NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Leonel Lopez Hernandez was just 26 years old when he was fatally struck in a hit and run by a Toyota 4Runner SUV near the intersection of Georges Road and South Talmadge Street.
He leaves behind a pregnant 24-year-old wife and two young children. Hernandez was employed at Bristol-Myers-Squibb’s facility in New Brunswick and was on his way home from work when he was hit shortly before 11pm Wednesday evening.
New Brunswick resident Timothy Puskas, age 37, was arrested and charged with the hit and run. He’s being held on $100,000 bail, according to a report on TheNation.com. A 34-year-old Milltown resident who was a passenger in the vehicle is charged with helping to hide the vehicle and is being held on $25,000 bail.
At the January 4 meeting of the city’s Traffic Commission, City Engineer Tom Guldin unveiled plans for adding several crosswalks at intersections along that portion of the Georges Road corridor, but no new accomodations for cyclists.
Hernandez’s tragic death comes just over a week after the City Council once again banned riding bikes on city sidewalks. Footage aired on News12 New Jersey, supposedly of Hernadez, shows he was riding on the sidewalk shortly before he was hit.
An 1890 law that forced cyclists into the street was “accidentally” repealed by the Council in 2010. When the Council tried to re-instate the law last year, they enountered opposition from residents and cycling advocates.
After months of back-and-forth, the law was passed with several amendments including an exemption for children under 14 and significantly lowered fines for violators.
The city’s Planning Director Glenn Patterson, an avid bicyclist himself, cited a study conducted by the University of California that concluded riding in the street was 1.8 times safer than riding on the sidewalks.
Plans for bicycle lanes in the city have been announced numerous times over the past decade, but none have moved forward. The city currently has zero bicycle lanes.
Patterson says federal funds have been set aside for bicycle lanes to be painted on city streets, but has repeatedly declined to say where the bike lanes will go or when they will be installed.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.