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UPDATE: Park Volunteer in Medically Induced Coma After Being Hit by Bike

A 55-year-old woman is in critical condition after a biker hit her on West Drive.

UPDATE, Nov. 16, 9:34 p.m.: According to Nancy Moccaldi, a close friend, Linda Cohen was fully conscious for the first time today and is breathing on her own. Cohen, who was in a medically induced coma since Nov. 3, still is unable to speak, has a fractured skull and a fracured coccyx. 

A 55-year-old woman was struck by a bicyclist while she was walking in Prospect Park, leaving her in critical condition.

Linda Cohen, a Park Slope resident, was hit by the bike on Nov. 3, and taken to King’s County Hospital where she is currently in a medically induced coma, officials said.  

According to the NYPD, at around 2:50 p.m. Cohen had left the bridle path and stepped onto West Drive, near the Vanderbilt Street playground, when a speeding bicyclist, a 61-year-old male, hit her. 

“Prospect Park is deeply concerned about the serious accident. Linda Cohen is a dedicated, long-time volunteer at the park,” said Paul Nelson, a spokesman for the Prospect Park Alliance (PPA). “Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family for a speedy and full recovery.”

The blog, A Walk in the Park, first reported the accident. 

Earlier this year, Prospect Park created the Prospect Park Road Sharing Taskforce to examine how park users (runners, walkers, competitive cyclists, recreational bikers) can safely share the park drives.

This past summer, after a pedestrian was seriously injured by a bicyclist, a Kensington resident created an online petition to request measures to make the relationship between two-leggers and two-wheelers safer. 

The Taskforce will hold a meeting on November 16 at 6 p.m. at the park’s Picnic House to discuss ways to ensure the safe enjoyment of the park’s drives for bikers and pedestrians.

When asked how bike riders can share the road safely, Caroline Samponaro, the director of bicycle advocacy for Transportation Alternatives (TA), which is a New York City bicycle, pedestrian and public transportation advocacy organization, said riders must always yield to pedestrians.

The organization has a “Biking Rules” campaign, which published a handbook outlining the rules of the road, what to do incase of an accident and biking street codes.

“The whole idea of biking rules is as your potential to cause harm increases, so does your responsibility to others on the street,” Samponaro said. “We see this as a hierarchy with pedestrians ruling, needing the most care from others, bike riders come next and then drivers need to be the most cautious and look out for pedestrians and bike riders.”

TA will be working closely with PPA to help educate bike riders in how to share the road. In response to Thursday’s incident, TA will station bike ambassadors in Prospect Park at the major “pinch points,” where the most congestion and most accidents occur, and set up slow-down check points for bikers and hand out the “Biking Rules” handbook.

Samponaro, a biker herself, said riders have a responsibility to make the road safer for all.

“In an ideal city we want people to be able to walk safely and not be scared. Cyclists have a role to play in making that the case,” Samponaro said. “At the end of the day we are all pedestrians at one point or another. It is important in a walking city that bikers are contributing to it being a positive and safe walking environment.” 

Robert Rozzi November 11, 2011 at 03:01 AM
THe Southwest side of the park has alaways been a problem that has never been dealt with. You take your life in your hands trying to cross when so many bikes are speeding down the hill and do not stop for pedestrians including the elderly and small children.
Lou Howort November 11, 2011 at 07:16 AM
I have often seen bikers speeding down the hill on the south side of the park just miss people with a green light in their favor, crossing at near the bottom. The bikers are moving at top speed at the bottom of the hill and could easily injure a pedestrian if they hit one. I have had bikers brush me as they sped by while I was jogging even though I was in the pedestrian lane and the bike lane was empty. I got the feeling they did it for sport or to show their irritation that I was too close to the bike lane, even though I wasn't in it. I know that only a small percentage of bikers do such things but they need to be controlled before more people are hurt by them. Perhaps the city government could put up barriers separating the bike lane from the walker-jogger lane or put speed bumps on the hill to slow the bikes down.
Tatiana November 11, 2011 at 11:27 AM
Hopefully the city does something about this matter rather quickly because the respect for pedestrians by the bikers seems to be diminishing!
Joanna Smith November 11, 2011 at 02:43 PM
This is such a terrible accident. Are there more details available? Approximately how fast was the biker going and what is the speed limit for cyclists? Did the accident happen on a curve or a straightaway? It is so scary to think about something like this occurring in our beautiful, peaceful park, but it's a good reminder that everyone needs to be aware and look out for each other on the park drives.
Gregory November 11, 2011 at 04:04 PM
We need to require ALL bike owners to have insurance so when stuff like this happens at least the person injured has some recourse. Also, there should be speed limits, no need for a bike to travel faster than some cars.
loren November 11, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Bikers who are "racing" or part of a racing team need to be allowed to do so during prescribed hours. It is very dangerous when they are whipping around a road that everyone needs to use, whether riding, roller blading or walking. They are simply going too fast and their screaming out "on your left!" "on your right!" just isn't enough. Pedesterians are a risk and cannot react quickly enough to get out of their way. And they have an attitude sometimes! As if they are more entitled to race than anyone else is to leisurely stroll. You woudn't have a car race down a pedesterian commonway at 40 miles an hour, why should bikes be allowed to?
Jefferson Tactics November 11, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Were those bikers in the pictures the culprits?!?!?! Let's get them!
Mike November 11, 2011 at 04:31 PM
During the last Transportation Alternatives "event", which was not a race, I was attempting, with several other pedestrians, to cross PPW at the circle, and even though there was a TA monitor at that spot, he did nothing to assist us in our effort when the light was (twice) in our favor. Finally, a biker actually stopped when the light turned red for them, and we were able to cross. I wrote a note to TA about this and, as expected, received no response. Until the organizations that promote biking actually get on board with these serious issues, and not just pay lip service, will thing improve. One need only to observe what happens at the crosswalks within the park to see that pedestrians are at a distinct disadvantage. As a recreational biker, I am appalled at the disregard shown by the "racing crowd" toward both pedestrians and less "entitled" bikers.
rick sanchez November 11, 2011 at 04:55 PM
How hard is it to look both ways before crossing a street?
Will Yakowicz November 11, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Hi Paul, the bikers pictured are not the culprits. It is a stock photo.
loren November 11, 2011 at 05:10 PM
It's not crossing the street, it's bikers coming up from behind you racing like bats out of hell. It's not being able to gauge how much time you have to cross because you have no idea how fast they're going. And it's them not slowing down but screaming for you to get out of the way. They need to race during certain times and then make the roads safe for everyone. Just like cars get speeding tickets, so should bicyclists who put people in danger. The way it is now, sure you can look both ways and still get creamed when you step off the curb ...
suzanne driscoll November 12, 2011 at 07:32 AM
SLOW DOWN!!!!! Pp is not a race track. There should be a strictly enforced speed limit, or they should be banned along with the cars.
Larry November 12, 2011 at 02:00 PM
Bicycle riders, like drivers, should be licensed. There should be a training period wherein the prospective licensee studies and passes a test concerning the RULES of the road (i.e. yield to pedestrians; stop at red lights). There should then be a road test. Bicyclists who defy the rules should be ticketed just like motorists. I do not have a car and have no particular sympathy for drivers, but I have seen on many occasions that arrogant bicyclists have violated the rules of the road and behaved improperly toward pedestrians.
Rich DiLorenzo November 12, 2011 at 03:22 PM
I believe this is an example of how we all are in this together. Courtesy and awareness should be a daily practice by everyone. No one is more important than anyone else. My thoughts ad prayers are with Linda's recovery. Rich D
Parksloper November 13, 2011 at 01:06 AM
Funny how the pro bike lane brigade is silent.
Parksloper November 13, 2011 at 01:10 AM
Great snarky comment. No mater if you look both ways and proceed to cross the street when you think it's clear these a**holes come racing by and have no time to stop. Some jerk this afternoon on roller blades screamed at an old man pushing his wife in a wheelchair as they crossed the road. Now how fast do you think an elderly man pushing a wheelchair can go versus spandex a**holes racing down the road.
wkgreen November 13, 2011 at 04:11 AM
It is all well and good for cyclists to be respectful of others, and it's usually not that difficult. In 20+ years of working out in the park I don't know that I've ever had so much as a close call on my bike. But what about pedestrians? Why is there is no call for responsibility on their part. I can understand that people need to cross the road, but there is really no reason for people to stand or stroll down the middle of the road, sometimes 3 or 4 abreast oblivious to their own safety or the activity that others are engaged in. They are also a danger to themselves and to others. There is a whole park that people can walk in without worrying about bicycles and there are sidewalks and small parks galore all over the city that are off limits to cyclists. That's as it should be. PLEASE let us have one place where we can go without needing to worry about hitting someone.
wkgreen November 13, 2011 at 04:26 AM
Amen!
wkgreen November 13, 2011 at 05:16 AM
Without getting into a whole comparison about what a 4,000 lbs. car can do to a person on impact at similar speeds, it might be instructive to also take into consideration that bikes really don't go that fast. Even racing ones. 40 is a stretch. Cyclists are, in fact subject to the same speed limit that cars are, which in the park is 25 MPH, but they seldom hit that speed. In March of this year the NYPD tried to nab speeding cyclists in Central Park by setting up a speed trap at the bottom of a hill. They spent an entire early morning when serious racers workout and managed to ticket only one person who was doing 28 MPH. That's only for a short period on the downhill. The average speed would be much less. I doubt that the cops will ever try that again.
Parksloper November 13, 2011 at 04:20 PM
wkgreen Tell your 4000 lb car analogy to this poor woman's family. Tell them about the cops ticketing that bike rider. I'm sure they'll be comforted by that. Sorry, the park is for everyone and that includes roads for walking. Stay in your own lane and follow the rules.
wkgreen November 13, 2011 at 07:04 PM
If people are getting hurt, and they are, we need to be asking ourselves, "What can I do about it?" We can start by being mindful of where we are giving enough respect to allow people proper space. That goes for everyone. I don’t see why that’s unreasonable. Perhaps bicycles should not be allowed in the park at all. That would please some, but what a waste! As I said, it’s a big park. It’s a big wide ROAD for that matter. It would be a sad day for me and others like me who gain a huge pleasure and needed exercise from taking a spin around the park that should harm no one.
wkgreen November 13, 2011 at 07:10 PM
I'm not saying that pedestrians should not be allowed to use the road. We are not being given enough here to know what happened with Linda Cohen or if she should have done anything different, but putting her case aside, why is it necessary for pedestrians to stand in the middle of a traffic lane? There is nothing for anyone to do there unless it involves movement in the flow of traffic. As for “racers”, whatever that is, I doubt it’s possible to enforce a cycling speed limit. Please Parksloper. If you want to help then spare the violins. Speed is not even the issue. It’s courtesy. Given the lack of information we don't even know how fast the guy was going. It’s also an issue of how the road is managed. It’s being allowed to become a free for all, with no message from Parks (or TA for that matter) that ALL USERS are behaving dangerously. Just yesterday as I was biking a group of 3 people near accident location, were casually walking taking up an entire road lane and caused a chain reaction that in turn caused a pair of slow bikers riding side by side to suddenly swerve as I was passing causing me to maneuver to avoid them. For someone less alert or less experienced at reading the road, it could have been an accident. The walkers had no clue that they might have initiated an accident that involved other cyclists if not themselves, or other pedestrians. Had I yelled they would likely be writing in some comment section about selfish boorish cyclists.
George Turner November 13, 2011 at 10:31 PM
As the previous post suggests, we can't really tell anything about how or why this happened. Based on my observations, it seems like cyclists don't generally understand how the rules of road apply to them. Until there is a shared understanding, this sort of thing is bound to happen. I live in Fulton Mall. When I cross Jay Street on my way home I have to step through cars and cross the bike path. I have almost been hit many times as cyclists don't seem to understand that red lights are for them too. They can't see me until I step into the bike lane because of cars parked on Jay. As a driver I have narrowly missed cyclists driving the wrong way down one way streets and ignoring red lights. Pedestrians have to stop...Drivers have to stop...Cyclist not so much...
NiBBLerWatch November 16, 2011 at 06:01 PM
Funny how this has nothing to do with bike lanes. Regardless, we're sure we speak for all of "the pro bike lane brigade" in wishing Ms. Cohen a speedy and complete recovery, and in urging all park stakeholders to work together to ensure the total safety of pedestrians.
Jennifer Medyuk November 22, 2011 at 11:23 PM
Bikers should have insurance is easy to say. I WISH I could have insurance for my bike and I WISH I as an adult needed a license to ride it but that does not exist. There is no such thing as a speeding biker; bikes are made to go fast, and if someone is exercising in the park, how slow would you expect them/us to go? As a pedestrian and a biker, I say from experience that it is a lot easier for a pedestrian to stop and start up again than for a biker, especially a fast moving. This woman know the park, and how bikers ride, she knows that bikes are going fast, but what she may not know is that at top speed, it's challenging to stop short. So often I see people jut out into a bike lane and expect the biker to stop. It’s also faster for everyone if the pedestrians yield to bikers that are in designated bike lanes. I would rather hit and injure someone that is walking in a bike lane than to swerve and hurt myself and damage my bike. This is a sad story, but don't demonize a bicker that was riding in a designated bike area. This is just an accident. Also, to be fair, the bridle path is not very visible from the road, and to a cyclist, it would appear that someone was just stepping out of the forest and not on a path. She should have been more careful. and greg, no biker is faster than a car. just as we can run as fast as we can, so too can people peddle. it's their man power and bikers can use it how they like
Lou Howort November 30, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Jennifer Medyuk writes below: "There is no such thing as a speeding biker; bikes are made to go fast, and if someone is exercising in the park, how slow would you expect them/us to go?" Really Jennifer? Cars are made to go faster than bikes. Does that mean that there is no such thing as a speeding car? Your logic is totally ridiculous. Why do you think that bikes and cars have brakes? To slow down, not to go fast. How fast do sane people expect bikes to go in the park? Slow enough not to hit any pedestrians regardless of whether or not a pedestrian is in the bike lane or not.
Sean March 22, 2012 at 02:54 AM
I'm coming from the cyclists standpoint; but when I do walk, I find myself looking out for my cyclist alter-ego for fear he'll crash into me. What is needed from both parties is empathy. I think there are a couple things that need to happen on both sides. As a cyclist, I plan ahead: I either ride early in the morning before work, or later in the evening after work. If there's a big event going on, I go to central park. I only really see the potential for accidents during the day, and especially on weekends (when serious cyclists could be venturing out of the city). Pro tip: Nothing wrong with riding or running on a cloudy or chilly day and having a quiet park all to your self. A fact I think many people overlook is that the circuit around the park is not set up as a conventional road, where pedestrians walk against traffic. Cyclists go one way (mostly) while pedestrians walk both ways. This is a contributor to accidents because you have pedestrians being overtaken by cyclists that they're not aware of. I've seen many instances where a pedestrian, back to traffic, will begin to cross the road diagonally. This is particularly dangerous because A) the pedestrian can't see in the direction of traffic B) Cannot hear an approaching cyclist and C) The cyclist often doesn't even realize that the pedestrian is crossing until its too late. Its a very common situation that both parties could have anticipated. Pro tip: Have a loud freewheel, like a rattlesnake.

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