A number of speakers at the November 10 meeting of the Common Council spoke about the dangers of the intersection of Wilbur and Greenkill avenues, where a bicyclist was hit by a bus and killed six days before.
According to police, the bicyclist was traveling in the new bike lane on Greenkill on Wednesday, November 4 at around 2:15 p.m. when he passed through a stop sign and was struck by the bus, which was making a right turn on to Wilbur.
The first speaker was Jim Shaughnessy, who said he travels on Greenkill Avenue at least once a week. He said when he saw the new traffic configuration on the road, he was thoroughly confused. “I know I wasn’t the only person who thought ‘what is going on here, someone is going to get killed,” said Shaughnessy. “It happened last week.”
The bike lane is part of the state’s Empire State Trail, which aims to create an unbroken, bike-friendly path, including dedicated bike trails and lanes alongside roads, from New York City to Buffalo. But Shaughnessy said Kingston officials still bear responsibility because “surely someone in the city approved it.”
The question Shaughnessy proposed to the Common Council was: what is going to be done now to ensure there is not another fatality?
Resident Clark Richters agreed. “As a driver for 30-something years in Kingston, it was a tragedy waiting to happen,” he said. “It [the trail] wasn’t well planned and now we have to live with this.”
Tanya Garment of Wurts Street also called in to speak about the accident. “When the Empire State Trail had their public meeting, the public wasn’t given an idea of the design,” said Garment. “It was only a very vague idea. We certainly did not understand that the vehicles would have right of way and that the pedestrians would have to yield.”
There is a stop sign on the trail for the bicyclists and pedestrians. “It’s going down a hill and it’s not visible – it’s very confusing,” said Garment. “I myself stopped there as a car, thinking the stop sign was for cars.”
This part of Greenkill Avenue also came up at the Public Safety/General Government Committee meeting the previous week, Wednesday, October 28.
During the meeting, alderman Tony Davis said he had received calls saying both that the bike lane was great and also that there were issues with parking in the area.
City engineer John Schultheis conceded at the October 28 meeting that “it was a big change.” He described that the design was “unusual” and “new style design” with a two-way cycle track, rather than bike lanes in the same direction as traffic. “It functions a little bit different than people are used to,” said Schultheis. “We haven’t had specific complaints, but we are asking the NYSDOT to make some minor changes.”
Schultheis did not describe what changes they asked for from the transportation department.
However, alderman Rennie Scott-Childress asked about putting up bollards “to clarify the need for motorists to move left.”
As of October 28, Schultheis said they were looking into that with the Department of Transportation.
“I hope they will continue to discuss the bike path,” said Garment about this committee. She advised the Common Council to become familiar with different traffic manuals, including National Association of City Transportation Officials’ design guides and the New York State Department of Transportation’s highway design manual. “Please take this incident seriously,” she said. “This situation was so rapidly proven to be a dangerous one.”
Currently the crash is being investigated by members of the Kingston Police accident reconstruction team and the detective division.