Boston Globe Breaks Down Safety At Fatal Intersection

Written by Boston Biker on Jan 12

Thanks Ron for sending me the link to this Boston Globe story, interesting stuff.

Thousands of bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists converge each day at the intersection near the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, where crowds of students on Vassar Street meet traffic on Massachusetts Avenue. Police say it’s a hazard.

“For the amount of volume that goes through that intersection … I would say it is one of our highest accident locations in the city,’’ said Police Deputy Superintendent Jack Albert.

Since 2007, Cambridge police responded to 55 accidents at the intersection, 24 of them involving cars and bikes, according to police reports. Many resulted in minor injuries, the records show, but last month one was fatal. MIT graduate Phyo N. Kyaw of Cambridge was riding a bicycle when he collided with a truck.

What stood out to me about this story is that its the first one in a long time that took my point of view about traffic. Its not that there is a cyclists, or motorist, or pedestrian “law breaking problem” its that there is a “law breaking problem.” I have said many times to anyone who would listen that the real problem in Boston is a culture of disregard for traffic laws, by all user groups. I felt the article gave a fairly reasonable treatment to all user groups, and helped to inform people about some of the dangers faced by cyclists and pedestrians. Because while it is true that all user groups are breaking the law in similar amounts, the consequences for different user groups are very different. If you are walking, or on a bike and get hit by a car its very different than if you are in a car and get hit by a car.

According to the police accident reports, blame was not confined to a single group. Motorists ran red lights, cyclists followed vehicles too closely, and many ignored traffic signals. Of the 55 accidents since 2007, 26 involved vehicle-only accidents and three involved pedestrians, the reports show.

Most of the accidents involved drivers making right turns colliding with bicyclists because they did not see them.

I think that the future of this city will depend on designing it for people, not automobiles. That means making it as easy as possible for human beings to get around, not for cars to get around. Cycling and walking are not particularly dangerous, in the sense that you have a high chance of being killed or injured while doing them. But if cities are designed in a “car first” mentality that can make it more dangerous to walk or bike than it is to drive. I can only hope that it doesn’t take a cyclist or pedestrian death at every intersection in the city to get this kind of attention.


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Posted in infrastructure, news | 2 Comments »


2 Responses to “Boston Globe Breaks Down Safety At Fatal Intersection”

  1. By Erik on Jan 12, 2012 | Reply

    “I felt the article gave a fairly reasonable treatment to all user groups”

    Me too. What a change of pace.

  2. By William Furr on Jan 12, 2012 | Reply

    Actually, a big part of what got Copenhagen and Amsterdam their cycling infrastructure was a campaign called “Stop der Kindermoord” meaning “Stop the Child Murder”.

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2011/01/stop-child-murder.html

    Their cycling activists leveraged a perfect storm of rising traffic fatalities of all users, increased traffic congestion, and acceptance of infrastructure by the cycling community (meaning no vehicular cyclists protesting against bike lanes!). Those conditions are tough to replicate, but we have something they don’t: Copenhagen and Amsterdam as successful examples to point to.

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