An unusual accident last week a couple of blocks from The Press killed one young Pleasantville man and left his younger brother in critical condition. It also sadly demonstrated that a bike-path crossing is dangerous because it lacks the safety features found at similar crossings in nearby, more affluent communities.
Bruce Banks, 23, and Devon Banks, 19, were riding an ATV near the railroad tracks in Pleasantville. They tried to cross Route 9, also called New Road, on the bike path and got hit by one car and then another.
Lots of factors contributed to this tragic accident and some of them were choices made by the brothers, such as improperly operating an ATV.
Riding an ATV on a road is risky, and also illegal there and on the bike path. Probably the only place in Pleasantville to legally ride an ATV is on your own property.
Pedaling mountain bikes on the trails would have been legal and safer. Wearing helmets can significantly reduce injuries in a crash. Patiently waiting a minute or two for traffic to clear can cut the risk of crossing a busy road.
The Press offices in Pleasantville are at one end of this bike path that runs all the way to Ocean City, and we’re on the path a few hours every week. Only a couple of times the past few years have we seen ATV riders, who got on the bike path briefly to connect to a dirt trail next to the rail line and rode with consideration for the many pedestrians and cyclists.
We cross Route 9 on the bike path nearly every day and we know how challenging that is for everyone. It’s a four-lane highway with a traffic light at the Black Horse Pike a block away and another light at Washington Avenue a bit farther in the other direction.
The amount of Route 9 traffic is just the start of the hazard. Vehicles back up in the outside lanes waiting for the lights and those crossing on the bike path must go between them. Drivers sometimes wave them through.
But cars may be driving in the center passing lanes and difficult to see behind the stopped traffic. Their drivers may not see people crossing until they emerge from between cars. The Banks brothers were hit by cars in the center passing lanes.
The next time we crossed Route 9 on the bike path, there was an impromptu memorial to Bruce Banks — things left by family and friends in remembrance. We also noticed at this busy crossing there is almost nothing to help ensure people can get safely from one side to the other.
The same bike path’s less-busy crossing of two-lane Tilton Road in Northfield, for example, has bright yellow-green signs with symbols for bicycles and pedestrians on each side of the road and facing both directions, with arrows pointing at the path. A striped crosswalk is supplemented with button-activated flashing yellow lights to alert drivers to those crossing.
A similar setup is used on Route 9 at West Avenue in Linwood, where the crossing puts people on sidewalks to get to the bike path.
At the Route 9 bike path crossing in Pleasantville, a single yellow sign with a pedestrian symbol in each direction is the only warning to drivers, and it gets lost in the clutter of signs for the adjacent railroad tracks. No bike path signs, no flashing yellow lights that crossers can activate, not even a crosswalk painted on the road.
The Pleasantville crossing is used by as many pedestrians and cyclists as any on the bike path. Families and children especially use it to get to two nearby shopping centers and fast-food restaurants. The state highway they cross has the most traffic of any road intersecting the path.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation is responsible for the highway and the crossing signs and signals. It needs to give the Pleasantville Route 9 crossing, the most dangerous on the bike path, at least the safety features found in more affluent municipalities.