[The following tribute was wrote to increase awareness of how a few simple engineering feats could have saved the life of a small boy out riding a bicycle in the cruel, unforgiving streets of Ludington back in 2004 on this very day.  The problems with the streets and sidewalks just get worse every year, and the money and ideas for keeping pedestrians and bikers safe are falling way short of what is needed.  Cody's death was as much the city manager's and traffic engineer's fault as it was Cody's own fault-- I would dare say even more so.  For clarity's sake, everything written in italics is what would happen in a more perfect world, but what has yet to happen.]



It was nearing the end of summer in 2004, and Cody was out doing what many 8 year-old boys do on a nice afternoon, riding his bicycle. He pedaled on the sidewalk down Grant Street in Ludington, and managed to negotiate the turn of the sidewalk with ease as he got to First Street. He waved at a passing semi- truck, which blew it's horn in reply.
A pleasant enough story, but that's not what happened. I fibbed because I don't like the way the story actually turned out five years ago. There was no sidewalk on Grant or First Streets near that area, they did not exist; but there was a boy named Cody and there was a semi. Cody rode downhill on the right side of Grant Street, and turned on First Street, which has no shoulder just a less friendly ramp-curb, but does have plenty of traffic. Cody entered the roadway at the same time as the semi passed by...
Chief, City Leaders Pledge to Make Sure This Never Happens Again (Ludington Daily News, 8-20-04) Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett commenting on the traffic death of Cody Lange said today that "This was a tragic event that should never have occurred. If there had been sidewalks in this area, this boy's life could have been saved. City law has not been followed and too many areas in this city have no sidewalks, contrary to that law. I will do what I can to see that this never happens again, and will not rest quietly until I see the western side of the fourth ward with adequate sidewalk coverage." The city council, mayor, and city manager also issued a joint statement declaring some fault for the incident, "The city has put less than $100,000 towards sidewalk maintenance annually, mostly used for repair of sidewalks in sold properties. Our new $2.4 million DPW Building up the street from this accident doesn't have a sidewalk, for Pete's sake. We will aggressively act on this problem now, before this happens again. We extend our sincere condolences and apologies to the Lange family." 
But that's not what happened either. Chief Barnett said nothing about the lack of sidewalks in the area or the associated dangers posed, which is odd since he is Ludington's traffic engineer. He did, however, comment on Cody for not stopping for the stop sign, reminded parents to make sure they talk to their children about the proper way to ride bicycles, to obey traffic signals, ride with only one person on the bike, wear helmets, ride on the right shoulder of the road, and to obey traffic laws. To motorists he said 'be vigilant' (LDN 8-20-04). None of the city leaders made any official comment but in a different article of that day's paper "...Lange's family and others in the neighborhood say they will now push for installation of sidewalks and more signs to warn motorists to watch for children. (One) said he has taken his concerns to city officials..." Sounds promising.
City Remembers Cody Lange (LDN, 8-19-06) Two years after the tragic death of Cody Lange, Mayor Henderson presided over the final sidewalk installation in the fourth ward. "We had to raid our coffers and tighten our belts to accomplish this, but it's the least we could do for Cody's memory. We can never replace Cody, never fully soothe the mind of the semi driver who did what he could to miss him, or suppress the guilt that all of us in the city government who could have prevented this tragedy feel to this day." He paused, without successfully checking his emotions. "I've known and worked with members of the Lange family, I swear to them, and the rest of the city, my oath to complete this job for the whole town." The fresh sidewalks at the corner of First and Grant were covered with support for the family in sidewalk chalk, the mayor bent down to inspect the well-wishes. "I look at this sidewalk and cannot help but think of what might have been if this was here two years ago." 

Sounds like a great project, but that's not what happened. Two years after the event was effectively stamped as the failure of an 8 year-old boy to follow the traffic laws, the city had been a no-show for sidewalk installations or extra signs. The LDN ran an article on 8-25-06 about Cody. The article dealt with the family's grief and remembrances of Cody, sad and yet inspirational. A memorial stands on the tragic corner, but other than that, the corner is unchanged.


And now it's five years later. And yet it's as if time has stood still at the corner of First and Grant. There are still no sidewalks within a block of the tragedy, still no new traffic control devices. Vehicles still lumber up and down First Street, many exceeding the posted 25 mph speed limit. The city officials are still oblivious, or in denial, of their own complicity and involvement in this death by their negligence and disregarding of their own laws.

 Boys still ride their bikes in this area. Cody would have been 13 this year, about the same age as the paperboy I see go by when I visit there. As he goes up the side of First Street, I see him get on the sidewalk at his first opportunity, as most kids would. I turn back to the makeshift memorial that still stands at that infamous corner, but my vision is disrupted by a sudden cloudburst of deep sorrow. How I wish I could look back at what occurred at that corner around 3:28 PM on 8-19-04 and say but that's not what happened. But I can't. Nobody can, and reverse what actually happened.

 Citizens of Ludington, urge your city councilor, your mayor, your city manager, your police chief to do the right thing and make our streets safe for our most vulnerable, and most precious, assets.



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Very good post XL. I work with Steve.. may I print this and show it to him? And his whole life since has been devoted to taking in foster kids to make up the hole in his heart. But if you visit him you already know this.
By all means, Guido. When I wrote this piece about 13 months ago, it was very emotionally draining, and I knew several close friends who had relatives among the Langes. I thought it very odd in 2004 that all the authorities were so eager to place all the blame on an 8 y.o. boy and not focus on the actual reason why the boy was not able to move through his area of town safely.

But why be surprised. The year before this tragedy, the City moved its $2.5 Million DPW Building down the street from where this accident occurred, significantly increasing the traffic on First Street, and not following city code in that they did not install sidewalks on the new construction in the city limits (sec 46-71 (a)) and had two driveways that exceeded the Curb Cut maximums (sec 46-40(1)) allowed by charter.

I feel sad for the parents but this was not the City of Ludingtons fault. All parents bear the responsibilty for where their child is and what they are doing. That includes riding thier bikes. That child should not have been riding in the street. I would have taken him to the nearest sidewalk and let him ride there.
RJE.. Respectfully I see a responsibility for the child as primarily the parents for the most part also. However in this case there are 2 glaring facts and inaction. (1)The charter for the city of Ludington and the township of P.M require sidewalks. (2) The city and township should have put priority on the things it requires of home owners in this area upon its self when it built its new Municipal ( also even built without said sidewalks. I believe this speaks to hypocrisy and lack of leadership when the City doesn't even build its own faculties with the items it then wants home owners to split the cost for is it not? Also as a bus driver for Ludington area schools I can attest to the fact this road is far more busy than it used to be due to the building of the Muni building and LMTA facilities on this road.
The larger issue here is Ludington paying lip service to budget issues, and not prioritizing safety issues both on things like sidewalks and bike paths, and lack of Water safety personal on the one main reason many come here to begin with. And that's its pedestrian friendly and scenery oriented business climate.
We got the horrid result of the latter omission here in the last couple days at the Main beach. You know the one that's on all of our "come and visit us" brochures for the area. We let a public safety hazard (house of flavors Ammonia refrigeration) exist within blocks of the major reason people come to visit us here, then place blame on the same people, when the town cant follow its own rules. The rules seem to only apply to those who don't have money to either help change them or comply with them.
That swimmer was an adult who knew the risk he was taking by swimming in rough water. No lifeguard could have saved him. He did a foolish thing and his family is now paying the price. House of Flavors brings in a lot of business, tourist and tax dollars to Ludington. Amonia leaks are extremely rare and injuries from leaks are even more rare. There are locations all over Ludington that lack sidewalks. If you live in such an area you must take caution when it comes to the safety of children and traffic.
Point is the charter for Ludington and Ludville law requires them yet there own building.. (new) building does not have one... So how can you expect the rest of the city to comply or pay a fine if your own buildings do not meet code??
HOS restaurant brings in tourist money HOF factory could and should go where we made tax free zones for it to be. I friend of mine lived on Robert street when the last "infrequent" " rare" accident happened. He still has rough lungs. No one compensated him for simply living where he chose to buy a home when the factory expanded into a commercial not factory zone. I am moving next month. I look forward to reading about the next "rare " accident and impending law suits if it effects a Tourist instead of just a Ludington native.
I don't see signage near H.O.F. factory warning of the possible Ammonia leaks from Industrial freezers or where to go, or what to do in case of said infrequent leaks. Does this now hold the whole town not just the factory liable as we changed zoning for them to be there to begin with? There is something called common sense I agree. But the town commission exercised no common sense when looking at dollars and cents for an expanding cash cow. Likewise, safety seems to be the first thing out the window, when the dollar signs don't come up right for the city commission.
I agree with you Guido, and understand RJE's position, yet disagree strongly with it. The Cody Lange tragedy and the drowning at Stearn's Park were not just the fault of judgment of an 8 y.o. boy and a 44 y.o. man. Both could have likely been avoided if the City spent some of the ungodly amount of money they take in on safety precautions. Look at all the reactive measures they are scheduled to invoke on Monday at the City Council meeting for protocol on shutting the beach down.

If the city had wanted to avoid further Cody Lange -type incidents, there was plenty of policies they could have actually enforced or invoked. Six years later, nothing has changed at the site except for added memorials and tears. Unfortunately, because of foolhardy expenditures over recent years, the arena of public safety has been compromised so that each year, our city of Ludington gets more dangerous.
I read in the LDN forum someone posted that the gentleman who drowned was trying to help someone else. If this is the case then I apologize to him and his family for saying that he did a foolish thing.
Checkmate! IMHO
Take a little patrol out to any Ludington area school besides Foster Elementary. You will find a whole lot of lots without sidewalks adjacent to the school, several of which have actual obstacles which force a kid walking or bicycling to or from school to enter the street. If a kid were killed as a result of this 'oversight' would you feel it would be the kid's parents fault if the law said sidewalks should be there?

Check out some of the city-owned lots, improved or not, which they have failed to repair or put in the mandated sidewalk. Remember the lot on Dowland they purchased for the new LFD station in 2007 (the one they recently put back out for sale, with talk of a new fire station on hold), here's a picture of the Dowland frontage and the side:

The city has had possession of this property for three years, and according to charter, this sidewalk should have been corrected by the end of the first year. Unless you think the DPW would actually give this sidewalk a passing grade for you or me.
I think RJE has valid points about parental responsibilities alright, but, in this particular case of Cody, and all things considered to date, hypocrisy by the City fathers is dangerously prevalent and ongoing now for way too long where common sense safety issues are involved. And where does it end? The beach? Trees & shrubbery blocking signage? Up-heaved, broken, or non-existent sidewalks? Potholes and sinkholes? Very poorly maintained back streets? The list is quite extensive beyond even these few off-the-cuff examples. We do have plenty of money in the City for all kinds of other high profile priorities, high wages, high benefits, and high falootin projects that only benefit tourists, so, why is safety off the list then? Or in the far back seat position? Simply use money as the excuse, and that fixes all? I think this could be a serious bone of contention with taxpayers to the City Council, if enough concerned came forward and really made an effort. Not for the sake of putting eggs on guilty faces, as much as to save lives, and make citizens safer all around, which afterall, isn't this where tax monies and infrastruture meet in harmony? Is this not the cornerstone for which we have local government to begin with?
The sidewalk is really not the issue. If there exists an unsafe condition no matter what it is, it is the responsibility of the parents to see that their children do not go near the unsafe situation. Like I said there are many places in Ludington where no sidewalks exist along with many other traffic hazards. The best way to avoid a tragedy is to be pro active. You can blame the city all you want but they're not the ones who gave the child a bike and let him ride on a busy street. If you folks have a list of complaints about conditions in the city then go down to every meeting with photos and documents and keep going back until the conditions are corrected. Bug them enough with phone calls and meeting attending and they will take notice.


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