Monday, July 28, 2008

A Ghost Bike For Johnny

Last Wednesday (7-23-08) at 7:30 p.m. 52 year old Johnny Jones was hit by a truck and killed while attempting to cross Atlantic/Beach Blvds. Today Bike Jax with a bike donated by Zombie Bikes placed a Ghost Bike at the scene of the accident. Our hearts go out to the Jones family and friends for their loss.

If you are unaware of what exactly a Ghost Bike is. Here is the description from the Ghost Bike site.
"Ghost Bikes are small and somber memorials for bicyclists who are killed or hit on the street. A bicycle is painted all white and locked to a street sign near the crash site, accompanied by a small plaque. They serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street corner, and as quiet statements in support of cyclists' right to safe travel."

As usual our incredibly efficient and investigative media was chock full of information. Here is the report of the accident from the Times Union.

Update: Bicyclist killed at Atlantic Boulevard crosswalk
Posted: Thursday, July 24th, 2008 at 11:15 am
A 52-year-old man was hit and killed Wednesday evening riding his bike at Atlantic Boulevard and Holmesdale Road.

Johnny Leonard Jones of Sheridan Road pulled out in front of a truck about 7:30 p.m. The crosswalk signal had a steady red hand indicating not to cross when he was hit, a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office news release said.

The driver of the truck had a green light and did not have time to react before hitting Jones, who was not wearing a helmet, the Sheriff’s Office said. He was taken to the hospital where he died a short time later.

No direction of travel for either the cyclist or the auto. No mention that chances are good the auto was in excess of the posted 40 mph as is most of those who travel this part of Atlantic Blvd. No mention how the police determined the cyclist rode against "a steady red hand indicating not to cross." If you want a better understanding why the T-U reads at something like an eight grade reading level. Go over and read the comments from our highly literate and not so compassionate Jacksonville brethren.

WJXT actually sent a reporter to the scene and also has video on their site. They provide a little more information than what is provided by the T-U. But not by much.

Now the thing that caught my attention was that witnesses say the cyclist was crossing against the walk signal. Who were these witnesses? Was it other drivers that witnessed the accident? Did they see the accident and immediately turn their attention from the accident scene to see if the crossing signal was stop or go? That would totally go against everything I know about human nature. If you have spent any time in Jacksonville driving around. You will know how little attention most drivers pay to their own traffic signals let alone to pedestrian crossing signals. I don't know why, but these reports of Johnny crossing against a do not walk signal kept nagging at me.

Once I installed the Ghost Bike I turned my attention to the intersection.

View Larger Map

I stood there for three cycles of the light and not once did the do not walk signal change to walk. I decided to push the walk button to see if that would trigger the walk signal. I watched and waited. And waited. And then waited some more. And then I was stunned for the briefest moments as I finally watched the the red stop hand flicker over to the white colored walking man. As soon as I realized that I had indeed seen the crossing light change. I started counting, one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi and then back to the the red hand of death. I stood there for awhile in total disbelief at what what I just witnessed. I knew I had hesitated for at least a full second prior to starting my count when the light turned to the walk signal. But five seconds to cross nine lanes of traffic and two medians? "That can't be right. I must have not been paying attention and missed the start of the walk cycle", was what I was thinking to myself as I pushed the walk button for the second time. This time I would be ready and pulled out my cell phone with what has to be the crappest video recorder ever manufactured. The video below shows a very blurred walk signal that does indeed stay on for a total of 5 seconds. Start counting as soon as the video starts to play.


Well of course the witnesses stated he crossed against the red signal. If they they weren't paying attention they would never have seen the walk signal. I'm not a journalist or reporter. It's not my job to collect facts and report them to the public. However I'm pretty sure that is exactly what our local print and television news outlets are paid to do. Not one of our media outlets in Jacksonville bothered to even check to see if the crossing signals even worked. If they had they would of had to notice the ultra-short duration of the crossing signal. But everyone one of them made sure they pointed out that the cyclist wasn't wearing a helmet. I'd like to remind the media that Florida state law does not require the wearing of helmet for anyone above the age of 16. He wasn't breaking any law by not wearing one. Don't report it like he was.

Johnny Jones may or may not be at fault for the accident that cost him his life. And no one should harbor ill will for the driver of the truck that stuck him either. I'm sure he is suffering his own personal hell. The real villain is the City of Jacksonville. Anyone using a cross walk should expect to have ample time to cross every intersection in this city in a safe manor. In Jacksonville, cyclists and pedestrians safety are not only an afterthought. Our safety is not even a consideration with city leaders.

I would like to state once again how much safer you are riding in the road and following traffic laws. It is far more dangerous to ride a bike on the sidewalk, as the stats in this previous post clearly points out. It may seem like drivers don't see you on the road. They sure as hell don't look for you on the sidewalk.


Shek said...

i read most of those comments. Speechless. Those idiots are driving around freely on the road as we speak. That is scary. I am going to control my lanes more agressively from now on!

Jennifer McCharen said...

Matt...beautiful post. Thank you for writing this awful story so thoroughly. As much as I hope it never happens, I think ghost bikes are a great thing. Good on you for doing that. God, or whatever, bless the Joneses and the driver.

The Urban Core said...

really good blog post man. i am proud to know you (and a lot of duvalians!). wish i got to know jj.

comments are stupid.

yes there is some irony here.

Matt said...

Great article, Matt. The whole concept of the Ghost Bike was unbeknownst to me, so I'm glad (and subsequently saddened) to have learned of it, and I'm glad you started it in Jax. Let's hope it doesn't have to become a trend, but based on those comments I was reading on the TU site, it looks like more will die on bikes simply because people feel some sort of entitlement to roads we all pay taxes for. It's a shame people think others deserve to die on the road. These people vote and produce offspring. Terrifying. Anyway, cheers.

Emory said...

I don't think a helmet would have helped against a truck that at the minimum going 40 mph. And 5 seconds might not have even gotten him to the first median. Many cars don't ever see motorcyclists so bicycle are even less visible. Ride with caution and tell everyone you know to watch out for people riding bikes.

Bike Jax said...

First let tell you guys that I just returned from an interview WTLV (channels 12 & 25). Kyle Meenan seemed very upset about the crosswalk situation. Look for a report this evening from 5 to 6:30 condemning the City of Jacksonville.

Shek, Those comment son the T-U site were some of the most disturbing I have ever read.

Jennifer, Tony and Matt, thanks for nice words.

Tony if you think people don't read your blog. You should take a look at my stat for link overs. Through the roof from you. You are so big time it ain't funny.

second_pancake said...

Thank you for doing this research and bringing this to the attention of all concerned citizens. Now, if only it didn't take a tragedy to occure before anyone perked up and took notice. There has been a crosswalk down at Old Baymeadows and Baymeadows road for almost 5 months now that has no indication of ever being replaced. Pedestrians have to look at traffic from 5 different points before crossing 4 lanes of traffic with no traffic signal at all. I certainly hope we don't have to wait for someone to get killed there before something is done.

Shek said...

i did not catch the news. It is time for a critical mass to begin in Jacksonville, even if 10 riders participate. I agree to start with a considerate mass before moving into 'critical' territory.

Bike Jax said...

Hi Shek. I just posted a new update with the video from WTLV.

Linda said...

I lived in that neighborhood for 20 years and crossing all those lanes of traffic was a feat. When I crossed I made sure there was a sizable median because otherwise, I couldn't make it before the lights turned against me. The sidewalks in that area have lots of obstacles too such as light poles and utility switching boxes. There have been a lot of car accidents there too as people try to cross all those lanes or make a left turn. I don't know what the best thing for that area is but bringing an interstate exit and two major east-west highways together in a residential neighborhood is asking for trouble. Your ghost bike is a good way to make people think about what they are doing.

Cindy Jones said...

I'm the wife of Johnnie Jones and the act of kindess from strangers has touched my heart more than words could ever express

I've recently discovered that the "Ghost Bike" was donated by Zombie Bikes...I've located their address and will going by to personal thank them for their kindness

Continue to keep me and our staff at Genesis Cafe in your prayers and if you are ever in the areas please stop by and visit us at the cafe....

Again we cann't thank you enough for your act of kindness