Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Grim Reminder

 Ghost Bike to commemorate the death of Livingston Pangburn

Over the next few days thousands of college students will stream past this memorial, erected soon after Amherst College graduation day last May 26th, when a tragedy occurred around 4:00 PM on a busy Sunday afternoon.

The cycle of being a college town means the two busiest weekends of the year are when our institutes of higher education go on hiatus for the summer via graduations,  and now when they reopen for the start of the fall semester.

Hampshire College will be shy one gifted student, Livingston Pangburn, age 22, most recently from nearby Granby. 

He was descending a somewhat steep hill heading east on College Street when a panel truck heading west took a left into the Amherst College east entrance.

 Amherst College East Entrance, College Street looking east

A fatal collision resulted.

According to a recent email response from Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Pepyne:  "The  investigation of this accident has not been completed.  The Mass. State Police Collision and Accident Reconstruction (CARS) team generally takes three to four months to complete an investigation."

I've noticed, however, with these tragic fatal accidents that the longer it takes the less likely charges will be brought against the driver.

Either way, it doesn't bring back Liv Pangburn.


Walter Graff said...

I saw one of these ghost bikes in NYC the other day. It had a sticker on it. Some folks got together and created a whole system of ghost biking.

Anonymous said...

Not to rush to judgement, but it clearly sounds like the truck did not see the biker coming down the hill. This puts the driver at fault for not making sure it was okay to turn left. Yes, I'm a daily commuter on a bike so a bit biased, but I do hope if they make the determination that the driver was at fault there is an actual punishment. Seems like accidents with bikes are never are decided in the bikes favor, they are undetermined, like the bike was somehow always sort of at fault. Kid died, this is no fender bender.


Brian W. Ogilvie said...

Anonymous@3:57PM: if the details of the crash are as reported, I agree with you. I'm a cyclist, and I've noticed that sometimes drivers don't see us. Sometimes they see us but seem to think that bicycle = pedestrian, or even bicycle = lamppost, and they don't account for how fast we're moving. I've had close calls with vehicles that pass me and then pull back in the lane too soon, apparently thinking that I haven't moved since they pulled over.

I've seen speculation that prosecutors often decide not to bring charges against drivers who injure or kill cyclists because juries tend to identify with the driver. Jurors are rarely cyclists, but they're usually drivers, so they tend to think, "That could have been me at the wheel." They identify cyclists as a deviant outgroup.

Regardless of what happens with the investigation, my heart goes out to Liv's family and friends.

Walter Graff said...

To defend the truckers;

First often a mirror can't show you distance, nor does it show you more than 30 degrees of view. In other words often bicyclists aren't seen and if they are a truck driver has to assume the bicyclist sees him too. That means both need to be cautionary and generally both are. That leads to #2.

#2 we have yet to perfect melding minds. A person driving a 60 ton truck may see a bicyclist and may be thinking safety but he can't read her mind. ANd a bicyclist can't read the person driving the trucks mind. Given the weight difference and potential for death a bicyclist should always yield to a truck in situations of narrow roads, hills, and turns. PERIOD!!!
It doesn't mean the truck should ignore a bicyclist. I know when I've driven a truck in a far more populated city and with far more bicycles, I'm very cautionary when I spot a bicyclist but would hope a 150 pound person on a 20 pound bike realizes that my view of him is the equivalent of looking through a keyhole.

And I think that is why most people assume a bike may have made a wrong move. Bottom line if you are around a truck, WAIT for it to pass, wait for it to turn, or just wait for what might be 20 more seconds till you know the truck sees you, you give it clear direction in your movement (eg a hand signal saying you are waiting and yielding) and you may save your life. To many times bike think speed and maneuverability will mean it can pass or make a squeeze and most of the time that is the fault of the accident, not the driver. As my SPanish teacher used to say "Don't be stupid".

Yes 2/3rds of all accidents involving bikes ARE the motorists fault. Somewhere in this state they forgot to teach motorists (including bicycles) that they are to drive defensively and not offensively. If you assume the driver you encounter is going to try to kill you are you going to go near the car or stay away. For some strange reason, motorist in these parts are all about giving way when legally they shouldn't.

Take a defensive stance on a bike. Don't think the world is going to give you a break cause you think you are saving the planet. Again you are a pebble and he is a boulder. Act accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the lecture. Now for reality. You are descending a steep hill and have the right of way. You don't stop for vehicles that are stopped at a side street. With that logic you would have to stop for every vehicle waiting at a stop sign. This appears to be the truck's fault. It pulled out and hit a vehicle that had right of way. Unfortunately, this vehicle was a bicyclist.

Dr. Ed said...

Right of way is one thing - but the vehicle laws are not a suicide pact, and I don't think that's what happened here anyway.

I think that the bicycle itself wasn't damaged (Larry had a picture of a cop wheeling it away) speaks volumes as to what happened. Think of how someone could have a fatal head injury without damage to a bicycle....

In addition to Walter's wise information regarding trucks, you need to remember three other things as well. First, mirrors are often vibrating when you are either stopped in traffic or going a slow speed -- and you really can't see much in a vibrating mirror. Second, the right side (passenger side) mirror is often out of adjustment -- unlike the driver's side, which you can roll down the window and adjust yourself, you can't do this. And hit a tree branch or something and it's out of adjustment.

Third -- and this is relevant here -- the CDL law is based on weight, not size per se. I believe it is 28,000 lbs GVW but one can drive a fairly large truck on just a Class D (car) license.

Driver's ed -- at least when I took it -- teaches you to use your rear view mirror -- which a truck does not have. I am amazed at the number of people driving rental trucks who have no idea how to use the side mirrors -- and if you look at some of the damage around a place like North Village, one can understand why that happens...

Anonymous said...

Brian- I sadly have to agree with your comments regarding how juries look at these cases. Would the outcome be the same if the victim was a pedestrian, or if the accident was with another car? I'm not looking for vengeance here, I'm sure the driver feels worse than any of us could understand. This is also not a biker vs. driver thing because because most bikers drive as well. Justice is the goal and it will up to a judge to determine a punishment.

Walter and Ed, please do not give advice on how to ride a bike, it is clear you never moved beyond a tricycle and your advice is dangerous and just plain wrong.


Anonymous said...

The rate of survival for a bike or pedestrian with a vehicle increases greatly when vehicles are going 30 mph or less. Any higher and the death rate goes way up.

Larry Kelley said...

Since the truck was taking a 90 degree turn, pretty safe bet it was going less than 30.

Anonymous said...

Was it pulling out into traffic or turning into Amherst College?

Larry Kelley said...

I believe it was turning into Amherst College from College Street.

Walter Graff said...

Ha so funny. I've been riding one end of the streets of NYC to the other on a bike every week for the last 25 years and know all too well how to ride in five lanes of heavy traffic. Riding around here is hell of a lot easier. You only have to watch one lane and consider that the motorist doesn't see you or care (no different).

Bottom line, like any motorcyclist will tell you, assume the car can't see you, play defensive, and know that right of way doesn't always mean what it should. Motorcycles are more and more figuring out ways of how to use running lights more effectively so they can be seem better both in day and at night. Bicycles have no running lights, are often specs of light to a driver, and while the law says they have some right of passage, most motorist don't know that and look at a bike as something to get around.

Since no one here was the driver or the perosn killed anything else is conjecture. Perhaps the driver couldn't see this person. Perhaps this person assumed one thing when another happened. Maybe he popped the clutch. Or he thought the bike was farther away. Maybe the bicyclist wasn't looking at the road. Maybe he assumed the truck as parked. So many variables when a bike meets a vehicle.

Other than tips on safer riding its really in the hands of God.

Anonymous said...

Hey NRC: You are the problem with most "bikers" out there. When on a bike, unless in a lane designated specifcally for bicycle travel, you are legally viewed as a vehicle in traffic. You must stop for lights, stop signs and obey other traffic control devices. You must have illumination, use hand signals etc etc etc.

Some do. Most do not. Wait until the invest comes out until you pass judgement.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 5:31 Jeez, hitting the coffee a little heavy today? As I said in my first posting, I'm trying not pass judgment on what happened, only inferring from the the published reports about what took place. My comments were meant more to speak to the the issue of how bike/car accidents never seem to blame just the car, the bicyclist often tends to be blamed in some way as well. I hope I'm wrong, it just seems when I read reports it always goes that way. Again, I dislike the tendency to make this a bike vs. car thing. I drive a car often and see bikes in the wrong place with no lights too. I also ride a bike a lot and have been cut off, swerved at and yelled at for no reason. That's life, whatever. My bike has reflectors, day glow tape, rear lights, front lights and I do use hand signals. Been riding for 26 years without an accident (except for a few beauties when riding in the woods)!


Dr. Ed said...

Since the truck was taking a 90 degree turn, pretty safe bet it was going less than 30.

Particularly since it didn't roll over.

Not that I want to confuse people with the facts but we aren't talking a Prius here...

Which goes to another point -- I have a CDL which wasn't all that easy to get. No one has a problem with a car license requirement and that everyone prove (sort of) their ability to safely drive a car. So why not bicycles?

Why NOT have a proficiency test for bicycle op;operators?