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.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hundreds Ride in Frigid Weather to Honor Fallen Cyclist

Over 100 cyclists honored Camille Savoy yesterday in a memorial of his life by riding to the site where he was hit and holding a small ceremony.

The sanctity of the event was marred only by the lack of clarity among New Jersey citizens about the rules of the road--and the law--when it was reported later that the police report showed that the motorist and cyclist shared fault for the incident.
Photo of Savoy this past Septmber at wedding of Jerry Zoppi's daughter
With temperatures hovering at a wet and chilly 34 degrees, cyclists from all parts of the New York and New Jersey region gathered at the George Washington Bridge, and rode to the site where Savoy was hit last November 9 by a motor vehicle.

Savoy survived multiple hits to his body, but he died later due to severe brain injuries on November 26.

Friends like Van and Betsey Gothner, both also cyclists, got up at 5 a.m. to travel from Massachusetts to help lead the ride for their dear friend. Other friends who preferred to drive behind the group, like Jon Tulis who traveled with his family from Philadelphia, patiently motorcaded behind the cyclists at an average speed of 10 mph to the site 6 miles north, near Rio Esplanade in Alpine, NJ.

Cyclists from the New York Cycling Club, Strictly Bicycles of Fort Lee, NJ, Major Taylor of NY, NY, the Ave A Razorfish Cycling Team, Third Nature of Teaneck, NJ, Jay’s Cycle Center team of Westfield, NJ, and others bundled up in multi-layers of lycra to make the trip.

At the scene, Andreas Meyer had placed a ghost bike that he constructed (with help from Strictly Bicycles) and painted on Saturday, which he chained around a handmade wooden cross made by Savoy's good friend, Jean Claude Garcia.

Garcia who was with the group on Sunday, had attached a copy of his painting of a man cycling through the woods, and underneath he had written, "Race to heaven my friend."

Ellen from Ghost Bikes brought a stenciled sign that reminded us of Savoy's life--and that at this spot he was killed.

BBB spoke of the importance of Savoy's life, and asked that everyone present now were being knighted bicycle change agents--to prevent incidents of this kind from occurring again.

She also said a tree would be planted in his memory--something the New Jersey Department of Transportation could not remove from behind the wall.

Van and Betsey Gothner spoke of their long time friendship with Savoy, and how they had often enjoyed riding with him in Masschusetts where Savoy had a home. "He would not even have been here in this cold--he didn't even own a pair of tights, or go out if there was a drop of rain," Gothner noted. On the ride up Betsey Gothner noted that Savoy maybe was enjoying this unusual tribute to his memory, ironically in weather he would never have ridden in.

Savoy was hit and killed on a perfectly clear day--the only obstacle to his safe ride, a driver with a bad driving record who drove close to the line and ignored New Jersey motor vehicle law--to move around cyclists traveling in front of them.

Jon Diamond, his voice choked with emotion, spoke with his wife by his side, she with tears trailing down her pink-with-cold cheeks.

Diamond spoke about how Savoy would come to his jewelry shop in the diamond district every day to talk about everything and anything. Not even an experienced cyclist, Diamond had donned a helmet--at first backwards--swathed himself in warm street clothes, and mounted a steel frame street bike to make the trip for his friend.

Charles Hamley also spoke of his friend who enriched his life. Clarence York, who said that he and Savoy had been very close, choked back tears and said he was unable to speak.

Another friend, Gerry Zoppi said that Savoy was a very cautious rider, and used to warn him not to ride when the conditions weren't good. "We called him Monsieur Mama," said Zoppi.

Another friend offered almonds from a bag that was saved from Savoy's apartment before it was cleaned out: "He would have liked everyone to have one," he said.

Meanwhile, in a sting to Savoy's memory, local news reports of the event said that the police report "backed by an eyewitness – said that the Englewood woman and Savoy were apparently both at fault for riding two close to the white line." Such an assertion cannot be made until the Bergen County prosecutor's office has completed their investigation.

Even so, the statement is also a reminder of the collective ignorance of New Jersey vehicle and traffic law--perhaps a mental block among New Jersey residents---which says that motorists are responsible for moving around cyclists who are ahead of them--regardless of conditions. The reason for this is simple: cyclists are not even technically supposed to be in the shoulder--unless it is a designated bike lane. They are only required to be as far right as possible. But if they have to move out--and nothing in the accident report said Savoy did move out--the driver behind is supposed to slow until they can pass safely or they are supposed to give ample room to the cyclist when they passed.

In a previous post by a reader to BBB, when Savoy was still alive and struggling for his life in the hospital, the reader (possibly a motorist) wrote (no corrections made to their post):
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. The driver cannot just pull into another travel lane and expect other MV's to stop. The MV attempting to change lanes needs to let traffic clear and make sure it is safe before it can change lanes. THIS IS THE SAME TO BICYCLES. This article is bias and places blame only on the motorist who struck the bicyclist. I wish nothing but a fast and healthy recovery for the cyclist, but lets be fair and just.
Cyclists at the event complained bitterly that motorists routinely speed and ignore basic traffic laws, cutting them off at intersections, and coming within inches of them when they ride.

As cyclists began to leave after the ceremony, they were barked at by the police officer through a loudspeaker system. Although it is standard operating procedure for officers to use the car's PA system for crowd control, because they are not in cars, the sound is jarring. It's also a reminder of the secondary status they often assume on our nation's highways and byways.

Not that the Alpine Police Dept. had not been sensitive to Savoy's plight: they assisted in every way possible to make the memorial safe, sending their officer there to sit for over an hour.

Lt. Michael LaViola of the Alpine police also spent hours with BBB assisting in the identification of the spot where Savoy was hit. LaViola is no stranger to pain: his 20-year-old son died this year of cancer. Later, two Bergen County police officers heading his son's funeral procession on motorcycles crashed on the State Line hill going north on 9W, and one lost his leg.

But if only the state took more care in addressing the NJ motor vehicle manual, which does not even specify how to drive around cyclists; or in preventing the driver from renewing her license when she had a bad driving record. (Turn to Chapter 8.)

And if only such police vigilance could have been present that day when Wha Kim struck Camille Savoy, barking at her to stay away from the white line ---perhaps he might still be alive today.

Something to ponder for the inventors among you, an automated white-line, motion response barking tool, manufactured for all highways and roads that have spaces dividing motorists from cyclists and pedestrians. A pressure sensitive reader embedded in the white line using micro-chip technology could also send a message to the local police station alerting them that some nudnick motorist is driving on the line.

Please email jbenepe@msn.com with your photos and comments.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Weather report

For those of you who do not believe:

The Weather Channel says SUN (no precipitation) by 9 AM tomorrow morning
Weather Underground for Fort Lee, NJ
Radar for Fort Lee, NJ
Chance of snow flurries only 30 percent predicted by Yahoo weather.

40 percent chance does not cancel. Over 60 percent chance, riders not expected to show.

However, since friends will be traveling from afar, this event WILL NOT BE CANCELED.

Those of you who do not want to ride and wish to drive, please meet at the bridge with your car.

This event will still take place.

BBB

UPDATE ON SAVOY RIDE, Dec. 7, 2008

Many of you are wondering if the ride will be taking place tomorrow.

As of right now at 7 P.M. Saturday night, YES, the ride is taking place.

At 10 PM tonight we will make the call ONLY if a drastic weather report indicates heavy snow. But reports of 30% chance of flurries will NOT cancel this ride. Please check back tonight or first thing in the morning.

It will however, be VERY cold. Please bring an extra layer, and chemical hand warmers. You can expect to have to wait twice, once at the bridge, and again at the location some 5 to 6 miles north.

Again, we are producing three maps to outline the route. Above is the first part of the route, from George Washington Bridge, to E. Palisade Avenue.

If you are late, you can still make it.

At this point, because the markings are very clear you will have no trouble finding the location unless a goblin (either a very wicked goblin or someone who doesn't want to honor Camille) comes and takes down Camille's shrine .

The second part of the map is from Floyd Road and Palisade Avenue, to Sage Road. (see below)

The third map is from Sage Road and 9W (Sylvan Avenue) to the location right near Indian Head Road, and also south of the turn off to Rio Vista Esplanade in
Alpine, NJ. It you are driving you can go straight up 9W to the location. (See last map diagram).

A number of people have contributed to the organization of this ride, and to the honoring of Savoy. Although someone had destroyed the markings set up by us to mark the spot, BBB was touched beyond words (yes it is possible) by the simple, beautiful gestures by his friends and acquaintances to create a memorial for him. BBB refuses to give it away--you will see once we arrive at the site, what they have done.

BBB will also bring a car to the bridge, in case someone has not been prope
rly prepared and needs a ride. There will be room for three bikes and four or five person, with one
responsible driver, (not BBB).

This way if you come and the snowfall is too great to contemplate, you can be one of those who ditches the bike and takes the nice, warm car.

Other surprises will await us at the location. It will be exactly 29 days, perhaps to the hour, that Savoy was hit when we arrive around 10 A.M.

Other notes:
The south side of the bridge is scheduled to be open and cleaned since workers left metal shavings there this morning. If it is closed for some reason, use the north side. Be prepared to walk up and down metal stairs if you do.

Several groups have planned group rides to the bridge. Among
them are:
  1. The New York Cycling Club group, they are leaving from 72nd and Riverside Drive in Manhattan at 8:20 A.M. Please contact Chris Hartmann at hudsonhartmann@gmail.com for more info or if you want to catch them on RSD.
  2. The Third Nature group, who will be leaving from Teaneck, NJ, at 8:15 A.M. Their address is 1382 Queen Anne Road, telephone 201-833-0009, or visit their website, www.3rdnaturecycling.com
  3. NY Velocity team, from New York, NY
  4. Members of the Major Taylor Team, New York, NY
  5. Individual friends of Camille's traveling by bike from the Westchester area (Alfred and Leon);
  6. Strictly Bicycles Team from Fort Lee, NJ
  7. Friends of Camille's who are traveling great distances. Some will ride with us, others will take their cars to the location.
For those driving from the North along Route 87, either cross the Tappan Zee Bridge, get off at Nyack, NY (first exit) and drive south on Route 9W until you reach Alpine, NJ. Continue south past the turn-offs to Closter and Cresskill, NJ, and a couple of miles down you will find us.

OR--you could drive down to the GWB, get off at the first exit to Fort Lee, bear to your right immediately, follow the road in a 180 degree turn, and proceed down hill to Hudson Terrace. We will be starting the ride right there. Take a left onto Hudson Terrace and find a parking spot.

If you are driving from points SOUTH (like from Pennsylvania) take Rte. 95 almost to the bridge UPPER LEVEL. Stay to the RIGHT, take THE LEMOINE AVENUE EXIT, go straight through the first lights and then the second (Center Avenue), the third lights (Lemoine Avenue) then the fourth past the bridge, down the hill and take a left at Hudson Terrace (fifth lights) and find the first parking spot you can find. Hudson Terrace is the very eastern most road next to the Hudson River without going under the bridge and cliffs. We will be several feet past the underpass to the GWB.

We will see you see you in the morning.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

More on Savoy Memorial--And Car Companies in DC

Today BBB received a photo from a friend of Camille Savoy, Rob Glick. 

It was simply a depiction of Savoy's bike a short time after he was hit.

Glick would have had to have gone over the police line for this shot, but in doing so made aspects of the accident clear: the bike was not run over twice (1), and judging by the damage to the back of the bike, including the wheel and seat, Savoy was struck from behind with tremendous force (2). 

Again, the severe damage to Savoy's head leads one to believe that he was subsequently run over by a car traveling behind the Subaru. The driver of that car, Michael Passow, was the only other witness to the incident. 

Also, the severe break of his bike implies that the speed of the motorists greatly exceeded the speed limit of 45 mph (since he would have been traveling at about 20 mph).  Most bikes will sustain even a direct 90 degree strike without breaking (Mine survived a combined 60 mph hit.)

The bike damage and implied direction of the strike also implies that the driver suddenly swerved (because if she had been proceeding straight all the while, she more likely would have clipped him and sent him sideways.)

Please email me if you have more information about the incident, at jbenepe@msn.com. 

More information on the memorial: the latest weather forecast predicts a 30 percent chance of snow flurries, and 36 degrees. The ride will proceed if that forecast stays the same. Please check this blog for updates after 10 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6.

There will be good friends of Savoy coming to the event from distances well over 5 hours. Many of them are close, long time friends who will come and join us either in the bike portion or will drive to the location. Again, motorists, please park some distance from the "spot". 

Andreas Meyer will be constructing a ghost bike, with an old cast-off supplied by Nelson Vasquez , owner of Strictly Bicycles (that big shop you are watching being built along Hudson Terrace in Fort Lee, NJ).

Some people may be assembling after the ride at the private home of a friend of Savoy's. For those making the ride all the way to Piermont or Nyack, there will be spontaneous assemblies in those locations.

The ride will be cancelled for rain, but will not be cancelled for "snow flurry" forecasts below 50 percent.

And, On Capitol Hill....

Lawmakers, including our own Senator Charles (Chuck) Schumer, (D-NY), met with car company executives in Washington, D.C. again today.

This was the car companies' second trip to the capitol to beg for money, and this time the bill was higher, $38 billion in aid from us, United States taxpayers.

Now, let's think about this. Chuckie Schumer should know this already since he rides a bike every week. If we spent $38 Billion dollars on rebuilding our roads and highways to include safe passage to bicycles, pedestrians, and other non-motorized transport (such as pedicyles), we wouldn't have to worry about spending money on oil or drilling in the Alaskan wilderness. 

We could also reduce the 45,000 people killed by cars every year, the hundreds of thousands more killed by asthma, lung cancer, and other environmental diseases caused by automotive use.  Not to mention the animal lives saved, and the reduction of deterioration to our natural resources with secondary pollutants, like car solvents and oils which enter our water sources, damaging our water--and animals forever.

What's more, with that money we could build fantastic parks, byways free of cars, and bike parking facilities around the country. 

Not to mention, we could use that money to refuel our investment accounts which were depleted by about 40% when the big banks decided to gamble with our investments.

If the U.S. government does decide to fund those companies, Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, it would be a travesty. They have been making cars that burn excessive fuel despite progress by their foreign competitors, (a trend led primarily by Toyota). They have failed repeatedly to introduce energy saving cars, or to provide advanced designs in anticipation of consumer tastes. Instead, they have churned out the same massively big, heavy, energy-hoggers over and over and over again.

All in all, BBB suggests that this is not good fiscal policy. Please, do write to your senator and urge them to send those pathetic car companies back to Detroit where they belong--and to give the money to alternative transit.

Here is the link to Chuckie Schumer's contact page.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Spot Found, More Details on Savoy Memorial

It was a gray day today with the sun barely appearing when BBB went to meet with Lt. Laviola of the Alpine police department to determine where exactly Camille Savoy was hit.

Savoy was hit by a driver from behind on November 9 while he was traveling north on Rte. 9W. He went through the windshield, then up over the top of the car, and then fell to the ground, according to the latest update from the Alpine police dept. 

Savoy was unable to overcome massive head injuries last Wednesday, Nov. 26, and
his medical team is said to have advised his family that the cyclist would not be able to recover.

BBB walked to a spot that looked about where Savoy had been hit, leaned down and lo and behold, found what appears to be his splintered pump among the leaves. Buried about a foot away, was (ostensibly) his water bottle with some sports liquid still remaining. And not too far from the bottle, lay the broken chain--ostensibly from his bike. 

The proximity of the items, and how shattered they are--the chain ripped off his bike and no longer a circle-- is a testament to how violently Savoy was struck.

Also there was the black grill cover of a car light, and not too far--lay a red car light cover.

BBB created a mini-shrine composed of the little parts which we thought were his, adding long sticks and stones, plus some blue plastic from the road to mark the spot so that passing cyclists can identify the area. 

As BBB draped the silver chain over a tree fragment, it looked ironically like a Christmas ornament. 

For those cyclists who are coming to Savoy's memorial ride (see previous post) on Sunday, Dec. 7 (rain date, Dec. 14) leaving from the GWB at 9 AM, or anyone who wants to place flowers, here is a picture of the closest utility pole across Rte. 9W from his accident spot. 

It is the third utility pole north (on the west side of the road) from the mulch yard.  You should be able to see Savoy's shrine almost directly across the street.  This is just south of the Indian Head Road.

The driver of the vehicle that hit Savoy, Wha S. Kim, 71, of Englewood, NJ, was given a ticket for careless driving, said Lt. Laviola. 

Her driver's license is also currently under review, as well as her driving record, he added. Under these circumstances she will need to re-take her licensing exam he noted. It was not clear if she will be allowed to drive at this time.

It is still unclear from the accident report just how and why Savoy's head was so badly injured, and his bike flattened beyond recognition if he had only been hit once--and only with the right front side of Kim's Subaru. 

The Bergen County prosecutor's office still has not finalized their investigation into the incident. 

Many of Savoy's friends are shocked, hurt and angry at his death. "He was such a sweet man," said his friend and frequent cycling partner Alfred. "I can still hear him talking now. I just can't believe he is gone." Savoy is said to have gone out alone on Sunday because he could not ride on Saturday: normally he does not ride alone, said Alfred.

A note for those of you who are driving to the location on Sunday: Please park as close to the sign just north of the site that reads "Rio Esplanade", and walk south about 100 feet to the marked spot. 

Ride for Camille, 1954 to 2008

Memorial ride for Camille Savoy, 54
Cyclist who was hit on Nov. 9, 2008, and died on Nov. 26th, 2008.
Meet: Sunday Dec. 7th
Raindate: Sunday Dec. 14th
If necessary, second raindate, Sunday, Dec. 21st
Time: 9 AM
Location: New Jersey side of the GWB, Hudson Terrace. For safety please meet just north of the bridge, on the grassy area off the road.
Length: Approximately 6 miles to the location, and then on to Piermont, NY and back (roundtrip is 30 miles).

You are not required to do the entire ride, and the return from Piermont will not be organized or in formation. 

Ride will leave once all people have arrived, approximately 9:15. However we do ask that you arrive on time because people of different abilities will be represented and we would like to organize the ride so that we are riding two by two. 

We will also at that time go over the route. Please if you plan on coming, a strict two-abreast policy will be requested. 

The ride will go at the speed of the slowest rider, so PLEASE be patient, and respectful if you are a fast rider. 

Several very nice and accomplished people many of whom have had a number of years of experience with memorial rides and with ride management, have agreed to lead the ride or assist in its safety, including Leo Parascondola, Charles Komanoff, Richard Rosenthal, and dear friends of Camille, Jon Diamond, Rob Glick, and others who will be added to this list at later edits. At the time of this writing, Capt. Tim Ford of the Fort Lee police dept. who is a rider with Strictly Bicycles, might also be riding with us.

There will be a 15 minute memorial service where people can speak publicly about Camille at the location where he was hit. Please dress warmly or bring a light jacket to cover yourself when we are stopped.

There will also be some cars that will be driven to the location for those who do not ride. Parking arrangements near the spot will be arranged with the Alpine police dept., Please contact Jon Diamond, who is organizing car rides, jsdiamond@gmail.com

The Route
  • Hudson Terrace North, to Palisades Avenue
  • Left on Palisades Avenue straight through the light to Floyd,
  • Right on Floyd.
  • Floyd almost to end, then 
  • Left on Van Wagoner Drive*, and right again on Johnson Avenue to Sage (past the ball yards), 
  • Right on Sage to light.
  • Then left on 9W to the location (this will be posted tomorrow.) For reasons of safety, the group will hold traffic at this light to make sure everyone can pass or will re-gather just north at 9W where there is a shoulder.