By Jen Benepe, 5 PM, June 10, 2012
A female cyclist riding south on Route 9W this afternoon was struck by a motorist and critically injured.
The woman, whose name has not been released by Orangetown Police was taken to Nyack Hospital for treatment.
It was too early to learn from the Orangetown Police if her injuries had been fatal, but it was clear from the presence of the accident investigation squad that they were life threatening.
Some passerbys on the scene said that they had been told by an officer that the cyclist had died, but that information could not be confirmed with either the police or Nyack Hospital.
The driver who was also traveling south when she struck the cyclist, was also taken to the hospital for medical treatment though it was not clear if she had been injured.
Lt. Wetzel who is heading the investigation said the driver was being interviewed by police to determine the cause of the crash.
The incident occurred around 1:49 PM in the Upper Grandview area of 9W, just south of the “Y” connection between the state road and the southernmost entrance to Nyack, NY.
Though the bicycle was not visible from the incident scene, the car, a dark red sedan had a punched-in windshield and damage to its right side. It appeared the cyclist was struck, then hit the windshield and side of the car.
The vehicle was stopped at about 75 feet south of the location of impact, indicating that the motorist did not stop until then.
At the crash location the amount of shoulder on the roadway for a cyclist to use should she need to was narrow–about one third the size of the shoulder in the southern sections of 9W below Sparkill.
NY State law does not require cyclists to ride in the shoulder. But in this section of roadway, there is often no choice for the riders if they feel endangered by passing vehicles to move into a “safe” zone.
Portions of the shoulder in the section from Nyack south to Sparkill are almost universally too narrow for a pedestrian or cyclist, and in many cases are also cracked, rutted, or literally caved in.
An officer from the accident investigation squad of the Orangetown Police Dept. marked the areas around the wheels of the vehicle.
All traffic traveling in both directions had been stopped for about 4 hours when CI arrived on the scene.
Because the investigation was still ongoing, police were unable to release the identity or a description of the woman who was struck, nor the details of why she was hit.
Lt. Wetzel said that the cyclist’s identity was difficult to ascertain because she had not been carrying any identification. Even her cell phone, which they were using to assist in uncovering her identity, did not have her name in it.
“If there is anything you can tell cyclists, please tell them to carry ID with them,” said Lt. Wetzel. “Name and address, blood type, and names and phone numbers of next of kin are very important,” she noted.
“I can’t tell you how many incidents we have had in the past year–at least five–where people were not carrying ID, and it was very hard for us to notify their families.”
She said the last such incident, a man riding his bike in the same area had a heart attack, and it was difficult to find out who he was.
With the exception of some drivers who ignored the flares blocking the roadway that had been set up by police, the road which is usually buzzing with cars, was eerily silent.
Two neighbors, Marilan Lund and Alma Richmond of Grandview were talking uncharacteristically on the side of Route 9W about 200 feet south of the crash site. Normally they would not be able to stand there because of the noise and danger from motorists passing.
“The road is very narrow here, and drivers are not accustomed to seeing cyclists riding here,” said Lund, who admitted that she was afraid to ride a bicycle in the area.
Both Lund and Richmond were part of a local group that met last year to try and reduce speeds on this area of 9W between Sparkill and Nyack, because it is very narrow, and drivers often speed, they said.
Trucks, they noted, are also not legally allowed to be on this portion of the road because of its size, but they drive there anyway.
There are no road signs indicating to either cyclists or drivers that the road is narrow and caution is advised.
Lund said their request to the New York Department of Transportation and local police to reduce the speed limit from 40 to 35 mph fell on deaf ears.
Another friend, Mary Lovera, drove up from a real estate appointment–she was one of the few cars allowed behind police lines because she was already there when the crash occured, and she reacted to the news that the cyclist had been critically injured.
“You’re taking your life in your hands riding on this road,” she said. “There is no shoulder and drivers go too fast.” Lovera, who is originally from the Netherlands where the bicycle is king, and where she used to ride daily said “No one from the Netherlands would ride on this [portion of ] Route 9W–its too dangerous.”
CI asked Lt. Wetzel if the speed limit could be lower, and if trucks should be banned from this portion of Route 9W: “That is a matter for the DOT to consider,” she answered.
Cyclists in general tend to use an alternate route, Piermont Road, where the speed limit is 25 mph, and though also narrow, offers a view of the Hudson River and resembles more of a country road than a highway.
But Route 9W has never been off limits to riders, and in this case, as well as any other, the cyclist might not have known that the road presents challenges for car and bicyle to co-exist.