Merrill Cassell, known for his efforts to integrate bicycle transport into Westchester County’s transportation plan, was believed to be crossing Route 119 on Friday afternoon when he was fatally struck by a county bus traveling east toward White Plains near Aqueduct Road.
The Westchester-Putnam Biking & Walking Alliance today announced that plans are under way to install a ghost bike memorial near that intersection. The memorial, for bicyclists killed on the street, consists of a white bicycle locked to a street sign near the crash site with a small plaque describing the victim.
More than 100 ghost bikes have been installed worldwide since 2003, according to the Web site www.ghostbikes.org. In New York City, 59 ghost bikes have been installed since 2005.
Mike Oliva, co-founder of the biking alliance, called Cassell’s death "a terrible irony" and said it highlights the need for bike lanes and other amenities for cyclists in Westchester.
"Route 119 was identified by the county in 2001 as needing bike improvements," he said. "And not a thing has been done. It’s frustrating."
The bus driver, Everton Coleman of Yonkers, tested negative for drugs and alcohol and has been cleared to return to work, said Neil Erickson, spokesman for Liberty Lines, the company that operates the county bus system.
Police questioned Coleman on Friday and said he was cooperative. No charges have been filed against him. Liberty Lines is conducting its own investigation.Oliva met Cassell, who lived in Greenburgh’s Poet’s Corner neighborhood, at the first Westchester "Bike Summit" in April. He said Cassell had just returned from seeing relatives in Florida and was planning another trip back there late this year.
Cassell, a retired budget director for UNICEF, wrote frequently on his personal blog, "The Merill Pages" (http://merrillc.typepad.com), where he discussed diverse issues such as bicycling, the United Nations, finance, sports and the environment. Last year, he was honored by the Sri Lanka government for organizing programs to teach more than 10,000 Sri Lankan children how to swim.
His blog lists this quote by Joan Baez: "You don’t get to choose how you’re going to die. Or when. You can only decide how you’re going to live."
Police are still investigating the accident and ask that anyone who witnessed it call 914-682-5325.