July 9, 2013.
The 64-year-old disabled woman who was struck by a motorist yesterday as she tried to exit a parking lot in Fort Lee, NJ
was a pedestrian activist who frequently criticized the town for poor pedestrian safety.
Barbara Lebow, who rides an electronic assistance device because of her disability from lymphadema and arthritis was exiting the A&P parking lot to Lemoine Ave. when she was struck by a motorist traveling north, who turned into the parking lot at around 5:02 PM Monday, according to Fort Lee Police.
Lebow is said to have been exiting the left side of the motorist ramp when Frank Davis, 70, of Englewood, NJ driving a 2012 Buick Lacrosse turned into driveway, collided with her and pinned her under his car.
It was not clear from the report if Ms. Lebow was thrown from her electronic device at the time. Responding to numerous 911 calls, the Fort Lee Fire Department were dispatched and lifted the vehicle off Ms. Lebow, according to FLPD Chief Keith M. Bendul.
Ms. Lebow was taken to Hackensack Hospital where she was in critical condition. It is not clear from police reports who provided on-the-scene information regarding Ms. Lebow’s movements, and if the eyewitness accounts were made by Mr. Davis, Ms. Lebow, or neither.
Last year Ms. Lebow made headlines when she challenged the Borough of Fort Lee’s ADA compliance. In a report by the Fort Lee Patch, the disabled pedestrian who rides around the town in an electronic device detailed a number of locations that do not have ramps or other safety characteristics suitable for the disabled.
At the time she admitted that she was going against traffic when she was handed a summons by a Fort Lee police officer for not following the rules of the road. But it is unclear if New Jersey rules of the road classify wheel chairs and other assisted devices as motor vehicles.
And there is a gray area when a town or other area does not have adequate cut outs to accommodate those devices, forcing motorized wheelchairs into the road when they might be technically classified as pedestrians.
NJ Patch further reported that at a July 21, 2012 regular meeting of the Fort Lee Mayor and Council, Lebow expressed her concerns and related the incident to the borough’s governing body.
“In New Jersey, by law, handicapped people are allowed to use mobility scooters,” she was said to have told Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and members of the Council. “Why anyone would want to use one is beyond me. … Their access is cut off to most stores, many buildings and other destinations.”
“I have been approaching [Sokolich] for four years,” Lebow later told Patch. “For four years he has been committing to me that he would take a ride with me because I wanted him to walk in my moccasins. When you’re using a mobility scooter, the world is a whole different place.”
But while Sokolich didn’t take a ride with Lebow personally, he did assign Michael Maresca of the Fort Lee Department of Public Works to the task, he said, “to identify what the problem areas are,” reported Patch.
It is not clear if Ms. Lebow identified the entrance to the strip mall on Lemoine Ave. as one of the problem areas, but since it is privately owned she could have been spinning her wheels.
There are no entrances for the disabled to the strip mall, that in addition to an A&P also houses a bank. The strip mall is said by sources to be owned by Paul Schmidt of 222 Grand Avenue in Englewood, NJ, though that information could not be confirmed by press time.