October 2, 2003

Bicyclist Hits Pedestrian on Ho Plaza

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A bike rider hit a student pedestrian on Ho Plaza yesterday morning. The cyclist, Patrick Murray ’07, was speeding down the area between Olin Hall and Gannett: Cornell University Health Services toward Collegetown at 10:03 a.m. when he crashed into an unnamed Asian engineering student.

At the scene, Murray and the pedestrian had possible neck and head injuries, said Sgt. Chuck Howard, Cornell University Police Department traffic enforcement coordinator. Both students were later released from Cayuga Medical Center, with cuts and bruises on their heads. Rishi Mukhopadhyay ’05 was walking out of class and saw Murray, who was “pedaling really hard down Ho Plaza” after “dodg[ing] around a couple of people.” A few moments later, Mukhopadhyay heard a loud sound and afterward, four people ran into Gannett for help.

“Basically, no one came out of Gannett [and] nobody came out to administer first aid,” he said. “That really kind of scared the hell out of me.” He added that another student eventually called the police using a cell phone.

Campus police arrived two minutes after the accident, according to Linda Grace-Kobas, interim vice president for communications and media relations. Grace-Kobas said that Bangs Ambulance and Ithaca Fire Department were also at the scene. While waiting, students found tissues and gave them to the biker and the pedestrian.

According to Mukhopadhyay, Murray stood up after the accident and started panicking. The student who was hit was curled up on the ground and bleeding from the mouth and nose. It is unclear whether the student lost consciousness.

Howard said that Murray was not wearing a helmet at the time. Although New York state law only requires cyclists 14 and under to wear helmets, the University strongly recommends their use, according to David Lieb ’89, communications and marketing manager for transportation and mail services. Lieb said that wearing a helmet could offset the risk of a potential accident.

“The bicyclist was not wearing a helmet, which was a stupid thing to do,” Grace-Kobas said. “He hit his head hard on the pavement and he is lucky that his injuries aren’t more serious.”

From his own understanding of the accident, Lieb said that Murray picked up speed from the dismount zone near the Straight — an illegal offense. He added that the student was hit 20 feet into the shared walk, an area where bicycles can be ridden legally.

“In the shared walk, the cyclist is still required to ride slowly and yield to pedestrians,” Lieb said. “Had he not been picking up speed [in the dismount zone], this incident would surely have not occurred.”

Murray was charged with two traffic violations by the CUPD: failure to yield to a pedestrian and riding at an imprudent speed.

Although Grace-Kobas said that the charges are not serious, Murray and the victim were lucky to be relatively unscathed. She said the injures sustained would have been the major consequence to this incident.

According to Lieb, the transportation office consistently advertises about pedestrian motorist and cyclist issues. Riders are required to register their bicycles and are given information about safe cycling, bike lanes and shared walks. Lieb said that though the location of the accident occurred was a shared walk, it does not increase the risk of injury in the area because it is “a matter of mutual respect and cooperation.”

“They made [the area] a shared walkway, and I think students could respect certain speed limits,” Mukhopadhyay said. “I felt that during the times when people are just getting out of classes, there’s no good reason to be riding a bike at any certain speed.”

Archived article by Brian Tsao