Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dangerous Bicyclists

Here's a story out of West Haven:

WEST HAVEN — A 14-year-old boy riding his bicycle on Captain Thomas Boulevard was killed Monday when a Jeep slammed into him as he pedaled across the street.

Police said the driver of the Jeep had a green light and was not at fault.

The identity of the boy, who was a student at Bailey Middle School, was not immediately released pending notification of his family. A friend who was riding alongside the victim was not harmed.

A crowd of onlookers and neighbors gathered at the corner of Captain Thomas and Campbell Avenue as police investigated the accident, which happened just before 4 p.m.

Officers cordoned off the scene with yellow tape and directed traffic.

Two bicycles, one of them partly mangled, were near the center barrier under the traffic light. A high-top sneaker and white baseball cap lay on the ground, surrounded by shattered glass.

Witnesses said it did not appear the victim was wearing a helmet.

Police Sgt. Martin Garcia said the two boys were riding bicycles east on Captain Thomas Boulevard. When they tried to turn left onto Campbell Avenue, the Jeep hit one of the boys, Garcia said.

The driver’s side of the Jeep’s windshield was smashed.

Garcia said the boy died while being transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

“It’s so sad,” said neighbor Karen Orlando as she watched police examine evidence at the scene. The mother of a 15-year-old boy, Orlando ran outside to make sure it wasn’t her own son.

“It’s a very dangerous intersection,” she said. “Cars go flying by.”

Orlando said she saw paramedics trying to resuscitate the boy before taking him away by ambulance.

As the crowd of onlookers grew, teenagers in shock about the tragedy speculated about who the victim was and wondered if it was someone they knew. Parents emotionally talked about the need for helmet laws and more vigilance by drivers.

“Just like they say wear a seat belt, just wear a helmet,” said resident Gerri Collins.

Garcia said he could not confirm reports that the boy was not wearing a helmet.

At a Board of Education meeting Monday night, Assistant Superintendent of Schools Neil Cavallaro said grief counselors will be available at Bailey and Carrigan middle schools today.

“They will be ready to counsel students as soon as the doors open,” he said. “Our sympathies go out to his family,” Cavallaro added.

Board Chairman Mark Palmieri, whose son played baseball with the victim, called the boy a respectful and bright young man.

“His smile would light up the room every time he walked in,” he said.

A memorial of flowers, candles and baseballs was set up at the intersection of Captain Thomas Boulevard and Campbell Avenue Monday night and friends continued to stop by after dark.

Garcia said the intersection is a busy one, but not an area that is prone to accidents.

He said people should be cautious as summer approaches and more people are outside.

“It’s very important especially now that the weather is warming up and motorists should expect more bicycles and pedestrians out on the road,” he said, adding: “People riding bikes should adhere to the same rules as motorists.”

I've lived in West Haven for about 13 years now, and since the beginning have always been amazed at how reckless the kids are -- whether they're on foot or bike. I can't count the number of times I've almost hit a kid, because they just walk/ride right in front of cars.

Of course I feel sorry for the kid that got killed, and his family, but this is something foreign to me -- I grew up on my bike, and was taught to watch out for cars. My friends and I were careful to do this, because we understood that, simply because of the difference in size between a bike and a car, we would be the ones that got hurt.

And, of course, there are going to be cases where a driver is at fault -- blowing a stop sign, speeding -- but let's be realistic about this, please. Kids should not ride a bike in front of moving vehicles. But they do, all the time. I've seen kids hold up traffic here in W. Haven, riding down the street, criss-crossing in front of traffic. And as traffic finally goes by, and drivers yell at them to watch where they're going, the kids just laugh and curse and flip the bird.

Then, one gets hit, and the world turns upside-down and everyone starts "looking for answers" ... and yet the answer is simple: Don't ride your bike in front of cars.

As a last note, the lead paragraph of this story is very poor: "A 14-year-old boy riding his bicycle on Captain Thomas Boulevard was killed Monday when a Jeep slammed into him as he pedaled across the street."

Really? It sounds dramatic, and it's accurate, but it's very misleading. It makes it sound like the kid was doing what he was supposed to be doing and the Jeep did something wrong.

Instead, it should have said "A 14-year-old boy was killed Monday when he rode his bicycle in front of traffic and was struck by a Jeep."

If you don't put the blame where the blame belongs, you waste the lesson.


Anonymous said...

Your blog is utter bollocks. The driver was going too fast for the conditions and not concentrating otherwise he would have seen the cyclist and slowed to the extent that he wouldn't have killed him.

Al said...

You're just plain wrong.

Conditions? Dry and sunny?

(A) If the driver was going too fast, he/she would have been charged, but he/she was not. The police even say the kid rode right in front of the car. (B) Speed has nothing to do with whether or not the injuries are fatal -- you can get hit by a car going 10 miles an hour and crack your skull on the pavement and die. As well, the speed limit on that stretch of road is 30-35 mph.

It amazes me that you immediately blame the driver, who was doing exactly what drivers are supposed to do -- drive on the roadway.

Bicyclists are supposed to act like cars on the road.

If you had any clue about the area where the kid was hit, you'd know that there is no room to swerve unless you want to crash into buildings, or cross the roadway and crash into oncoming traffic.

Either you don't drive, or you've been lucky enough to never have an animal or person suddenly veer in front of your car. It happens far too often, especially in this town -- I see it on a regular basis. So far, I've been lucky enough to have been able to stop in time when it's been kids, but, unfortunately, I have had no choice but to run over a cat and a squirrel in my time as a driver.

Look, I'm not happy that a kid got killed, but at what point do people stop and understand that certain behaviors can lead to certain ends?