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Pedestrian Run Down by Bike in Prospect Park May Sue the City for $3M

Dana Jacks, who was run over by a bike on West Drive in June, 2011 and sustained near-fatal injuries, filed a notice of claim stating that she is seeking $3,000,000 in damages from the city.

Dana Jacks was crossing West Drive in Prospect Park near the intersection of Center Drive when she was stuck by a bicyclist at around 12:15 p.m. on June 11, 2011. She sustained serious brain trauma and fractures throughout her face and skull. She was hospitalized for a total of 25 days, 14 of them she spent in the Intensive Care Unit.

Jacks, 37, who lives near Windsor Terrace, filed a notice of claim, the first step to file a lawsuit, against the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and the NYPD for the “negligence, carelessness and recklessness” in the “ownership, operation, inspection, supervision and control” of the roadways in Prospect Park.

The claim, filed by Forrest Cicogni, her husband, and Jacks, who is an actor and was recently in the ensemble of the Off-Broadway performance of “Our Town,” stated that the agencies are “failing to make and enforce proper speed limits and regulations regarding bicycle riders.”

The claim also states that the agencies failed to monitor bike riders and other grievances, all of which resulted in Jacks' serious injuries while trying to cross West Drive.

The New York Post broke the news on Friday about how Jacks is planning to sue for $3,000,000.

Although Jacks is not yet back to her daily routine, nor back to work, in an E-mail to Patch, she wrote: 

“My recovery is ongoing and I am receiving wonderful care,” Jacks wrote. “I feel very fortunate to have an amazing support system of friends and family.”

Forrest Cicogni, Jacks’ husband, said in a phone interview on Monday that her recovery has been a long, tough journey. 

“Before the accident and after the accident, it is a clear delineation in our lives. The last six months have been about her care,” he said. “It has limited our lives.”

During the public forum at the , the conversation about how to make the drives safer for all users, especially pedestrians, commenced with the committee reading an E-mail from Jacks’ mother, who lives in California, stating that she believes the park's drives are truly dangerous.

“What goes on in that park is scary, bicycles whiz by...” Jacks’ mother wrote. “People I know are fearful of taking their kids there.”

She went on to say that it is unsafe to have cyclists riding the drives without proper training and also suggested that the bike lane on the drives be fenced off to ensure the safety of pedestrians.

“Please don’t forget that someone was badly hurt in Prospect Park this summer and please do what you can,” the E-mail concluded. 

On Monday, Cicogni also said big changes need to be made on the park's drives. 

“We would like to see a change in the culture of racing in the park. The cyclist have taken over, especially when traffic is heavy,” he said during a phone interview. “There seems to be a delineation between when [cyclists] can do their significant training and the times when people can enjoy the park.”

Cicogni said that he wants there to be specific bicyclist training hours on the drives and also for there to be a gate to the crosswalk which is closed during the specific training sessions so pedestrians cannot cross during dangerous times.

He said crossing West Drive is like “a game of Frogger." 

“I would like to see limited interaction between the training cyclists and pedestrians,” he said. “But, I would like to see people have free access to the park, it does need to be shared."

The notice of claim, which was filed on July 29, 2011, states that the Department of Parks and Recreation and the NYPD are responsible for “allowing and permitting bicycle riders to endanger pedestrians lawfully using streets, sidewalks and parks.”

It also states that the city failed to “properly evaluate, study and modify traffic patterns, roadways, sidewalks, park roads and bicycle paths” to ensure pedestrian safety and did not “provide proper crossing patterns and regulations.”

The area where Jacks was struck is considered a “hot spot” by the task force and to help slow down bikers, alert them to the pedestrian crosswalk with signs and installed a “high visible crosswalk."

On Nov. 3, another pedestrian, , who is a volunteer in the park and walks five miles a day on its drives, was struck by a cyclist in the same area and was in a medically induced coma until Nov. 23. 

The “hot spot,” which is near the Vanderbilt Playground, is characterized by a long downhill “S” curve, where bikers’ vision is obscured while they gain speed going down the hill. The intersection is considered a place that has a high risk for “potential conflict” between people crossing and cyclists riding.

The New York City Law Department declined to comment on the notice of claim for they have yet to receive the paper work.

The next Prospect Park Road Sharing Task Force meeting will take place in January.

Although the city has yet to respond to the claim, Cicogni said he hopes the potential lawsuit will increase safety for park-goers.

“I'm hoping it will spur change, I am hoping to get the city’s attention and focus on the problem,” Cicogni said. “We need to deal with the safety issues. I am hoping to be able to use that park along with other people. It needs to be safe where we are not dodging cyclists.”

wkgreen November 22, 2011 at 03:01 PM
And then, with no warning for anyone on 2 wheels coming into the park, or anywhere along the road, there was a runners' race last Saturday with the start/finish set up at the exact area where Dana Jacks was hit (near Center Dr. & West Dr.). People were standing in the middle well out of the cross walks with "go!" placards as bikes whizzed around them. Regardless of whether anyone loves bikes in the park or thinks that they are the conveyance of Satan, they are a fact of life. This does not seem like a very intelligent way to deal with them. Why ask for trouble?
mhorine1 November 22, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Bikes are facts of life. Bikes, runners, walkers, dogs and children are facts of life. Cyclists who run people down should not be. Do they know who the cyclist is, or is this the case where the person just kept on going?
Grand Army November 22, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Everyone knows that car drivers cause far more injuries and deaths than cyclists. But currently cyclists seem to want it both ways: they want protection from cars and trucks; at the same time too many of them see no need to protect pedestrians from themselves. I'd just like to see more responsibility, more civility and more thoughtfulness by bike riders. They routinely ignore the rules of the road. For example, many insist on riding against the flow of traffic, which -- given that they are silent and fast -- can create a very dangerous situation for pedestrians.
wkgreen November 22, 2011 at 07:30 PM
mhorine1: Not much is publicly known about what exactly happened, like whether the pedestrian was in the crosswalk or how fast the cyclist was going etc., but the cyclist did stop, and was also injured, although not as severely. In my opinion, the plaintiffs will have difficulty proving that he was speeding. The speed limit is 25 MPH. A speeding bicycle might hit 30 MPH at the bottom of the hill if the cyclist is really pouring it on, but this was at a location just about where the road starts to descend. It would be hard to break the limit there and much harder to prove it. The park does a disservice by giving pedestrians the impression that they have carte blanche use of the road. They should be able to cross easily and safely and use the edges if need be, in areas that should be better defined, but they are all over the place. Aside from the harm that they can do to themselves they can cause chain reactions where someone trying to swerve out of the way rolls into the path of someone else. We should not be playing 'bumper cars' with bikes and pedestrians. Speed aside, it is very dangerous for everyone.
Sally P. November 23, 2011 at 12:56 AM
People are forgetting one crucial detail: the cyclist was 61 years old. This isn't some young "Lance wannabe" as bike-haters like to say.

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