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Pedestrian injured in collision with Park cyclist sues city

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A Windsor Terrace actress who was nearly killed in a crash with a bicyclist in Prospect Park is preparing to sue the city for $3 million, claiming speeding two-wheelers put pedestrians in danger on the park’s popular roadway.

Dana Jacks — who starred in an off-Broadway production of “Our Town” and frequently walked her dog, Scout, in the park — was struck by a cyclist on West Lake Drive in June.

According to Jacks’s preliminary court documents, which were first revealed by our sister paper, The New York Post, the charismatic 37-year-old suffered a fractured skull along with face and brain trauma that kept her in the hospital for 25 days.

In her notice of claim, Jacks blames the Parks Department and the NYPD for a “careless and reckless” lack of traffic enforcement on what should be a serene street, where cyclist, pedestrians and drivers have long complained about hazy right of way rules.

“My wife was gravely injured,” her husband Forrest Cicogni told a park task force on Wednesday. “Racing needs to be limited to very specific hours. You don’t allow cars to race in the park; you shouldn’t allow bikes to race.”

Neither he nor Jacks returned calls.

News of the coming lawsuit comes two weeks after beloved park volunteer and avid power walker Linda Cohen was struck by a 61-year-old cyclist on the same street. She suffered a medically induced coma and is now conscious but slowly recovering.

“It happened to her — and she knows the park intimately,” her friend Nancy Moccaldi said between sobs. “Now, her skull is fractured. She is bruised and battered.”

It also comes after at least three cycling-related accidents plagued the park this past summer on the same loop.

Jacks filed a separate notice of claim in Brooklyn Supreme Court against the cyclist with whom she collided. He then counter-sued, claiming it was actually her fault for crossing the street outside the crosswalk.

At a road sharing task force meeting in the park on Wednesday, more than 100 park-goers demanded stepped-up enforcement of roadway speed limits, better signage and more cops on the popular street.

“This is a disgrace,” said Geoffrey Croft of New York City Park Advocates. “Our parks should be safe.”

Reach reporter Natalie O'Neill at noneill@cnglocal.com or by calling her at (718) 260-4505.

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Reader Feedback

Juniper from Greenpoint says:
cyclist are out of control. They don't obey traffic laws. They act as if they are the only ones on the road. If pedestrians weren't as careful as we now have to be there would be more people who are simply walking, hit by people on bikes. Pedestrians have the right of way, always, not bikes.
To those on bikes Slow down, obey traffic laws ( this means stop at red lights and go in the direction if traffic), get a bell, a helmet and reflectors. Why is it so hard? I am sick of taking my life in my hands when I just want to cross the street.
I am surprised that the BP covered this story. They are so biased in favor of cyclists.
Nov. 21, 2011, 2:08 am
ty from pps says:
Hey Juniper -- I'm not defending this cyclist, but you do know this is a MAJOR exception to the rule. Let's get some perspective before you get all indignant. How about this --

*DRIVER* are out of control. They don't obey traffic laws. They act as if they are the only ones on the road. Pedestrians have the right of way, always, not CARS.
To those driving CARS Slow down, obey traffic laws (this means stop at red lights, obey signs, yield to pedestrians, give bicycles a safe distance, stop being aggressive) use your headlights at night, and stop honking when it's not an emergency. Why is it so hard? I am sick of taking my life in my hands when I want to use a street in anyway whatsoever.

Again, get some perspective. We're talking pedetrians deaths caused by bicycles in the low single digits (of course, 1 is too many)... meanwhile we have DOZENS and DOZENS and DOZENS of pedestrian deaths and injuries year caused by cars. And dozens and dozens more of driver injuries and deaths caused by other drivers.
Nov. 21, 2011, 9:01 am
Pedestrian from Windsor Terrace says:
Cicogni is wrong. We do allow cars to race in the park. They do it every morning an every evening, racing at 40 mph and creating a real hazard for all park users.

The park never should have been opened to cars. Olmsted is spinning in his grave. Sadly, it may take another injury or death for the park to ban cars once and for all.
Nov. 21, 2011, 9:21 am
Brian Van from Kips Bay says:
This is a puzzling problem to me. Central Park has some of the same swift downhill areas that are heavily trafficked by slow-walking pedestrians and bikers going 20-25mph, and we're not hearing the same kind of injury reports. It is true that there are incidents and close brushes, but nothing so dangerous that a serious injury is imminent. I've crossed the park drives in Prospect Park many times safely without incident. I've also done bicycle loops (including a swift coast downhill on West Drive) many times without incident. Nothing even close. Even during the busiest days, I'm lucky to see a handful of people in that section of the park crossing the road or riding bicycles through at any one time.

I find that, given the volume of park users and the width of the roadway, there is so much space and clearance available that only reckless people would find themselves in a collision situation. That conclusion is worth thinking about, especially if you are thinking of solving the problem by posting a speed limit or by painting better lanes/crosswalks. Both will likely be disregarded by the same reckless users who are causing accidents that otherwise would be avoided by cautious park users. (these would be both cyclists and pedestrians, since I constantly see both kinds of road users do terribly stupid things in mixed traffic situations)

But then again, maybe collision risk is appearing in situations where neither pedestrians or cyclists are doing anything unusual or careless. In that case, maybe better traffic controls are needed. Just don't jump to the conclusion that people are "racing". Bicyclists who are not racing and are just coasting along still tend to pick up a lot of speed on a long downhill slope. The traffic signals probably need to account for that somehow. It's not going to be solved by working off the assumption that all cyclists are ——s and they need to have their egos tamed. That's just wrong and stupid.
Nov. 21, 2011, 9:36 am
S from PPW says:
The park and the DOT are derelict in their duty. Get cars out of the park and then you can better mark the roadway, making it clear who goes where: fast cyclists on one side; slow cyclists, rollerbladers and fast runners in the middle; and peds and slower runners on the other side. Then get rid of the traffic signals and replace them with flashing yellows. Put "yield to ped signs" in the middle of each crosswalk, as they do at many intersections in towns in New England. Have the rules be that when a pedestrian is present in a crosswalk, cyclists must stop. To allow cyclists to train, institute racing/training hours in the early morning on weekends when those rules are relaxed.

If there's one set of rules for the car racing time and another set of rules for all other times, things are always going to be confusing.

Cars out of the park now.
Nov. 21, 2011, 10:22 am
Dock Oscar from Puke Slop says:
It's the very few rotten apples that spoil it. That's all. But they are dangerous apples. Many, many cyclists ride safely. BUT there are Tour De France wannabe's that are soooo aggro that it is ridiculous. These are the same type of "type A" guys that fight during spinning class (remember that?)

Flying down the hill going close to 30 mph. And if someone gets in the multi-use way, they are going too fast to slow down. BANG! (remember, it's a PARK not a bike training track for Lance Armstrong)

Bike lanes aren't speedways....period. If you wanna train for the Tour De France, take your BMW and drive up the Hudson.

By the way...the easiest way to slow traffic, any traffic with wheels...speed bumps! A couple bags of asphalt from Lowes...just an idea. Dead of night. Fix that problem in a jiffy.
Nov. 21, 2011, 11:12 am
Parker from PPW says:
Speed bumps would be dangerous for a lot of the little kids who are just learning to ride bikes or who aren't 100% confident riding. They shouldn't pay the price because the grownups can't figure out how to share better.
Nov. 21, 2011, 11:13 am
Dock Oscar from Puke Slop says:
At the bottom of the big hills. So if little ones are learning, they wouldn't be flying down. Also, they would be going slow.

As for the fast cyclists, set some bleachers are the bottom of the hill and watch the fun.

Some folks are good at sharing no matter how nice you ask them.

Look at the economy. ;)
Nov. 21, 2011, 11:20 am
wkgreen from Park Slope says:
I was at the task force meeting, and this report does not accurately describe what was actually discussed. The press seems to want to create drama and conflict, but the discussion was much more constructive and civil than anyone wants to report. Park users of all kinds were there, and most identified themselves as people who enjoyed multiple uses. There were many suggestions made having to do with the road itself and how to improve it. But speaker after speaker stated that there is abuse by everyone of the loop road. The problem is hardly limited to cyclists.

The park does a great disservice to all users by giving the impression that pedestrians have carte blanche use of the road. No one seems to understands how to use it. The right of way should end at the ability for people to cross easily at specified locations, but it's not. Those locations should be easy to reach and well identified. People stand in the middle; cross diagonally; cross out of the crosswalks at blind locations in slow moving caravans sometimes with baby carriages or with dogs on long leashes; they meander down the middle, sometimes 3 and 4 abreast. It's a mess.

"Racing" is in the eye of the beholder, as bicycles go at varying speeds depending on the ability of the cyclist while anyone can be seriously hurt going at any speed. Bicycles, even the faster ones do not go at such speeds that people should not be able to easily avoid them in an environment that is predictable, but that hardly describes the current condition. Cyclists get hurt when they try to avoid these oblivious obstructions, as do innocent bystanders when they are forced to swerve suddenly around them. Accidents are caused by chain reaction.

As pointed out by several speakers, pedestrians and runners have the complete run of the park, as well as many other areas of the city. There is no other place like the PP loop road for recreational or serious cyclists. There is no reason that all users should not be able to be safely accommodated.

I took 2 rounds of the park on Saturday, stopping along the way to take photos.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/70080697@N02/sets/72157628058949509/
Nov. 21, 2011, 11:36 am
Dock Oscar from Puke Slop says:
I'm not knocking cyclists. On weekends (at least when I get to use the park (day job anyone?), I do see cyclists going very fast. Too fast to break quickly enough to avoid an accident. Not all of them, maybe 5%.

So barring speed bumps...a strict enforcement I suppose, but HOW? and there will always be folks that will flout the rules. Ticket folks crossing incorrectly? Ticket cyclists blowing thru lights and going too fast?

I do see packs of racing enthusiasts going full tilt. They exist. The difference is that a runner going around the track can stop if someone gets in the way. A cyclist...not so sure.

Not sure if the park is a good place to train for bike racing.
Nov. 21, 2011, 11:57 am
John from Greenpoint says:
Like your mother always said, look both ways before you cross the street people.

No one is going 40 MPH on a bike at any point in the park. If a rider could reach and hold 40 MPH, he or she would be training in France, not doing laps in Brooklyn. Cars, however, frequently surpass 45 MPH. The difference between bikes and cars in these circumstances seems to lay in people's ability to see and hear cars.

There's something about a bike's profile that many people simply can't see them out of their peripheral vision, so they wander into the roadway. When pediestrians do see the bike, they're startled and they're either frozen with fear or they dither back and forth in the roadway. Cyclists call this "squirelling."
Nov. 21, 2011, 12:08 pm
ty from pps says:
"I was at the task force meeting, and this report does not accurately describe what was actually discussed."

WHAT?! I'm shocked! Natalie O'Neill distorting the truth (or avoiding it altogether)?!? NOOOO.... Can't be. She's such a credit to journalism.
Nov. 21, 2011, 12:11 pm
Dock Oscar from Puke Slop says:
Let's just say that the bikes are going fast for bikes. Again, not all, actually very few. I think I said approaching 30 mph. Some of these cyclists are pretty aggro...trust me. Most bikes are toddling around 18 mph or 20 mph.

Even among bikes, there is a disparate speed. Some barely going 5 mph.

I think that some (most are cool) cyclists can do better.

Even on the PPW, there are signs that say Yield to Pedestrians, yet compliance is 10% roughly.

I love the bike lanes and use them (even the scary 5th Ave...yikes). But many cyclists don't obey the rules.

Yes, most pedestrians are clueless, but that doesn't mean you get to run them over. As for the Park, once the cars were gone, I think most people think it's OK to dawdle without getting run over. Maybe that's wrong but crossing shouldn't be like the game Frogger.
Nov. 21, 2011, 12:20 pm
Joe R. from Flushing says:
If the loop road is really being abused by pedestrians crossing everywhere, instead of just at crosswalks, then the solution is staring us right in the face. Put overpasses or underpasses anywhere you want pedestrians to cross, and fence off the road everywhere else. Problem solved. Now pedestrians can cross safely, and cyclists don't need to stop or otherwise look for pedestrians. You don't necessarily need to make the pedestrians be the ones who have to go up or down, either. You can make the road dip below grade level in order to have a pedestrian overpass which doesn't require climbing up or down.

It's been proven time and again that grade separation is really the only thing which works well all the time. The city should try using it more. I'd love if we built out a nice grade-separated bicycle network encompassing the entire city, just as we already have grade-separated expressways for motor vehicles.
Nov. 21, 2011, 1:12 pm
pk says:
just remember to throw a few branches and rocks on the street whenever you're walking in PP. it forces bikers to slow down.
Nov. 21, 2011, 1:52 pm
s from ppw says:
pk, the police will be more than happy to look up your IP address when a child on a bike hits a rock or branch and is injured.

stay classy!
Nov. 21, 2011, 2:13 pm
Paul from Park Slope says:
So Natalie (and Iris Weinshall et al) darn good thing there's a bike lane OUTSIDE the park drawing off some of the bike traffic, huh?

Or maybe the city should try to get some of the judgment money out of the Neighbors for Better Bikeways (!!!!) who exacerbated a "dangerous situation" by saying the bike lane in the park was reason enough to kill the outside bikeway.

But I also agree with the comments that having weekly bike races in the park is insane. It's a miracle nobody has been killed yet. I believe the city actually has a Velodrome bike raceway in Queens; let them use that instead of the current Saturday madness.
Nov. 21, 2011, 3:57 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
All the bed wetters can't wait to mention cars, when the story is about out of control bicycles.

Want to ride on the side walk? Go ahead, you're saving the earth!

Ride the wrong way? Go ahead, you're saving the earth!

Headphones on? Go ahead, you're saving the earth!

Tired of riding? Take your bike on the subway 24 hours a day - even in rush hour - you're saving the earth!

Run red lights? Go ahead, you're saving the earth!

No lights or reflectors after dark? Go ahead, you're saving the earth!
Nov. 21, 2011, 5:33 pm
JB from Brooklyn Heights says:
I too was at that task force meeting.

Any competent reporter would have referenced the astounding unanimity among those hundred or so community members who attended. Plain and simple, the *entire audience* agreed that all-non-official vehicular traffic should be banned from the park. That point was repeated ad nauseum by different audience members (many of whom disagreed on other issues), often to rousing applause.

Naturally, the community's enthusiasm was not shared by DOT, NYPD, or the Prospect Park Alliance, who apparently don't understand that a car ban is the only way to end the dangerous confusion among park goers resulting from inconsistent roadway usage. (A proposal for instituting a car-free trial period next summer was specifically mooted at the meeting.)

Those are the things Ms. O'Neill should have highlighted. But she's sensationalizing, as usual.
Nov. 21, 2011, 7:19 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Dana Jacks has every right to sue for what happened to her. It's already been proven that bicycle can indeed injure or even kill someone when in contact. I say that bicycles should be subject to licensing, registration, and insurance, and I don't want to hear any bike zealouts crying foul to this when many of us motorists are already paying for these things. I really find bike zealout organizations such as Streetsblog or even TA to be in double standards when saying that all motorists most follow every letter of the law or face the cosequences, while all cyclists can do whatever they please while feeling unhindered by anything. Saying that cars kill or injure more than bicycles doesn't give a reason for cyclists to flout the laws more and using such claims draws a big parallel to when many say that IDF or Mossad is much more of a terrorist organization than Hamas just because they had more casualities, but only look at the effects rather than causes.
Nov. 21, 2011, 7:54 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
That was the best Tal Barzilai impersonation yet.
Nov. 21, 2011, 9:56 pm
Mike says:
Sure was! It's almost plausible.
Nov. 21, 2011, 10:19 pm
Richard from WI says:
I was plowed down by a bicyclist, and left in critical condition on the street. The cyclist saw me crossing 100 feet away, and just screamed for me to get out of hisway. This was a busy downtown area at sunset. The bicylist said he was only going 20 mph. There was room in my opinion for the bike to pass. Can a bicyclist fracture a person's rib cage, scapula, and cause a lung contusion at that speed? One has to pay to have an accident recreated here in Wisconsin. The police don't even care what speed the bikers are going, or if they may have been under the influence. I would have had a chance if I heard braking, but really couldn't see it coming. Who yells for a pedestrial to get out of the way?
Nov. 22, 2011, 4 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
It's obvious that Mike did that impersonation especially since he is complementing what is supposed to be the imposter.
Nov. 22, 2011, 10:06 pm
FYI says:
Here is a story about the task force meeting, written by Natalie:

http://www.brooklyndaily.com/stories/2011/47/dtg_parkrules_2011_11_25_bd.html

The story above is about a lawsuit. Two different things, guys.
Nov. 23, 2011, 12:43 pm
Mat from Bk says:
No cars in prospect park!
Nov. 23, 2011, 4:22 pm
Mike says:
Huh, Tal? Your "logic" eludes me. (As usual.)
Nov. 23, 2011, 6:56 pm
Dennis sinneD from Williamsburg says:
I despise BP's general sensationalism, but this article did not strike me as sensationalist. As was pointed out by FYI, the point of the article was not the task force meeting--the lawsuit is the point of the article. A separate link was provided for reporting on the task force meeting. Unless that article grossly distorted the facts on that meeting then Ms. O'Neill deserves an apology.
Nov. 26, 2011, 6:11 pm
toni z from windsor terrace says:
I agree no cars in the park but why do we have two bike lanes about 20 feet apart one in the park and one on Pros[ect Park West. Don't we need to move cars during rush hour? All you need is a delivery on PPW and then the traffic backs up to Grand Army Plaza. Where is the common sense in having pollution problems due to idleing cars? Why do these cyclists have more space then they need and commerce is stalled? I don't get it.
Dec. 2, 2011, 11:53 am

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