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Bike Helmets Did Their Job

by Paul Bass | Oct 3, 2013 2:09 pm

(11) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Transportation, Westville

Thomas MacMillan File Photo Word spread fast when a stop sign-running driver crashed into Rebecca Weiner’s bicycle—and neighbors flew to the scene.

Two doctors arrived to find Weiner and her 2-year-old daughter (who had been riding on the back of her bike) on the ground.

The doctors insisted the pair go to the hospital to get checked.

Scott McLean helped Weiner’s daughter out of her car seat. He and another neighbor scooped up the pieces of the smashed bike, Weiner’s daughter’s lunch bag and diaper bag, and brought them to Weiner’s backyard.

Frank Redente, a security and truancy officer at nearby Edgewood School, sprinted over after learning about the accident from an arriving student. He scooped up Weiner’s daughter, who knows him as “Mr. Frankie,” to help her feel better.

One neighbor, Stacey Maples, helped “manage the police, firefighter and EMT traffic-flow,” in Weiner’s words. Other neighbors phoned Weiner’s husband Mike at his Stratford office; he headed over to Yale-New Haven to meet his family.

That was the inspiring part of a crash that occurred around 8:30 a.m. last Friday at the intersection of West Elm Street and West Rock Avenue in Westville.

The rest of the story wasn’t so inspiring. It’s more of a cautionary tale, as well as a reminder of how basic bicycle safety can save lives.

Weiner, a 49-year-old business consultant, had just dropped off her older daughter at Edgewood School. She was pedaling home on her one-seater bike equipped with a Co-Pilot child seat.

Traveling westbound on West Elm, she paused at one of the four stop signs at the intersection of West Rock, a road where cars are known to travel fast at times.

She saw a 2001 Audi A6 a ways down West Rock traveling southbound toward the intersection.

“I am usually very defensive and don’t proceed even at a four-way stop til I am sure oncoming drivers are slowing down. In this case I saw the driver coming, but unfortunately this one time assumed he would stop as required, and proceeded into the intersection without waiting to be sure,” Weiner related.

“I will never be so trusting again.  The driver did not stop.  He never even slowed down, and may in fact have been accelerating as he approached the intersection.

“By the time I realized he wasn’t stopping it was too late for me to get out of the way, though believe me, I tried, screaming all the while. I was thrown onto the hood of his car at impact. 

“Fortunately I was able to kick out and push the rear end of my bike forward so my 2-year-old didn’t hit his car, though she was badly jolted as the bike was pushed forward by the car, and then fell.”

The driver, a 57-year-old man who lives in Beaver Hills, hopped out of the car and apologized.

“I only took my eyes off the road for two seconds!” he cried out.

Officer James Evarts responded to the scene. He subsequently wrote a report faulting the driver for the crash. He also discovered that the driver’s Audi wasn’t registered, and that the driver wasn’t insured. He charged him with both offenses.

Weiner and her daughter went by ambulance to Yale-New Haven. Weiner was treated for a mild concussion and bruises and scrapes. Her daughter was fine. Her helmet had “crunched against one of the ‘wings’” of her child seat, “and both wing and helmet dented,” Weiner reported. “But they did their jobs.”

Mom and daughter went home and surveyed the other damage: The crash had crushed mom’s and daughter’s helmets beyond repair, along with the daughter’s bike seat. Weiner felt lucky for how, thanks in part to “good helmets” and a “proper child seat,” they were spared potentially horrifying injuries.

She felt thankful, too. For her neighbors. She sent them a thank-you email message detailing all the help they gave her.

“I can’t begin to say how incredibly comforting and moving it was to feel that the entire neighborhood was there in support,” she wrote. “My husband Mike and I have said to each other many times that we can’t really imagine living anywhere other than Westville because where else could we have neighbors the likes of which we have here?  And so it was this morning, yet again.”

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posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on October 3, 2013  4:29pm

I am so glad everything ended up okay.  Our street is an amazing community and the response is as I would expect from our neighbors.

Our block watch has been trying to get the city to implement measures to get drivers to reduce speed for years and, even after putting in a safe streets study over one year ago, the city has done nothing (or at least not communicated effectively if they are doing something).

This accident is further proof the city needs to do something on the entire stretch of W. Rock Avenue from Whalley to the Yale Bowl.  Drivers often blow through stop signs, they speed and they are, generally, in their own world with total disregard for the people who live and work on the street.

So happy no one was killed.

posted by: HewNaven on October 3, 2013  5:22pm

Taking your eyes of the road and creating an accident like this is nothing less than attempted murder, yet he walks away with a couple motor-vehicle infractions? Running a stop sign? He admitted he wasn’t looking at the road while operating a 1-ton machine. That’s negligent behavior, nothing less. The frequency with which this occurs does not negate the fact that this should be categorized as violent and sociopathic behavior, and punished as such. CHANGE THE LAW!

posted by: cp06 on October 3, 2013  8:02pm

I am so impressed with Rebecca Weiner’s quick thinking:

“Fortunately I was able to kick out and push the rear end of my bike forward so my 2-year-old didn’t hit his car, though she was badly jolted as the bike was pushed forward by the car, and then fell.”

Though we all may want to, I cannot imagine every parent reacting so quickly. Kudos!

posted by: citoyen on October 3, 2013  9:19pm

I recognize Rebecca Weiner’s photo from somewhere, but can’t place her.  I am so glad she and her daughter are OK, and escaped from what could have been a tragedy.

I once had a horrendous experience on West Rock Avenue, southbound, as I was tailgated by an impatient and aggressive driver who followed me turning right onto Chapel; and then when we got caught by a red light at Central, I was stunned to watch him swerve around me against the red light to turn left (south) onto Central—probably in an insane hurry to get to Route 34.  Drivers in New Haven are OUT OF CONTROL.

Apparently for monetary reasons (most of the revenue for traffic violations going to the state instead of to the city), the NHPD, presumably with the blessing of the mayor’s office, has little incentive to mobilize manpower to enforce traffic laws.

Will the next mayor, whoever it is, try to do anything different?

Just this afternoon: traveling east on Edgewood, I saw a parade of cars gliding insistently southbound on Central through their obviously red light, long after we on Edgewood had been given our green.  I had an out-of-town visitor along, a former New Haven resident, who *could not believe it*—so much worse than when she had lived here.

EVERYBODY knows how traffic conditions here have deteriorated.  Why is there no citizen mobilization demanding improvement?

posted by: parejkoj on October 4, 2013  10:44am

What would it take to get the NHPD to enforce traffic violations in the city? Considering the number of speeders, red light-runners, and stop sign ignorers, I would expect to see police pulling people over regularly, but I’ve only ever seen it happen once in my 4 years in town.

Where does pressure need to come from to get this changed?

posted by: KB on October 4, 2013  11:24am

For those who are interested in advocating for legislation to protect vulnerable road users (cyclists, pedestrians, etc) from motor vehicles, please consider contacting your state representative and senator to support the Vulnerable User’s Bill (SB 111)

http://cthorsecouncil.org/resources/LegislationFiles/VulnerableUserFactSheet2012.pdf

http://www.bikewalkct.org/3/post/2013/05/for-safer-streets-bike-walk-ct-urges-legislators-to-pass-vulnerable-user-bill-by-june-5.html

http://blog.tstc.org/2013/05/06/action-alert-keep-ct-vulnerable-user-bill-moving/

posted by: William Kurtz on October 4, 2013  11:31am

Citoyen,

There is and has been for a long time a concerted citizens’ movement to increase traffic safety and hold inattentive, aggressive, dangerous drivers accountable. Elm City Cycling and the Safe Streets Coalition have been working on this for years but unfortunately there has been little movement; no police chief since Chief Lewis has seen it as a priority and currently, Chief Esserman has failed to deliver on a couple of things he agreed to in a meeting with representatives from Elm City Cycling more than a year ago.

Hewnaven,

I agree completely. Help us push for a vulnerable user law.

Finally, as a cyclist, cycling teacher and cycling advocate I just want to clarify a point in one sentence in the article:

The crash had crushed mom’s and daughter’s helmets beyond repair, along with the daughter’s bike seat.

Any impact in a crash renders any bicycle helmet “beyond repair”, even if it’s not ‘crushed’. Bike helmets are single-use. They protect their wearer’s heads with a layer of foam that compresses to absorb impact and riders who hit their heads in crashes, even if they’re not injured and the helmet doesn’t appear to be damaged, should count themselves lucky and replace the helmet immediately.

I’m glad this story doesn’t have a much less happy ending.

posted by: HewNaven on October 4, 2013  12:29pm

Unfortunately, though the Vulnerable User bill would have penalized this driver, as it only seeks punishment for those who are guity of inflicting harm, it would not mitigate the behaviour that I referenced above. That is to say, driving a 1-ton machine without care or attention (as this driver admitted) should be the legal equivalent of one making a verbal threat and being prosecuted with assault. IOW, you don’t have to hit someone to be charged. Elevate the ramifications of anti-social driving behavior. If we continue to treat it lightly, they’ll be more of us on the other end of that bumper, like this poor woman and her daughter. Thank god there were no serious injuries.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on October 4, 2013  2:26pm

I hope it doesn’t take a fatality like this fortunately wasn’t to mobilize city officials to take a more aggressive approach to speeding.

Cyclists are vulnerable and always will be.

Mostly drivers are considerate, but not always.

I urge people to donate free helmets to children you see riding around town without a helmet or a light. We can’t wait for perfect conditions to help people to be safer.

posted by: Nathan on October 6, 2013  11:47pm

Ms. Weiner did all the correct things, far more than many cyclists I observe every day in this city.  There are things are can be debated regarding which users of the road are more to blame and ideas lobbied for regarding future legislation, but there are more important things in the immediate term that every cyclist can control: use of proper personal safety equipment, use of properly functioning bikes including modern bright lighting systems, and full adherence to traffic laws (many cyclists regularly run red lights and have admitted such in NHI comments).  Unfortunately, somehow a romantic “vintage” image of young people riding without modern safety equipment seems to hold powerful sway over a significant number of 20-something cyclists.  As this story proves, proper equipment can be the difference between life and death.

posted by: westville man on October 8, 2013  9:01am

This is an area teaming with children, walkers, joggers, moms and dads w strollers and cyclists.  My wife and I often say that (unfortunately)the NHPD will do something about the speeding once a child is killed there.  In 15 yrs they’ve never set up a speed trap or mv violation trap that we’ve seen.  They will, however, nail “speeders” going 35mph down Chapel Street in the vacant area between the Boulevard & Yale Avenue.  No children crossing the street there, though.
We’ve met with the police and even with our prior Alder (her reply was complete non-sense & ridiculous) and nothing has ever been done. Which leads me to my conclusion that until a child gets hit…......

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