Goodbye, Network Solutions, for torching my blog, and blaming me

September 22nd, 2011 by Ryan Reasons No comments »

I discovered on Monday morning that at least six weeks of posted and drafted material had been deleted from Cranks-On-Cam.com. I contacted Network Solutions to investigate. The support rep said the MYSQL server used to store my blog data had crashed, and they had lost the data that was missing from my blog. He added (in a tisk-tisk-tisk tone) that I could have restored the data, if only I had enabled the backup feature myself. That little mote of finger-pointing is reiterated in the email message (included below) that Network Solutions sent to me on the same day.

This implies that I share some responsibility for Network Solutions losing my data forever.  Here is my response to Network Solutions:

The cardinal rule in information technology is protection against the destruction or compromise of data. The greenest IT rookie knows enough to protect critical systems and customer data, using redundant storage on fault-tolerant hardware, and running backups every 24 hours. This technology is mature, relatively cheap, and easy to implement. Someone (probably several someones) at Network Solutions screwed up so badly, that neither of those basic protections worked properly for six weeks. The implication that somehow I’m partially to blame for that kind of irresponsibility is shocking and ridiculous. Failure to take the previously-mentioned actions are reason enough to lay the blame fully on the shoulders of Network Solutions. The other reason is a matter of public policy. If the software has a backup setting, and that’s the only protection you offer me, then enable it by default, or send me an email every day telling me that I need to enable it.

Your email to me included the words, “You did not previously have Database Backup enabled…”, but it should have used words like, “Network Solutions did not previously have Database Backup enabled, or adequately protect our information storage and retrieval systems from hardware failure. We apologize for these extremely serious mistakes, and have taken measures to ensure this never happens again.” Owning up like that probably would have kept my business.

If I torch my own data, without backing it up, then it’s my fault. But if YOU torch my data, and YOU didn’t back it up, that’s all on you. I’m astonished at this series of foul-ups at Network Solutions, but the reason I’m leaving after 14 years of business is that your firm failed to take full responsibility. Ducking the blame, or laying the blame on others (especially on paying customers) is an ethical lapse, a failure of leadership, and a hallmark of mediocrity. That’s what I’m going to associate with the name “Network Solutions” from now on.

That said, I’m taking my business to GoDaddy. Incidentally, they’ve assured me my data will be backed up every 24 hours, without any action required on my part. That leaves me care-free and able to focus entirely on writing and video editing, which is the reason I pay someone else to host the blog in the first place.

I did, actually, have a backup of some of my posted materials. I will be restoring these at some point, before I transfer my domains and other services, and then close my account at NetSol. It’s a hassle, but it’s worth it to be rid of you.

Good-bye, soon, but not soon enough.

-Ryan Reasons

——————

From: Network Solutions <networksolutions@mail1.networksolutions.com>
Reply-to: Network Solutions <NSCC99+4300530620@mail1.networksolutions.com>
To: Cranks-On-Cam.com
Subject: Important Notice About Your MYSQL Data – Please Read

Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2011 18:06:16 -0400 (EDT)  Dear Valued Network Solutions® Customer,

This email is to inform you that we detected a storage hardware problem, involving a single MYSQL server, Saturday, September 17, 2011. We took immediate action to restore from backups, and while all of the data should be restored, some customers may still have missing data.  You did not previously have Database Backup enabled, therefore, we have restored your website to the last system backup on August 10, 2011. Our customer support specialists are available 24/7 to help or answer any questions you may have. Please call 1-866-908-9826 for dedicated support. We recommend backing up your MYSQL database through one of the following methods: - Turn on automatic backups for MYSQL within Account Manager. Learn more here- Enable automatic backups using SSH. Learn more here

Your continued business is appreciated, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Sincerely,
Network Solutions® Customer Support

Blaming Mitchell Hollon for His Own Killing

August 2nd, 2011 by Ryan Reasons 1 comment »

I read an interesting article last week about the ongoing reaction to the death of Charleston cyclist Dr. Mitchell Hollon on the James Island Connector. In that article, Joseph P. Riley, the Mayor of Charleston, said it was “absolutely essential” to create a safe way for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the Ashley River. The Mayor’s comments came a month after a motorist, Gregory Rupley, swerved onto the shoulder of the Connector and killed popular area cyclist Dr. Mitchell Hollon.

I’ve commented in a previous entry about the way Charleston law enforcement, in a stunning dereliction of duty, has spent most of July pretending that South Carolina has no law against vehicular manslaughter. While I applaud the Mayor’s stated intention to make Charleston safer, his words ring hollow while police are declining to enforce laws that are already on the books.

The authorities of Charleston have excused Dr. Hollon’s killer. That’s troubling for many reasons, but especially because the charges (“Improper Lane Usage”) leave a sense of unassigned blame. The court of public opinion, following the lead of law enforcement and local journalism, is deciding that Mitchell Hollon did not die through any fault of Gregory Rupley’s. The implication now taking hold is that Dr. Hollon’s death was his own fault for daring to ride a bicycle among motor vehicles. Read some of the ugly ‘user comments’ in online news articles about the crash, and you’ll see.

The process of blaming Dr. Hollon for his own death began when biased public officials and journalists used the word “accident” in reference to the crash. The term “accident”, in common usage, refers to random chance, an event without cause and beyond control, that leads unpredictably and unavoidably to a harmful result. Those who identify strongly with motoring, or those hostile to cycling, prefer the word “accident” to describe Dr. Hollon’s death, for its built-in assumptions of sympathy and freedom from responsibility for the motorist.

The “accident” narrative goes like this. First, Gregory Rupley operated a motor vehicle at a high rate of speed, an event that occurred through random chance. Second, he failed to use attentively the lane markings, brakes, and steering wheel to control his vehicle properly, due to reasons beyond his control. Finally, despite a history of dangerous driving, including convictions for speeding and causing a previous “accident”, the catastrophic results were impossible for Mr. Rupley to foresee, or take measures to avoid. This is an absurd charade, of course, but anyone who calls Dr. Hollon’s killing an “accident” is selling this version of events.

Here is an example of the way some police officers and at least one local newspaper writer are ignoring or stretching the facts to fit the charade.

“Currently, bicyclists ride in the emergency pull-off lane on the [James Island] Connector, which puts them in shaky legal territory. The day after the accident, Charleston police spokesman Charles Francis was unable to say for certain whether bicycling was allowed on the 55 mph freeway. Under South Carolina law, it is illegal to ride a bike on a freeway, defined as “a multilane divided highway with full control of access, and grade separated interchanges.” Violation of the law is a misdemeanor carrying a punishment of up to a $100 fine or 30 days of imprisonment.” – Charleston City Paper

The article cites the definition of a “freeway” under South Carolina law, but the author uses only the first 16 words of the definition, and replaces the remaining 24 words with a period. The author is suggesting, with a seemingly deliberate omission of important details, that Dr. Hollon was the lawbreaker, and by proxy, that Gregory Rupley was the victim.

Here is the full text of the law that defines a “freeway” in South Carolina, in context, with all 40 words included:

SECTION 56-5-615. Freeway defined.
“A ‘freeway’ is a multilane divided highway with full control of access, and grade separated interchanges, of the type comprising the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, or other highways built essentially in conformance to the standards of them.”

The James Island Connector is not part of the Interstate System, nor did the builders conform to the standards of the Interstate System during its construction in 1996. The standards of the Interstate System include, among other things, full control of access, and a 10-foot right paved shoulder.

The right shoulder is three feet wide at the Mitchell Hollon crash site on the Robert B. Scarborough Bridge, and three feet wide in most of the sections on dry land. The FHA standards for “full control of access”, as documented in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, require a freeway to be enclosed within walls or fences. Roadside views from the 3-mile-long the James Island Expressway on Google Maps show several areas with conspicuous omissions of this requirement. (It’s worth mentioning that the standards of the Interstate System are designed to accommodate bicycle traffic, which is legal on a freeway under federal law.) The James Island Connector is not a freeway.

Those who misrepresent the legal status of the Connector are contributing to the ongoing effort to excuse Gregory Rupley and blame Mitchell Hollon for the “accident”. This is driving to a conclusion that Dr. Hollon had a duty to avoid cycling on the James Island connector, and his failure in that duty caused the otherwise avoidable result of his own killing. It’s disgusting, but these distortions of the truth to fit the “accident” narrative are prevailing, as evidenced in the failure of police to charge Mr. Rupley, in newspaper articles about Dr. Hollon’s death, and in some increasingly ugly user comments that accompany such articles.

A serious effort to make the Connector safer for cyclists would involve four simple and relatively inexpensive steps; (1) reduce the speed limit from 55 MPH to 35 MPH, (2) add cycling sharrows down the center of the right lane, (3) crack down on speeding and aggressive driving, and (4) prosecute motorists like Gregory Rupley for vehicular manslaughter. All of this would require the city officials of Charleston to recognize that cyclists already are legitimate roadway users under South Carolina law. I won’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

The uneven handling of Dr. Hollon’s death suggests that Charleston city officials will use the bogus “questionable legal status” of cyclists as a pretext to leave the James Island Connector exactly the way it is, and allow history to repeat itself. That would complete the terrible mockery of justice that is now unfolding in Charleston, where a killer gets his freedom, and his victim gets the blame.

“Move Over!”

July 24th, 2011 by Ryan Reasons 1 comment »

Today’s video footage not only demonstrates a common dilemma, it also shows a motorist assault me with his vehicle, which is a felony that I’m going to report to the police.

I’ve traveled this stretch of road thousands of times, in many different lane positions. I’ve traveled it down the center, on the right side, and on the left side. I’ve had speeding motorists overtake me, dangerously, illegally, and unpredictably, crossing the center lines to pass on my left, or using the shoulder to pass on my right. It’s illegal for motorists to use the shoulder as a travel lane, or cross the solid yellow lines in the center of the roadway. That makes no difference, however, because if the space is available, then most motorists do one or the other.

The main factor that prevents this sort of dangerous overtaking is oncoming traffic, because it denies would-be illegal overtakers the opportunity to cross the center lines. The other factor is my position in the roadway, riding inside the travel lane, just left of the fog line, and avoiding the shoulder.  This eliminates the threat of drive-out hazards (a frequent occurrence here) and discourages motorists from overtaking me on the shoulder. The point is that my lane position cannot prevent dangerous and illegal overtaking here, it can only influence which one it’s going to be. I choose the lane position that tends to result in the illegal straddle passing, because almost every motorist gives me plenty of room in the process.

This describes the reasoning for my lane position in today’s video. I’m avoiding the shoulder and traveling one foot inside the fog line, when I see in my mirror a line of about seven motor vehicles approaching from behind. I’m turning left at the next traffic light, which is 200 feet ahead, and also where the road divides into two lanes thereafter. There is no oncoming traffic, so I decide to let the line of cars pass before I take the lane for my left turn. As predicted, they all go for the illegal straddle pass, albeit at a safe distance.

That is, except for the very last vehicle in the line of cars. That driver decides against a safe but illegal straddle pass, and opts for a dangerous and illegal “buzz” overtake instead. The driver honks the horn. I hear the words, “Move over!” emerge from the passenger-side window. The vehicle passes within a foot of my elbow, traveling at 40 miles per hour.

(Notes: The video footage shows the side mirror on my bicycle, but not the position of my elbow. My elbow extends further out, depending on the position of my hands and how far forward I am leaning.)

Massachusetts law defines an assault as an attempt to either; (1) do bodily harm to another person by force or violence, or (2) intentionally cause fear or apprehension in another person. Note that assault does not require actual bodily harm, it requires only that someone intentionally instills a fear of bodily harm. For example, holding a fist under another person’s nose is assault, even if the fist-maker never touches the nose.

A motorist who overtakes a cyclist at high speed, honking the horn, shouting a command to move over, and passing within inches of the cyclist’s body, is trying to instill within the cyclist a fear of imminent harm. Move over. I can crush your body with my vehicle. That’s a Felony Assault. The motorist used a moving vehicle to establish the threat. That’s a Felony Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. These are serious criminal charges, which upon conviction could put an offending motorist behind bars for several years.

Massachusetts license plate 5949GT

Letter to the Charleston Post About Mitchell Hollon and Gregory Rupley

July 23rd, 2011 by Ryan Reasons 2 comments »

Heather Lyman, a close friend of Mitchell Hollon’s, posted a comment on “Mitchell Hollon Dies, Law Enforcement Shrugs, and Gregory Rupley Walks” on Tuesday, requesting that I submit the article to the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper. I sent a response to Ms. Lyman by private email and promised that I would do it. Here is the text of that letter and (with her permission) the exchange of messages leading up to it. Now we wait and see if they print the letter.

—–Original Message—–
From: Cranks-On-Cam Moderation
To: Ryan Reasons
Subject: [Cranks-On-Cam] Please moderate: “Mitchell Hollon Dies, Law Enforcement Shrugs, and Gregory Rupley Walks”
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 2011 17:06:21 +0000

A new comment on the post “Mitchell Hollon Dies, Law Enforcement Shrugs, and Gregory Rupley Walks” is waiting for your approval

Author : Heather Friedrichs Lyman
E-mail : (Hidden)
URL :
Whois :
Comment: Hello…..Mitch was a very close family friend, and his loss and manner of his death has been unfathomable. Perhaps the only thing more stunning is the charge (or lack thereof) against Mr. Rupley. You have succinctly worded here what so many of us are thinking and feeling; might you consider submitting this as an editorial to our local newspaper?

—–Original Message—–
From: Ryan Reasons
Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2011 12:23 AM
To: Heather Lyman
Subject: Re: [Cranks-On-Cam] Please moderate: “Mitchell Hollon Dies, Law Enforcement Shrugs, and Gregory Rupley Walks”

Dear Heather:

Thank you for your message. I’m deeply sorry for the loss of your friend.  I’d be glad to submit this as an editorial. Which newspaper do you recommend? Also, I was about to approve your post for publication on my blog, and  make our communication public. Do you feel okay with that?

Best regards,
-Ryan Reasons

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Heather Lyman
To: Ryan Reasons
Subject: RE: [Cranks-On-Cam] Please moderate: “Mitchell Hollon Dies, Law Enforcement Shrugs, and Gregory Rupley Walks”
Date: Thu, 21 Jul 2011 09:05:41 -0400

Hi, Ryan — thanks so much for your reply. Yes, it’s fine to post my comment.  And yes, it would be wonderful if you would submit this to www.charleston.net (The Charleston Post and Courier). So many of us are reeling from the unbelievably  lax charge against Rupley, and I haven’t seen anyone state the case as clearly  as you. Thanks again…..

——–Original Message———
From: Ryan Reasons
To:
Date: Sat, Jul 23, 2011 at 12:08 PM
Subject: Mitchell Hollon Dies, Law Enforcement Shrugs, and Gregory Rupley Walks

During the week of July 4th, the Charleston Police Department determined that Gregory Rupley drove an AT&T utility van onto the shoulder of the James Island Connector and killed popular area cyclist Dr. Mitchell Hollon. A week later, the police announced: “After careful consideration of all the evidence and facts gathered concerning this collision, investigators with the Charleston Police Department’s Traffic Division have charged Gregory E. Rupley with Improper Lane Usage. “
Yes, you read that right. Mr. Rupley is due in court on September 1st to face charges of committing a traffic violation. The same press report that provided the quoted statement above also indicated the Charleston Police Department consulted with the Charleston County Solicitor’s Office to determine the charges. Apparently, the police and prosecutors are going to let Mr. Rupley off the hook for the deadly consequences of his inattentive driving. That, or someone forgot to mention that Mr. Rupley killed Dr. Hollon last week in the process of using the lane improperly.
The State newspaper reports that Police Lt. Chip Searson, of the Charleston Traffic Division, said Mr. Rupley’s actions displayed no “willful or wanton disregard for public safety”. The police, in other words, claim they are powerless, for lack of evidence that Mr. Rupley did anything wrong. I looked up the laws of South Carolina, and found the legal definitions of “negligence”, “wanton”, and “manslaughter” in a legal dictionary (thefreedictionary.com). The language used to describe these things, which I partially quote here, stands out rather compellingly:
“Conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm.”
“Omission of a known obligation with reckless indifference to potential harmful consequences.”
“Failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest.”
“A departure from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances.”
The police and prosecutor are displaying all the symptoms of “Just An Accident Syndrome,” an affliction where some in the legal system (who are motorists themselves) identify with motorists so strongly, they refuse to enforce the law against them. Thus, Mr. Rupley is excused for taking Dr. Hollon’s life, and “criminal negligence” becomes “just an accident”, with the subtext that Dr. Hollon’s violent death was the result of random chance that was beyond Mr. Rupley’s control.
This skewed perspective ignores several important truths, most notably that the AT&T utility van has brakes and a steering wheel, the roadway has lane markings, and the rules of the road obligate Mr. Rupley to use and pay attention to these things, which he clearly was not doing when he killed Dr. Hollon. Mr. Rupley’s omission of his obligations caused a motor vehicle, traveling at high speed, to veer off a clearly marked roadway, and kill a human being. If that doesn’t fit the legal definition of negligence, I can’t imagine what else does.
Scarlett A. Wilson is the Solicitor for the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Berkeley and Charleston Counties. The police would have consulted Wilson or a prosecutor on Wilson’s staff. I encourage everyone to contact Scarlett A. Wilson and Gregory Mullen, the Charleston Chief of Police, and remind them respectfully that Dr. Mitchell Hollon, now silenced forever, deserves a better measure of justice than a traffic ticket.
Ryan Reasons
Cyclist-In-Chief
Cranks On Cam

Mitchell Hollon Dies, Law Enforcement Shrugs, and Gregory Rupley Walks

July 15th, 2011 by Ryan Reasons 1 comment »

Last week, the Charleston Police Department determined that Gregory Rupley drove an AT&T utility van onto the shoulder of the James Island Connector and killed popular area cyclist Dr. Mitchell Hollon. (See Analysis of the Mitchell Hollon Bicycle Crash for details.)

Look at what the police announced this week: “After careful consideration of all the evidence and facts gathered concerning this collision, investigators with the Charleston Police Department’s Traffic Division have charged Gregory E. Rupley with Improper Lane Usage.

Yes, you read that right. Rupley is due in court on September 1st to face charges of committing a traffic violation. The same press report that provided the quoted paragraph above also indicated the Charleston Police Department consulted with the Charleston County Solicitor’s Office to determine the charges. Apparently, the prosecution is going to let Rupley off the hook for the deadly consequences of his inattentive driving.  That, or someone forgot to mention that Rupley killed Dr. Hollon last week in the process of using the lane improperly.

The State reports that Police Lt. Chip Searson, of the Charleston Traffic Division, said Rupley’s actions displayed no “willful or wanton disregard for public safety”.  The police, in other words, claim they are powerless, for lack of evidence that Rupley did anything wrong.

I looked up the laws of South Carolina, and found the legal definitions of “negligence”, “wanton”, and “manslaughter” in a legal dictionary. The language used to describe these things stands out rather compellingly: Omission of a known obligation with reckless indifference to potential harmful consequences. Failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest.

The police and prosecutor are displaying all the symptoms of “Just An Accident Syndrome,” an affliction where some in the legal system (who are motorists themselves) identify with motorists so strongly, they refuse to enforce the law against them. Thus, Rupley is excused for taking Dr. Hollon’s life, and “criminal negligence” becomes “just an accident”, with the subtext that Dr. Hollon’s violent death was the result of random chance that was beyond Rupley’s control.

This skewed perspective ignores several important truths, most notably that the AT&T utility van has brakes and a steering wheel, the roadway has lane markings, and the rules of the road obligate Rupley to use and pay attention to these things, which he clearly was not doing when he killed Dr. Hollon. Rupley’s omission of his obligations caused a motor vehicle, traveling at 55 miles per hour, to veer off a clearly marked roadway, and kill a human being. If that doesn’t fit the legal definition of negligence, I can’t imagine what else does.

Scarlett A. Wilson is the Solicitor for the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Berkeley and Charleston Counties. The police would have consulted Wilson or a prosecutor on Wilson’s staff. I encourage everyone to contact Scarlett A. Wilson and Gregory Mullen, the Charleston Chief of Police, and remind them respectfully that Dr. Mitchell Hollon, now silenced forever, deserves a better measure of justice than a traffic ticket.

- – -

South Carolina Code: Section 16-3-60. With regard to the crime of involuntary manslaughter, criminal negligence is defined as the reckless disregard of the safety of others. A person charged with the crime of involuntary manslaughter may be convicted only upon a showing of criminal negligence as defined in this section. A person convicted of involuntary manslaughter must be imprisoned not more than five years.

Legal definition of Negligence: “Conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. A person has acted negligently if he or she has departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances.”

Legal definition of Wanton: “Grossly careless or negligent; reckless; malicious. The term wanton implies a reckless disregard for the consequences of one’s behavior. A wanton act is one done in heedless disregard for the life, limbs, health, safety, reputation, or property rights of another individual. Such an act is more than Negligence or gross negligence; it is equivalent in its results to an act of willful misconduct. A wanton injury is one precipitated by a conscious and intentional wrongful act or by an omission of a known obligation with reckless indifference to potential harmful consequences.”

Legal definition of Criminal Negligence: “Careless, inattentive, neglectful, willfully blind, or in the case of gross negligence what would have been reckless in any other defendant. [...] The distinction between recklessness and criminal negligence lies in the presence or absence of foresight as to the prohibited consequences. Recklessness is usually described as a ‘malfeasance’ where the defendant knowingly exposes another to the risk of injury. The fault lies in being willing to run the risk. But criminal negligence is a ‘misfeasance or ‘nonfeasance’ (see omission), where the fault lies in the failure to foresee and so allow otherwise avoidable dangers to manifest.”

Legal definition of Vehicular homicide: “([A]lso known as vehicular manslaughter) [...] [D]eath that results from the negligent operation of a vehicle, or more so a result from driving while committing an unlawful act that does not amount to a felony. In the Model Penal Code there is no separate category of vehicular homicide, and vehicular homicides that involve negligence. Both are included in the overall category of negligent homicide. It can be compared to the offense of dangerous driving causing death in other countries. All states except Alaska, Montana, and Arizona have vehicular homicide statutes. The laws have the effect of making a vehicle a potentially deadly weapon, to allow for easier conviction and more severe penalties. In states without such statutes, defendants can still be charged with manslaughter or murder in some situations. The victim may be either a person not in the car with the offending motorist, such as a pedestrian, cyclist, another motorist, or a passenger in the vehicle with the offender.”

Descriptions of Involuntary Manslaughter from several South Carolina criminal defense lawyers and law firms; Bobby G. Frederick , Ross & Enderlin, Jack B. Swerling, and James R. Snell, Jr..

Truck Blocks Road, Causes “Squeeze” Conflict

July 13th, 2011 by Ryan Reasons No comments »

A common complaint I hear from motorists is that I’m not fast enough or that I’m “blocking traffic”.  Yet, a stopped or slow-moving motorist slows me down every day, at least as often as I slow others down to take a narrow lane for several seconds. Today, these two trucks are blocking both lanes while the drivers chat. That’s not what today’s blog entry is about, though.

I normally pass stopped traffic on the left. That’s my intention until I see there isn’t enough space between them. Instead, I keep my speed at a cautious 5 MPH and move over to pass on the right. The stopped truck suddenly accelerates just as I start to overtake. The driver either ignored me or never saw me.

The video camera doesn’t really show the dangerousness of the situation. If I had accelerated quickly into narrow space beside the truck, the trailer likely would have clipped or snagged me when the driver gunned the engine and took off. I braked the moment I saw the trailer move, which might have saved my life.

Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90: Section 14. Precautions for safety of other travelers. It shall not be a defense for a motorist causing an accident with a bicycle that the bicycle was to the right of vehicular traffic.


Analysis of the Mitchell Hollon Bicycle Crash

July 11th, 2011 by Ryan Reasons 2 comments »

 

Dr. Mitchell Hollon, an avid cyclist and anesthesiologist, was killed on July 5th while cycling in Charleston, South Carolina. The police traffic report, citing statements from two witnesses, indicates that an AT&T van moved out of the westbound right lane, drifted several feet onto the shoulder, and struck Dr. Hollon from behind. The impact crumpled the van and catapulted Dr. Hollon over the guardrail of the James Island Connector, where he plunged forty feet and landed in the Charleston Harbor marshland. Police say the driver of the AT&T van, Gregory Rupley of Charleston, is at fault for the crash.

Gregory Rupley’s version of events differs considerably from witness accounts and the police report. Rupley dialed 911 after hitting Dr. Hollon and said, “I just hit a man on a bicycle and he flipped off the bridge.” The 911 dispatcher asked, “You said he flipped off the bridge?” Rupley continued, “He swerved out in front of me and I hit him and he went off the bridge.”

I find Rupley’s story extremely difficult to believe, given the witness reports, and the history of the two men involved in the crash. The Post and Courier of Charleston reports that Rupley has a history of reckless and aggressive driving, according to records from the South Carolina DMV, including convictions for speeding in 2004 and 2005, a conviction for careless driving in 2005, and a conviction for contributing to a motor vehicle accident in 2006. Dr. Hollon was an experienced cyclist who observed traffic laws and averaged 3000 miles per year. It doesn’t add up that a savvy urban cyclist would “swerve out” into a 55 mile-per-hour lane “in front” of a speeding motor vehicle. It seems much more likely that Rupley is lying because he fears the consequences of what he has done.

The same report from The Post and Courier also contains a glaring factual error, which perpetuates the myth that cyclists must move aside for motorists and expose themselves to greater risk: “The police incident report indicates Rupley allegedly drifted several feet off the traveling lane and into the far right westbound shoulder where the helmet-clad Hollon was obligated to be.”

The traffic laws of South Carolina specify that a bicyclist has no obligation to ride on the shoulder, which is not considered to be part of the roadway. The right lane appears to be 11 feet wide in the area where Rupley struck Dr. Hollon. (That’s an admittedly imprecise estimate based on photos of the crash site, which I’ve included at the end of this article.) If we assume a lane width of 11 or even 12 feet, the lane is too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to share safely, so it still would have been illegal for Rupley to overtake Dr. Hollon in the same lane. It’s arguable from a legal standpoint that Dr. Hollon would’ve been within his rights to travel in the right lane, or even ride down the center of it. The point is that Dr. Hollon’s location on the roadway is irrelevant. Rupley would still be at fault for hitting him from behind, whether the collision took place in the right lane or on the shoulder.

Even without witnesses, who stated that Rupley’s van swerved several feet onto the shoulder, there is physical evidence to refute Rupley’s claim that the impact occurred in the right lane after Dr. Hollon swerved out in front of his van. The video footage of Hollon’s bicycle at 03:25 to 03:30 shows the front wheel is straight and the back wheel is bent into the shape of a heart, which is an indicator that the van struck the bicycle from behind. Dr. Hollon’s trajectory over the side of the bridge is also an indicator of the van’s direction. Rupley is suggesting the collision happened in the travel lane. That would mean Dr. Hollon went flying off his bicycle, executed a right turn in mid-air, and passed completely over the shoulder and a four-foot concrete wall. It’s much more likely that Dr. Hollon flew in the same direction that Rupley’s van was going at the time of impact; diagonally, angling toward Charleston Harbor, as it left the right lane, and entered the shoulder.

The circumstances of the crash, the statements of two eyewitnesses, a history of reckless driving, the condition of the bicycle, and the final location of Michell Hollon’s body should make for a slam-dunk case against Gregory Rupley.  One thing concerns me, though. The law enforcement establishment of South Carolina has a mixed track record in convicting (or even charging) motorists with reckless driving or reckless homicide when it comes to killing cyclists. I have read a few articles stating that the police plan to file charges against Rupley, yet, it’s been six days since the crash, and no charges have been filed yet, according to any media report that I can find as of this writing. I hope that means the wheels of justice are just slow to turn, rather than broken altogether.

Charleston has been given an opportunity, at the tragic and staggering cost of Dr. Hollon’s life, to show the nation that irresponsible motoring is an extremely serious matter. The consequences Gregory Rupley faces should reflect the consequences of his actions for Dr. Mitchell Hollon. Let’s hope South Carolina justice handles this one right.

 

South Carolina Code of Laws, Chapter 5, Article 1, SECTION 56-5-2920. Reckless driving; penalties; suspension of driver’s license for second or subsequent offense.
Any person who drives any vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. The Department of Motor Vehicles, upon receiving satisfactory evidence of the conviction, of the entry of a plea of guilty or the forfeiture of bail of any person charged with a second and subsequent offense for the violation of this section shall forthwith suspend the driver’s license of any such person for a period of three months. Only those offenses which occurred within a period of five years including and immediately preceding the date of the last offense shall constitute prior offenses within the meaning of this section. Any person violating the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction, entry of a plea of guilty or forfeiture of bail, be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five dollars nor more than two hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days.

South Carolina Code of Laws, Chapter 5, Article 1, SECTION 56-5-2910. Reckless homicide; penalties; revocation of driver’s license; reinstatement of license; conditions; consequences for subsequent violations.
(A) When the death of a person ensues within three years as a proximate result of injury received by the driving of a vehicle in reckless disregard of the safety of others, the person operating the vehicle is guilty of reckless homicide. A person who is convicted of, pleads guilty to, or pleads nolo contendere to reckless homicide is guilty of a felony and must be fined not less than one thousand dollars nor more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. The department must revoke for five years the driver’s license of a person convicted of reckless homicide.

South Carolina Code of Laws, SECTION 56-5-3430. Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(A) Except as provided in subsection (B), every bicyclist operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable. A bicyclist may, but is not required to, ride on the shoulder of the roadway in order to comply with the requirements of this subsection.

 

 

S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles records list Rupley’s 10-year driving record as including a 2006 conviction for driving 10 mph or less over the posted speed limit. He also had a motor vehicle accident in 2006 where he was listed as a contributor. In 2005 Rupley was convicted of careless driving, records also show, and in 2004 he had another conviction for speeding 10 mph or less above the limit. He currently has no points against him.

Slideshow of Crash Site

Analysis of the Marilyn Dershowitz Bicycle Crash

July 6th, 2011 by Ryan Reasons 1 comment »

I’ve read several stories in the news about the death of New York City cyclist and retired Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Dershowitz over the 4th of July weekend. This story is disturbing, not just because Dershowitz lost her life, but also because the mail truck driver, Ian Clement, probably will never face justice for what he has done.

The L Magazine reports that Marilyn Dershowitz was riding with traffic on West 29th Street when a car and a mail truck traveling side-by-side attempted to overtake her as the roadway narrowed. The mail truck hit Dershowitz when driver Ian Clement moved right to allow space for the car on his left. The police said of Clement, “He heard a thump, but he thought he hit a bump or a crate. At one point, he thought the car hit him.”

Marilyn’s husband, Nathan Dershowitz, who was biking one block ahead, gave this account of the crash to the New York Daily News, “If [the investigators] did the work and spoke to the people I spoke to, it is inconceivable from what they told me that he did not see her. What I was told was that two vehicles, neither one was willing to yield to another, so they both went through too narrow of a space to get through. She was ahead of both vehicles. The driver just ran her over.”

A cyclist’s perspective of the Dershowitz crash

I haven’t found enough information available in the media to draw a conclusion about the specific cause of the crash. Nevertheless, the information available, combined with my own experience as a cyclist, suggests the most likely scenario was an illegal overtake. That is, the truck driver Ian Clement probably started to pass Marilyn Dershowitz on her left but moved back to the right before being safely clear of her.

The side of the mail truck, in that situation, would have clipped the left side of Marilyn’s body or the left handlebar of her bicycle. The result of that kind of impact is that the left side of the handlebars is propelled forward, turning the front wheel sharply to the right, which causes the cyclist to fall suddenly to the left. The cyclist falls head-first against the overtaking vehicle, either striking the side or landing in the wheel-well, and then going under the back wheel.

I suspect this is what happened to Dershowitz, based on the police description of the circumstances leading up to the crash, the condition of the bicycle in the photos of the crash scene, and Clement’s statement that he heard his truck collide with something.

A motor vehicle bumper that strikes a bicycle wheel from behind usually bends the rim severely, crushing and twisting the wheel into the shape of a heart or pretzel. The back wheel of Dershowitz’s bicycle is still relatively round in this photo, so it seems unlikely that Clement ran her down from behind. The front of Clement’s truck likely would have shown signs of the impact as well, but I suspect there was no damage, since none of the news articles mention it, and otherwise the police probably wouldn’t believe Clement’s claim that he drove away without knowing he ever hit Dershowitz.

One aspect of Clement’s story doesn’t add up, though. Clement claims he heard a thump and initially thought his truck had collided with a car traveling beside him. This suggests the sound originated from the side of his truck, somewhere behind him, which jibes with the rest of the indicators about the nature of the crash. What’s truly hard to imagine is Clement’s claim that he initially mistook the thump that came from the right side of his truck for the sound of a car hitting its left side.

The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is that Ian Clement saw Marilyn Dershowitz on her bicycle and ignored her, either from the beginning or once the cab of his truck was past her.  Motorists often overtake cyclists this way, although it’s illegal and creates an extreme danger to the cyclist. It’s less likely but possible Clement never saw Dershowitz at all, as he entered an area of deep shadow from the bright sunlight of a July day.

The police, at the very least, could charge Ian Clement with reckless endangerment and several traffic violations, which I have quoted below from the New York Code. Yet, many of the same news sources that reported the story are also indicating that Clement won’t ever be charged. He won’t pay a penny in fines or spend a single night in jail for killing Marilyn Dershowitz. In fact, he’ll probably keep driving mail trucks.

The bias that favors motoring is so strong that, unless substantial pressure is brought to bear, either by an outraged public or by the legal talent in her own family, Marilyn Dershowitz probably will never receive in death the very rule of law she spent her life upholding for others. She and her family deserve justice for what happened. I hope they get it.

[Note:  I've included a photo below that shows a recent example of a motorist crowding me aside in heavy traffic. The white van began to overtake me at less than three feet and started moving right before completely passing me. The driver finishes the overtake at less than two feet, including the extra foot I gained by edging closer to the fog line on the right. This kind of overtake is probably what happened to Marilyn Dershowitz, only with the postal truck passing at a much closer distance and crowding more sharply to the right and into her path.]


N.Y. Code – Section 1122: Overtaking a vehicle on the left

The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction,  subject to those limitations, exceptions, and special rules hereinafter stated:
(a) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

N.Y. Code – Section 1124: Limitations on overtaking on the left
No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless authorized by the provisions of this chapter and unless such left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle overtaken. In every event the overtaking vehicle must return to an authorized lane of travel as soon as practicable and in the event the passing movement involves the use of a lane authorized for vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, before coming within two hundred feet of any approaching vehicle.

N.Y. Code – Section 1128: Driving on roadways laned for traffic
Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic the following rules in addition to all others consistent herewith shall apply:
(a) A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from such lane until the driver has first ascertained that such movement can be made with safety.

N.Y. Code – Section 1146: Drivers to exercise due care
Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law to the  contrary, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise  due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist, pedestrian or domestic animal upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary. For the purposes of this section, the term “domestic animal” shall mean domesticated sheep, cattle and goats which are under the supervision and control of a pedestrian.

N.Y. Code – Section 1212: Reckless driving
Reckless driving shall mean driving or using any motor vehicle, motorcycle or any other vehicle propelled by any power other than muscular power or any appliance or accessory thereof in a manner which unreasonably interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway, or unreasonably endangers users of the public highway. Reckless driving is prohibited. Every person violating this provision shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

N.Y. Code – Section 1180: Basic rule and maximum limits
(a) No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions  and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.
(e) The driver of every vehicle shall, consistent with the requirements of subdivision (a) of this section, drive at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when approaching and passing by an emergency situation involving any authorized emergency vehicle which is parked, stopped or standing on a highway and which is displaying one or more red or combination red and white lights pursuant  to the  provisions of paragraph two of subdivision forty-one of section three hundred seventy-five of this chapter, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, and when any special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians, or other traffic by reason of weather or highway conditions, including, but not limited to a highway construction or maintenance work area.

N.Y. Penal Law – Section 120.20: Reckless endangerment in the second degree
A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when
he or she recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of
serious physical injury to another person.

N.Y. Penal Law – Section 15.05: Definition of Reckless
A person acts recklessly with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe in the situation. A person who creates such a risk but is unaware thereof solely by reason of voluntary intoxication also acts recklessly with respect thereto.

N.Y. Penal Law – Section 10: Definition of Serious Physical Injury
[...] physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

ttp://www.thelmagazine.com/TheMeasure/archives/2011/07/05/marilyn-dershowitz-sister-of-famous-lawyer-killed-while-cycling-in-chelsea

Mississippi DA refuses to charge inattentive motorist for hitting the same cyclist twice

June 24th, 2011 by Ryan Reasons No comments »

The Dispatch newspaper of eastern Mississippi recently reported a chilling story about a collision (actually two collisions) between a motorist and cyclist. Robbie Norton, a motorist from Cedar Bluff, is accused of hitting bike shop owner Jan Morgan from behind with her car.  Jan Morgan’s husband, David Morgan, says Norton stopped and exited her vehicle while still talking on her mobile phone, then got back into her car, and struck Jan Morgan a second time while moving her car off the highway. Witnesses then forcibly removed Norton from her vehicle. Jan Morgan was hospitalized with multiple fractures, head injuries, and a collapsed lung. This is a description of the incident from the crash report:

“THE CYCLIST WAS WEST BOUND ON MS50 NEAR THE TRULOVE LOOP INTERSECTION. V1 WAS WEST BOUND ON MS50 APPROACHING THE CYCLIST FROM THE REAR. THE FRONT OF V1 COLLIDED WITH THE REAR OF THE BICYCLE. THE IMPACT THREW THE CYCLIST INTO THE AIR BEFORE LANDING ON THE HOOD OF V1 AND ONTO THE WINDSHIELD. V1 CONTINUED FOR A FEW FEET BEFORE COMING TO A STOP. THE CYCLIST WAS THEN THROWN TO THE ASPHALT WHEN V1 STOPPED. THE DRIVER OF V1 EXITED THE VEHICLE AND OBSERVED THE CYCLIST WHILE TALKING ON THE PHONE. D1 THEN REENTERED HER VEHICLE AND RAN THE CYCLIST OVER AGAIN BEFORE BEING FORCED FROM HER VEHICLE BY WITNESSES. V1 CAME TO FINAL REST FACING WEST IN THE WEST BOUND LANE ON MS 50 JUST METERS WEST OF THE TRULOVE LOOP INTERSECTION. THE CYCLIST CAME TO FINAL REST NEAR THE RIGHT FRONT TIRE OF V1.”

The real kicker is that Robbie Norton, according to David Morgan, won’t be facing any felony charges. This seems incredibly unjust, especially considering the law in Mississippi required Norton to stop and render aid “without endangering the life of any person more than is necessary”. There is no question that Norton further endangered Jan Morgan by crushing her prone body with a car, whether done intentionally or through failure to exercise “reasonable care”.  I doubt the lawmakers of Mississippi intended emotional distress or mobile phone usage to be a defense for drivers in violation of this law. Norton should be facing a $5000 fine, a year in jail, and the loss of her driver’s license. The text of the applicable Mississippi law is included below. I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know what might be the outcome of charging Norton this way, but some fights must be fought, even if there’s only a small chance of winning.

You can help, especially if you live in Mississippi, by visiting David Morgan’s blog “Get Well Jan!”. The blog includes updates on Jan’s recovery process, suggests ways to apply pressure to the district attorney, and discusses ways to change Mississippi law to better protect cyclists from negligent and inattentive drivers. Jan Morgan deserves justice and a full recovery. Jan, I hope you get both.

Mississippi Code:

§ 63-3-401. Duties of driver involved in accident resulting in personal injury or death; offenses and penalties.

(1) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until he has fulfilled the requirements of Section 63-3-405.

(2) Every stop under the provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall be made without obstructing traffic or endangering the life of any person more than is necessary.

(3) Except as provided in subsection (4) of this section, if any driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in injury to any person willfully fails to stop or to comply with the requirements of subsection (1) of this section, then such person, upon conviction, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than thirty (30) days nor more than one (1) year, or by fine of not less than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) nor more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

(4) If any driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in the death of another or the mutilation, disfigurement, permanent disability or the destruction of the tongue, eye, lip, nose or any other limb, organ or member of another willfully fails to stop or to comply with the requirements under the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, then such person, upon conviction, shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five (5) nor more than twenty (20) years, or by fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) nor more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment.

(5) The commissioner shall revoke the driver’s license of any person convicted under this section. Sources: Codes, 1942, § 8161; Laws, 1938, ch. 200; Laws, 1996, ch. 461, § 1; Laws, 2010, ch. 374, § 1, eff from and after July 1, 2010.

Cyclist Runs Red & A Motorist Buzzes

June 12th, 2011 by Ryan Reasons No comments »

I rarely see cyclists riding in motor traffic who are older than sixteen. That’s the required minimum age to obtain a driver’s license in Massachusetts. I’m guessing the cyclist was a few years older. I’m always glad to see another cyclist on the road but this guy made me cringe. Interestingly, the motorist was about the same age as the cyclist and apparently just as unwise. Watch the video and you’ll see the reasons.