May 28, 2012 – Blue Belt Janicik is currently assisting in an
effort to develop, host, and promote an on-line training resource
for bicyclists, pedestrian, and motorists’ safety. This effort is
being funded through a grant from the Texas Department of
Transportation to the University of Texas at Arlington, Center for
Transportation Training Services. Stay tuned for updates.
Without Limits: Ride of Silence sends message
Nancy Haggerty • Without Limits • May 2, 2010
Poughkeepsie Journal Story
Ten miles of it in Kingston.
Nearly eight in Hopewell Junction.
The Ride of Silence on May 19 will deliver an unspoken yet loud message from cyclists to motorists: "Watch for us. We are here. We share a right to the road."
The "ride" is actually multiple remembrance-themed rides across a globe that knows biking as everything from fun, to competition, to transportation, to, sometimes, tragic endings.
Locally, Cindy Poggiogalle knows about the latter. So do Colleen and Tony Janicik.
Colleen and Tony's son, Sean, was 25, married and just starting his career in the Air Force when a hit-and-run driver struck him as he rode from his apartment to nearby Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas on Oct. 2, 2008.
It was a Thursday night. By late Saturday morning, Sean, a four-year Arlington High School ice hockey goalie and blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, was dead.
Who hit him, why, and why the driver took off remain unanswered questions.
At least Cindy Poggiogalle has her answer.
Her husband, Al, insisted on being on the ski slopes from lift-opening until closing. And he loved bicycling, riding thousands of miles a year.
He didn't enter races, but his enthusiasm was infectious. The 48-year-old encouraged riding for charitable causes. A personal favorite was the multiple sclerosis Tappan Zee Ride. He formed and captained Kraft Foods' Balance Bar team and, as Kraft's Tarrytown facilities director, helped with staging the event, which starts and ends on that campus.
He planned rides from an e-mail list that friend Paul Lehnert recalls swelled to 50-plus names. And, as moving letters to Cindy attest, he befriended newcomers to the sport.
"He loved being out with other cyclists, pushing themselves. Coming back from a stressful day at work, it always re-energized him. He was a happier person," Cindy said.
On June 12, 2008, as they had multiple times a week over a four-year-period, Al and Paul were riding. That day, they met on Route 52 after Al left his son at soccer practice. Poggiogalle of Hopewell Junction and Lehnert of Wappingers planned to loop around Stormville Mountain.
But pedaling a long uphill on 52, in the far right of two eastbound lanes, Poggiogalle was struck by a van.
The driver, William Mancusi of Carmel, didn't stop but did later return.
Al died at the scene.
Cindy, who heads real estate transactions for Pepsi, is now captain of Al's MS team and coordinates Hopewell Junction's first Ride of Silence, in which she'll ride with their children, Julianne, 18, and Tyler, 16.
She also is lobbying for mandatory driver blood testing in fatal accidents.
Mancusi voluntarily took the test, which revealed morphine and marijuana use. He's currently serving 1-to-3 years in prison for vehicular manslaughter.
"It shouldn't have happened," Cindy said of her husband's death.
It shouldn't have, but bicycle-vehicle crashes are not uncommon. In 2008, Janicik and Poggiogalle were among 716 cyclists in the U.S. who died from traffic-accident injuries.
Lehnert noted that before Al's accident, a mutual friend had crashed through a car window. When he recovered, he returned to cycling.
"There's a passion there," Lehnert said, explaining the allure as freedom, exhilaration and a love of the outdoors.
Unnerved last year, Lehnert mostly mountain biked. Now, back on roads, he's "skittish." He rides with a blinking light and veers to the shoulder's far edge, ignoring potholes, whenever he hears a vehicle approach.
"It's in the back of my mind," he said of Al's accident. "It's scary being out there."
Colleen Janicik, who'll do the Hopewell ride with her other son, Cliff, has started a not-for-profit company, Blue Belt Janicik Inc., to promote bike safety through education.
Her ex-husband, Tony, is championing legislation recently introduced in the state Assembly by Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) that would require motorists to give cyclists at least a 3-foot cushion. This is law in 15 states.
Colleen, a fitness trainer who lives in Pleasant Valley, sees environmental and health pluses to cycling but doesn't ride much because of safety worries.
"They're not respected — at least not here in this country," she said of cyclists. "We need to change the culture."
Sean wasn't an avid cyclist; he was riding because his rank (airman first class) didn't permit him to have a car on base. But he was on the shoulder of the four-lane base-access road, "had reflectors and a helmet on (and) did everything right," Colleen said.
Maybe. Maybe not. But leads in Sean's case seem to stop with red vehicle paint.
"It boggles the mind," Tony said. "The reality is we may never know (what happened), and the reality is that eats us alive some days."
Years ago, Tony, who lives in Poughkeepsie, biked as cross-training for ice hockey. Now he's cycling again.
"I wanted to get back out there for my own mental health," he explained.
Before learning of Hopewell's ride, he registered for Kingston's, which, event coordinator Bill Miller said, drew 12 riders in 2008 and 25 last year. Tony's hoping for greater numbers this year, promoting it through fliers at Vassar Hospital, where he's an ER technician.
His efforts and those of Colleen, Cindy and many others have one goal.
"We just want to save someone's life," Colleen said.
Poughkeepsie Journal Story - May 2, 2010