My husband and I have lived on this busy road for almost 15 years. It’s now a two-lane road funneling commuters from Snohomish, East Bothell and Eastern suburbs into Seattle. Maples line the street, forming an canopy of shade over the road. In the fall, when the leaves turn wine and red, orange and yellow, drivers stop, park their cars, and get out to take photos.
Cat Whisker Road is a residential street lined with homes and apartment complexes. The speed limit is 35 miles per hour, but drivers barrel along faster than that during rush hour. Children and seniors live on this street, not to mention dogs and cats. Last summer, the road was four lanes. A bicyclist walking his bike in a cross walk was fatally struck by a pickup. Caleb, the bicyclist, was 16 when he died. The truck driver didn’t see him in the cross walk until it was too late.
Since his death, Caleb’s family has kept fresh flowers, artificial orchid leis, live plants, stuffed animals and love notes at the accident site. Shortly after the memorial, an old bike spray-painted white — a ghost bike — appeared. It’s still chained it to a maple trunk near the memorial.
The City of Kenmore, after years of ignoring the crazy traffic and poorly maintained sidewalks, hurriedly redesigned the traffic lanes. At the base of the road, off of Bothell Way (a major thoroughfare), the four lanes remain, but now they quickly merge to two lanes well before the walkway and busy intersection. The City installed yellow lights on the crosswalk that flash when a pedestrian presses a button to cross. Still, it’s a gamble for someone on foot to cross Cat Whisker. For a long stretch, there are no stop signs, so it’s easy for a driver to pick up speed without thinking.
When I walk my dog past Caleb’s memorial, I check it out to see if new plants and flowers have been added. It’s winter now, and the plastic flowers have faded. Caleb’s photo, nestled among the flowers, has faded a little, too. He must’ve been a cool kid. He has an open, genial expression, with clear skin and eyes.
We are in such a hurry to get from one place to another. At the same time, we’re bored with driving, and distract ourselves with radio, breakfast, putting on makeup, texting, and phone calls. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for the young man whose truck plowed into Caleb. How does your own life change after you’ve accidentally taken someone else’s?