First Coast News Full Article with Video
JACKSONVILLE, FL -- A First Coast News investigation is questioning whether a faulty crossing signal contributed to a bicyclist being struck and killed last week.
52-year old Chef and Restaurateur Johnny Leonard Jones died while riding his bike in St. Nicholas around 7:30 p.m. on the Wednesday, July 23rd. He was less than a mile from his home.
According to police reports, as Jones headed north across the nine lanes and two medians where Beach Boulevard and Atlantic Boulevard connect, he was hit by a truck heading west in the two northernmost lanes.
Witnesses say the truck's driver had the green light.
A "Ghost Bike" now stands on the north side of that road, just a few feet from the point where Jones was hit.
It is a bicycle painted completely white, chained to a pole with a sign memorializing Jones.
The memorial was placed by cycling enthusiast and bikejax.blogspot.com founder, Matt Uhrig.
"Bicyclists who have been killed on the streets. Just a little reminder to drivers that we're there," said Uhrig, who added he doesn't believe the crossing signal at that intersection offers pedestrians enough time to cross safely.
"The crossing light stays lit for a walk signal for a total of five seconds. Five seconds to clear 9 lanes of traffic and two medians! Impossible!" said Uhrig.
First Coast News cameras rolled as we punched the crossing button on the north side of the street. The red crossing hand went to white for exactly five seconds, and then blinked red for another fifteen seconds.
It gave us twenty seconds to cross all nine lanes safely.
Johnny Jones' neighbors told First Coast News he was a cautious bike rider, often riding several miles to his Genesis Café on Old Kings Road.
"And he was a very careful bike rider and he left riding his bicycle many times riding it all the way down to Genesis Cafe. That takes careful!" said neighbor and long-time friend, Ruthie Bretana.
First Coast News went back to the intersection Wednesday afternoon to try to retrace the path of Jones' final seconds. We discovered the crossing signal button on the south side of the road did not work.
We pushed the button every few seconds. We pushed it continuously. We pushed the button more than 40-times over a 5-1/2 minute time period and several cycles of the traffic lights from all directions.
The crossing signal never switched from the red, "STOP" signal, to the white sign indicating it was safe to cross.
Neighbor Ruthie Bretana believes Jones would have taken the safest route possible.
"He wouldn't just ride out in traffic. I'm sure he wouldn't!" said Bretana.
It is not known if the switch was working properly or if it was broken at that fateful moment Johnny Leonard Jones tried to cross the street.
It is not known if he pushed the crossing button attempting to use the cross signal to get across the nine lanes and two medians.
First Coast News called the Mayor's office about the non-working crossing sign button, asking for an interview with someone from the City's Public Works Department.
A spokesperson for the City told us she would find someone for us to talk to, but we never spoke with Public Works Officials.
About twenty minutes after hanging up with the Mayor's Office, a bright orange City Public Works maintenance truck pulled up to the intersection and a worker stepped out and began dismantling the broken switch.
When our camera approached and we asked about his work, the man replied, "You'll have to talk to the Mayor's Office!"
He then stopped working, spoke for a few minutes on his phone, and then our phone rang.
It was the Mayor's spokesperson, acknowledging that we were videotaping the repair in progress.
"I can only tell you that the matter is now under investigation and in the hands of the Office Of The General Counsel," she said.
Johnny Jones' widow, Cindy, said she had spoken with the family's lawyer since his death, but her concentration on this Wednesday was her deceased husband's viewing, and his funeral in the morning.
Matt Uhrig hopes his "Ghost Bike" is the last one he'll have to place on the First Coast.
"My heart goes out to his friends and his families for their loss," said Uhrig.
"A very dear neighbor he was. And we all love him in the neighborhood," said Bretana.
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