[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.



Views: 338

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Question RJE, why would the Mayor and other city officials state this was an unsafe corner lacking merit for youngsters, make it an issue to correct in the future so others don't fall into the same pitfall, visiting the site of the memorial and offering condolences, then go on to do nothing? Granted, the city is not the pallbearer of all the guilt, but they sure don't act in any way responsible to the needs for safety in this sad and sobering case. I agree to disagree with the sidewalk as the issue, kids use sidewalks for walking and biking when they are present, and vice-versa when absent, thus my continuing dialog for improved safety and honesty in governing.
Those are questions you'll have to ask the mayor. And I suggest you do that at the next city meeting.
I know you are a critical thinker-- so if you disagree with anything I present here, I am sure you will explain to me why you do.

A city lives under the rules of the state and feds, and have their own rules called ordinances. These rules list legal obligations, duties, and rights of individuals and government entities. When you or I break a rule, and sometimes even when we don't, we can get sanctioned by officials and be fined or imprisoned. Likewise, cities are accountable when they don't fulfill their legal obligations or duties. Or even if they overstep their powers (rights).

I have went riding with kids under 8 y.o. across town. They are scared to be in the road with the cars behind their backs (I don't blame them), they want to ride on the sidewalk, and that's where I want them to be at that age and cognitive development. But it can't be done. Many areas have no sidewalks at all, some are checkered with sidewalks and non-sidewalked areas, some have overgrown sidewalks, impassable right-of-ways, etc. If I restrict us to only areas with safe sidewalks, we couldn't go anywhere.

And yet the City has laws regarding installing and maintaining sidewalks inside the city limits. The DPW Building is just one of the many City-owned lots that have not followed our local ordinances (more to come). The Dowland lot pictured is decidedly a lot less maintained than the two properties the city has forced to repair sidewalks in 2008 and 2009.

The city is not fulfilling its duties or legal obligations, and even though I continually pester them about this topic and show them pics of extremely unsafe ROWs or sidewalks, the only result has been their reducing the amount of money they budget towards sidewalks, inaction, and silence. Extravagant purchases of unneeded marina docks at the expense of the crumbling or non-existent mandated infrastructure item known as sidewalks.

I welcome you or anyone else to make some inroads to those who can do something about this, RJE, and raising awareness by this forum is just the tip of the iceberg for positive change.
I guess I haven't made myself clear. Every town, city, village has areas that would be considered unsafe to ride a bike. Ludington is no exception. You don't ride a bike or let a child ride a bike in an area that is unsafe. You do so at your own risk. It doesn't make much sense to cry foul after someone has been injured riding in an unsafe area. I have a bike rack on my vehicle and transport our bikes to areas we can ride with safety because our street has no sidewalks. I agree the city should install sidewalks but the residents on the street would have to pay and not many would agree to that. In some areas the residents don't want sidewalks, so what is to be done. You can complain all you want that the city has not fulfilled their obligations but in the final analysis It still boils down to personal responsibilty. What I would like to see is the City or whomever, lay out "bike trails" using sidewalks and other safe riding areas that criss cross Ludington and encourage tourist to " tour the town" on bicycles. There are plenty of areas with sidewalks that could be used. [ I can't believe someone took an 8 year old across the city in traffic on a bicycle]. You know, we could be talking about that 8 year old as well.
I clearly see your points RJE, and your idea and promotion of "bike trails" within the city, or even on the outskirts, is commendable in theory. When does someone, like you or I, or the city, promote that great idea? And whom pays for it? go for it, and I expect, XLFD, as I, will wholeheartedly agree, and further support such well-intentioned actions/projects to come. Problem here is the City is directly and duty-bound, let's not forget about ethics too, to make conditions for such pedalists to be safe, secure, and enjoyable for all. Or WHAT do we have a local governing authority for then sir? Their foremost responsibility imho, is to provide for the safety, education, cleanliness, and security of it's citizens? Via infrastructure. Or is that too much to ask? There is a Seven Million Dollar cash cow in reserve right now, proven by earlier trial balance statements I have provided to this forum. Did you not see that sir? Thanks. And keep up the vigil.
I have no problem escorting young kids (as long as they mind you) around town because almost all the side roads are 'safe enough' to ride on the right edge of and I know the best routes due to my research on this topic. Don't forget that the street is actually statistically safer to be on for those cyclists with cognitive development over ten years old who obey the rules for bicycle travel.

What scares me is when I see, like I did earlier today, a small group of boys under 10 y.o. riding down both sides of the side streets with little clue as to what they were doing or the danger they were in. No parents in sight, so I agree with your points on personal responsibility. Plus, I see a whole lot of 'weekend' or 'tourist' bicyclist who ride just as crazily as these kids, and often they are with their kids. Ride safely-- we have no belts or air bags!

But I suggest you don't just limit the equation to 'personal responsibility' solely, for if there was sidewalks in the area I was at and crosswalks at intersections, the 'carelessness' of these boys' caregiver(s) may not have led to the dangerous problem I saw.

In Cody's case, I believe he was traveling from his parent's place up on 4th or 5th Street a couple of blocks to his relative who lives on the corner he died at. Their entrance is on First Street so he had to travel on First Street, after coming down the side of the road on Grant. Here is what he saw before he made that turn.

Not only is there no sidewalks either way, you have a sewer grate on the road he has to go around, an elevated grass shoulder on Grant, and a slanted 'curb' on First Street which aims you toward the street on First. First Street is between 8-9 ft wide, and a tractor-trailer covers almost all of that.

So when we decide to view what caused this we can perhaps lay some blame on Cody's parents not fulfilling their personal responsibility. But this would be misguided in my opinion, for Cody had grown up riding his bike in the middle of the fourth ward and was well experienced in motocross, within sight of his relatives, and undoubtedly was taught basic traffic rules by his folks and well aware of the dangers of major streets.

We can lay blame on Cody for not yielding to traffic on First Street, and that was likely the immediate cause of the accident. While I am not alleviating the 8 y.o. of this responsibility, I don't accept this as the major cause of this accident.

We can blame the truck driver, but as I have noted on other threads with stop/yield signs, the trees in that area on the approach to the Grant St. intersection prohibited the driver from seeing Cody until it was too late. Federal guidelines being followed concerning sight-lines would have likely saved Cody, since he may have been seen in time by the driver, or he would have seen the onrushing truck and stopped.

I have no doubt, the lack of proper street engineering was the major cause. No sidewalks on either street, no shoulder on first street-- just ramps and grates, and lack of adequate sight-lines on the approach of First Street to Grant at that area. Six years-- no improvement in any way.
Double checkmate. Where are these safe areas RJE mentions for safe bicycle travel in Ludington? I am just curious because of recent experience. X, did you ride that HELP bike ride last weekend and/or the triathlon?
The 8th MAD ride was last Saturday, the 7th where they have had a 100 mile route. I have rode it each year, with very favorable results. Missed the triathlon, though its timing and the MOST ride in Muskegon the same weekend dampened the MAD's attendance. It benefits the HELP ministries, and is a very good cause.
My daughters ten year old aunt (her dad's sister). Lives in Lud. Her dad(my daughters grandfather) lets her ride to the beach alone(well with friends--all within a year of her age). He thinks as long as she has her cell phone that she is fine.

On the other hand I don't let my kid ride around the block (well once in a while if I am in the yard and can see her on the majority of the trip). And would never let her go from where they live in town by herself to the beach.

Something one must consider is the maturity of the kids. Her aunt who is only one year older is very mature for her age. I still wouldn't let her go a mile or two across town to the beach alone but the difference in them is very noticeable.

When the two girls are together they don't really get along because they are so far apart maturity wise.
Some kids are able to handle things that others can't. Sometimes the age isn't so important as is street smarts.
Part of the reason I take kids across town on my bicycle is so that I can teach them some safe riding habits and street wisdom and see their maturity firsthand. Putting the bicycles in the back of the SUV and going to a safe area, seems to me to defeat the purpose of cycling, though I don't think it's a bad idea sometimes. My usual rider amuses me when she will say something like "those jerks really need to put a sidewalk in" when 'those jerks' are outside and with yard implements. You go girl.


© 2024   Created by XLFD.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service