Last month, Kingston resident Darryl Savage, 54, was killed after being struck by a bus at the intersection of Greenkill Avenue and Wilbur Avenue. Now, his family is pursuing legal action against the City of Kingston and the State of New York, and possibly the Birnie Bus company.
Savage’s four children have filed a notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit, with O’Connor & Partners, claiming that the bike lane was unsafe and city officials knew but failed to act.
“In any case against a municipality you have to file a notice of claim,” said Kingston attorney Joseph O’Connor. “You have to give the municipality the opportunity to investigate.”
The police reported that the bicyclist was traveling in the new bike lane on Greenkill at around 2:15 p.m. on November 4 when he passed through a stop sign and was struck by the bus, which was making a right turn on to Wilbur. He died later at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston.
While no tickets were issued and no charges were filed, O’Connor believes the city knew the intersection was dangerous and should have done something about it.
“Myself and my partner went to the scene and looked at it and both being bicyclists said it clearly looks dangerous,” said O’Connor. “We spoke to members of the community and neighbors who said they’ve been complaining to the city how dangerous it is.”
O’Connor said he hired design experts, consisting of an accident reconstruction and highway design team, to analyze the site where their preliminary reports found numerous problems.
“There were no real attempts to remedy the dangerous condition,” said O’Connor.
“It’s our position that this type of bike pathway is inappropriate for a road that has so many intersecting driveways and roadways,” said O’Connor about the upcoming lawsuit.
He explained how the city “essentially placed an 18-inch stop sign on the roadway … but because so many vehicles were running it over they removed it.” The stop sign was then placed on the shoulder in the grass area. “It was not consistent with the original design and, in our opinion, makes it much more dangerous,” said O’Connor “You’re not going to see the stop sign if you’re a bicyclist unless you’re looking off the roadway.”
During the November 10 Common Council meeting, just days after Savage’s death, there were a handful of public comments regarding the intersection.
“I know I wasn’t the only person who thought ‘what is going on here, someone is going to get killed,” said resident Jim Shaughnessy about the intersection during the November meeting. “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.
Discussion regarding this part of Greenkill Avenue also came up at the Public Safety/General Government Committee meeting the previous week before Savage’s death on Wednesday, October 28.
City engineer John Schultheis said 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.”
The State Supreme Court claim was filed on Monday, December 14 by O’Connor, which names the City of Kingston as a defendant. The other two actions against the State of New York and potentially the Birnie Bus company will be filed at a later date.
City officials have not made any further comment regarding the crash or the intersection, following the advice of the city’s legal counsel.