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Wagner College to Dedicate Bike Rack to Fatal Crash Victim

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 17, 2013 8:29am

GRYMES HILL — Wagner College will officially dedicate a bike rack this weekend as a memorial to the nursing student who was killed while riding his bike home from the school last year.

On Sunday, the college’s nursing program, along with the family of the victim, will hold a dedication ceremony for the bike rack, which was installed earlier this year, to memorialize Ronald “RJ” Tillman.

In Feburary 2012, Tillman, 29, was fatally mowed down by a hit-and-run driver in a brown SUV while biking home from school on the curvy Howard Avenue near Grand Avenue. The driver was never caught.

“(Tillman's  parents) are happy that we’re still remembering their son,” said Laura Barlament, who works in Wagner College's communications office and is the organizer of the Howard Avenue Traffic Safety Working Group.

The rack was installed across the school's student union, a convenient location for bikers, Barlament said. It has a sign on top of it in Tillman’s memory.

The dedication ceremony will coincide with the annual New York City Ghost Bike Ride, which will pass by the ghost bike set up for Tillman on the block where he was killed and will also make stops at scenes of other fatal crashes.

The idea for the bike rack came from a study on traffic safety Barlament did with four volunteer students from a “Health and Society" freshman course at the school.

After the study, the group received a grant to fund a project related to traffic safety, and the students chose to memorialize Tillman, Barlament said.

“We were able to get a grant that we could use to fund something that would relate with that study,” she said. “We turned it into a memorial.”

Barlament said installation of the rack was also supported by local businesses and alumni members like Bay Street Bikes and South Shore Signs.

Since Tillman’s death, the Howard Avenue Traffic Safety Working Group has installed "Share the Road" and "Slow Down" signs, gave city Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan a tour of the area last May and pushed for traffic changes.

In October, the Department of Transportation installed a traffic light at the intersection of Howard and Hillside avenues. Before then, the street, which stretches from Clove Road to Lois Street, only had three traffic lights, mostly near Wagner College.

Recently, Barlament said, the DOT has also painted hash marks in the middle of some stretches of the road to shorten the lanes and installed additional speed limit signs.

“It does make that area feel safer as a pedestrian,” Barlament said. “I know that it feels safer to me as a cyclist to go through the area.”

While she said she’s surprised so much change has come to the street quickly, Barlament said more could still be done to improve the safety of the block, like more crosswalks and potentially a raised island in the middle of the road.

Barlament said the group will also start trying to get changes on other streets on the North Shore like Richmond Terrace and Clove Road this year.

“Other boroughs, like Manhattan and Brooklyn, have so many more bike paths than we do, it actually makes the street safer for everyone," she said. "We’d like to have that on Staten Island also. I think it would be good for Staten Island.”

The dedication ceremony will be held at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 21, in front of the bike rack at Wagner College.