Teenage Coraopolis Bicyclist Hit By Car Dies – 7/21
From the Post-Gazette Teenage Coraopolis Bicyclist Hit By Car Dies
Moon police said in a news release that they were called to University Boulevard near the Sewickley Bridge about 5:30 p.m. Saturday for a crash that involved a car and a bicycle. When they arrived, they found Ms. Jancart lying on the shoulder of the road in critical condition
I don’t get it. There’s plenty of room on that stretch for cyclists and a pedestrian crossing over to the bridge. Why did this have to happen?
WPXI video shows the back wheel of the bike tacoed & the passenger side windshield broken
CBS story states that “When officers arrived, they found a 17-year-old girl lying on the shoulder of the road”
This is also an official PA bicycle route A as can be seen just feet from the bridge
From the TV video, it looks like this happened on southbound 51 itself, just toward the city from the bridge.
What speed would a car have to be going to hit a cyclist (presumably going about 15 mph) with force enough to make that much of a gash in the windshield?
Also, if this occurred on southbound 51 at that time of day (6pm), it was broad daylight and the position of the sun was not a factor.
I’ll be interested to hear the details of the accident. It is a terrible tragedy no matter what, but I will admit that, when I hear about a bicycle fatality, I always strain to find some evidence that the rider was doing something I wouldn’t (or wasn’t doing something I would). I’m sure this isn’t noble, but I think it’s fairly natural. I felt this way about a week ago when reading about the fatality on Baldwin Road. I was heartbroken to hear about another killed bicyclist, but allowed myself to feel a (likely false) sense of security knowing that he was riding against traffic.
But that only goes so far. It’s getting harder for me to kid myself: people keep getting killed in this town doing what I love to do, and I don’t want to die that way. I’m going out for a ride right now. I’m going to do it despite the growing sense of unease that, one of these days, there could be a white bike with my name on it.
Something has to be done.
And, of course, my heart goes out to the family and friends of this poor young woman. I can only imagine their anguish.
The victim is a friend of my daughter’s. Good family. She just graduated high school. It’s true of any fatality, and especially of one so young: so much potential snuffed out.
And yet, somehow, the authorities are withholding the vehicle operator’s name while blurting out the deceased’s name, and the media is crediting him for cooperating with the investigation. Citizen of the year.
The news report this morning was weird. They painted the picture that she was riding a sidewalk and behaving like a pedestrian. That really isn’t important though, as drivers need to be aware of their surroundings. This is really sad. Sorry to hear this.
I agree–how the cyclist was riding does nothing to increase or diminish the tragedy of her death.
But given the horrible toll this year has taken on Pittsburgh cyclists, some of whom were cycling as safely as possible and others who were not, it seems to me that it would be wise to do all we can to educate cyclists about how to ride as safely in traffic as possible. I know that there is some disagreement about just what that means, but there is much agreement, too.
This goes beyond just lights and a helmet, though that’s a start (again, I know there’s not even universal agreement about helmets).
Perhaps we could create a pamphlet that could be distributed with every new bike purchased at a Pgh. bike shop, if owners would agree, as well as at places like Free Ride. It could also be offered to people who have their bikes tuned up and repaired at LBSs to capture the attention of riders who might be dusting of their bikes as well as owners of new bikes.
I haven’t been to a ton of cycling events in Pittsburgh (beyond a group ride here or there), but it might also be a good idea to conduct classes on safe cycling.
All this must be done in addition to efforts to create better bike infrastructure (let’s hope Mayor-All-But-Elect Peduto lives up to his potential there) and lobby the state to include proper driving around cyclists as part of every single driver exam in the commonwealth–in other words, you don’t get a license until you demonstrate to the examiner that you know how drive around bicycles.
Finally, police must enforce the texting ban and the four-foot rule, or at least require that drivers passing close to cyclists on narrow roads slow down to a safe speed.
Big Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn–organize.”
We have to mourn the loss of these daughters, fathers, mothers, sons, friends and colleagues. We should do it publicly. But we also have to organize. Making sure that every single cyclist who would take to the road in Pittsburgh knows the safest way to ride on the road would be a positive step.
It’s not excusing the drivers. It’s not blaming the victims. It’s just smart.
There is a paved, six-foot shoulder, clearly visible in the video.
I wrote about this exact piece of road in a 2009 blog post. The whole post is too long to include here, but here are two relevant excerpts:
From the Sewickley Bridge, going the opposite direction:
… to the Sewickley Bridge. The bridge could be a little more bike friendly, but it wasn’t impossible. A right off the bridge onto University Boulevard, however, put me on a 45 mph four-lane highway. Worse, the shoulder was grooved with SNAP depressions (sonic nap alert pattern), the little rumble strips that wake you up if you drift off the road. They’re horrible to hit on a bicycle! Fortunately there was a wide enough shoulder to avoid them, though there was no avoiding them in trying to get across them. Another difficulty was the 51/UnivBlvd split, a wye taken at some speed, and I needed to take the left fork. Very dangerous on a bike in busy traffic, because those cars are flying, and they’re not expecting to see a bicycle.
Going past the Sewickley Bridge, going the same direction as the girl who got hit yesterday:
I headed back down University Boulevard, rejoined PA51, and continued past the Sewickley Bridge. Here too, the SNAP pattern keeps cars separate from bikes, and a very wide shoulder makes cycling at least possible.
That’s a difficult intersection. I used to walk it a couple times of year when I used the nearby motorcycle shop (Bob Tracy’s). But, the walk from the shop to the nearest bus was too tough, so I stopped using them.
There is no sidewalk in either direction on the north side of the bridge (heading north on 51 towards Flaugherty Run or University Boulevard). There is no sidewalk that I can think of heading in either direction on Route 51 south of the bridge (between the bridge and Coraopolis.
The bridge has sidewalks on at least one side — maybe both. But there are no pedestrian signals, unless they were added when the signal was changed/retimed a couple of years ago.
It’s a place where drivers get up some speed on 51, or race the light at the south end of the bridge. Hard place to cycle.
So sorry for the young woman and her family. Such a tragic loss.
Oh, and I should mention that the Chief of the Moon Twp PD is a cyclist. he volunteered to do bike counts a year or so ago.
Hopefully, that assures a thorough and fair evaluation of the incident by the PD.
This is terrible news, it’s incredibly tragic to not only have a cyclist killed but one so young. V, sorry to hear it was someone you knew personally, my condolences to the victim’s family and friends.
I’ve ridden 51 through there a couple times (although not in that direction) and similar to what Stu said, ironically that seems like it should be one of the less harrowing parts of the journey due to the wide shoulder. Apparently that’s not the case. ;(
Very sad interview with the girl’s parents:
None of the news coverage I have seen has had the usual “was not wearing a helmet”.
I know it can sound accusatory when it is in an article, but now in it’s absence, I’d kind of like to know.
If the statement was excluded because she was wearing a helmet, I’d kind of like to know that. Because they have stated specifically that she died of traumatic head injuries.
I’m sure sooner or later we’ll hear how upset and distraught the driver is.
@ed I was thinking that too, but the more I think about it the less I want to ask. Of course helmets don’t perfectly protect against head injury, any single accident is only anecdotal evidence, and what’s done can’t be undone. My thoughts are with the parents, who have had a great light go out of their lives.
At least the idiotic language from the first report – “[she] collided with a car…” has been reformed to “…was hit by a car.”
I’m hoping that the lack of information on the driver means that police are at least considering charges and don’t want too much information public.
@Marko, thanks for the link. The fact that this is the second teen-age child that these parents lost… I can’t even imagine how that would feel.
Now I’m starting to wonder if every car shouldn’t have a dash cam, as seems to be the case in Russia. Aside from capturing the odd meteor strike, they seem to be pretty handy in establishing/clearing guilt in traffic incidents, too.
edmonds59 wrote:None of the news coverage I have seen has had the usual “was not wearing a helmet”.
WTAE: “Jancart was not wearing a helmet, [Moon PD Chief Leo] McCarthy said, but he added that it probably would not have saved her life in this case.” http://www.wtae.com/news/local/allegheny/teenage-girl-hit-by-car-in-moon-township/-/10927008/21087146/-/14mi7d6z/-/index.html
The WTAE article also notes “Moon Township police said witnesses told officers the driver of the car had a green light, and it appears the girl rode into his path.”
Eyewitnesses, of course, are notoriously unreliable. However, Chief McCarthy does note that the driver consented to search of the onboard computer, which may indicate how fast he was going, etc. Driver also consented to a search of his phone, which apparently showed no sign of talking or texting at the time.
I can definitely understand not wanting to ride in the lane on a bridge where speeds can approach–or top–45 mph, especially given she apparently needed to turn left at the end. (And, even if she did take the lane rather than the sidewalk, ‘take the crosswalk and cross two ways’ is a pretty common suggestion for making a left turn at a busy, high-speed intersection.) If there was no pedestrian signal–and I don’t recall any from my limited experience of the intersection, and don’t see one in the photos–when was she supposed to cross? Through right-turning traffic? Or when the road appeared clear and there seemed to be a gap big enough to get across? In addition to the simple question of how fast he was going, weather + were his lights on are important—a white car like that with no lights will simply disappear in fog, making it especially difficult to judge distance, speed, and ability to safely cross in front. (I don’t know if they were taken the same day, but the WTAE photos are definitely dark and wet…)
However, the fact that her rear wheel is bent, and his passenger-side windshield crushed, also seem to belie the statement she was hit while crossing. That looks an awful lot like he hit her from behind…
@buffalo – no ped crosswalks or ped signals at that end of the bridge. As you approach from the Sewickley side of the bridge, you are hidden from southbound oncoming traffic by a large patch of overgrowth (knotweed, maybe). It grows so high and so lush that it encroaches on the roadway sometimes. So a southbound car on 51 would not see her until she started crossing the northbound lanes. With a jersey barrier, a slight curve to the road and a slight rise as well. That time of day cars were probably stacked in the left lane waiting to turn left across the bridge. The driver might have had her in his/her sights for only a moment before impact.
I am not trying to excuse his/her actions. I am simply trying to convey that visibility at this location at that time of day might have left a lot to be desired. And that intersection is emphatically neither pedestrian nor bicycle friendly, other than during extremely low traffic situations.
buffalo buffalo wrote:However, the fact that her rear wheel is bent, and his passenger-side windshield crushed, also seem to belie the statement she was hit while crossing. That looks an awful lot like he hit her from behind…
It looks like she almost finished her turn. :( So it is kind of from behind.
Speed limit on this rode is 45 mph.
How do we go about getting the reports from these crash investigations? We’ve had three fatalities this summer and every one has had conflicting statements or scenarios that don’t seem to be represented by news reports. I’d like to know what the investigators think & how thorough their investigations are. Do we contact the police or do we need to file a FOIA request?
However, Chief McCarthy does note that the driver consented to search of the onboard computer, which may indicate how fast he was going, etc. Driver also consented to a search of his phone, which apparently showed no sign of talking or texting at the time.
I read this as one small ray of light in this mess. Investigating officers were obviously taking this seriously and collecting important data right off the bat…much better than the stereotypical “ho-hum, cyclist hit, take a statement and forget about it” LEO behavior.
ultimattfrisbee wrote:Perhaps we could create a pamphlet that could be distributed with every new bike purchased at a Pgh. bike shop
This suggestion keeps coming up, but I wonder–what proportion of bikes are actually bought at a cycling-specific shop? Jeffrey Zietak bought his bike from a yard sale, I got mine on Craigslist, and Emily Jancart’s appears to be a department-store Huffy. How do we reach the significant–if not majority–proportion of riders who don’t go to bike shops?
I go through that intersection infrequently, but I think Swalfoort is on to something.
There is a turn signal for traffic turning left onto the bridge from 51, and there is a signal for traffic going straight toward Coraopolis. She may have seen the traffic from Coraopolis, to her left, stopped, and seen the left turning traffic to her right stopped, and not even realized the straight east-bound traffic had green. She may have thought she was in the clear.
If that was the case, she was indirectly killed by the infrastructure.
I took a look at the scene on Monday before the rain started. I was surprised to see a pushbutton for the pedestrian crossing to the sidewalk on the Cory-Pgh side of the bridge.
Echo’s to Dan’s comments, I was heartened at the Chief’s comments about checking the cellphone and checking the car’s black box. That’s a lot more than I’ve ever heard before.
This is absolutely a case where “sidewalk riding” contributed to the death. More experienced cyclists would have been in the lane, riding with the green arrow, even letting cars run block defense for you.
How do we stop this from happening? Easy. Bike education needs to start in elementary school, and if someone misses it at that level, it needs to be mandatory before drivers education. That’s kind of how the Dutch would do it. Now get it funded.
In this Streetview scene, Emily would probably be about where the black car is when she first became visible to drivers on Route 51.
See the cars stacked in the left lane, further limiting visibility by thru traffic southbound?
That red car heading southbound would be long through the intersection by the time a relatively novice rider would be in front of the line of cars waiting to turn left onto the bridge. That means the driver in this accident probably wouldn’t even appear in this view yet.
Oh, how tragic!
I had a job in 2006 in Hopewell Twp, and had to drive back across that bridge a couple of times. Sara is right; cars waiting to make the left from southbound 51 onto the bridge stack up in that left lane, while cars headed for Cpls fly merrily along at 45+ in the right lane.
How many more cyclists do we have to kill or maim to identify other designed-to-kill intersections?
buffalo buffalo wrote:How do we reach the significant–if not majority–proportion of riders who don’t go to bike shops?
You can’t get everyone, but I imagine that local bike trails are the point of entry. I have plenty of family that will not ride on a road but will hit the local bike trail on a Sunday afternoon.
Beyond that, it’s just getting volunteers out there to set up tables at local community events, church festivals, etc. Grab a stack of pamphlets, go sit outside for a few hours, and try to talk to people. That’s what I’ve been doing with a group I work with in Illinois.
We really do need to find a way to talk to investigators and get this information released… possibly working with the families? It seems to me that the thing to do is create a pile of “incident reports” that explain the circumstances of each cyclist death in order that we have a resource (both online, and in the hands of volunteers) so that we can use these deaths as both a reminder/tribute as well as a learning tool.
edmonds59 wrote:She may have thought she was in the clear.
If that was the case, she was indirectly killed by the infrastructure.
This sounds very plausible to me… especially in light of the fact that she wasn’t experienced at driving and may not have been aware of such a pattern (at this intersection, or any…).
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