Fatal crash witness and Marigny cyclists protest for safer bike lanes, shut down intersection

A witness to a fatal crash gave a chilling account of what he saw unfold at St. Claude and Elysian Fields Avenues.

The wreck claimed the life of a bike rider, and the man who saw it happen wants the city and state to take a closer look at bike lanes.

With the vivid visuals of the fatal crash still at the forefront of his mind, Victor Pizarro discussed, with a group of bicyclists, what safety changes are needed for New Orleans bike lanes.

After only biking for 13 years, Pizarro switched to driving just three years ago.

Thursday afternoon, he was in the car behind the tractor trailer that smashed into a bicyclist as the truck crossed over the bike path and made a wide right turn from the center lane.

"The giant truck started to take a right. The middle of the truck struck the cyclist, Geric, on the head, and you could see the look of panic on his face. He was trying to turn his bike away from it," said Pizarro.

Pizarro said he pulled over, hoping to help, but could only watch the horrific scene unfold.

"The back of his bike got caught under the back wheels of the truck. It dragged him under. It crushed his foot, I saw it roll over his leg. I saw the bottom part of his leg separate from his body and pop out from his knee," said Pizarro. "I saw it position him where the wheel was going to go over his chest, and for a split second I thought maybe he can survive this, you see about cars running over people and they make it."

However, what Pizarro saw next will forever haunt him.

"It is the most violent mangling of a human body I've ever seen in my life," said Pizarro.

Pizarro has seen tragedy before. He also witnessed the Mother's Day Shooting, and he says he held a woman's stomach together as they waited for EMS.

However, he said this crash could have been prevented with a safer road layout, and cyclists who use the route often agreed.

"I'm an avid rider, I've been on just about every bike lane in the city, this is a road that definitely makes you feel insecure," said cyclist Jeffrey Thomas.

In order from the sidewalk to the median, there's a right turning lane for cars, the bike lane for riders to go straight, and then another right turn lane for trucks to make wide turns.

"You're a sandwich. You're in between two lanes of truck and car travel," said Thomas.

"You see two turning arrows with a bike in the middle, that's not good planning," said Pizarro.

In honor of the victim, cyclists slowly rode together to the accident site. They said they'll demand the State Department of Transportation and Development and city leaders to reconsider the truck and bike lanes at St. Claude and Elysian Fields and to hold drivers accountable for failing to yield to cyclists.

The cyclists rode to the scene of the accident, where they blocked the intersection and chanted their demands for a half hour until police arrived Friday night at 8.

"It's time to give the city of New Orleans this intersection back, temporarily. It's alone. If we don't hear the correct response from the city as far as taking our lives seriously when we are killed on these streets, we will take this intersection back," said Pizarro.

The NOPD says the truck driver has not been charged or cited.

"All I kept thinking is that if the person driving had just checked his mirror, just that one moment, that one moment of looking, this person would still be alive and I think people should be held accountable. It's never going to change unless people are held accountable for killing other people with their cars," said Pizarro.

Our partners at Nola.com/The Times Picayune identified the victim as Philip "Geric" Geeck, 52.

The chairman of the city's transportation committee, Jared Brossett, sent this statement:

"My thoughts and prayers are with the family of the cyclist in the accident. As chair of the transportation committee, I am committed to improving safety for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. I'm requesting the Administration, specifically the Department of Public Works, to review the referenced intersection for public safety enhancements, if necessary."

A spokesperson for the mayor's office said the NOPD investigation is still ongoing, and they will work with the state DOTD to make any necessary safety improvements based on findings and recommendations from the NOPD investigation.

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