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Posted by on Apr 5, 2012 in Uncategorized | 13 comments

Salute to a Heroic Bus Operator

A driver attempting to flee after hitting a bicyclist in Bethlehem, PA was blocked by a quick-thinking bus driver. Check it out:

Here’s the report from the Bethlehem Police Department blog.

On 02 April 2012 at approximately 3:06 p.m., expert cyclist Frank Pavlick was struck from behind while riding across the Fahy Bridge.  Mr. Pavlick was hit by a seventeen year old juvenile who was attempting to pass a LANTA bus.  Immediately following the impact, the juvenile attempted to flee the scene to avoid identification and apprehension.  The driver of the LANTA bus, identified as Richard Gubish, Jr., saw the crash in his rear view mirror and also saw the driver attempting to get away.  Mr. Gubish took immediate and decisive action and positioned his bus across the lanes of the bridge, effectively blocking the path of the getaway driver.  Another witness to the crash, Judson Smull, stopped to render aid to the injured Pavlick, who implored Smull to go after the offending driver to get the license plate.  Smull also took immediate action, and following the lead of Mr. Gubish, positioned his car directly behind the offending vehicle, further blocking any attempt to escape. read more

Hats off to Mr. Richard Gubish, Jr.!

If you care to subject yourself to Youtube comments, you’ll notice the Bethlehem PD supports the bicyclist’s right to control the lane. Bethlehem has a well-educated police department, in part, because it has an excellent advocacy organization — Coalition for Appropriate Transportation — which has focused a lot of energy on education of bicyclists and public officials.

The one thing that concerns me from the PD blog post is this:

The juvenile offender has been the first in Bethlehem, and perhaps the state, to be charged under a new section of Pennsylvania law that provides additional protection for cyclists on our roadways.  The section took effect at 12:01 a.m. on the date of the crash.  The section is, in pertinent part:

§ 3303. Overtaking vehicle on the left.
(a) General rule.–The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions and special rules stated in this chapter:
(3) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a pedalcycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the pedalcycle within not less than four feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed.
In addition, the juvenile offender has been charged in Northampton County Juvenile Court with:
  • § 3742(a) – Accidents Involving Death or Personal Injury (M2)
  • § 3334(a) – Turning Movements and Required Signals

A passing clearance violation? Really? He was driving recklessly and rear-ended another vehicle (which happened to be a bicycle). Is that what you charge a driver with when they slam into the back of a car while driving like an impetuous jackass?

I realize reckless is hard to prosecute, but doesn’t Pennsylvania have a violation for careless-aggressive or something similar? How ’bout fleeing the scene? He got blocked before he could escape, but he should still be charged with hit & run.

This kid should lose his license until he’s 30! This is exactly the kind of behavior we need remove from our roads.

UPDATE from the Bethlehem PD blog:
The charge “Accidents Involving Death or Personal Injury” is the charge that covers what is commonly referred to as “Hit and Run” and it also covers the duty of every driver to stop and render aid when a person is injured in an accident.

CO Author update: I should have looked up the statute, but I posted this in a hurry as I was leaving town. My bad. John Schubert, who lives near Bethlehem, will be posting more follow-up on this story here… soon. The exceptional way this has been handled by public officials and police in Bethlehem offers a living example of how an advocacy strategy focused on education and full-lane equality improves traffic justice.

13 Comments

  1. Pretty quick reaction from that bus operator! Nicely done! Agreed about the “passing” violation. When it lands on your hood, you ain’t passing!

  2. The driver is also being charged with …

    In addition, the juvenile offender has been charged in Northampton County Juvenile Court with:
    § 3742(a) – Accidents Involving Death or Personal Injury (M2)
    § 3334(a) – Turning Movements and Required Signals

    … according to what appears to be a footnote on the blog.

    More generally, I’m with you Keri. That is, citizens here are far too tolerant of reckless driving.

  3. I do wish we could see a video that runs unedited for the portion from 3:06:14 until 3:06:47. The rest is merely context. I have to say that LCI set a good example for us all and I am proud to be one with him. Even more, I’m ecstatic he is OK. Steve A, LCI 3054.

    • I agree, I would have liked to have seen more leading up to the actual crash. It looks like, from the ordering of the cars as they entered the bridge, it was the bus in front, then the silver car, then the black car. After the crash, the bus was in the left lane and the black car ahead of the silver one. It looks like the bus moved over to pass the cyclist and the black car sped through, while switching back into the right lane to both pass the silver car in the right lane and still be able to pass the bus, now in the left. The cyclist was probably screened by the bus until the last second.

      Totally reckless and with a hit & run to boot. I’m with Keri, this guy shouldn’t be allowed to drive until he’s 30.

      • Actually I’m not sure, it looks like there should have been more time than that to see the cyclist. Would like to have seen the same angle a couple seconds earlier

    • I was curious about that as well and posted this question on their blog. The reason there isn’t more footage is because all of this video is from the same camera that pans and tilts automatically and it was repositioning itself from looking at oncoming traffic to outgoing traffic during that time. Their full response:

      “Jason, there really is no “missing” footage during the times you posted. All of the video footage from this incident was captured by the same camera. Our video cameras are all PTZ (Pan-Tilt-Zoom). They are programmed to alternate between several pre-defined areas. This particular camera has five pre-set positions that it continually scans between. All of the cameras can also be operated through our Communications Specialists in our 9-1-1 Center. The missing footage is when the camera is repositining itself between a view facing south and a view facing north. It was fortunate that the camera happened to catch the actual crash. In earlier frames, the offending vehicle can be seen making a lane change to attempt to pass the bus on the left. Through witness accounts, and the video footage, the entire story gets put together. The offending driver’s path gets blocked by the bus and he then changes lanes back to the right to go around the bus. That is when he strikes the cyclist from behind.”

      http://bethlehempolice.blogspot.com/2012/04/press-release-city-honors-two-citizens.html?showComment=1333720333747#c3405772549599699423

      • Thanks, Jason. Looking at the video more, my suspicion is this: black car follows bus two back from the bus swings left to swoop by the one in front and the bus. Bus moves over to pass cyclist before black car can get past the bus. Black car zips back right to execute the swoop maneuver in the right lane instead. Suddenly, that darn cyclist is right in front of him and bang – after two rapid lane changes, the black car driver has no time left to react and make a third lane change. Then he panics. His previous lane behavior gets him even less sympathy from the bus and other car drivers than if he hadn’t been a jerk. The cyclist got smacked due to a blind lane change from the left lane to the right by the guy in the black car. Such an event is most likely when the cyclist gets into heavier traffic where an impatient motorist tries something dumb. Like in the video. IMO, the only thing the cyclist could have done better would have been to know better the timing of following car groups. That IS taught in CS, but only works on routes the cyclist has ridden enough times to “know the flow.”

  4. If I may, from a Pennsylvania perspective the 4-foot passing charge is exactly what we want. Background: a very popular bicycle advocate was killed on the same bridge recently. The 4-foot rule took effect two days prior to this event. Statewide, people have been waiting to see – will it have any effect? This charge sends the message: if you hit a bicycle, you failed to maintain the required distance (duh) and you’ve broken a very specific law.

    So, if I may, I like your post, but there is a bit of local context that bears on the issue. All the best, keep riding! V.

    • If sending a message is important, I’d be concerned about the risk of having the ticket thrown out because it wasn’t the actual violation committed. He wasn’t passing the cyclist. He rear-ended the cyclist while attempting to pass the bus.

  5. I too am surprised that the hit and run side of it seems to have been ignored. For me, that’s the worst offence. We all drive badly at times – and even a careful cyclist might cause an accident – but if you hit somebody and drive off, you’ve failed a very basic test of citizenship, and have demonstrated very clearly that you are not responsible enough to be in charge of a car. Driving a car should be a privilege, not a right.

    • The commonly referred to “hit and run” is a violation of:
      § 3742(a) – Accidents Involving Death or Personal Injury (M2)

      So he was charged with hit and run. This is explained on the Bethlehem police blog.

  6. I know Frank Pavlick personally. I co-taught the LCI seminar he attended some years ago here in Lancaster. I’m grateful he doesn’t seem to be seriously injured. But I hope he got checked out at the ER anyway, because sometimes injuries are not immediately apparent to the victim.

    I’m confident the motorist will be properly prosecuted, given that Frank has been very active with the Coalition for Appropriate Transportation in the Lehigh Valley. CAT has an excellent relationship with the Bethlehem Police Dept.

    I’ve biked over the Fahey Bridge a number of times and was always overtaken safely by motorists. As I recall there are sharrows on the bridge.

    • I feel a lot more comfortable about this after talking to Schubert on Saturday.

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