CHRIS KELLY: Running scared

CHRIS KELLY: Running scared

REPOSTED from The Times Tribune by KELLY’S WORLD / PUBLISHED: AUGUST 6, 2017

Cheryl Evans saw a white blur and heard the rev of an engine, then screaming.


She remembers nothing after the minivan slammed into a group of Barrier Breakers running club members early two Saturdays ago on the Broadway crosswalk off the Lackawanna River Heritage Trail. Fellow runner Holly Hughes, 29, of Dunmore, was treated at Geisinger Community Medical Center and released.

Cheryl, 55, of Dickson City, suffered shoulder, hip, pelvis, sacrum and leg fractures; three broken ribs; a collapsed lung; a bruised kidney and a concussion. She was transferred to Allied Services’ Inpatient Rehab Unit at Regional Hospital of Scranton on Thursday.

I visited Cheryl there. She’s going to be laid up for a while but plans to work her way back to running. Right now, standing on her own would be a victory. In remarkably good spirits for someone so thoroughly hurt, Cheryl said she didn’t want the accident to deter others from using the Heritage Trail.

“I would hate to see this ruin that for other people,” she said.

Macho Alberto Cartagena, 30, of Scranton, was driving the minivan that barreled through the crosswalk. He told police he was looking down to put on his seat belt and didn’t see the runners until it was too late.

At least one witness told police Cartagena accelerated before hitting the runners.

After checking his cellphone and determining it was not in use at the time of the crash, Scranton police cited Cartagena with failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.

The charge — which carries a fine of $50 — seems insufficient considering the damage done, but fits the only element of the accident that’s known for sure: Cartagena didn’t so much as tap his brakes, let alone stop.

The area is prominently marked with safety signs, but runners and bicyclists who regularly use the trail told me they avoid Broadway and other crossings for fear of being clipped — or killed —by aggressive drivers.

This hazard has grown apace with the running community in Scranton. While its government haplessly treads water, Scranton is becoming a running town. Running has become a defining part of local culture, a facet of everyday life for citizens changing their ways where the rubber meets the road.

Some people understand the ground-level shift toward taking personal responsibility for better futures. Others are as shortsighted as Lackawanna County Commissioner Laureen Cummings.

In December, commissioners and estranged running mates Jerry Notarianni and Pat O’Malley approved the addition of $75,000 in county money to a $700,000 state grant that will fund safety improvements at eight city crossings from South Side to North Scranton. The Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority pushed the $1 million project to protect pedestrians along the trail, which an authority survey showed is used by more than 300,000 people annually.

Cummings voted against the county’s contribution.

“This is just more money being spent for someone to cross the road,” the tea party Republican said. “If people don’t know how to cross the road, I don’t know what’s happening to this society when we actually have to hold them by the hand and make them safe to cross the road.”

Cheryl Evans knows how to cross the road. She didn’t need anyone to hold her hand until she was she laid out in a hospital bed because a driver failed to yield for a group of runners with the absolute right of way.

Thankfully, the LHVA will solicit bids for the project within the next week or so, said Owen Worozbyt, the authority’s trail and environmental projects manager. Market, Broadway, Olive, Poplar, Elm, Green Ridge and Dean streets, along with Albright Avenue, will see safety upgrades, including crosswalks with high-visibility green-stamped asphalt. Ramps, new sidewalks and bike lanes are also planned.

Broadway, Elm and Green Ridge streets will be outfitted with flashing lights and warning signs.

“We hope to begin the work in the fall,” Worozbyt said.

Here’s hoping Cheryl Evans is back on her feet by then, and that Commissioner Cummings is done running away from her responsibility to serve all her constituents, whether they travel on foot or behind the wheel.

CHRIS KELLY, The Times-Tribune columnist, only runs as a last resort. Contact the writer: Read his award-winning blog at