Cyclist Says Rt. 9W Driver Hit Him Intentionally

Police investigate incident in Upper Nyack; bicyclist bruised, his helmet split.

UPPER NYACK—October 12, 2012 at 12:33 PM

An Upper Nyack cyclist who was knocked off his bicycle on Rt. 9W told Patch he believes a motorist struck him intentionally.

Robert Helmke, 41-years-old, was pedaling along Route 9W in Upper Nyack near the Christian Herald Road intersection Saturday, Oct. 6, when the incident occurred.

"I was heading southbound, and the light was red," Helmke said. "I passed a Mercedes to turn into a gas station. As I passed, I heard him rev his engine."

The Mercedes was a late model CL 500, two-door coupe with New York plates and tinted windows.

What happened next, according to Helmke, could only have been purposeful.

He said the driver pulled out in front of two cars using the northbound lane. The motorist then cut in just in front of Helmke, clipping his tire and sending him tumbling onto the pavement, Helmke said.

Helmke suffered a bruise on his right hip, road rash, and a cracked helmet.

"I've been riding for four years, and I've never experienced something like this," he said. "It was, no doubt in my mind, deliberate. He wanted to send me a message."

Nyack Community Ambulance Corps. responded to the incident, checking in on Helmke. Although the scene was in Clarkstown Police jurisdiction, Orangetown Police initially responded due to Clarkstown Police Officer Terrance McCruden's funeral in New City and burial procession in Nanuet.

The report was soon passed to Clarkstown Police, who are currently investigating.

"Mr. Helmke was contacted yesterday for a follow up interview," said Sgt. Jo Ann Fratianni. 

Fratianni said local police sent a request to the state DMV to run a partial plate on the suspect vehicle's make and model.

"Results are pending," Fratianni added. 

Helmke said he had to check his cycle into Toga Bike Shop for repairs, but won't be off the road for long.

"I'll be out again Saturday—if my leg is moving right," he said.


Related reading

(Sept. 2012)

NYSDOT Puts Cycling Safety Signs on Route 9W [VIDEO] (Aug. 2012)

Opinion: New 9W Bike Safety Signs Not Enough (Aug. 2012)

Police Probe Cyclist's Death; Victim Had 2 Daughters (June 2012)

Issy October 11, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Robert, yes I do stop at stop signs (usually a standing stop) and at red lights and keep to the side of the road where conditions permit and I think you will find that most cyclists do. However what my camera does show is that some motorists do tend to run red lights and stops signs a lot more than one would expect and certainly more than cyclists ever do. The fact is that with any given encounter with a cyclists the motorists has the control and unfortunately in this situation it appears that the motorist use that control to hurt another person.
Issy October 11, 2012 at 09:54 PM
And I am sure you have likewise been exposed to may arrogant drivers too. It is the person that makes the difference, not the mode of transport.
Robert Helmke October 11, 2012 at 10:00 PM
I would first like to thank the members of the Nyack Community Ambulance Corp, and the Orangetown Police officers that helped me on Saturday. All were there in minutes, and able to assess and secure the situation. Also, the Clarkstown Police, who are continuing to investigating the incident. True professionals all, and I am extremely grateful for their help. Thank you to the gentleman who stopped after witnessing what happened, and waited to give the information to the police. In regard to some of the above comments, this should not be reduced to an automobile/cyclist accident. Because it was no accident. It was a blatant act of vehicular road rage. It was purposeful, and we should all be concerned about that. As a cyclist, I accept the dangers of riding in traffic, and try to mitigate them. The least that I expect, is that the vehicles will remain on the right side of the road.
what I find totally deplorable is when driving down thru main street and broadway in Nyack the many low IQ cyclists who continue to pass me and others on the right!!!! now that is asking for severe injury...as we the driver of the car many times can not see a cyclist in our rearview mirrors..it is totally dispicable....
Jordan Toder October 12, 2012 at 01:08 AM
Robert L is right, some cyclists do not obey traffic ordinances. That does not condone aggressive driving. Furthermore, NYS law states the distance a car MUST give the cyclist, 3'. Drive near a cyclist and you disobey the law. Difference is clear, cyclist riding through stop sign at empty intersection is irrelevant, brush up to a cyclist and you place the human in accident and potentially life threatening hazard. Sounds like you crossed a rude or bad cyclist and label the riding public. Or perhaps we are all "the worst" and you become arbiter of road behavior. Though you do not ride, most riders drive.
Boardwatcher October 12, 2012 at 11:24 AM
I used to ride a lot in Rockland back in the 80's and early 90's but two things happened. The roads got too congested so I limit my riding to the state parks. The second thing that happened was that the groups I rode with stopped riding single file on busy roads, never stopped at stop signs and frequently ran red lights. One of my friends actually got in a fist fight with a driver who got out of his car and got in his face for running a stop sign. There is plenty of blame to go around but in the end it is not worth losing your life to ride on busy roads. Throw your bike on the back of the car and drive to less populated areas, move or take up another activity. Does the majority always have to bend to the minority? As a cyclist, I say no, use common sense.
mike sullivan October 12, 2012 at 11:56 AM
i can feel the drivers fustration,these bikers are out of control.Single file is not the commonplace that it should.When i honk or yell at the bikers they give the finger but there the ones halfway in the road.Foreget a bikers safety panel,how about a panel to get them off our roads
Steve Knowlton October 12, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Cyclists should ride single file unless the shoulder is wide enough to accomodate another configuration. Mr. Sullivan, cyclists have the right to take a full lane when safety mandates; often when cyclists are "halfway in the road" it's because there are hazards or debris on the right side of the road that would be dangerous to ride over or near and that drivers don't see or that don't affect the safe operation of a vehicle. Simply slow down and pass when safe--- the same way you'd pass a slow moving car or avoid a road hazard.
Steven Fortgang October 12, 2012 at 01:03 PM
I am a cyclist so I do come from that mindeset I do but stay off road (on my mountain bike) or on road on the shoulder. That being said, when I am driving on 9W, the majority of bikers are two, three or four wide and see it ok to take up the road and get angry if a car honks at them. Stay on the shoulder!!!!
joshua tanner October 14, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I'm a mountain biker and don't care tll that much for road bikers - who tend to be more fussy and attitudey. But - a lot of times when people see cyclists riding in bunches (say on RT 100) they assume they are just chatting with their friends and hogging the road - when in reality they are riding in a peloton and practicng the riding strategy and grouping common to road racing. Drivers tend to take these groupings personally as if riders are being rude but that's not really the case.
Tim October 14, 2012 at 10:22 PM
I'm born and raised in Nyack and i now live in West Haverstraw. I use 9W alot and I'm not sure when this bicycling hobby got started in Rockland, but as a kid we used to bike the trails from Hook mountain to Rockland Lake and once they created the South Nyack bike trail we rode that too. And at that time in the early 80's there wasnt nearly the amount of drivers on the road. I ask you drivers this? With all the texters and cell phone users on the road you woman/men still think you hobby is safe on roads? I know what i think and I'd never ride a bike on roads in Rockland i'd move out west like say Arizona where they actually have bike lanes, think about it people. Just saying.
sayitsnotsojack October 15, 2012 at 01:12 PM
With all the time and money spent on the bike paths why must these bikers insist they must ride on these old two lane roads that barely can accommodate two cars? How many times have you seen or had to move into oncoming traffic to avoid a biker I have many times.
Steve Knowlton October 15, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Which bike paths in Rockland are you referring to? And as was said above: you are NEVER required to move into oncoming traffic to avoid a cyclist: slow down and wait a few seconds until is safe to pass. That's the law.
Issy October 15, 2012 at 01:27 PM
No one should be driving faster than their visible stopping distance. So it does not matter whether it is a cyclists, child or a slow moving vehicle if you HAD to moving into oncoming traffic to 'overtake' then you are simply driving too fast. Slow Down!
Tyler Durden October 15, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Issy - I agree a lot of car drivers ignore red lights and stops signs in Rockland county but, it is done far more by bicycle riders(your not a "cyclist" your riding a G-damn bicycle, get over yourself).
Steve Knowlton October 15, 2012 at 04:45 PM
So if you do something illegal while driving, that gives another motorist the right to assault you with his vehicle?
Issy October 15, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Lane 'filtering' and/or 'splitting' by cyclists is perfectly legal in NY State and all US States.
Boardwatcher October 15, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Common sense is not so common.
Maggie24 October 16, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Mr. Knowlton, I sat through several local meetings this summer in which local officials, including yourself, promised  action on the dangerous conditions along 9W, after the death of a cyclist.  So far the only thing that's happened is the addition of several cyclist-serving "share the road" signs--no mention of the river road being the safer--and approved--route. And now you're making your presence known in this forum, clearly siding with the cyclist in this issue. Do you understand that EVERYONE is endangered by inappropriate use of the narrow roads we must all deal with?  Are you going to push for anything other than this signage, in order to protect ALL you constituents? Please, sir, before another tragedy occurs.
Steve Knowlton October 16, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Maggie 24: Let’s remember that the incident here was vehicular assault. There is never an excuse for this type of violent behavior, and no need to “take sides.” The cyclist was on a stretch of 9W in Upper Nyack that is designated as a NYS bike route. The cyclist-“serving” signs you denigrate were all that the NYS DOT would provide. Since it is a state road, local municipalities cannot place their own signs, nor would the NYS DOT change the wording to warn cyclists away from that portion of 9W, despite our request for them to do that. Additional “Bicycle Route 9” signs have been placed with directional arrows sending lost cyclists back to the designated route along the river. As 9W is a state road, DOT cannot ban cyclists from it so drivers and cyclists must find a way to safely coexist when both are present. At the request of motorists, cyclists and, notably residents of the Grandviews the Village of Nyack passed a resolution authored by me requesting that the NYS DOT lower the speed limit on 9W from Nyack to Piermont to 30 mph. Only the Village of Nyack has passed such a resolution. If folks are looking for ways they can help, they should pressure their own municipalities to do the same---especially those municipalities through which this part of 9W passes! Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart has formed a committee to examine cycling in Orangetown. You can contact Supervisor Stewart to offer your views and assistance at 845-359-5100 ext. 2261.
Odd Job October 16, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Have they caught anyone on this yet?
willie 6 August 08, 2013 at 05:20 PM
Brenda Kilgore August 09, 2013 at 11:14 AM
Wondering why this was reposted?
Rick Langley August 13, 2013 at 12:31 PM
When you pilot a 4,000lb piece of steel, you assume great responsibility, including not hitting bicyclists.
Marc August 13, 2013 at 05:15 PM
The word arrogance comes up several times in these posts. That is basically it in a nutshell. There are two sides of this. I am all for exercise. Yoga, bicycling, and jogging are all part of what makes Nyack great. There are however a good many bikers who are a bit too self important about bike riding and treat the roads in Nyack like a stage on the Tour De France. Traffic rules are ignored and single file is scoffed at. What happens is the bikers use this opportunity to catch up on the weeks events, whether it be the corporate merger, where there kids are going to college, what happened on Breaking Bad last night. This lends itself to 2 to 4 bikers strewn out across a road that is thin enough to begin with. The sound of an approaching car does little to hasten their retreat into a single file formation. Sometimes, you even get the smarmy head turn back at you as if to say "You expect me to move?" One additional thing. When did bike riding become anything more than just bike riding? When I ride a bike I adorn a pair of shorts and a t-shirt and nowadays a helmet. What is with the remains of Lance Armstrong's closet out on the road every wkd? Is that really necessary? It's like a kaleidoscope of spandex. I imagine this lends itself to some sort of aerodynamic angle? Um..It's 9W people, not the Pyrenees in the Alps. In the defense of bikers, I will say I applaud any activity where exercise is being employed. The camaraderie of cycling is understandable and evident. We do have a great deal of aggressive driving out there that is only being exacerbated by the perceived smugness of the bikers. I say we both bend a bit here. Drivers slow down, and maybe even get inspired by the bikers devotion to exercise. As for the bikers it is pretty simple, just follow the road rules, stay in single file and catch up on the week's events at Runcible or down in Piermont.
Nicholas August 13, 2013 at 06:02 PM
Sorry, but that is really the problem, judging all cyclists by those who ride on Piermont Avenue. I ride 150 miles a week and yet I am (although infrequently) subject to physical and verbal abuse. The traffic rules are clear about overtaking a slow moving vehicles (slow down wait for a safe opportunity to pass), but some motorists ignore the law and will plough through regardless of my personal safety. What I choose to wear is irrelevant (FYI cycling clothing is incredibly comfortable and visible) and I follow the rules of the road, but the main issue is car speeding and not waiting until it is safe to overtake a slow moving vehicle as stated in the State highway code.
Tammy Kay Kuiper August 14, 2013 at 08:39 AM
I don't care what cyclists wear and i don't care how expensive or delicate, or not, their bike is. More than once i have had bicyclists decide to swerve out to pass another bycyclist or avoid a storm drain without looking and nearly caused and accident and if i honk i get the finger. this has happened on 9w where traffic is moving 40mph plus and if we touch death or serious injury is almost guaranteed. on river rd it's happened too and the language and hand jestures are lovely. i expect that most if not all of these bicyclists are also motorists. why is it that once they get on a bike they forget all the traffic laws and the fact that cars are less nimble and weight thousands of pounds which means if the two meet the bicycle will come out on the sorry end of things. how about this if a car honks its because they are nervous something bad is about to happen and before you engage in neanderthal like behaviour you think about what you might be doing or have done to trigger panic or concern enough for the honk. please do not stop and wait for your friends or take a break on just the other side of a blind hill right next to the active lane, please stop before or well after the blind hill as far to th side as possible. lets all try to treat each other the way we would want to be treated ourselves and ride the way we were taught as kids...stay single file, stay as far out of traffic lanes and as far to the side as possible at all times, cmmunicate what you are doing using proper hand signals and act like a vehicle because you are, remember the driver might not see what you are doing and in the end if you meet you will be hurt, bicycles have no air bags or protection so if you do meet it is the bicyclist that bears the greatest health risk.
RocklandRes August 17, 2013 at 11:33 AM
The cyclists I encounter in Rockland are ignorant to the rules of the road and common courtesy. Last year one swerved in front of my husband, who was trying to go around him at about ten miles an hour. The man proceeded to swear at us and give my husband the finger (safe move). In single file only areas toucan often find three cyclists next to each other taking up the whole road. They never stop at stop signs or red lights. I'm surprised more aren't hit. Last year near Blue Hill, one nearly killed himself when he tried to run a red light n changed his mind at the last minute. It's crazy.
amerpatriot August 17, 2013 at 12:07 PM
For all the children whose mothers never told them not to play in traffic, do so at your own risk. Our great road system and highways were never intended to have children ride their bikes in traffic. There are many bike trails that have been paid for (with taxpayer money) so you can ride safely. Bicyclists must understand that they DO NOT have "the right of way". Show me a bicyclist that stops for all red lights, keeps as far to the right AS POSSIBLE, rides single file in jurisdictions that require single file. Slowing down and doing figure-eights in the middle of an intersection is not "stopping for a red light". It all says to me that fines for violations are not high enough. Maybe it's time to license bicyclists, written and road testing.
Nicholas August 17, 2013 at 12:47 PM
That is nonsense, cyclist do have 'the right of way' when the law allows, just as any vehicle on our roads does. It saddens me that someone like yourself, who has no comprehension of our highway code, is driving on the roads. Next time you are stopped at a changing light see how many motorists run the red light from the opposite direction or roll through a stop sign. It is about sharing the road, of which part is slowing down and waiting for a safe opportunity to overtake when approaching a cyclist.


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