Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why No one Wants to Ride on 9W Anymore

I was dismayed to hear from cyclist Marcus of New York City, that many cyclists are no longer using Rte. 9W because of fears of being killed by a motorist--as was Camille Savoy in November last year.

Instead, cyclists are using Rte. 501 (known as Piermont Road)--a far less safe road that winds along the bottom valley, from Piermont to Englewood. It's less safe because it has no shoulder at all, and a lot of constant traffic, as well as numerous intersections and turn ons and turn offs.

This is one of the predictable and unfortunate outcomes of a cyclist's death on a road that is presumably "safe", where relative measures of safety are indeed difficult to pinpoint. Yet there is no argument whatsoever that the existence of a large 8 to 10 foot shoulder on 9W for the preponderance of its length from Clinton Ave. in Tenafly to Sparkill, NY, does indeed make it the "safest" section of road for cyclists to travel on.

Safest that is, until Camille Savoy was killed. But not just killed. Killed inexplicably and without penalty to the driver is the problem. Still no word from the Bergen County Prosecutor's office--they have not returned numerous phone calls from BBB or NY Cycle News as to the disposition of the case.

Last we heard, from another source, the driver who struck Savoy because she was driving on the white line and failed to give him space as she passed--a legal requirement--is still on the loose, driving for all we know, and only required to pass another driving test. This all despite her previous bad driving record, which we also learned from another source, and possibly some other impediment that made her inexplicably smash into--and kill--Savoy with such force that she blew his bike into half.

Why this woman has not been yanked forcibly off the road, hopefully permanently, why she has not been given a careless driving ticket, and why she has not been taken up on criminal charges for driving on the white line--as witnessed by the driver behind her--are all good questions.

Is John L. Molinelli , the Bergen County Prosecutor, not responsible to the public? Is he entitled to allow a criminal to go uncharged, and worse, presumably to continue to drive--leaving other cyclists, pedestrians, children and animals in the line of her killer car?

It seems so. And that, that is the reason, no one wants to ride on Rt. 9W anymore. Like the ancient civilizations before us, once we know a well-frequented route is laden with dangers, no matter whether they are robbers or killers, no matter how inexpedient, we are likely to avoid that route at all costs.

An all too pernicious reason for cyclists to avoid 9W and perhaps Bergen County altogether is now the information surfacing that there is an underground industry of people being paid to take the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission tests in New Jersey. My informant said that industry allows for people who do not speak English (or Spanish, the only other language offered) to have someone else take the test for them--because presumably the ID that is presented at the test is "close enough" for our civil servants to deem indeed the person whose face they see in front of them. Given the possibility for cultural blindness--all of one culture and ethnicity "looks alike" to the other, the fine distinctions that come with time and familiarity are not there.

So what is required? I hate to say it, an investigation, and on follow up, finger printing for identification purposes. Or, tests offered in all of the local languages, whatever they may be, and to hell with this false pride about how "if they want to take the test they have to know how to speak English (or Spanish). No other languages are offered either in the booklet, the written test or the driver's test, although they are allowed to bring an interpretor, said a representative from the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission

Cyclist Fatalities in 2008: Redux

Since our last post on BBB on the Ghost Bikes Memorial, written by Peter Meitzler, we have had the chance to revisit the topic of bike fatalities. They were grossly up in New Jersey, and down in New York City in 2008.

BBB was quoted in an article posted today in the Bergen Record, about the reasons for an increase in fatalities in New Jersey, which we believe has everything to do with the lack of penalties for drivers who hit and maim or kill cyclists.

Still today, incredibly every crash is considered an accident, and the driver is allowed to walk away from the scene without even a ticket. When the cyclist is dead or cannot speak because they are in a coma (as was Savoy), that makes it even more expedient for the driver. So why bother driving safely around cyclists if there are no real penalties?

Again, here is the contact information for the Bergen County Prosecutor's office. Let them know that you want to know the outcome of the Savoy incident, and the disposition of the driver: is she still driving? If she is, there may be good reason to avoid Rt. 9W.

John L. Molinelli
Bergen County Prosecutor
William J. Galda
First Assistant Prosecutor
Joseph Macellaro
Chief of Detectives

10 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
Mon-Fri (201) 646-2300
After Hours (201) 646-2700


Andy B from Jersey said...

Living in Central Jersey, I'm not as intimately familiar with Bergen County as a cyclist. However Piermont Rd may not be more dangerous than 9W. If the traffic is slower and lighter, the lack of a shoulder may not make it more dangerous. If fact it may be less deadly if vehicle speeds are lower. However, what I could never understand is why people ride 9W when spectacular and very lightly traveled Henry Hudson Drive (which I have ridden) parallels 9W for 2/3 of the ride from the GWB to the NY border.

I do sympathize with you about the lack of prosecution in this and many other cases. There are just too many "accident." However compared to NYC the difference I see is not prosecution but engineering to make the roads safer for cyclists.

Anonymous said...

Megan from Jersey said...

Henry Hudson Drive...just as bad as 9W. Could you actual imagine hundreds of cyclist going through the park on unlined roads with traffic coming in both directions and road conditions that suck. Great for hikers ...bad for cyclists. The cyclists are never going to go away. Drive slower.