Tuesday, October 8, 2013

An Accidental Death

 Ghost Bike dedicated to Liv Pangburn

The DA has just confirmed no charges will be filed in the awful death of a young cyclist over four months ago:

From the Office of Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan
Oct. 8, 2013

No charges are being sought against the driver of an Amherst College box truck that was involved in a fatal collision with a bicyclist in Amherst on May 26, 2013. 

Livingston “Liv” Pangburn, 22, of Amherst, died as the result of injuries he sustained in the collision, which occurred at the intersection of College Street (Route 9) and Dickinson Street.  Pangburn was bicycling eastbound down the right-hand side of College Street, which heads downhill from the center of Amherst.  Traffic was heavy at the time due to commencement activities at Amherst College, and Pangburn was riding alongside a steady stream of vehicles also heading eastbound.  Meanwhile, the Amherst College box truck was stopped in the westbound lane, waiting to make a left-hand turn onto the Amherst College campus. 

As the eastbound traffic to Pangburn’s left slowed to a stop to allow the box truck to make its turn, Pangburn continued down the right-hand lane, passing the vehicles to his left. Pangburn was unable to slow or stop his bicycle in time to avoid colliding with the truck, and instead veered to the right in an unsuccessful attempt to maneuver around the truck.  Pangburn was wearing a helmet at the time of the collision, but sustained traumatic injuries to his torso.

The Massachusetts State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section (“CARS”) determined that the driver of the box truck could not have seen Pangburn in sufficient time to abort his turn and found no evidence that impairment, cell phone use, or mechanical defects played any part in the collision. 

The incident was jointly investigated by the Amherst Police, the Massachusetts State Police Detectives Unit attached to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, and CARS. 

Mary Carey – Communications Director


Walter Graff said...

A sad loss. Bicyclists need to learn to respect motor vehicles just as much as motorists need to respect bicyclists. One ignorant move on a bike can cost you your life.

Anonymous said...

Why has the name of the box truck driver never been released?

Anonymous said...

Why do you need to know the name of the driver?

Anonymous said...

24 years ago the same thing happened on the umass campus near the grad tower: a umass box truck made a left turn in front of a cyclist, though in that case, the cyclist only fractured his jaw and lost several teeth; and in that case, the cyclist was riding in the clear, not alongside a row of slowed or stopped cars; i don't believe the motorist was charged in that instance either, but she claimed to have never seen the cyclist - i doubt that, but the police didn't:-(case closed).

Anonymous said...

He or she wasn't charged, so his or her name is none of your business. That's why.

There are some things more important than your need to gossip about people.

Anonymous said...

Walter, the bicyclist did not make an "ignorant move", sounds like he did his best to avoid a truck that cut in front of him.

I was thinking about this accident as I rode today on my commute. Good thing I can think and ride at the same time because sure enough I was cut off by a car making a right turn into a driveway right in front of me. Sigh. I know I ride at my own risk and I accept that, all I'm asking is for drivers to cut us a little slack, look twice, and appreciate the fact that for every bike out there there is one less car to get in your way.


Walter Graff said...

You know this? Perhaps it wasn't ignorance, but maybe it was carelessness. A bicyclist sees car breaks and cars slowing for a truck stopped or slowing. I don't know if he signaled his turn or not and I don't know if the bike knew he was going to turn. You have a choice on your bike, slow down and wait or continue and try to make your way around it.

Since that area is a downhill ride for a bike, most would tend not to want to lose the momentum and try to keep going. Since this person died from internal injuries clearly they were going faster than not. So it could have been ignorance on their part or it could have been something else. Maybe they weren't even paying attention to what was really going on.

As a person who rides every week in extensive city traffic, based on the info given here I'll lean towards the bike probably taking a chance and hence the accident. Or perhaps they simply didn't have any idea the truck was going to turn.

We don't know just as we didn't know the first time this story was presented here yet everyone rambled on about how it was the trucks fault to the point of filling in the blanks.

You may have a different opinion and that's okay too. I've been in that situation more than once and know the probabilities and options a bike could take when presented that option. There are many dangers on the road and bikers need to be extra defensive in their anticipation of traffic.

It's bad enough that so many people in motor vehicles drive with very poor skills in this area.

Anonymous said...

one less car in our way, yet one more bike in our way. i'd choose the car since a fender bender wouldn't have a high chance of serious injury.

power to people who bike, I've always been too scared :/

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:21, I understand your fear of riding a bike but honestly I get more scared driving at 65 miles an hour on the highway and getting passed by cars in show-off lane doing 80 while they check their phones. Wait until the bike path is finished and then join us, it's a sweet ride through the fields of Hadley!


Anonymous said...

Hey Wally, I hope you're riding a bike on the same road as I'm driving a truck someday. Boy, that would be fun. Since you know so much we could prove some basic rules of physics.

The Juggernaut said...

This is a grim reminder that the laws of physics trump the laws of men, and bikes of all types need to be aware of larger traffic, even if they are legally operating in the right.

Anonymous said...

My favorite are the people (usually 20-somethings) who step into the crosswalk while fiddling with their smartphones, not even glancing at the traffic to see what cars might be approaching.

Sure, the crosswalk legally empowers them to cross the street whenever and however they want. But if I hit them with my car, I'll get a ticket or a lawsuit or maybe a prison cell, while they'll wind up with a broken bone, a permanent limp -- or a tombstone. The law is not a force field.

Dr. Ed said...

When traffic is stopped, passing on the right is inherently dangerous. A motorcyclist doing this would be considered at fault in an collision that resulted -- the motorcyclist would have been expected to presume that there was a reason why traffic had stopped and not have proceeded until knowing that the path was clear.

Second, it is an obligation of the operator to keep the vehicle under control at all times. I don't care if it is a bicycle, a car, or a 10-story crane, if you are going too fast to be able to stop if you nave to, you're going too fast!

Massachusetts law is that speed must be "reasonable and proper" at all times -- the fact the bicycle could not stop indicates that the bicycle was being operated faster than it should have been. Otherwise, it would have been able to stop.

Brakes on bicycles is something that people don't talk about much and they are woefully ineffective in many cases -- out of adjustment, worn and the rest. Even in the best of circumstances, a physically-fit young adult on a modern bicycle can go way faster than four tiny rubber calipers rubbing against the edge of the wheel were ever designed for.

Bicyclists are entitled to all the rights of the road, and that means that all the other vehicles are entitled to having bicyclists bearing all the obligations of a motorist as well!

At the most basic, you should have your vehicle under control and be able to stop it if you have to -- I don't care if it is a bicycle or a dump truck (which also are notorious for bad brakes) -- you should not operate a vehicle so fast that you aren't able to stop it if you need to!

If bicycles are to be considered "vehicles" with all the rights thereof, I'd like to see them treated as such. That means inspections, that means liability insurance -- and between one or the other, that will mean retrofitting them with a more effective braking system.

It also means that, like a motorcycle, bicycles would be required to have DOT-approved street tires that meet minimum traction requirements. A low-rolling-reistance racing tire is inherently unsafe for street use, be it on a motorcycle or bicycle.

If they are going out onto the public highway and traveling at 25-30 MPH (or more) then we have the right to insist that they have proper tires & brakes. After all, they are vehicles -- and damn it, they are "unsafe at any speed" as it is right now.

Anonymous said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if bicycles are supposed to follow the same rules of the road, th bicycle should not be passing stopped traffic on the right if they are in the roadway.

I'm all for safety for bicyclists, but they must remember that the same rules apply. This includes not going through red lights at intersections and stopping for people in crosswalks, both of which I see broken every day. I cringe every time I see a bicyclist flying past a row of stopped cars.

Dr. Ed said...

I'll say now what I haven't yet -- the bicyclist was 100% at fault for the accident.

I'm looking at this as a motorcyclist -- which very much is a motor vehicle requiring a license endorsement, registration, insurance & inspection just like an automobile.

As the eastbound traffic to Pangburn’s left slowed to a stop to allow the box truck to make its turn, Pangburn continued down the right-hand lane, passing the vehicles to his left.

Bigtime mistake #1. If brake lights are going on in front of you, yours do to -- you slow down and prepare to stop. You ABSOLUTELY DO NOT go past the front stopped car to your left WITHOUT (a) *KNOWING* why it is stopped *AND* (b) no oncoming vehicle is turning across your path.

This is an absolute, even if the left directional of the lead stopped car is on, you still presume that there is a vehicle turning left in front of you UNTIL you know otherwise.

Pangburn was unable to slow or stop his bicycle in time to avoid colliding with the truck,

Fatal mistake -- and why Pangburn was at fault for the accident. "Pangburn was unable to slow or stop" and hence ran into something -- and that is what caused the accident. Pangburn hit a truck, not the other way around, and the injuries were caused by Pangburn's sudden stop.

Replace "bicycle" with "motorcycle" or "automobile" and tell me that we wouldn't say that an operator who "was unable to slow or stop" wasn't at fault....

and instead veered to the right in an unsuccessful attempt to maneuver around the truck.

The bicycle was out of control. QED, it was at fault in the accident.

Dr. Ed said...

I cringe every time I see a bicyclist flying past a row of stopped cars.

Cops make a *big* issue of motorcyclists doing this -- because they've seen some bad crashes, and they make so much of it that no one does it anymore.

How about a town ordinance that makes it a criminal offense to recklessly operate a bicycle? If the APD can arrest kids for noise (which isn't going to kill anyone) why not also arrest them for these stunts, which we know can and does kill people....

I'm not going to say Pangburn was operating recklessly, only operating it faster than conditions warranted, but I too have seen bicycles operated in a manner that would be criminal if done with any other vehicle.

And the other thing to remember here is that it isn't always the bicyclist that will get killed. Let's say I am driving a 20 ton truck through town (I have) and lets say that some car is in one (of my many) blind spots.

Bicycle does something stupid, I swerve to avoid bicycle and next thing any of us know, Momma and her kids are under my rear axle and not doing so well. It's *real* easy to snag a compact car with your right rear tire assembly, and if your right mirror is even slightly out of adjustment, you'll never see it.

It isn't just themselves that the bicyclists put at risk....