Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bus Riders Laughed as Hurt Cyclist Lay Bleeding

Riders in a bus that passed by the scene of the accident where Jessica Purcell lay bleeding on August 1, laughed and derided her for cycling on Rte. 9W.

Several people who were taking the Red and Tan bus 9A that travels from 177th st. and Manhattan to Nyack and parts beyond, laughed when they saw the cyclist lying on the ground, and spoke loudly how they thought she "deserved it" for attempting to ride on Rte. 9W, which they called a "highway," said a rider on the bus who listened to the loud conversation.

The bus rider who witnessed the discussion, and who spoke on condition of anonymity was taking the bus from New York to Piermont, NY, one of the stops further north on the route. He said four people and the bus driver first mocked the woman and laughed at Purcell's distress when they saw her lying on the ground, then spent another 15 or 20 minutes mocking cyclists and deriding them.

Because of the accident, the bus was re-routed from Rte. 9W going north near Exit 4N of the Palisades Interstate Parkway, and had to travel south through parts of New Jersey to get back on track.

The witness said he did not think the bus riders in question has any experience as cyclists, but appeared to be friendly with one another and the driver.

Bob Mionske, a lawyer, bike law blogger and author of the book Bicycling and the Law, said "I don't know whether it common for the public to laugh and mock someone laying gravely injured or dead on the roadside-- but it does not surprise me when it does happen, it turns out to be a fallen cyclist."

Another lawyer, Bob Fader who practices in New York State and specializes in crashes involving cyclists and motorists, was dismayed by the idea that passerbys would find something humorous in a Purcell's misfortune: "Unfortunately, cyclists continue to fight against a misinformed and misguided public which remains inexplicably biased toward motor vehicles," he said.

Many cyclists have long complained of being asked to "Get off the road," or told, "You don't belong here," when not only do they have the legal right to be on the road, but often don't even have space on roads designated for their use, as in the case of Rte. 9W, and are struggling to make a good situation out of a bad road.

Route 9W is a designated bike route. At the accident site in question near Exit 4N of the PIP, the north bound right hand shoulder has been engineered out to allow for a left hand turning lane for motorists entering the northbound Palisades Interstate Parkway.

And ultimately, cyclists move to the bottom of the ranking when it comes to all types of transportation or movement: "Cyclists are legally considered pedestrians but are treated like trespassers," said Fader.

There is still no word on how the accident took place other than the testimony of two "witnesses" who were in front of Purcell and did not see, but heard her crash into the back of the Chrysler Sebring owned by Stephen Spiegel which had stopped at the light.

Purcell's husband, Steve Zebrack also crashed, breaking his collarbone.

There is also no further word on Purcell's condition, whose face and head were severely damaged by the crash, and was being treated in the trauma unit at the Westchester Medical Center. Last we heard she was still in a medically induced coma after doctors performed surgery on her face and head.

Not all motorists think badly of cyclists, but they do complain that sometimes it seems to be a free for all. Yesterday, a woman who works nearby in the Palisades area about a mile and a half north of the crash site spoke anonymously and said she felt sorry for Purcell, but was constantly worried about cyclists' safety on 9W because they often take up a lot of space on the road, and don't always use the shoulders even when there is one.


Anonymous said...

The lack of compassion (and senseless, crude behavior) when someone was clearly in medical distress is simply disgraceful and beyond words.

Hearing about any accident on the road, truly dismays me. My thoughts are with Jessica Purcell & her loved ones.

Adam Ebihara G.

Anonymous said...

Can you please explain to me how a bus traveling up 9W, that was rerouted around the accident scene, saw the accident scene and Jessica laying on the ground?

I'm not saying people weren't laughing, but I don't think they could have seen her bleeding on the ground considering northbound traffic was stopped well before the accident scene.

Jen Benepe said...

This is what was told to me by the witness, who said after they saw the crash they were re-routed. I asked him three times if they saw her on the ground, and he said, yes, they saw her body lying on the ground at the crash scene.
I think the crash site was not immediately sealed off--and later it was.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jen... I was wondering if you would contact me at i am a jersey city fireman/cyclist.. i was riding south on 9w when i came upon the accident. I stopped to help the doctor and nurse until the ambulance corp. arrived. I have a very important question i need to ask you regarding Jessica.


Anonymous said...

First, 9W is a highway. Second, what do you not understand about the cause of this crash? I think the accident report explains it pretty well. And cyclists are not pedestrians...they are considered vehicles. NY lawyers should practice law in NY.

Anonymous said...

If the author of theses articles and the intelligent people who read them cannot understand the cause of this accident, I have serious doubts about the education system. It is pretty obvious that the cyclist ran into the back of the stopped car. I don't need someone standing there with a video camera to come to a logical conclusion about this crash. Stop looking for a way out and face that Jessica messed up and hit this guys car...I mean there was no one else there. And why was she going so fast while approaching a red traffic light?

Anonymous said...

Jenn, you basically came to your own conclusions without even reading the accident report. You are not reporting the facts as they are given to you. This is all poor reporting.

Anonymous said...

I highly question the validity of this story. If they were traveling north and passed the accident scene they would not have been rerouted after the accident. Your picture in an earlier post even shows where they rerouted southbound traffic north of the accident scene. If they passed the accident why on earth would they then be routed south again only to bypass something they already passed??

Jen Benepe said...

They came upon the scene right after it happened. Apparently they were then asked to turn around.
Is that so incredible to believe? Are you implying the story was made up? Because it wasn't. It was a story that was volunteered and not sought out by BBB, and it was recounted by an objective bystander who was on the bus and is not a cyclist, and lives in Piermont.
I have been reporting both sides of this incident, and it has been fair, balanced and accurate. Just because you don't believe it doesn't mean it's not true.

Jen Benepe said...

PS instead of publishing your biased statements both about my reporting and about the facts as an "anonymous" person, why not publish your name? Not to do so increases the odds that what you are saying is intended to sway the readers' emotions rather than state the facts, and therefore loses its validity.
Besides which, you just happen to be incorrect.

Jen Benepe said...

Richard, thank you very much for your post. You answer a lot of questions, and clarify the situation immensely from the shortened accident report. It would be nice to hear what Steven Zebrack, Purcell's husband has to say since he still has not spoken to the Alpine Police.

I agree, there is no sense in making this bigger than it is, but it would be nice to understand why an elite triathlete who presumably knows how to handle a bike, crashed into the back of the car. Did she lose control? Did she misjudge distance? Did she misjudge the situation? Did she hit a rock? We still don't know what caused her to hit the back of the car.


Anonymous said...

Jen wrote:
"Not all motorists think badly of cyclists, but they do complain that sometimes it seems to be a free for all."

I bicycle about 800 miles per month and have been doing so for many years and I do it all year long. And I have seen it all:

Cars going through red lights
Cars rolling through stop signs
Cars exiting out of parking lots or driveways without stopping
Cars speeding
Cars driving on the shoulder
Cars driving on wrong side of road
Cars making illegal uturns
Cars entirely crossing the double yellow line to pass other vehicles
Motorists opening doors without looking
Motorists driving while on cell phone or texting
Motorists drunk while driving
Cars not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks
Trucks with wide trailers coming too close to cyclists
Cars passing cyclist suddenly and then making a right hand turn without yielding to cyclist
Cars going the wrong way on one way road
Cars honking horn loudly when passing cyclist
Motorists throwing food or other objects at cyclists
Cars making turns from the wrong lane
Cars weaving across lanes
Cars and trucks parked in bicycle lanes
Cars illegally double parked hindering traffic
Cars with one headlight out
Cars with brake lights that don't work
Cars pulling in front of other vehicle or cyclist and slamming on brakes
Cars stopping suddenly on major roadway
Cars entering traffic circle not yielding to other vehicles already in circle
Cars making right turn on red when it is clearly posted "No Turn on Red"
Cars tailgating

The list can go on and on, but you get the idea.

We all too often hear the complaints of motorists about bicyclists. Well, the next time you all take a long ride take a close look at what the motorists do. In just one day, if you pay close attention and compile the infractions, you will be amazed at what you come up with.

It is no doubt a "free for all" out there, but the motorists are the bigger offenders.

Anonymous said...

I was riding 9W northbound when I was stopped at exit 3 by the DOT who was just setting up a road block and diverting northbound vehicles right onto the Pallisades parkway and cyclists back south on 9W. It was 215PM. The police report said the accident time was 1133 so that leaves a long time between the accident and the road closure for traffic to drive past.

I ride 9W a lot, doing laps between mile 3 and the border and standard practice - legal or not - is for cyclists is to go through that intersection regardless of the light color. I have never seen a bike stopped at the bottom of the hill when travelling northbound. There is good visibility coming down the hill, a lane gap to the turning traffic and a barrier to the right. My guess is that Jessica and her husband were - like most competitive cyclists - going over 35mph as they got to the bottom of the hill, something happened and she lost her balance or misjudged and could not recover or stop in time.

Until i read this blog I was blissfully unaware of all the accidents on 9W - the ghost bike excepted - or that people thought 9W was dangerous. Compared to the streets of Manhattan, including Central Park and Riverside Drive or River Road in NJ, 9W is a dream to ride. If people know of other routes in the area that have wider shoulders, less traffic and less traffic lights, please share!

Anonymous said...

One thing I do notice near the big left hand turn at the intersection of 9W and Palisade Ave are cyclists in the left hand turn lane tring to make a left han turn with cars. This is just plain dumb. To expect cars to see you is ludicrus.

The proper way to make a left hand turn while on a bike is to cross the intersection and wait for the light to change and then proceed coming from the other direction. STAY TO THE RIGHT AT ALL TIMES is a law I see almost every 9W bike rider violate.

You ride at your own risk and you cannot assume cars will be looking out for you, so it is more imperative for cyclists to follow the rules as one small slip up could mean your life.

Jen Benepe said...

Dear Anonymous:
Actually the law states that cyclists must also go into the left hand turn lane and turn from there: it would be impossible and illegal for them to turn from the far right.
Though you say some drivers cannot see them, that would tend to be the fault of the driver who is not looking, or possibly the design of their car that blocks sufficient view.
However, some cyclists can be jerks at intersections including that one. They tend to ride to the front and place themselves in front of waiting cars, which is a bit annoying. They should stay to the right in the turn lane.
Just be assured that if they don't the secret reason is because they are afraid of being clipped when they take the corner, so try not to be too hard on them.
Jen Benepe

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