MIT Cyclist Fatality Report Released

Written by Boston Biker on May 16

I reported the sad news that several months ago a MIT student was fatality struck by a truck, the report about the incident was released today.

The investigation into the Dec. 27, 2011 death of Phyo Kyaw ’10 is complete, and it has been ruled an accident. Kyaw was killed when his bicycle and a J. P. Noonan tanker truck collided as the truck turned right from Massachusetts Avenue onto Vassar Street in rainy weather after dark that evening.

“We found that there is insufficient evidence to support negligence on the part of the driver,” said Jessica Venezia Pastore, a spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office. Pastore responded to a routine inquiry from The Tech about this matter on Friday. Pastore said the investigation had closed on April 8. Police reports on the accident were not available prior to that closure.

The Massachusetts State Police performed a collision reconstruction, and their 16-page reconstruction report, dated March 21, is available online at http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N26/kyaw.(full article here)

The article is pretty good, and worth a read. As a blogger you wish you could say something at the end of a post like this, something hopeful or uplifting but the sad truth is this was a senseless tragedy, and nothing will make it better. My best wishes go out to Kyaw’s family, and friends.


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10 Responses to “MIT Cyclist Fatality Report Released”

  1. By Paul Schimek on May 16, 2012 | Reply

    The report does not make clear that a cause of the collision was that the truck crossed the center line of the road will making the turn — as shown clearly in the diagram. The crash analysis alludes to the fact that bicyclist did not have a headlight (but does not mention that this is a violation). The clearly flawed language in the report is that “It is this Officer’s opinion that the possible cause of this collision was the encroachment
    of the bicycle into the path of the turning tractor trailer unit”. That should have been “encroachment of the truck into the path of the bicycle”, since it was the truck that was on the wrong side of the road. Perhaps they were deceived by the bike lanes (mentioned several times) that the bicyclist should not have been where he was (although it would be a natural place to be for preparing a left turn — and any way no excuses are needed, at least in this state).

  2. By Danno on May 16, 2012 | Reply

    From my experience JP Noonan drivers are HORRIBLE, Ie almost been run over by them while in a car dozens of times over the past decade all over MA. They dont know what turn signals are on the highway and never yield to traffic aleady on the highway when merging on. My bets are it is their fault.

  3. By matt on May 16, 2012 | Reply

    is it possible for such a large truck to make a right-hand turn without crossing over the line?

  4. By Dan on May 16, 2012 | Reply

    Agreed. I think most police would consider a bike as encroaching as soon as it leaves the sidewalk. I even recently observed a Boston bicycle cop riding on a busy sidewalk in West Roxbury near the intersection of Centre and Corey – and he ran a red light too.

  5. By Paul Schimek on May 17, 2012 | Reply

    @matt: The truck driver could have started the turn from the passing lane on Mass Ave instead. Either way, he would be encroaching on other lanes and needs to do it very slowly and carefully, especially on a dark rainy night. Some trucks even have a separate operator in the cab who can direct traffic while the truck is making a dangerous move. The police report considered none of this.

  6. By Brenda Pike on May 17, 2012 | Reply

    Did anyone else catch that the bicycle’s shifter was in its highest position, indicating that the bicyclist was traveling at a high speed? So he probably wasn’t stopped at the light (or even planning on stopping). That, coupled with no light on the front, means that he was driving as dangerously as the truck. But on the more vulnerable vehicle, he was the one who died. To me, that underscores the importance of defensive driving—don’t assume that everyone else is going to be following the rules.

  7. By Paul Schimek on May 17, 2012 | Reply

    @Brenda: the fact that the bike was in the highest gear means nothing about his speed. He might well have been pushing really hard in a gear that was too high, as is typical of beginners. The bike was an inexpensive department-store model that suggests he was not an enthusiast.
    Yes, he should have had a light, and that might have saved his life. Where is the enforcement on that issue? Who is telling bicyclists that lights could save your lights? We’re too busy telling them that bike lanes (alone) make them safe.

    But even still, a truck driver going VERY slowly, as would have been prudent in this situation, should have been able to see an unlit bicyclist ahead of him, given the street lights and the truck’s head lights. The police did not consider these issues. They could have simulated it. I don’t even recall seeing an estimate of the driver’s speed.

  8. By Paul Schimek on May 17, 2012 | Reply

    It’s this statement in the investigator’s report that reeks of bias: “In the vicinity of the crash, there were bicycle lanes on both sides of Vassar Street and the final rest of the bicycle indicates that it was not in either of the bicycle lanes at the point of impact”.

    It occurs to me that it is possible that the bicyclist was traveling towards Boston along the Mass Ave sidewalk, rather than approaching from Vassar St. No one saw him before the collision. The report says he was approaching from an unknown direction at or near the intersection. If on the sidewalk & crosswalk, he would have been facing a WALK light concurrent with the green light the truck was facing on Mass Ave.

    USE LIGHTS AT NIGHT
    DON’T RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK
    STAY AWAY FROM THE SIDE OF TRUCKS (the last not necessarily relevant here, but in many other fatalities)

  9. By Simone on May 19, 2012 | Reply

    Another important factor which was not being considered:

    “Though they are not mentioned in any of the reports, a bulbout and street furniture on the corner made the turn difficult for the truck, forcing it across the centerline of Vassar street. The truck driver may have been looking in his right rear side-view mirror to make sure that the truck cleared the obstacles.

    The Tech goes on to say:

    Kyaw’s bicycle’s final position was not in a bicycle lane, the report said. Local laws do not require bicycles to travel in the bicycle lane, and it is common for left-turning bicycles to travel in Vassar’s left lane.

    The observation about the law is correct other than that it’s state law, but the last part of the quote is incorrect and misleading. Kyaw was in the right-hand travel lane. Bicyclists must merge out of the bike lane toward the center of the street to go straight or turn left without conflict with through and right-turning traffic or with traffic stopped at the curb. I happen to have a Web page with photos of this very intersection illustrating that point”.

    http://cambridgecivic.com/?p=1933

    In my opinion, the media and other interested parties will try to dilute this story due to its controversial nature. The more details provided will continue to create inflammatory arguments which amount to two sides wanting to be right. I work and drive in this area as well as other towns surrounding the scene of the accident. More often than not, I see more bicyclists behaving recklessly on the roadways, and lacking common sense–running red lights, weaving traffic on Mass. Ave., Memorial Drive, cutting drivers and pedestrians off, even when they have the crossing signal. There are plenty of drivers who don’t obey the rules of the road and have no patience for bicyclists. Most drivers are not on a mission to intentionally hurt bicyclists. I have had three near accidents involving bicyclists. One was on my right, no bike lane, Mass. Ave., riding fast. My side and rear view did not pick him up. Those were the days when I didn’t have to turn my head at every right hand turn, now I do. The other two-one was on a narrow street, I was trying to park my car, bicyclist fell into the parking space, cut me off and was trying to ride around my driver’s side bumper. They admitted fault. The other was aggressively weaving in and out of traffic on side streets of N.Cambridge to Memorial Road. If bikes required a registration and plate, I believe they would think twice before pulling antics on the roadway and endangering their own lives, as well as others. What happened to this young man is a terrible tragedy and I believe the truck driver will be dealing with this for many years as well as his family. How would you feel if you killed someone on the road? Regardless of who’s fault it is. The roadway is shared space and everyone who travels on it has a responsibility. “Proceed with caution”, is obviously not on the radar of some and not a part of the equation within their roadway etiquitte.

  10. By Ruthanne on May 24, 2012 | Reply

    My son was leaving the deep Ellum area of Cambridge st on 4/28/12 Friday nite really sat am around 2 am… He was riding a white bmx slowly towards Brighton apt. A person heard a loud noise and called 911. They took him to bidmc. He was in for days And a week ago had facial surgery. He feels he was hit slightly by a car … I can’t believe no one stopped …the person who called 911 was a pedestriaN.. Thank god for him!! I wish the driver would turn themselves in to Boston police. Please

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