Thoughts on the death of Edward Boye

by Michael Ogg
February 18, 2010

I didn’t know Edward. I learned of his Tuesday death in East Windsor yesterday. Edward had Cerebral Palsy, CP. I don’t know the extent of his disability but he was riding a tricycle which is about halfway between a bicycle and a wheelchair. Cyclists probably relate to him as a fellow cyclist; I relate to him as a disabled person using a mobility device. Edward was riding his tricycle on Dutch Neck Road, a not especially busy suburban road, although there are some straight stretches where cars go quite fast. He was riding in the shoulder, or rather what was left of the shoulder after incomplete snow removal. He was struck from behind by a car and was thrown off his tricycle. He was taken to Robert Wood Johnson Hospital but was dead on arrival. The driver has since been charged with vehicular homicide; that’s little comfort to Edward.

I have Multiple Sclerosis, MS, and use a power wheelchair. Although MS and CP are very different diseases, there are many similarities in their symptomatologies. As with several acquaintances of mine with CP, I try to live life to the full despite my disability. I go everywhere in my wheelchair in all weather, even in the snows we’ve been having in the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to drive for a few years now so the wheelchair is all I’ve got. Very often I have to use the road: often there’s no sidewalk, or the sidewalk is too badly damaged by broken paving slabs or tree roots, or it’s impassable because residents haven’t cleared brush, or, as now, residents haven’t cleared snow or snow plows have used curb ramps as convenient dumping places for snow, or, also as now, I have decubitus ulcers and the jarring and bumping from even a passable sidewalk is too painful. If there’s a shoulder or bike lane I’ll use it. I have a fast wheelchair: not as fast as an average cyclist but faster than a slow cyclist or average runner, so if there’s no shoulder nor usable sidewalk I’ll use the road. I’m sure this sort of calculation was familiar to Edward.

Tomorrow I have to go to the Kessler Institute in West Orange for Occupational and Physical Therapy. I made my transportation arrangements on Tuesday. I have to take the train to Newark and then made a reservation with NJ Transit’s disability service, Access Link, to take me from Newark to West Orange. I don’t particularly like Access Link: apart from having to make arrangements at least 24 hours in advance, the pickup time is only within a 40 minute window, the driving time is very unpredictable (it could be 20 minutes or if there are other pickups as much as one and a half hours), and it is unusual to get exactly the times one needs. For this trip, either it was too early (I have a home assistant who comes at 6 a.m. to wash and dress me: I’m not ready until 7:30 a.m.) or it was too late and I’d miss half the appointment. I had no choice but to take the later time. I don’t know whether Edward used Access Link, but even if he did, I’m sure he preferred to cycle whenever possible, just as I prefer to use my wheelchair whenever possible.

There is a bus from Newark to West Orange that I’ve sometimes used when I couldn’t get a convenient Access Link pickup. However, the last half mile is on a busy four lane county road. When I was there on Monday, the shoulder was full of snow. I was about to cancel my Access Link reservation and take the bus instead. Then I thought of Edward. Dutch Neck Road is a much quieter road. I called Kessler to say I’d be late for my appointment. I’d keep my Access Link reservation but get there alive. Edward, I’m sorry I never knew you. I think we’d have both enjoyed sharing fish stories over a beer.

Read the previous post Cycling Tragedy in East Windsor.

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