Cyclist killed in Oakland

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jonawebb
Participant
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A lot of times people outside an industry look at the prices and say, why do things cost so much? And the reason usually is, you’re only looking at a small part of the cost. For example, traffic lights have to be 100% reliable, basically, in all kinds of weather, for years; they probably have to pass legal certifications; and the city would have a lot to explain if they used a nonstandard, cheaper, design and there was an accident that could be attributed to it. The cost pressure just doesn’t work the way you think it should.


MaryShaw
Member
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Remember, the prices of the equipment is but a part of the total cost. Other elements include engineering effort for design and detailed plans, installation labor, probably some reporting and housekeeping and approvals, modification of related equipment, testing, …

I don’t know the relative costs for this sort of infrastructure, but my rule of thumb for home renovation and remodeling is that labor costs about as much as materials.

Another example: If you want to put “bike route” signs up on the road, the cost isn’t just the cost of the signs. You also need mounting hardware, often posts and concrete to set the posts, PennDOT approval of the sign design (count on two or three iterations), detailed plan of which signs and arrows go where, verification that the route is completely signed and signs are at the required distances from various things, approval of PennDOT and probably a local authority on sign placement, safety stuff to protect whoever’s installing the sign, and salaries for all the people doing all those things. And maybe I forgot something. Heaven forfend that someone might decide you need a public meeting.

So comparing alibaba quotes (which are probably just for equipment and perhaps not certified equipment) with DOT costs is apples and oranges. It also wouldn’t surprise me if the alibaba quote was for a single component and numerous other components were required to actually make an installation.


byogman
Member
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This is going to be my last post on this slightly afield subject, in this thread at least. If there’s new real material let’s start a new one. I’m just saying, what does anyone have evidence of that you’re actually getting for that quarter mil plus that we know isn’t buy-able commercially for small fractions of a penny on the dollar (via an order from Alibaba and a trip to radioshack). Software, sure, but that’s something we’re doing here. Anything else, really? Because navigating the bureaucracy and the labor to mount this thing properly isn’t going to be a part of the quarter mil plus quote anyway.

A lot goes unchallenged that should be challenged. Inertia is very powerful, rarely more so than in government. Perhaps that may be contractual arrangements, perhaps that may be which part of the process PennDOT or the city is prepared to own, perhaps that is a certification process and a tolerated monopoly or effective collusion facilitated by it, but the end result is awfully stupid and handicaps us in serious ways, ways that cost lives and ruin others (seriously, how many places need pedestrian signals and can’t get them because of cost?). Someone should be made accountable to this disaster.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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I wrote a letter to Mayor Peduto at http://pittsburghpa.gov/mayor/feedback asking for followup on Susan Hicks’ death. In particular I asked for the driver to be charged with involuntary manslaughter. It’s been two and a half months and I’ve heard nothing (other than unconfirmed rumors). Perhaps others could write to the chief of police or to local newspapers?


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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In case you’re interested, this was my letter to Peduto:

Why has the driver that killed Susan Hicks not yet been charged? Susan Hicks was killed on October 23 when she, on bicycle, and two cars stopped at a light on Forbes Ave were struck in a chain reaction collision. The car that struck them must have been traveling very fast to cause a chain reaction with the two other cars and a bicycle. This sounds like involuntary manslaughter, at least.

The amazing turnout at the candlelight vigil the next day is a sign of the vulnerability that cyclists and pedestrians in Oakland feel about speeding cars. People that walk and bike in that area fear that the city will not stop the cars from speeding, that the city will not send a signal to other drivers that they need to slow down. Please take steps immediately to see that charges are brought against the driver that caused Susan Hicks’ death!


Vannevar
Participant
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Paul, may I ask – isn’t charging more in the District Attorney’s portfolio than the mayor’s? I don’t think the mayor has line authority over charges unless the police dept files them at the scene, immediately at the time of the event.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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You’re probably right, Vannevar.


rice rocket
Participant
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Echoing what Sully said…

Big missed opportunity here to push a filtering law into the county legislature. Susan Hicks would not have been trapped had she filtered to the front of the light.

Filtering is safer. California knows it, and most of Europe too?


jonawebb
Participant
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I think filtering is legal. At least, it’s described in the PennDOT bicycle handbook


Steven
Participant
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There’s an argument you can make that it’s legal, based on that and some ambiguity in the way the law describes “lanes”. It’s not a great argument. Actual legislation would be much better.

But I think it would need to be at the state level. As far as I know, the state doesn’t delegate roadway rules like that to counties or cities.


jonawebb
Participant
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Anyway, while Susan Hicks wouldn’t have been killed if she hadn’t been caught between those cars, making rules based on how a particular accident could have been avoided isn’t useful. In the case of the Susan Hicks death, suppose she’d been filtering forward at the point where the car that tried to merge into the lane collided with the car on the end. The result could be the same. Just because filtering would have helped in one scenario doesn’t mean it would make us safer in general.
Maybe there’s a statistical argument that filtering makes us safer; but if there is I’ve never seen it. I do it, cautiously, in heavy traffic, because it saves time. I don’t see how maneuvering along the sides of cars stopped in traffic is particularly safe.


rice rocket
Participant
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But I think it would need to be at the state level. As far as I know, the state doesn’t delegate roadway rules like that to counties or cities.

I don’t think they’re barred from legislating, it’s just uncommon. i.e. NYC has outlawed rights on red, which doesn’t carry anywhere else in the state.

Maybe there’s a statistical argument that filtering makes us safer; but if there is I’ve never seen it. I do it, cautiously, in heavy traffic, because it saves time. I don’t see how maneuvering along the sides of cars stopped in traffic is particularly safe.

There’s been plenty of studies and statistics produced. Mostly in the motorcycle industry, given the higher usage as transport, but the dangers are the same.

http://www.ridetowork.org/files/docs/LANE_SHARING_A_GLOBAL_SOLUTION_FOR_MOTORCYCLE_SAFETY.pdf

http://americanmotorcyclist.com/rights/positionstatements/lanesplitting.aspx

etc etc…keep Googling.


byogman
Member
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An interesting perspective. I’d say one very important difference between bicycle filtering and motorcycle filtering is available acceleration. It’s much easier to find useful opportunities on a bike, but you have a very low top end on acceleration and speed, so you really have to watch that that’s consistent with the traffic you’re setting yourself up to have to merge back into.


rice rocket
Participant
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I don’t see the issue, try not to overthink it.

If you’re filtering, you’re passing vehicles. If you come on a car and you’re not gaining enough to pass it, then ease up and slot back in. Traffic doesn’t go from 5 – 20 mph in a blink of the eye.

If you’re just riding between lanes when not filtering, then you might need to get your head checked.

If the UK, champions of health and safety, can figure it out, I’m sure us in the Wild West can too.


byogman
Member
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I’d just say aggressive tailgating and feelings of agreivement have, in my experience, occasionally, made for a more stressful experience than “ease up and slot back in” suggests, and I’ve limited filtering to more uniformly stalled traffic in response. YMMV. In those situations a motorcycle would not have been wonderful or anything, but it would have been better than the bicycle.


jonawebb
Participant
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I remember driving in California years ago and seeing the motorcycles filtering. I didn’t know they were allowed to do that, at the time. I can see how filtering limits certain kinds of rear end collisions, and the statistics do suggest that might be true for motorcycles, but keep in mind that those particular accidents are pretty rare for bicyclists. Dooring is much more common, and filtering puts you in exactly the place where it is likely to occur. So I’m not convinced that encouraging it legally would make cyclists safer.


Pierce
Participant
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As far as charges go, recall that it took a year for charges to happen on the killing around Swickley. Not surprised this is going to take forever too, if ever


Ahlir
Participant
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For what it’s worth, motorcycle filtering is pretty routine around big cities. I’ve seen it for ages on the highways around New York and Paris.
I’ve even seen bikes passing each other on the Paris ring road (yes, in between car lanes). The bikers even seem to get annoyed if you’re not giving them enough room to get by…

I see no issue with bicycle filtering. Of course, be careful.


courtney
Participant
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I’ve created a memorial commute ride for Susan on March 25th. The FB link is here. Please share widely.

https://www.facebook.com/events/219615895053481/


MaryShaw
Member
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From yesterday’s OPDC newsletter: Safe Oakland Streets for all

The important bit of this is that they have created a web page with an overview of current projects in Oakland, and they plan to keep it updated (though I note that the Neville St committee is missing).

Page at http://www.opdc.org/safeoaklandstreets/?utm_source=OPDC+E-News%2C+Issue+30-final&utm_campaign=OPDC+Enews+Issue+30&utm_medium=email

From the newsletter:

It’s been four months since Susan Hicks, Carol Christine Williamson and Henry Walker died in tragic collisions in Oakland. During those months, many of you have called, emailed, and tweeted us asking one powerful question:

“Is anyone going to do anything about this?”

OPDC has compiled a comprehensive report of all the projects in the works to improve infrastructure for everyone who moves through Oakland. Some are massive undertaking that will take years to complete. Others are lower-hanging fruits that will bring small but meaningful improvements in the short term.


J Z
Participant
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Can’t access that site from work. I do wonder what Pitt’s position is on this, considering two of the individuals and their families were Pitt staff.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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> I do wonder what Pitt’s position is on this, considering two of individuals and their families were Pitt staff.

We’ve got bike racks!

(No, really. )


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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Reminder: The Bike Pittsburgh/Traffic21 DIY Speed Monitoring workshop with @mbaumann is _tonight_, 6pm at CMU’s Studio for Creative Inquiry (CFA 111). https://www.facebook.com/events/249303665408257/
Folks from Open PGH will also be there to get started on a project with Traffic21 for improved data standards and reporting for ped/bike crashes and other concerns, and we’re hoping to get a regular transportation-data meetup going.

Also: the Susan Hicks Memorial Commute is this Friday, 5PM. https://www.facebook.com/events/219615895053481/


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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The memorial commute was covered here:

http://www.wpxi.com/news/memorial-bike-ride-held-for-pitt-employee-killed-in-oakland-bicycle-crash/180386001

Listen to the last sentences of the video there.

This is intolerable. It is not acceptable that a cyclist doing everything right gets killed by a speeding car and the investigation consists of a single sentence “according to police no charges will be filed since her death was ruled accidental” and the whole thing is swept under the rug. If it was due to recklessness and speeding then it wasn’t an accident. I suggest that all Pittsburgh cyclists write to Stephen Zappala and local news media and demand that appropriate charges (involuntary manslaughter?) be brought against the driver. What if Zappala and the Post-Gazette got 100 letters and phone calls a day? Start here: http://www.alleghenycountyda.us/Contact/Default.aspx


scott
Keymaster
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Paul, that TV journalist is wrong. The police did their job and the case is now in the DA’s office whose job it is to decide to prosecute or not. The police don’t make those determinations. I would love to know who the journalist talked to at the police department who told her that. I heard from the DA’s office and they told me that the case remains under review, but cannot divulge any more information without violating the Criminal History Record Information Act.

We’re very frustrated too, and we’re doing what we can to make sure Susan and her family and the community get justice. But until the case is no longer under review and DA’s office announces they are not prosecuting, there is still hope.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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Could BikePgh ask its members to call the Allegheny County district attorney’s office to insist on justice in the Susan Hicks case? Judging by the near-spontaneous turnout of over 200 people at the Susan Hicks memorial event (in the rain), the day after she was killed, I’d guess that this is a cause many people would rally around.

I’ve already written to Zappala, Peduto, and PG reporters asking them to do more followup on the Susan Hicks case. What if 25% of BikePgh members wrote personalized letters, also?


scott
Keymaster
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I feel your frustration, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet, Paul. They are now in communication with us and have declared that they’re still working on the case. When the communication stops and/or the case is closed without justice I would then cross that bridge. What I can promise you is that we’re working on this with friends and family and will keep our members in the loop.


Mick
Participant
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@scott

What I can promise you is that we’re working on this with friends and family and will keep our members in the loop.

Yes. Please.


buffalo buffalo
Participant
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http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/10353269-74/witherspoon-death-police

“David Witherspoon, 49, of Beltzhoover, is charged with homicide by vehicle in the death of Susan Hicks, 34, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed Friday.

“… In addition to the charge of homicide by vehicle, Witherspoon is also charged with accidents involving death while not properly licensed, involuntary manslaughter, possession of a controlled substance, driving without a license, following too closely and careless driving.”


jonawebb
Participant
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Congratulations to the people who worked on getting this to happen.


Jason-PGH
Member
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Woah, they threw the book at him here. Lots of charges.

Just for clarification, what vehicle was he driving?


Eric
Member
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they found and smelled weed in his car and his pee was positive for synthetic THC. Also witnesses said he didn’t even hit the brakes before the crash and there were no tire marks on the pavement. He was clearly impaired.


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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It’s good that the speeding driver is being charged. I wonder why it took six months.

WPXI mis-reported that “for months her family and friends thought this was a horrible accident”. http://www.wpxi.com/news/driver-to-be-arrested-in-connection-with-bicycle-crash-that-killed-pitt-employee/236105906


Eric
Member
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…considering researchers don’t use MVA anymore but MVC… Since truly nothing is an “accident.”


dfiler
Member
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I worry that the outrage over this accident and the drugs involved will lead to it being a rather poor precedent for cases of drivers injuring or killing cyclists.

Already it seems that there isn’t reasoned analysis because of the drugs. For example, he did not have “synthetic marijuana”. What he had is was another smokeable herb that has absolutely nothing to do with marijuana. This is important because it really does matter which one is involved here. The only similarity they have is that they’re both plants. In the same way that not all pills have the same affect on the body, the same thing is true with smoked plants. It is a shame that nobody seems to care about the exact substance he may have been impaired by.

Next, the presence of marijuana in the car shouldn’t necessarily launch a lynch mob. It could be equivalent to having a six pack in the trunk. So far the reporting has been ambiguous, not indicating if it was the smell of smoked or unsmoked.

Also, speeding. Was he speeding by the average amount or above and beyond the norm? Both should result in convictions but there is a difference.

With that said, other reports on the guy’s record suggests that he is probably an asshole that deserves jail time for accidentally killing a woman.

In a way, i would have preferred if his sobriety was not under question and that he got sentenced anyway. With these other factors thrown in, it doesn’t seem like our culture will be swayed toward making all drivers accountable for speeding, distracted driving, etc.


courtney
Participant
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I agree with the above person’s concerns. I’m also suspicious about the speeding aspect, as my sources told me the driver actually wasn’t speeding. Which makes a HUGE case for a bike lane.

Regardless, the end result is that this loss of life could have been prevented if Susan was not in the same lane as cars.


Marko82
Participant
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Beltzhoover man to stand trial for causing fatal accident
http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2016/07/14/Beltzhoover-man-to-stand-trial-for-causing-fatal-accident/stories/201607140043

A Beltzhoover man accused of causing a chain-reaction crash last year that killed a bicyclist in Oakland will stand trial on charges including homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter.

David Witherspoon Wednesday waived his right to a preliminary hearing in City Court, Downtown.


edmonds59
Participant
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As an aside, the Pittsburgh police officer recently killed on a motorcycle was killed in the same manner as Susan Hicks, hit from behind, crushed against the vehicle in front. The writing in this story is completely incompetent, begins by saying her motorcycle “collided” with the vehicle in front, eventually gets around to mentioning that she was struck from behind. Also uses the term “accident”. Also feels it necessary to point out she was wearing a helmet. What bullshit, this writer needs to have their fingers broken. What the hell is wrong with people?
That is rhetorical.
Off-Duty Officer Killed In Motorcycle Crash On Liberty Bridge


paulheckbert
Keymaster
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There was a nice remembrance of Susan Hicks in a University of Pittsburgh newsletter:

http://www.english.pitt.edu/remembering-susan-hicks

excerpt:

As a cultural anthropologist, Susan conducted her research by living among the people she was studying, and for her, this meant long stretches of time in Siberia, specifically, in Russia’s Sakha Republic. Susan already spoke Russian fluently, but to really integrate herself into the indigenous community, she also became one of the very few non-native speakers of Sakha. As a colleague from Yakutia wrote after hearing of Susan’s tragic death, “All of Siberia is crying. Susan was ours; our ambassador to the West.” There are not many 30-something Americans who have spent years living and studying in Siberia and who translated those experiences into a professional career in academia, developing and leading study abroad programs and serving as adviser to undergraduate and graduate students studying Eastern Europe and the countries of the former Soviet Union. Susan was a truly unique individual.


Marko82
Participant
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Carrick man pleads guilty in crash that killed Pitt professor

http://triblive.com/local/allegheny/11975282-74/witherspoon-according-marijuana

Witherspoon, of Carrick, pleaded guilty to one count each of accidents involving death while not properly licensed, involuntary manslaughter, two counts of possession of a controlled substance and three summary citations.

Common Pleas Judge David Cashman scheduled sentencing for May 18.

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