was built, the City knew of the risks because a 2007 study of Portland's rail system showed 67 percent of responding bicyclists reported crashes caused by tracks there.

"The City of Seattle ignored" its consultants and "determined the hazard was less frequent than that, and less severe," Phillip Arnold of Campich Arnold PLLC in Seattle said from his downtown office.  He claims, during the City's review process "its consultants warned that this was a catastrophic hazard involving death."

"In 43-years of deposing traffic engineers, I perceive a contemptuousness and arrogance that they shift responsibility to the victim and blame the victim for the crime," Arnold told KIRO 7.

An SDOT spokeswoman declined to comment on the McCloud settlement. Dawn Schellenberg of SDOT would also not answer KIRO 7's questions about whether there were any proposed or planned changes to the First Hill Streetcar tracks.

A number of cyclists have also sued the City of Seattle because of crashes along the South Lake Union Streetcar tracks.

Even though Cody McCloud's legal battle with Seattle is over, he won't stop demanding changes.

"Hell no," he said in response.  "I'm still here. My sister's not."

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