Sunday, September 13, 2009

Update on Fallen 9W Rider, Purcell: Title 39 Murky on 9W

There is still no word on the outcome--and health of rider Jessica Purcell who crashed on Rte. 9W more than a month and 13 days ago today.

Phone calls to her family have not been returned. The last communication from her father, Gregory Purcell, who wrote into BBB soon after the accident stated that she was in critical condition, but "knowing Jessica," she will probably be doing triathlons again as early as next year.

Purcell crashed into the back of a car while coming down the hill before State Line on Rte 9W at the exit to Palisades Interstate Parkway on August 1 at about 11 am.  She was airlifted to the Westchester trauma facility across the Hudson River for injuries to her brain and face.

One thing is clear, reports by a passenger in a Red and Tan Bus that was turned away from the scene that morning have been verified. That passenger alleged that four bus passengers repeatedly derided Purcell for riding on Route 9W, and talked about cyclists loudly in general, that they "do not belong," on the road.

The bus was traveling south, not north, as previously reported, and was slated to arrive at 42nd Street in New York's Port Authority station at 12 noon. The driver of the bus was also implicated in the more than 15 minutes of talk with the passengers.

Comment from the Red and Tan bus company is being sought.

Meanwhile scores of cyclists around New York City and in the New Jersey area who have learned about Purcell's accident and followed her story continued to express concern about her recovery, and to wonder how such an accomplished and experienced cyclist had such a terrible accident.

One cyclists speaking off the record at the New Amsterdam Bike Slam held yesterday night at Cielo, an event in which two teams competed to present the best ways to make downtown Manhattan more bikeable, said he thought that perhaps the driver had stopped short before the light.

Other cyclists have theorized that Purcell thought the cyclists in front of her were going to continue through the intersection, but they stopped.

And still others have said that she may simply have hit the side of Steven Spiegel's car because she ran out of space at the bottom of the hill. But we won't know the answer to any of these questions until either Purcell is well enough to tell us, or her husband, Steve Zebrack, who was riding with her that day, speaks publicly on the issue.

In the meantime, Purcell's accident was brought up at a meeting among cycling advocates at the Rutgers University Voorhees Transportation Center where modification of aspects of the law regarding safe passing and other portions of title 39 of New Jersey traffic and safety code were being discussed.

BBB then submitted a general letter to the New Jersey Department of Transportation's Bicycle and Pedestrian Office and Transportation Demand Management Office, regarding the area where Purcell had her accident, and outlining the area's alleged deficiencies including a narrow shoulder all along the descent to Exit 4N.

In that letter, BBB also identified two other hot spots on Rte 9W that they believe need to be addressed by the DOT, including that section of road where Camille Savoy was hit and killed by a driver when she wandered a foot and a half over the fog line; and the section from Palisades Ave. to Clinton Ave. where a few years ago the entire shoulder was engineered out in a road redesign.

It is almost a year since Savoy was hit and killed on 9W, but nothing in that section of road has changed since then: it is still narrower, and the bend in the road seems to encourage drivers to drive over the white fog line into the shoulder.  This summer, BBB stood in the same location for 10 minutes taking photographs of motorists repeatedly driving over the white line on both sides of the roadway, some of them chatting away on cell phones.

Add insult to injury, inconsistencies in how the law is interpreted continue to occur. Three weeks ago, two cyclists riding two abreast on the shoulder were ticketed for riding side by side by the Alpine Police. There were no problems with the road ahead and they were not in traffic.

"That is just wrong," agreed several members of the Rutger's Transportation team that discussed the ticketing: "The cop just does not understand the law," said one member off the record.

Yet, amazingly a sign on Route 9W a few miles south of where the two were ticketed says cyclists must ride single file. "The sign is wrong, and against the law" said the member: "It needs to be removed."


Anonymous said...

There was an ambulance and several police cars in front of Strictly Bicycles yesterday at about 11:30. Any idea what happened? It appeared to be fairly serious.

Anonymous said...

Title 39 states that bicycles MAY ride two abreast when not to imped traffic. In my opinion, when a vehicle has to move over the double yellow because there are bicycles riding 2 or more abreast, that is impeding traffic. And to suggest that the driver of the vehicle that was STOPPED is in any way at fault is wrong and biased. As you said in the beginning of this article, "Purcell crashed into the back of a car...". What do you still not understand. Also, why was she and her husband going SO fast down the hill. As such experienced riders, didn't they know they need to obey ALL traffic laws, like stopping at a RED LIGHT??? How come that is not in here. Maybe that was the cause, she was going too fast and could not stop.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the troll returns! It's clear this poster has a vendetta against you. Possibly an affiliation with the driver who's car was invloved. More likely, another anti-cyclist motorist. Adding a constructive contrarian angle to the dialogue would be fine. However, in classic troll fashion, a more hostile and blk/wht ranting is used. Probably a Bush-esque personality type. Delete these ASAP, they do nothing to further the discussion. Not b/c they offer a different viewpoint, but b/c they are so juvenile and angry.

Anonymous said...

My father arrived into the neurological ICU the same day as her. He had an accident which resulted in a head trauma, and was laying in a coma in the bed next to hers. I remember seeing her laying there, unconscious and not looking so well. Her family members were there by her side most of the time, especially her husband. I dont recall him ever leaving the hospital to be honest. If he wasnt in the ICU, he was in the waiting room. I never met him personally, but I could tell he is a good man. I remember feeling terrible for him and her family, but unfortunately I was going through a similar situation. I was able to see that her family loved her very much, and I remember hoping and praying that she would pull out of it. Alas, I do not know if her situation improved because my father passed away several days later. It was all very surreal. Regardless, I really hope that she is doing better, and my thoughts and prayers are with her and her family.

Andy B from Jersey said...

Hey Trolly! Read about "NJ Provision -39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file" in my blog posting here. (

Simply, how can any two bicyclists obstruct traffic if they are both riding in the shoulder to the right of the fog line?

And as a life long cyclist I personally can't stand roadies who feel they can ride 3,4 sometimes 5 abreast in a peloton, blocking traffic. They give the rest of us, law-abiding cyclists a bad rap. However, I will publicly go to bat any day for a cyclist who is falsely or incorrectly charged with a vehicle violation as I believe is the case here.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. What the troll doesn't understand is that for most of the usual 9W route, cyclists can easily ride two abreast and be well on the right of the fog line. Much like any other possibilities associated with this unfortunate crash, this idiot takes the angry-motorist approach. I'm a lifelong cyclist as well, and when fixie brats are swerving and running lights, it's not only rude and annoying but dangerous for people other than themselves (which is all they care about). So I'm all for cyclists exhibiting respect. But cmon, this troll is a moron.

rbnyc said...

Anon at 10:15 AM:

What a bizzare extension. Someone posts a comment that you disagree with and you decide that they are George Bush--oops, you're an intellectual, Bush-ESQUE.

Talk about Juvenal, angry and not furthering the discussion.

I should hasten to add that I am not the second anon poster to which you refer. In case you are need to compare me to a historical figure, combining Bush and Hitler always makes a strong statement.

Anonymous said...

Juvenal, the lost poet. We've found you! You *must* be the genius anon poster with such a witty "I know you are, but what am I" retort. Hasten the repeal of thine humility and claim your throne at the pulpit of trolliness luxury. Moving on...What is your next point, please try to use logic.

rbnyc said...

My point is simply that even if you disagree with this guy, inserting your version of the bogeyman is odd and you are doing exactly what you accuse the other guy of. Your logic involves nothing more than name calling.

I'm not a troll. I am a bike rider who rides 9W 3-6 times per week. Is anyone who does not see your viewpoint a troll, or worse, George Bush?

Yes, bad spelling. Plenty of logic though, and if you think otherwise you are welcome to say exactly why.