Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Nightmare Starts

It is no surprise that after the mourning comes the fighting.

As many friends of Camille Savoy have said, Savoy would not have wanted too much bickering.

Nevertheless, the finger-pointing and the anger has begun to mount as cyclists react to the facts in Savoy's case--and how these have been handled in the press.

What's more, cyclists say, they think this driver will get away with murder, and things will continue as before. They also decry what they see as a system that allows motorists to break the law without reprimand or fault, while a man lies dead from their negligence.

Photo: Cyclist Andreas Meyer attaching ghost bike he made for Camille Savoy on Dec. 6, 2008. Meyer never met Savoy.

The mainstream press reported that both cyclist and driver shared fault for the accident. But the Bergen County prosecutor's office has not determined that--and until they do--such as determination cannot be made by the accident report. 

Further, cyclists point out in endless emails behind the scenes, that New Jersey state law requires drivers must yield to cyclists and pedestrians in the road, and exercise due care when driving around them.

This particular driver for whatever reason, did not do so. It is the Bergen County prosecutor's office responsibility to determine why Wha Kim, did not move around Savoy. 

It is also their responsibility to determine why she was she driving on the white line--which is not legal. Giving her another driving test is useless now, since she has had time--and motive--to study up.

More importantly, the prosecutor's office should be looking for other reasons she may have had to drive badly that day: did she forget to take her medication that day? Was she on the phone?  Was she supposed to be wearing prescription lenses ? Did she need glasses but didn't own a pair? Or was she physically unable to drive? Or, the prosecutor's office will need to determine, if Wha Kim actually knows the rules of the road.

All of these questions need to be answered before the investigation is deemed complete.

Chapter 8 of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Manual states:
"Bicycles, skateboards and inline skates:
A motorist should always leave plenty of room when following or passing a bicyclist, skateboarder or inline skater. Under New Jersey law, each of these individuals has the same rights and responsibilities as a moving motor vehicle."
Yet for some reason, drivers in New Jersey seem to think that cyclists need to "stay" in the shoulder lane--even though for many years it wasn't even legal for cyclists to ride in the shoulder in New Jersey, said Stephen Bauman who worked as a cycling leader for the American Youth Hostel for many years. That confusion in itself has led many cyclists to wonder where they are supposed to ride.

For example, even the Englewood Cliffs police department were not informed that the shoulder on Rte. 9W was going to be removed when the area between E. Palisade Avenue and Clinton Avenue, was repaved several years ago. That shoulder had been used by cyclists for years for the approximately one mile distance, but now cyclists compete with cars on their left and huge gaping grates on their right, to make it through to a safer area (after Clinton).

What's more, it appears that some motorists are deeply confused about their responsibilities as drivers.

This excerpt from a post by a driver to BBB when Savoy was still alive perhaps demonstrates a misconception that in itself will lead to more crashes and deaths (unedited text):
This article speaks of NJ MV Law (title 39). Yes, a bibyle is a vehicle and has just as much right to the roadway as a motor vehicle (MV). However, just like when another MV is attempting to change lanes, it has to yield to the MV already in that lane. ..... I wish nothing but a fast and healthy recovery for the cyclist, but lets be fair and just.
This misinterpretation begs the question: how could this driver have passed the New Jersey driver's test? The only way is if the test itself insufficiently tests for a driver's knowledge on how to manuever around cyclists. Or, the driver themselves have faulty--or perhaps even selective--memory based on their desired method of driving.

In this case, the desired method of driving, could be seen as will-oriented--I will go where I want when I want to, regardless of whom is in the way--unless it is a danger to me specifically. And they have to get out of my way, even if they cannot see me (but I can see them).

Is this perhaps the logic we are dealing with in New Jersey--backwards? So now cyclists are required to see behind them that a car is driving on the white line, and has no intention of giving space? Wow, that's pretty darn scary.

Will the Bergen County prosecutor's office see this subtle fact? Will they come out with a thorough investigation? Why not ask them? Their number is 201- 646-2300. Ask for John Mullanelli.

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