Hope Damico says she’s lucky to be alive after a close call with a GRTC Pulse bus last year.

Two weeks ago, a pedestrian was hit and killed by a Pulse bus. At the time, a GRTC spokesperson said it was the first time a pedestrian had been struck by the Pulse. 8News has now uncovered that’s not the case after obtaining bus surveillance video of Damico’s accident.

The video shows Damico crossing through two lanes of stopped traffic when suddenly in the bus-only lane she is stuck by the Pulse and knocked off her feet. Damico says she never saw it coming until it was too late.

“I do remember thinking, ‘you just got hit by a bus, it is going to run over you and you are going to die,’” Damico recalled.

Fortunately, Damico wasn’t seriously hurt and quickly bounced back on her feet.

“I looked up, the bus had stopped and I immediately stand up because I needed that clarification that the bus hadn’t run over me,” she explained. “I could see my clothes were ripped and I was bleeding.”

The former VCU student remembers the November day last year like it was yesterday.

“There was a pretty big back up, there was congestion. But I looked and I noticed it was a red light. I looked both ways,” she said. “The last minute, I looked over to the left and I was in the Pulse lane and the bus hit me. I couldn’t see the bus.”

She was careful to cross the crosswalk, but from the video 8News can see she was wearing headphones. But she told 8News she could hear just fine. We can also see she does step into the crosswalk just as the light turns green. From the Richmond Police crash report and a VCU incident report, we can see no charges were filed against the bus driver.

“I have scars,” said Damico, who is still healing from the accident. Her close call was not too far from where a woman was struck and killed by a Pulse bus earlier this month. That accident prompted Damico to share her story.

“I think what saved me was the fact that the bus had a bike rack,” she said. “I was also wearing my bookbag. I think my book bag acted as a cushion.”

The night of that fatal accident, Director of Communications for GRTC Carrie Rose Pace claimed it was the first collision between a Pulse bus and pedestrian. However, she tells 8News that was not intentional or any attempt hide the previous incident.

“My focus on Tuesday night was with the accident on the scene,” she explained. Rose Pace said the next day she learned there had been another incident.

Damico tells us she’s sharing her story because she wants others to know it’s happened before and to use extra caution when crossing. That crosswalk at Broad and Pine where Damico was walking doesn’t have a pedestrian signal. Several other crosswalks were added to Broad at Strawberry, Pine, Goshen, Jefferson, and Madison at the request of the public. Those crosswalks also lack a pedestrian signal.

“I think they either should come with a light or maybe more of a warning for the drivers that there is a crosswalk there,” Damico said.

Rose Pace says the crossings were added to give pedestrians, as well as passengers entering or exiting vehicles, more places to get across.

“The intent of this design is to make it safer for everybody,” she adds. Still she says whenever there is an opportunity like this to look at possible ways to improve safety, they will. Yet for now, perhaps Damico’s close call caught on camera should be a reminder to all.

“Where there are those designated pedestrian crossings, please stay extra aware as you are crossing in those bus-only lanes,” Rose Pace said.

Richmond’s Department of Public Works maintains the crosswalks on Broad and they tell us they haven’t received any complaints.

Here’s the complete response from Richmond’s Department of Public Works:

  1. The Pulse BRT project emphasized pedestrian connectivity and pedestrian safety throughout the design process.
  2. The existing crosswalks at Strawberry, Pine, Goshen, Jefferson, and Madison were included in the design in response to public input and engagement. The public was strongly supportive of the pedestrian connectivity shown in the plans. Within the Pulse corridor, car traffic is prohibited at these locations from crossing Broad Street. A gap in a wider median was provided for people who bike and walk in order for them to cross without having to travel to the nearest traffic signal.
  3. Every traffic signal provides a gap and extended pedestrian crossing times. The gaps created by the signals along Broad Street assist at these crosswalks to manage speed and create additional gaps for people to cross. A focus on Vision Zero has allowed the City to install over 250 high visibility crosswalks at signalized intersections with more planned and to retime over 400 signalized intersections for longer walk times for people to cross the street.
  4. The City has not received any complaints regarding these crosswalks. As resources allow, the City evaluates whether additional measures are needed to create gaps in traffic and then will seek funding if it is determined there is a need.
  5. A crosswalk has been present since at least the beginning of this century at Pine Street. The current design retained that crosswalk. There has been one pedestrian crash at Pine Street from 2006 to June 2019 resulting in a visible but recoverable injury.
  6. These are preventable crashes, not accidents.
  7. The median running section has experienced a 42 percent decline in severe crashes causing death and serious injuries in its first year of operation. These results are promising of a downward trend; but, it is too soon to draw any specific conclusions. Traffic studies need at least three years of after data to draw solid conclusions on efficacy. There are several reasons why the median running section is seeing a downward trend and it is directly attributed to the change in the built environment, such as the following changes:
    a. Better speed management through geometric design and using vista termination points to slow speeds;
    b. Removing two general-purpose lanes of traffic;
    c. Adding in dedicated left turn lanes;
    d. Adding in separate left turn phasing;
    e. Installing high visibility crosswalks at signalized intersections
    f. Installing pedestrian countdown signals
    g. Retiming pedestrian clearance intervals
    h. Incorporating Transit Signal Priority
    i. Utilizing GRIDSMART camera system for detection
    j. Installing wider pedestrian refuge islands
  8. Where people cross multiple lanes, those crossing need to watch for (1) one driver stopping and (2) another driver’s vision being blocked by that stopped vehicle. For vehicles approaching a crosswalk and other vehicles that are stopped, drivers need to be mindful and stop to check for any person crossing.
  9. Approximately 36 times per year a person walking is killed or seriously injured in the City of Richmond. Slow down and avoid distractions to watch for people who walk in the City. With daylight hours reduced, visibility is reduced while the weather is still temperate leading to more people walking between 6PM and 9PM. With Halloween approaching, children will be present.

One last note: There is a $6 million Streetscape that will transform Broad Street sidewalks from VCU to Scott’s Addition to complete the multimodal corridor. Designs have been approved and finalized and include street trees, benches, bike racks, and trash cans. Construction will begin in FY21.