Professor Shlomo Bentin’s death deemed an accident

Shlomo Bentin, an Israeli cognitive neuroscientist, who died in a bicycle accident on July 13. Photo: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Shlomo Bentin, an Israeli cognitive neuroscientist who died in a bicycle accident on July 13. Photo: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Update 12.26.12:

New details released by Berkeley police indicated the dump truck did not collide with Bentin.

Despite the fact that Israeli Professor Shlomo Bentin was hit and killed by a dump truck while riding his bicycle, no criminal charges will be filed against the driver, according to Berkeley police.

“Our officers finished their thorough investigation of the incident and they took their packet over and discussed it with the D.A.’s office,” said Officer Jennifer Coats, the public information officer for the Berkeley Police Department. “It was determined there was not sufficient evidence to seek criminal charges.”

Bentin, 65, was killed July 13 as he was riding his bicycle and collided with a dump truck on Bancroft Way west of Fulton Street. The dump truck driver, who was not identified since no criminal charges were filed, did not immediately realize he had struck Bentin. He drove off, but later returned to the accident scene and fully cooperated with police.

Bentin was a globally recognized expert in cognitive neuropsychology who was in Berkeley as a guest lecturer at the university. Bentin received the prestigious Israel Prize on Israel Independence Day in April in a ceremony attended by Israel’s president, prime minister, Supreme Court president and other national leaders. The prize cited Bentin’s “important scientific contributions to the field of psychology and the science of neuropsychology in particular.”

Bentin, who was Professor in the Department of Psychology and a member of the Interdisciplinary Center for Neural Computation at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, contributed to the study of the functional differences of the brain’s hemispheres, and was considered one of the leading researchers of reading in Hebrew. His work had “vastly influenced the evolution of reading instruction in Israel,” according to the Israel Prize Committee.

Bentin was also a leading figure in studying the cognitive mechanisms that enable humans to recognize faces. In the 1990s, he discovered an electrical signal involved in the face recognition mechanism in the brain. The signal is considered the main electrophysiological measure of face recognition. Bentin showed that this was a unique identification process that is different to other object recognition processes.

Bentin was born in Romania in 1946 and immigrated to Israel with his family when he was 12 years old. He is survived by his wife, Miri, and three children.

Read the commemorative website for Shlomo Bentin

Neuroscientist Shlomo Bentin killed in bike accident [07.16.12]
Cyclist in accident involving a dump truck [07.13.12]

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  • adornowest

    Thanks for the follow up – I really appreciate it. For us cyclists, it would be helpful to hear more details about what happened, so we can be extra vigilant. How does a bike “collide with a dump truck” — especially in a way that is fatal? Was the cyclist between the truck and parked cars and the truck drifted right?

  • Urban Strider

    I appreciate the information, but can BPD at least tell us the specifics of the accident, particularly since it has been determined that the driver is not liable? I passed by shortly after the accident, Emergency vehicles had left but BPD was still there… and the truck was still there. I had a very hard time determining how the cyclist had been hit. I did not know at that time that he had been killed. More details please?

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    The fact is that Shlomo Bentin did not have to die; his death was 100% preventable and avoidable.

    This man died because our City Council has chosen to waste money on cushy union salaries for city workers instead of properly maintaining our infrastructure. Plain and simple. This man’s death was 100% preventable by simple infrastructure improvements that are used around the world – separated bike lanes, cycle tracks and other fairly simple (and relatively inexpensive) road improvements that Berkeley cannot afford because our political process has been completely corrupted by the government unions who swallow a ridiculously disproportionate amount of our tax dollars.

    It’s unfortunate that liberal folk tend to speak out only about corporate corruption, when in fact the corruption of our political process by unions has been just as bad – with equally deadly consequences.

  • foobar

    I agree with you about bike lanes and road improvements. One low-cost improvement would be to convert Bancroft, where Dr. Bentin tragically was killed, into a two-way street. There are too many one-way streets near a high concentration of pedestrians and bicyclists. We should follow the lead of San Francisco, which has converted Ellis and Eddy from one-way to two-way:

    Let’s do the same with another unsafe street: Dwight.

    That said, you and I must part ways at your gratutious union-bashing.

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    For the record, FDR also opposed unions in government. It’s one thing when you got a big business where unions can often create a more fair playing ground, it’s a totally different one when you’ve got unionized government employees deciding just how much they’re going to fleece the taxpayer. Unions today are the #1 reason why our local governments are fundamentally broken in so many places across America.

  • In the last 48 hours commentators on this site have trashed socialists, NIMBys, and unions.

  • Voxhumana

    Given the first commentator’s comments, perhaps he hit a pothole and was thrown into its path?

  • PragmaticProgressive

    You should call the thought police! Can’t have any of that free speech being used for positions that disagree with yours!

    Seriously, what IS your point?

  • dawn

    “Seriously, what IS your point?” You sure can dish it better than you take it.

  • potheeny

    “Separated bike lanes” are not a panacea. A good friend was seriously injured riding his bike in a bike lane in SF by a car whose driver decided to use the bike lane to pass cars that were ” in his way.”

  • Charles_Siegel

    “One low-cost improvement would be to convert Bancroft, where Dr. Bentin tragically was killed, into a two-way street.”

    “Bentin, 65, was killed July 13 as he was riding his bicycle and collided
    with a dump truck on Bancroft Way west of Fulton Street.”

    I believe it is already two-way west of Fulton St. I would be all for making the street safer by making it two-way east of Fulton St.

  • Prinzrob

    No, Bancroft is one-way all the way to Shattuck, including past Fulton St where the collision occurred.
    I am 100% in favor of one-way to two-way conversions by the way, but they are far from low cost once one figures in the additional traffic signal heads that need to be installed. Others will argue that the traffic delay would be an additional cost as well.

  • Prinzrob

    I think the commenter was referring to lanes physically separated from auto traffic by either a median or bollards (like is being planned for Hearst) or by parked cars (like in JFK Drive through Golden Gate Park in SF). No bike infrastructure is 100% safe from irresponsible or illegal use by car drivers, but I would at least say that bike lanes (class II) are a step up from nothing, and bike paths and cycletracks (class I) are a step up from painted lanes.

  • Prinzrob

    Considering that we are only hearing the truck driver’s side of the story since the cyclist was killed, and since the driver already admitted to “not noticing” the cyclist, we are unlikely to ever get the full picture of what happened in this incident (not accident). I have seen far too many stories of cyclist fatalities like this, however, that were full of red flags but get swept under the rug anyway simply because the driver claims they didn’t see anything, which in itself is a tacit admission of negligence but will never be considered as such in a system already designed to favor the motorist. Better pavement and safer facilities for cyclists will begin to mitigate the potential for additional tragedies like this, but no cyclist or pedestrian will be truly safe until our laws set tougher penalties and minimum sentencing for distracted, irresponsible, or aggressive (not just drunk) driving.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    another nonsensical observation. Did you actually have a rebuttal or is an ad hominem the best you can do?

    Leaving aside the reductive inaccuracy of Fran’s comment — not all criticism == “trashing” — why is it notable that commentators here or anywhere else in America might have and express a range of views? Is the exercise of free speech really so threatening to you?

  • dawn

    Franny wasn’t being mean to anyone. For a “Pragmatic Progressive” you are sure mean towards her. You aren’t defending free speech. You’re just being nasty.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    You’re mistaken.

    First of all, “mean/nasty” isn’t really the yardstick in politics. Progressives can play hardball just as well as conservatives. What matters are the ideas and so far you haven’t advanced any.

    Second, I’ve sharply and directly criticized her comment (and now yours) because the reasoning behind it is deeply flawed. Notice that I am criticizing the assertions and not the person. The latter would be an ad hominem which is a logical fallacy and also often “mean.” It’s also exactly what you’re doing.

    Franny (and you) seem to be under the impression that liberals cannot question certain orthodoxies, like whether unions might actually be corrupt in some cases, socialism problem solving misapplied, etc. I’ll leave out NIMBYism because that isn’t a liberal orthodoxy — it’s actually deeply bourgeois.

    Believe it or not, there are proud progressives living in Berkeley who do not think we should give city workers everything they ask for. You may disagree and you should speak your mind — that’s that free speech thing — but your (and Franny’s) horror at the fact that others want to express their views, well… that’s not terribly liberal minded.

  • Vladislav_Davidzon

    Easy solution – design this as a “complete street”. One way is fine, but only ONE lane of traffic. Convert the other to a dedicated cycle track and add some green shrubbery in between to make it REALLY safe. Cost? Minimal… mostly some paint. Well except that you gotta pay the city workers whatever insane salaries they command… or we could just hire contractors to do it at a fraction of the cost.

  • Charles_Siegel

    My mistake. Bancroft is not widened between Fulton and Shattuck, as it is east of Fulton, but it is one-way.

    “Others will argue that the traffic delay would be an additional cost as well.”
    But others would argue that traffic calming is an additional benefit – and I think that you and I would agree on this.

  • dawn

    “Franny (and you) seem to be under the impression that liberals cannot
    question certain orthodoxies, like whether unions might actually be
    corrupt in some cases, socialism problem solving misapplied, etc. I’ll
    leave out NIMBYism because that isn’t a liberal orthodoxy — it’s
    actually deeply bourgeois.”

    You are reading a lot into what Fran wrote that isn’t there.

  • foobar

    Good idea. Let’s be sure to drag in some unrelated grievances about city employees’ benefits. Then it should only take a few decades to get through all the political and legal maneuvering before the first drop of paint touches the pavement.

  • Sir, I was merely making an observation about name-calling on this site. Name-calling isn’t discussion; it’s characterizing under the belief that that is dialogue.

    We have one commentator regarding a horrific death of a remarkable scholar on the streets of Berkeley placing blame on the city’s unions. He failed in establishing a cogent connection between organized labor and the state of Berkeley’s heavy traffic, We have another commentator using the socialist card in what I believe sounds like the sort of tactics being used by the right to destroy whatever few protections working people have. And others freely used the derogation NIMBY to describe any number of permanent residents who are trying to protect their homes. Their reasons probably range from insignificant to justified, but still their efforts are vilified as NIMBY; one seems to feel justified in using the term whenever their interests do not agree with YOUR interests or opinions. One does great disservice to the discussion at hand. We all make stupid remarks at one time or another–I certainly have–but the interests of community deserve better than that in the public forum. One last remark: I am tickled that people are calling me Franny; I have reserved that name for members of my immediate family. ;-)

  • I invite you to compare salaries of firefighters and city managers here and in the rest of the state. You will find that they are similar, but also consider the cost of living here. Services cost money.What are you doing today, December 25? i see fire trucks and ambulances going to houses. How often do you deal with other people’s crises? Just because too many corporations have seen fit to cut employee benefits doesn’t mean that that is okay. I want the police and firefighters to be very motivated to serve the city of Berkeley. And I want other workers protected.

    I challenge orthodoxies–hey, you don’t even know me–but I do deeply believe in the protection of working people. I worked for 44 years–let us see your resume. I will gladly provide mine.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Lowest compensation for firefighter/paramedic is $5K (or more) higher in Berkeley than in neighboring cities, including the even more expensive-than-Berkeley Piedmont. Also, we pay 50% more retirement. So it is not “similar.”

    Clearly it is possible to find talented people and compensate them at market rates to do good work. Paying over that is not a responsible use of public funds and it’s part of the reason that we have broken streets and mud-filled pools. In your 44 years of employment, did you ever manage a budget? If you did, I’m sure you must realize that overpaying is a poor management practice.

    If you can’t motivate people to serve by paying them market salaries, you’re hiring the wrong people.

    It is also possible to restructure emergency services so that we can use trained paramedics who are not also fire fighters. Since the vast majority of calls for service are for medical issues (and not fires), that would be a more accurately targeted expenditure of funds.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Except that there WAS no name-calling in the post to which you replied. Vlad did not call anyone a name, unlike your supporter “dawn.” He expressed an opinion about what he perceives as union corruption. That isn’t name calling. Vlad will have to defend his own views beyond that much — I am not he.

    I agree that NIMBY is used rather loosely around here. Regarding socialism, I think you might be referring to Completely_Serious’ remarks in another thread: I do not agree that those even remotely resemble “the sort of tactics being used by the right to destroy whatever few protections working people have.” People on this site are way too quick to use labels like “right wing” and “fascist” to dismiss views other than their own.

  • guest

    Just another day on berkeleyside. You seem surprised?