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LETTER: A 'Ghost Bike' for Jeffrey Harrison

After taking a symbolic ride from Hartford to East Haven to honor Harrison's memory with a "ghost bike," Ken Krayeske argues it is not traffic enforcement but bad road design that leads to dangers for pedestrians and motorists along Coe Avenue.

(Editor's Note: The following is an open letter submitted by Hartford-based attorney Ken Krayeske. The post originally ran on Krayske's blog Aug. 10.)

To the Editor:

Jeffrey Harrison’s just said he died suddenly on July 30, 2012.

Jeffrey Harrison was 51 years old and lived in East Haven. His obituary said he had been married, had children, and according to neighbors on Coe Avenue, right near the , Jeffrey would bicycle frequently during the day and would walk at night.

Jeffrey Harrison’s obituary said he was a landscaper, but neighbors knew him to pick up litter on the streets.

We have lost Jeffrey Harrison’s citizenship because on July 30, 2012, at about noon, . He made it to the hospital alive, but based on the stains on the ground and the pictures of the crumpled minivan, he didn’t stand a chance.

The minivan was heading south on Coe Avenue, towards the beach, when it crushed hit him, then careened into a telephone pole, flipping on its side.

The driver of the minivan, Cheryle Tyson, 53, of Milford, has not been charged with a crime according to the state judicial department’s website. News reports indicate investigations are pending. Tyson was a professional driver, as her job required her to drive people with developmental disabilities around.

Indeed, when the minivan flipped on its side and took out a telephone pole, there were three people in Ms. Tyson’s care. Did I mention she has not been charged with a crime?

When I read about Mr. Harrison’s this last week in the New Haven Register, my blood began to boil. How many more bicyclists will perish?

Coincidentally, in my basement, I had a road bike frame with a dented rear triangle that I recently purchased for a pack of cigarettes from a man with a shopping cart full of metal on Francis Avenue in Hartford. I only had a credit card on me, so I couldn’t give him $10. I bought him smokes instead.

I carried the frame and forks home, strapped onto my backpack. The guys at Pedal Power in Middletown gave me a pair of junk wheels. Two cans of white spray paint later, and we had a ghost bike. Based on the pictures of Jeffrey Harrison’s bike, they were substantially similar.

In Jeffrey’s honor, this past Sunday morning, Tony Cherolis and I rode from Hartford to East Haven, about 50 miles. My beautiful, wonderful, amazing wife Wildaliz, who I should note does not share all of my political views, drove down to East Haven, with the ghost bike on the trunk.

Tony and I left Hartford at like 8:45 in the morning, pedaled through New Britain, and found the Farmington River Canal greenway. The tree canopy provided a pleasant shade for the 20 miles of the greenway. Even better, it was car free transit.

We pulled into New Haven, and I almost felt like I was in Europe, with the interesting buildings emerging along the Greenway.  Not much traffic in New Haven at a Sunday around 11:30, and you have to love New Haven’s bike lane striping and “sharrows” — sharing arrows — telling motorists to share the road.

We crossed the bridge into East Haven, and striping disappears. Main Street, East Haven has a sidewalk, but no bike lanes. Not much consideration for non-motorized transit here.

Coe Avenue begins as a four lane state highway, route 142 southbound. When Tony and I first pulled onto it, I was not surprised that someone died there. It is a classic Department of Tar strip engineered for cars, cars and cars. Traffic flow sacrifices safety.

Yet the part where Mr. Harrison perished was no longer the state’s death road, as further down Coe squeezes into two-lanes, with a striped, eight-foot shoulder on each side. But the travel lanes were still striped as 12-footers, and 12-feet lanes provide visual signals, telling drivers 45 miles per hour is okay.

Coe Avenue is a long straightaway curving at the beach.  Drivers can carry speed from the state route onward.  The collision happened right near what is clearly a busy intersection, where Wilkenda Avenue terminates into Coe. Others think Coe Avenue unsafe.

The spot is right in front of a convenience store, and it is so close to the beach, I suspect the shoulder is for parking.  When we arrived, I was too tired to move, as it was my longest ride of the year to date. I guzzled a quart of Gatorade while Tony talked to the neighbors.

Neighbors said they have been interviewed by police officers, newspaper reporters and private investigators. The last one, if true, means that Mr. Harrison’s estate may be interested in holding the company liable for its reckless driver. I can only hope.

Neighbors said heard the crash, saw the aftermath. They pulled their children inside from playing. They said three pedestrians have died on Coe Avenue in the last year, and an East Haven police officer’s son died in a motorcycle crash there, too.

But like Burnside Avenue in East Hartford, I am forced to conclude that the problem is not lack of enforcement, but bad road design.  Jeffrey Harrison’s obituary did not say he was the victim of poor road design.

The Town of East Haven in conjunction with the South Central Regional Council of Governments recently performed a $50,000 “Corridor Study of Hemingway Avenue (Route 142 and Coe Avenue (Route 337) with an emphasis on emergency transportation needs in conjunction with the proposed new Public Safety Facility at the intersection of Coe Avenue and Proto Drive.”

This does not mean bicycle or pedestrian safety. This means flow and curb cuts. See .pdf

Jeffrey Harrison’s obituary does not say the crash that killed him stripped both his wheels from his bicycle, and leaving them like curvy potato chips next to the cop car. Everyone told me that the stain on the road could not have been from Mr. Harrison, since they always wash it away.

But one of the pictures with the sideways minivan shows what is clearly blood on the road, right where the stain still was.

My wife met us at the convenience store, and we placed the ghost bike on the brand new telephone pole.  Did I mention the minivan snapped the telephone pole at its base? Neighbors say it was uprooted.

Jeffrey Harrison’s obituary does not say that the minivan which hit him moved a telephone pole.

I tried not to cry when Tony and I fastened the ghost bike to the utility pole. I wore sunglasses, so no one could see my eyes even if I did shed a tear. It is hard not to mourn when you understand the act of placing a white bike represents a recently deceased person.

I am told I have a big heart for doing this. But really, I hope that placing the ghost bikes acts as some sort of protection for me. It is hard not to think that there but for the grace of God go I.

But I know that is just magic thinking. But so might be thinking that we can get justice.

Ken Krayeske

Rosie August 14, 2012 at 03:44 PM
"Mr. Harrison’s estate may be interested in holding the company liable for its reckless driver. I can only hope." Sounds like holding the driver at fault to me. Or maybe I am just better at reading between the lines than most. Sorry, it's my job.
Doreen Boudreau Hausler August 14, 2012 at 03:48 PM
I read the same thing, Rosie. I think there are many factors at fault. As I stated above, I don't think Mr. Krayeske is faulting the driver, completely. I do hope for the victim's family's sake, more will be learned via a proper investigation. Opinions don't actually matter, in this case. That's my point.
Doreen Boudreau Hausler August 14, 2012 at 03:49 PM
I agree, Flowers. It's a very nice gesture that these gentlemen took the time to speak to neighbors and learn about Mr. Harrison as an individual. The ghost bike is a very moving tribute to him.
donna August 14, 2012 at 04:05 PM
i live couple blocks from where it happened .. i did not know jeff, but it brings tears to my eyes everyday i see that bike and i think of the life that was lost... i think maybe with the bike there people will slow down and think of the man who lost his life there.. no matter whos at fault the road, the driver, or the bike, lets just remember the man who is gone now.
CAjones August 14, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I thought it was me being cynical. But when an attorney stipulates such a preponderance of evidentiary assertions (if you know what I mean) it usually means....a lawsuit will follow. still, the ghost bike is a nice touch.
Rosie August 14, 2012 at 04:18 PM
I couldn't agree more, Ms. Hausler. Opinions do not matter. Facts and details are what matter. This is an opinion piece. No facts at all. And I also hope that more will be learned for BOTH sides. I pray for the victims family, as well as the driver of the van, who, I am sure, must be changed for life, especially after being painted as "reckless" with no facts at all to support this. I guess we shall see....
thomas August 14, 2012 at 04:43 PM
you are how you drive, a car, bike, bus ect. your character defines you from the time you wake up . easy to be evil but hard to do good.selah
Doreen Boudreau Hausler August 14, 2012 at 07:19 PM
While running errands just now, I drove by the intersection of Wilkenda and Coe. The ghost bike is no longer there as a tribute to Mr. Harrison, bringing awareness to all who pass by. Does anyone know why it was removed? I would have liked to see it for myself, and pay my respects.
Julie Weisberg (Editor) August 14, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Doreen: I just followed up with with Ken to find out if perhaps he removed it himself or requested someone else to do so. And as soon as I hear back, I'll let you all know. So, hopefully we can find out what happened to the memorial.
Doreen Boudreau Hausler August 14, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Thanks, Julie. I was sad to see it's been removed so soon.
Lise Cavallaro August 14, 2012 at 07:30 PM
I can see it being a distraction to drivers, pedestrians and the homeowners.
Doreen Boudreau Hausler August 14, 2012 at 07:34 PM
That's sort of the point of the ghost bike movement. It's meant to make people think. We're supposed to notice everything, as drivers, pedestrians, cyclists... It's been done without removal, nationally, for years. I can't see why it would cause such a prompt response there.
Lise Cavallaro August 14, 2012 at 07:37 PM
I know what the point of the bike is. However, everyone is talking about the most popular roads for speeding and accidents and now there is a bike that could possibly serve as a distraction on the very street that many residents are complaining about.
Doreen Boudreau Hausler August 14, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Sorry Lise, as the wife of a bicyclist who was injured in an accident on the Tomlinson Street bridge a few years ago, I'm a strong advocate for this movement, which brings awareness. It should promote thought. Why is it there? What happened? It certainly isn't meant to disrupt traffic anymore than a fire hydrant or telephone pole would. It serves a valuable purpose. Teaches a valuable lesson to folks who see them. We're very lucky that my husband had time to move his bike off the road, when his wheel locked up in railroad tracks that time. He only suffered a severely broken elbow, thankfully. There is now a sign on that bridge, warning cyclists of the dangers there. That sign is no more a distraction, than the independent effort of these men placing the ghost bike should be. Drivers need to pay attention to everything in their path, and on the sidelines. Period.
Lise Cavallaro August 14, 2012 at 07:50 PM
As the mother of a daughter who was sideswiped on Route 80 and the sister of a brother who was in a motorcycle accident, I see your point. I was offering a possible explanation of why it may have been taken down. Have a nice evening.
luiza August 14, 2012 at 07:59 PM
It was a beautiful article by Mr Krayeske and a lovely tribute to the bicyclist... But I must say very unfair to the mini van driver. The ghost bike movement is a wake up call to us all to share the road.. Sadly as of this evening when I drove past the area the "Symbolic Bike" had gone? East Haven should look into building side walks along this popular walking area...This would not have prevented this accident I know but would be helpful.
Doreen Boudreau Hausler August 14, 2012 at 08:03 PM
I completely agree, Luiza. For such a well traveled area, one would hope that everyone would be better accommodated and represented. So sad to notice that the bike is gone so soon.
Julie Weisberg (Editor) August 14, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Everyone: I heard back from Ken, and he said he did not remove the bike. That it could have been police or neighbors who decided to take it away. And that while sometimes ghost bikes do stay in place for quite sometime, it is not unusual for them to be removed eventually, particularly when the winter plowing season starts. He added, however, that while he's not surprised the bike is now gone, he is surprised at how quickly it was removed.
Doreen Boudreau Hausler August 14, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Thank you for following up, Julie. I'm truly in dismay at how quickly this tribute disappeared. Certainly, it wasn't in the way. Would have been nice if whomever removed it, recognized the intention, and the effort involved in placing it.
Momauguin4Life August 15, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Oh please, Did you ever think "The Ghost Bike" was a hazzard where it was placed?? The guy next door to Oceanport had to try and backout of his driveway with this thing in his line of vision, people crossing the road walking or bicycling have to avoid it, Coe ave. has 6 foot lanes on either side for people to bike or walk in for the life of me I cant figure out how this guy was hit, I'm thinking he crossed from Wilkenda in front of the van, Just the other day I had a guy cross on a bike with his matching bike shirt and helmet within 100 feet of my car without looking in that same spot!!! He stopped in front of the pole and was busy watching his wife on the other side of the street, A few days later I was traveling south on Coe, stopped at the 4 way near Breezewood condos and saw a bike cross the street up near Dewey Ave and stop, I saw him because if his reflectors he was wearing dark clothes and it was abut 9pm so I proceed to go dive up to Dewey Ave and the kid is sitting on his bike in the MIDDLE OF DEWEY AVE!!!!!!!!! If thats not a moron I dont know what is, So dont jump to conclusions about who was right and who is wrong....
Momauguin4Life August 15, 2012 at 01:32 AM
The State and Town are broke, Where are they going to get money to make bike lanes??? ride on the Farmington Canal if you want to stay safe, Thats what I do
Lbb August 15, 2012 at 02:49 AM
It saddens me to see that the author of this article is putting so much blame on the driver. Although I did not witness this accident--MY SISTER WAS A PASSENGER IN THE VAN--she insists that the bike swerved in front of the van! She has no reason to lie. As a matter of fact she could possibly gain by saying the driver was at fault but it is simply not true. The man SWERVED IN FRONT OF THE VAN! It happens all the time at that intersection. Bikers, kids, pedestrians, people hang out there and many times they don't pay attention to the drivers. It's awful to drive by let alone try to park like we do daily. My sister was hurt but is doing better. I feel sorry for the family of the man that lost his life but there is no need to make a villain out of the driver. She is a very nice responsibly lady who feels awful about what has happened. She takes great care of her passengers. And for the record, the van was stopping right at that intersection to drop off my sister so please dont assume it was speeding-it wasn't. Finally, the idiot writing this story doesn't even have BASIC facts right because the van only had 2 passengers.
Traci Lizondro August 15, 2012 at 03:19 AM
I think this was a heartwarming gesture, I really do. However, I agree with the other readers that no one is sure just what caused this horrific accident. I did hear one (of many various) report that the bike swerved into Coe and into the path of the van, causing the van to swerve and hit the pole. I am not saying that is definitely what took place, but it is one of the stories going around. Coe Avenue/Hemingway Avenue is a VERY unsafe place to drive, walk, bike. There have been numerous accidents and fatalities on that stretch. People do drive like maniacs on that rode. People also walk and ride in the middle of the street. I don't think any of that was taking place that day, though. There was a terrible accident. A man lost his life. A family lost a loved one. And lives, especially those of Cheryle Tyson and her passengers, and those who love and are missing Jeffrey Harrison, have changed forever. It was a horrible accident with heartbreaking results.
Heather B August 15, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I was a passenger in the van. This letter has it all wrong. The bike swerved in from of the van and the when cheryle turned the wheel to avoid him and swerved back the same way we swerved. We weren't going too fast because my house is right there at that intersection and we were stopping to drop me off. Chyle was driving not speeding. She wasn't on the phone. There is no reason to blame her. Cheryle is very upset. We are all very upset. Please don't assume that it was cheryle's fault. It was an accident. Although the gesture was nice it seems as if the author of this article had ulterior motives.
Momauguin4Life August 15, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Very well said Heather and Traci, A life was lost and a person has to live with the fact that they took a life, They dont need to be reading from some Lunatic Lawyer who just wants to pat himself on the back for doing what he perceives as a good deed, Why not remain anonymous?? Why did you have to advertise to all of Connecticut that YOU were the one to put a "Ghost bike" Memorial?? It wasn't enough to just do it silently?? People do good deeds every day without expecting praise and thats the way it should be done,
Julie Weisberg (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Everyone: I just wanted to pass along that I touched base with the EHPD on the status of the investigation into the accident and it is still ongoing. Investigations into fatal incidents such as this can take some time to properly conduct and complete. And so soon as there is a result, I will certainly post a follow up article. Just an FYI.
Flowers August 16, 2012 at 06:05 PM
So what happened to the ghost bike. Is this destined to become another East Haven mystery like "Who tore down Patty Esquires sign". So many unanswered questions.
donna begin September 08, 2012 at 06:08 PM
LBB Please let it be known that myself (Jeff's sister in law) and my husband (Jeff's brother) have not blamed the driver at all. We have spoke to the EHPD the day after the accident. We have not received info as of today on the findings. We grieve for Jeff and we felt bad for the persons in the van as we heard they were injured and hope that they all have recovered from any injuries. Donna
donna begin September 08, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Heather B Please let it be known that myself (Jeff's sister in law) and my husband (Jeff's brother) have not blamed the driver at all. We have spoke to the EHPD the day after the accident. We have not received info as of today on the findings. We grieve for Jeff and we felt bad for the persons in the van as we heard they were injured and hope that they all have recoverd from any injuries. Donna
donna begin September 08, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Julie we have not heard word yet from the EHPD on any findings. It could take up to 6 weeks that is what the EHPD told us the day after the accident.

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