Attorneys, advocates demand change at intersection near Rice University

HOUSTON – An attorney for the husband of a woman killed at an intersection near Rice University last month and cycling advocates demanded changes Tuesday that they said would improve the safety of that intersection.

Sudipta Roy was riding her bicycle through the intersection at Main Street and Sunset Boulevard on April 24 when she was hit and killed by a dump truck after they both had a green light, according to Houston police. Investigators said Roy appeared to be at fault in the crash.

An attorney for Roy’s husband said during a news conference Tuesday that Roy was in a crosswalk where she was legally entitled to be when she was hit by the dump truck. The attorney said they believe the truck driver performed a right-hook turn, in which a vehicle overtakes a pedestrian or cyclist and turns in front of them.

VIDEO: Attorney news conference about bike crash

“She was where she had every legal right to be,” said Robert Kwok, an attorney for Roy’s husband.

Kwok said police jumped to conclusions and blamed Roy, and that Roy was not legally required to dismount her bicycle and walk it through the intersection, as some people have suggested.

Kwok said his law firm is filing a restraining order against the owner of the dump truck, asking the court to preserve any evidence related to the crash. He said that evidence will be used as part of their independent investigation to determine what happened.

Kwok was scheduled in court Tuesday afternoon for a judge’s decision on the restraining order.

Kwok said he aims to clear Roy’s name and force the city to make changes at the intersection, where other fatal crashes have happened.

Cycling advocates said they want Houston to follow the models of San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, which have cut down the number of cycling and pedestrian deaths by redesigning roads.

“We’re calling for immediate changes to be made, from my student group," said Mary Natoli with the Rice University Cycling and Triathlon Club. "That includes signs that say yield to bikes and pedestrians, a more reasonable crosswalk, red light cameras that would not only prevent red light running, but also require cars to stop at the crosswalk and enforcement of yielding and distracted driving in this area."

Grieving husband remembers wife

Roy grew up in India, where she met her husband, Ujjal Bhattacharjee. They married in 2013 and moved to Houston, where Bhattacharjee worked as a Rice University professor, and Roy was a nurse.

“We were happy,” Bhattacharjee said via Skype from India, where he recently delivered Roy’s body to her family. “We did everything together.”

Biking was second nature to Roy, he said. She grew up riding in India, where bikes are the preferred mode of transportation.

The day of the crash, Bhattacharjee dropped Roy off at the library to study. Afterward, she rode her bike on the sidewalk and into the crosswalk, where the back wheel of the dump truck caught her front tire and crushed her.

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