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Another day, another cyclist hit. Another month, another cyclist dead.

This topic contains 168 replies, has 40 voices, and was last updated by  Swalfoort 6 mos, 3 weeks.

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StuInMcCandless

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Jul 15 2013 at 5:53pm #

Oh, him. Then again, he was a sergeant in 2009, too.

Well, db though he’s repeatedly proven himself to be, so far he hasn’t said or done anything stupid in this case. Just something to keep an eye on. Thanks for pointing that out, Mick. I totally missed that little detail.

For those wondering what we’re talking about, Sgt. Hlavac took personal offense to a bunch of Critical Mass riders in Pittsburgh a few years back, circa 2006-07. Nasty things happened. I wasn’t there. Same guy then got caught up in a domestic dispute which should have gotten him booted off the force, but instead he was reinstated with a pay raise.


stefb

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Jul 15 2013 at 9:23pm #

Is there gonna be a ghost bike for this?


JaySherman5000

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Jul 15 2013 at 10:20pm #

Concerning salmoning: I have a co-worker (that I assume is in his mid-50s) who talks to me about biking every so often. Repeatedly, he has told me, “I remember it used to be that you were supposed to ride a bike against traffic.”

So apparently, at some point in history, it was the law (or at least custom) in Western PA to ride your bike against the flow of traffic. It also seems some people still believe it is the law. We need to do more to educate people. I’m officially jumping on the bandwagon and agreeing that this incident could have been avoided with more resources spent on education. It would be especially nice if those resources were funded by enforcement of the traffic laws.


salty

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Jul 15 2013 at 10:46pm #

I’d delete “in Western PA”; it was (and still is, unfortunately) pretty common everywhere as far as I can tell, based on accounts in “Bicycling and the Law” and “Effective Cycling”, and other places.

When I was a kid (70s/80s), my parents taught me to ride against traffic. On this road. With no helmet. I did it all the time, and so did all of my friends.


Pierce

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Jul 15 2013 at 11:17pm #

I’m pretty sure riding against traffic was the law in the 90′s Delaware where I grew up also


jonawebb

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Jul 16 2013 at 6:39am #

I wouldn’t go so far as to say the accident could have been avoided if Mr. Zietak wasn’t riding against traffic. That puts way too much responsibility on the cyclist. Baldwin road is a dangerous road, drivers speed all the time, etc.
When I pointed this out, I was objecting to Salty’s calling the driver a murderer, which goes too far in the other direction, I think.


edmonds59

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Jul 16 2013 at 7:14am #

That last PG article has a lot of problems as far as I’m concerned. Hopefully I can find some time to point those out to Mr Silver.
I was riding home last evening through Crafton and a middle aged guy in a minivan waved me over to talk. He said he was a friend of the victim, and would be going to the funeral today. Asked if I had heard about it. He kept saying “be safe out there”, as I stood listening in my hi vis construction vest, helmet, blinky lights going front and rear. It was touching.


edmonds59

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Jul 16 2013 at 8:14am #

Text of my email to Jonathan Silver of the Pgh Post Gazette:
“Mr. Silver, I appreciated your article on the death of Mr. Zietak, but respectfully, I have some issues with your presentation of it.
For one thing, the statement “When Jeffrey “Zeke” Zietak took the bike ride that would end up killing him,…” is stooping to a bit of sensationalistic hyperbole, in my opinion. The bike ride did not kill him. An automobile driver killed him, it could not be more clear.
Then, “…as Mr. Zietak made his way down Baldwin Road in Hays without a helmet for the first leg of his commute,…” I realize you are trying to weave a lot of information into a short article, but to insert “without a helmet” into this statement is superfluous. Whether you realize it or not, you are subtly conveying blame onto Mr. Zietak, when he was doing something he was entirely within his rights to be doing. Helmets help reduce head injuries in low speed falls, but when a person is hit by a car doing 35 mph plus, a helmet is of little use.
“Sgt. Connolly said investigators will look into whether drugs or alcohol were a factor.” On the part of whom, Mr. Zietak or the driver? You do not make this clear. The implication is clearly on Mr. Zietak. Was the driver checked? This was in broad daylight. Was the driver on the phone, or texting? The article presents no details regarding the driver.
“Bicycles are supposed to go with the flow of traffic,…” However, if Mr. Zietak had been a pedestrian, he would have been in the right. Is it possible that if Mr. Zietak had been walking, this driver would have hit him anyway? What if it had been a child, would they also have been hit at the same location? How does a driver not see a full grown man in the lane directly in front of them? Your article questions none of this.
Your article goes on to wax favorably regarding Mr. Zietak as a person, but it subtly and repeatedly places the blame on the victim. This is poor journalism. Please be more rigorous in your writing. These issues affect many road users critically.

Thanks,
Bill Edmonds
Robinson Township, PA”


Mick

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Jul 16 2013 at 10:39am #

Mr Edmonds, it is high time that I buy you a beer.


edmonds59

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Jul 16 2013 at 10:52am #

Well, Mr. Silver sent a very nice response to my comments, which I appreciate, but he just does not get how the subtle directional cues in his presentation will affect riders in the real world. At. All. Not a freaking clue.


WillB

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Jul 16 2013 at 12:26pm #

edmonds59 wrote:as Mr. Zietak made his way down Baldwin Road in Hays without a helmet for the first leg of his commute,…” I realize you are trying to weave a lot of information into a short article, but to insert “without a helmet” into this statement is superfluous.

I agree that the way the article was written was annoying (especially the “bike ride that killed him” part), but I do like to know whether a rider was wearing a helmet or not. It’s kind of the like the “how was your bike locked when it was stolen?” question. There’s a danger that it sounds like victim-blaming, but it’s also a very useful data point as others try to make decisions about how they bike.


jonawebb

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Jul 16 2013 at 12:33pm #

@WillB yeah, and I’m not exactly as sure as Ed that a helmet would have been of no use in this accident. I’ve seen the bashed in windshield but I guess I’d have to know more — more than I want to know, actually — about the trauma to Mr. Zietak’s body to make that determination.


Drewbacca

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Jul 16 2013 at 2:01pm #

@jon, that’s really my point exactly… we don’t know, so it seems kind of superfluous to even print that without details. Stating that xyz injuries occurred and such and such expert has stated that a helmet would have made a difference, is helpful information. Stating that the cyclists didn’t have a helmet (stop), is just unnecessary and does seem to place blame on the cyclist.


Pierce

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Jul 16 2013 at 2:27pm #

Just heard more info from a second/third?hand source

Guy on Baldwin was sideswiped previously on the same trip before he got fatally hit, which might explain the wobbling

He also rode for pleasure, car was fixed


jonawebb

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Jul 16 2013 at 2:47pm #

@Drewbacca, reading the story, it says he died in from skull and spinal fractures. So yeah, I’d say the helmet is relevant. They aren’t magic but they are supposed to prevent the trauma that killed this guy, and they work pretty well. Can’t say if they would have saved his life — but it’s certainly conceivable.
Also, his not wearing it does speak to his relationship to cycling, as does his riding on the wrong side of the road, buying the bicycle recently at a garage sale, etc. I can certainly see why discussing these details, focusing on the rider, tends towards blaming the cyclist for the accident. But they also help us understand him, which is what this reporter is trying to do.
And I would have preferred the story also mentioned the terrible conditions on Baldwin Road, the speeding, etc. That would have made it more balanced.


Jacob McCrea

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Jul 16 2013 at 3:49pm #

I wasn’t going to comment further out of respect for Mr. Z. and his family. With that said, some of the speculation above could be clarified, at least to some extent, by heading over to the crash site, taking in the totality of the situation, and while there saying a prayer or having a moment of silence for Mr. Z. and his family.

You can observe, among other things, the spray paint markings on the ground, the sight lines that the driver and Mr. Z. might have had, the weeds that are encroaching on the shoulder and somewhat obstructing a wide field of vision, the fact that the houses in front of where the crash happened sit arm’s length from the white line (again obstucting the field of vision), that fact that the point of impact is marked as being immediately after the apex of a curve, and any other factors you might think are relevant.

Despite traveling this road more days than not for the last 15 years or so, I have no idea who was at fault, or if both were at fault, in what percentages. I will say, though, that I can imagine a wide range of very realistic situations. They range from the driver being 100% at fault to the driver being completely blameless, and everything in between. I would need to hear the driver, first responders and any witnesses testify under oath before assigning blame.

As for Jon’s comments about conditions on the road being terrible, that’s true at certain times. Between 3:30 and 6:30 in the afternoon it is not good at all as it is a major artery for people who work downtown and live in Brentwood, Baldwin, Whitehall, Pleasant Hills, Jefferson, South Park, a small slice of West Mifflin and who knows where else. Beyond those hours, the traffic is pretty low and pretty slow. The main problem is that the shoulder of the road is either blocked by Japanese knotweed, filled with gravel from the various parking lots, or filled with sediment from the endless runoff. If someone would take the time to knock down the knotweed and run a skid steer with a power broom on the shoulder, most sections would be massively improved and there would be about half a bike lane for most of the distance. I would rent a machine and fix it myself if I had the time, permission from Baldwin Borough and insurance coverage.


Marko82

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Jul 16 2013 at 4:12pm #

Thanks for the info Jacob.

It’s been bothering me that the guy in the news clip & my 20 year old neighbor both incorrectly believe that riding facing traffic is safe (as unfortunately Mr. Z did); so I’ve been searching the web looking for a reference to when cycling against traffic was considered good practice and I can’t find anything. I did run across a 1950 safety video that clearly says to stay right. http://www.mybikeadvocate.com/2010/05/bicycle-safety-video-from-1950.html

So how is it that 60+ years on people still don’t know what side of the road to ride a bike on?

Edit: I’m not assigning blame & I don’t know what Mr Z knew, but he surly would have been safer on the other side of the road. I guess I’m bothered by why people don’t know this.


quizbot

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Jul 16 2013 at 5:26pm #

…safer on the same side of the road, but riding in the other direction (with traffic).


pistat

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Jul 16 2013 at 7:25pm #

The only institutionalized dissemination of the salmon myth that I know of was related to me by a friend who was in the Boy Scouts. He *insisted* that this was the correct way to ride, simply because the Boy Scouts said so. Other than that, it’s probably being consistently reinforced by the notion that a bike isn’t a car and must be too slow for the *real* road and can’t be taken seriously therefor you might as well behave like a pedestrian.

I used to ride this road almost daily a few years ago and the assessment by Jacob is spot on. In either direction the shoulder is often non-existent, and there is no shortage of obstacles in and out of the lane. (I was nearly taken down by a startled cat chowing down on McDonald’s – presumably thrown from a car? – with an SUV close-passing on my left and a rocky creek-bed 10 feet below on the right.)

It must be bewildering to many who knew him that he died doing something he *chose* to do for the joy of it, when for practical purposes he could have just driven like everyone else (if that information is accurate). In any case, we’ve had far too many people punished this year for doing something good for themselves and which doesn’t harm anyone else, and without a positive response from local police/government I’m afraid this year could be an overall loss on PR for cycling in the region, only exacerbating the problem of fewer riders and reduced cyclists’ safety, as we all know.

My condolences to the family and all who knew him.


Mick

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Jul 16 2013 at 7:51pm #

Marko82 wrote:I’ve been searching the web looking for a reference to when cycling against traffic was considered good practice and I can’t find anything.

When I was in 6th grad, I was prepping for my first bike trip (15 miles downwind and down 700 feet that went really well! (followed by a hellish return).

I read a book in the school library about bicycle touring.

I recall it saying to ride on the left and if baffled me. It would have been suicidal in the trip I made. The book was “old” – it might have been from the late 1930s.

Recently I found myself pondering: what if it was an English book (the country, not the language)?


Drewbacca

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Jul 16 2013 at 10:46pm #

jonawebb wrote:reading the story, it says he died in from skull and spinal fractures.

Yes, it was pertinent-ish in that article, but not in some of the earlier reports. Sorry, I was generalizing. I actually thought that the later report was more reasonable (but I do agree with edmonds that it was placing unnecessary blame).


paulheckbert

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Jul 18 2013 at 9:52am #

Re bike safety education, have you seen the embroidery by Mary Mazziotti currently on display/sale at the Society for Contemporary Craft? Here are closeups and a full view (courtesy of Yale Cohen). I like this.

SCC hours are Mon-Sat 10-5. 21st & Smallman, Strip District, Pittsburgh.


stefb

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Jul 18 2013 at 6:43pm #

Anyone know any details about the one that happened last night?


buffalo buffalo

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Jul 18 2013 at 7:05pm #

(photo posted last night about 740pm, reposted by @BloomfieldNow this afternoon:

?@jeffreynryan “Another biker hit on Liberty in Bloomfield @bikepgh http://pic.twitter.com/R42uR8LKVu

BTW, this one showed up in the police blotter, for once:
http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/police/blotter/blotter_wednesday.pdf#page=23 indicates arrest at 19:45, 12 minutes after “Incident Time” of 19:33, for “Driving While Operating Privilege is Suspended or Revoked”, “Careless Driving”, and “Accident Involv. Death/Inj. While not Licensed”)


quizbot

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Jul 18 2013 at 9:19pm #

I’m surprised that there’s not more righteous anger in this thread. Another day, another cyclist hit. Meh. Who the fuck cares?


Drewbacca

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Jul 18 2013 at 9:42pm #

quizbot wrote:I’m surprised that there’s not more righteous anger in this thread. Another day, another cyclist hit. Meh. Who the fuck cares?

Five stages of grief… just not anger at the moment.


quizbot

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Jul 18 2013 at 11:39pm #

We’ve seen plenty of grief over the last dozen years. When exactly should I expect the anger to kick in?


Vannevar

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Jul 19 2013 at 6:17am #

Although I believe most of the local population is stuck on Denial (there’s no problem, it’s always been this way, it’ll take 20 years to fix this, it’s the cost of doing business, accidents happen, this is the way things are), and although my facade is placid, ICYMI within me is a whirling tornado of Anger.

I am most angry at the Perpetrators, those that do the violence, but I have definite a Tier-Two anger at the Acceptors.


ericf

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Jul 19 2013 at 6:27am #

@quizbot,
There is plenty of anger, believe me. I personally would rather leave all of that off this thread, and the entire forum for that matter. Let this be one place where we can come to get the facts, the news already skews everything to elicit ratings emotional response.


jonawebb

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Jul 19 2013 at 7:11am #

I’m going to say it again: the only thing that will stop people whose licenses have been suspended from driving is if there is a decent chance that they will be stopped at a roadblock and checked to see if their license is valid. Police do this all the time in CA, and PA should do it too.


edmonds59

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Jul 19 2013 at 11:16am #

How much anger are you looking for, Q? This much?

http://bikepgh.org/mb/topic/cyclist-sentanced-to-15-year-in-road-rage-incident/#post-278189


StuInMcCandless

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Jul 19 2013 at 3:01pm #

I’m beyond anger and into trying to organize something. Something that would really push the envelope with a very public “Enough, dammit”. I would like to do it above board, but if I cannot get approvals from the authorities, I’m willing to do it without approvals.

Contact me off board. PM me, or hit me up on text or Fb or whatever. I’m easy to find.


jonawebb

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Jul 19 2013 at 3:08pm #

I just talked with my sister — they stopped doing the checks in CA years ago. Budget problems. And this happened.


reddan

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Jul 19 2013 at 3:39pm #

I’m beyond anger and into trying to organize something. Something that would really push the envelope with a very public “Enough, dammit”. I would like to do it above board, but if I cannot get approvals from the authorities, I’m willing to do it without approvals.

Contact me off board. PM me, or hit me up on text or Fb or whatever. I’m easy to find.

I would truly love to be able to set up a semi-permanent billboard in a very public place, showing the pictures of the last three people killed in a traffic collision in our region, and update it every time someone else dies on the road.


Pierce

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Jul 19 2013 at 9:51pm #

I like the idea of the dropping-dead civil disobedience thing

Maybe do it at the police HQ, Peduto’s office


Drewbacca

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Jul 20 2013 at 1:31am #

@jon, granted, it was a DUI checkpoint… but I totally got check-pointed tonight post Flock. :) I thought of your comments and thanked the cops! :p


jonawebb

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Jul 20 2013 at 8:15am #

@DB yay!


quizbot

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Jul 20 2013 at 7:45pm #

@edmonds59: not assault level anger, just do something about it anger. I’m liking @pierce’s idea of civil disobedience, but maybe save it for the new mayor.


jonawebb

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Jul 20 2013 at 8:06pm #

I would give Peduto a chance. I actually talked with him (!) recently and brought up bikes and he was immediately on about how this is going to take time, Portland has a 20 year plan, etc. It sounded like he really wants to make a difference but people are pressuring him to get stuff done faster than it is possible. He mentioned to me that first priority is 20-25 dangerous intersections, which I think means red light cameras. I think they’re planning to put one in for testing at Shady and Dallas. If we could get him to do that and start trying to get unlicensed / DUI drivers off the road that would be a good start, I think, and something he can do right away.


sierramister

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Jul 20 2013 at 9:05pm #

jonawebb wrote:He mentioned to me that first priority is 20-25 dangerous intersections, which I think means red light cameras.

I just moved here from Knoxville, TN, a very heavy red light camera city. I was waiting at a light and turned left at an intersection as the opposing traffic was making right turns on red. I got brushed by somebody that didn’t yield to my right of way (they had a red, but didn’t run it because I guess they technically stopped first).

I emailed the traffic cop in charge of the red light cameras, and basically the companies write the contracts in such a way that you can’t get video of anything other than red light runs. So I had no way to get any license plate info, despite being in the presence of 4 government cameras.

And besides that, the red light cameras weren’t targeting bike intersections. They were targeting high yield areas, similar to an 88/51 intersection. I don’t think anybody in Knoxville would agree that red light cameras made the city a more bicycle friendly city.

I would be careful about getting excited about red light cameras.

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