Fifth bicyclist killed in Boston this year, by another large vehicle

Another bicyclist was killed this week on another dangerous street. Boston Biker reports that a tractor-trailer made a right turn from the left of two motor vehicle lanes. This was a right-hook, where a vehicle abruptly and improperly turns right in front of another vehicle (usually a bike or skater), except that in this case the turn would be totally unexpected. Because trucks make very wide turns, the typical bicyclist would probably “know” that the truck was going straight by the time it began its turn. At that point, if the bicyclist is traveling more than 10 mph, it’s too late to jam on the brakes or execute an emergency right turn.

The truck driver in this case was using the correct lane positioning but nothing else is known about his actions. If the truck driver absolutely could not avoid this turn by using a safer route, the proper procedure would be to signal, enter the intersection and wait until the signal changes to red and traffic stops, then slowly make the turn, giving time for anyone not expecting the turn to stop or get out of the way. Most large vehicle drivers have a tendency to complete the turn as quickly as possible to avoid blocking traffic.

Situations like this happen because most drivers have not been on a bike in recent memory, and many bicyclists have not learned as much as they should about traffic safety. That’s why I argue so strongly against misguided “safety” campaigns that engage in victim blaming and pushing helmets. We should instead be using our resources for real safety improvements like educating people on how to avoid and deal with emergency situations. What if cities and towns provided free bicycle traffic safety education workshops, covering topics like What Cyclists Need to Know About Trucks? And how about eliminating the double standard where cars are allowed to ignore the laws they don’t like, while bikes are singled out among modes for their own selective obedience to traffic laws? As long as cars continue to dominate our cities and kill several people a day, usually without even a citation, others will continue to be killed.

9 thoughts on “Fifth bicyclist killed in Boston this year, by another large vehicle”

  1. Thanks, Blakely for that nice post. I agree that bikes are not cars and thus the laws should be different. But if we’re going to have the same laws, everyone should obey them all the time. What happens today is that everyone chooses the laws they wish to follow, and because car drivers run the media and all levels of government, they only pick on others.

  2. I agree that truck driver should have found another safer access to the loading docks on the back side of the comm ave building. St. Paul St is not the best route and Allston and Brookline have to rethink and outlaw that street access and actively encourage the safest route.

    Not clear how you can say truck was using correct lane. If truck turn initiated from lane adjacent to bike lane cyclist might have realized what truck was doing. But most reports and photo’s indicate turn of truck initiated from leftmost (illegal) lane.

    I am also curious why the critics of DZBL (door zone bike lanes) have not been writing in to explain the complicity of this poorly designed and poorly maintained bike lane contributed to cyclists probable preoccupation with being door’d, to the exclusion of total road awareness .

  3. Rebecca Albrect made a comment about a wavy surface on the left side of the bike lane that I have yet to read anyone comment about. I have read a lot in the past two weeks about the danger of riding on the right hand side of a DZBL (door zone bike lane). Has anyone else noticed this wavyness as a reason why a cyclist would be induced to ride doser to the
    door zone?

    Have any of the facilities planners considered that trucks/buses are causally related to that road surface waviness?

    Locally John Allen has warned the city of Cambridge Ma regarding the dangers inherent (manufactured lethal conflicts) in promoting Bike lanes. If the people of Boston need another transportation expert to make the reasons why, more explicit, try Fred Oswalds analysis at:

    http://labreform.org/blunders/b5.html

    Intrinsic Problems of Bikeways

    Separate bicycle facilities treat cyclists as though they are rolling pedestrians, rather than drivers. This treatment makes them feel they are separate from traffic and encourages them not to follow the rules of the road. Violating the rules of the road often leads to crashes. As it is, too many cyclists on the road fail to follow basic traffic law, such as stopping for red traffic lights.

    The problem is much worse for those who ride on sidewalks and sidepaths. In Fig. 1 we see two cyclists who were riding on a multiple-use path in the median strip of a park roadway. The path has a pedestrian “Walk” signal, controlled by a push button. Like most path riders, they did not wait for the signal but rather crossed illegally, dodging turning traffic from the road.

    The blue bike lane shown in Fig. 2 represents the best of a bad practice. The lane seems to be far enough from the curb, thus it avoids the door zone of parked cars. By running left of the right turn lane in the distance, it puts straight-through (but not turning) cyclists in the correct location. Finally, it has adequate room.
    Fig. 2 — Bike lane [1]

    However, even a “best” bike lane encourages mistakes. The bike lane stripe encourages cyclists to stay to the right and motorists to stay left, even when the rules of the road require otherwise. If a fast cyclist (perhaps descending a hill) catches up to a slow car, there is a tempting clear channel for passing in the motorist’s blind spot. This can lead to a collision if the motorist turns into a driveway or parking spot while the bicycle is passing.

    Separate facilities attract beginners. (This is one of the reasons that “bicycle advocates” push for the facilities.) Beginners often turn left directly from a bike lane without first merging to the left turn lane and without yielding to overtaking traffic (the “shooting gallery” approach). We have also heard of beginners making right turns from this type of bike lane by swerving across right-turning traffic,

    Even knowledgeable cyclists, who know enough to merge to the proper place on the road to make a turn or to avoid hazards, experience trouble from separate bicycle facilities because they encourage motorist resentment. Some motorists become vigilantes, harassing any cyclist not in “his place”. The existence of a designated “bike route” on one road makes it very difficult to convince city officials to make improvements or repairs on a parallel route. Separate facilities make educating cyclists much more difficult.

  4. Certainly I agree that the bike lane in question is a poorly designed facility; you have about 2 feet to use in between the door zone and deadly traffic, with no room for error. This lane was “squeezed in” like so many others because city officials didn’t want to make the dominant class (motorists) feel like they had to give up something by wiping out all that wasted space called parking spaces. They could have also painted an edge/shoulder line for a similar effect, but the city said they wanted to encourage biking. The bottom line is that Comm Ave west of the BU Bridge is neither safe nor comfortable for cycling and the bike lane made it only a little better.

    This type of “bike lane” is not generally supported by bike advocates but it illustrates the problem with any kind of policy activism: Do you keep an “all or nothing” mentality or do you make compromises to make small gains? Maybe fight hard for what you really want, take the best you can get, keep increasing the number of regular cyclists and build a political constituency for better facilities and safer streets overall. I’m fine with criticizing bike lane design and even the idea of bike lanes, but you have to offer another solution.

    Trucks and buses have to make wide turns. Streets should be designed in ways that allow them to do so as safely as possible but sometimes it needs to happen in other places, and there was just no other way for the truck driver to make that turn. Maybe he shouldn’t have turned there … that’s another story … but assuming it was necessary, his lane positioning was not the problem. That said, we should probably ban large trucks in favor of large vans and cargo bikes.

  5. 1. Lane positioning of the truck was most certainly a problem, and for the cyclist that more than ambiguous lane positioning probably signified truck was intending to go straight or would take a left at some point down the road.

    I read an interesting interpretation by a Wash DC truck driver explaining away a right hook fatality in DC with the same circumstance , truck initiating turn from two lanes to the left saying that the “truck initiated turn as far to the right as is practicable”.

    Is there a law in DC or in Mass that truly states that or is it a rationalization?

    I certainly agree that Urban truck delivery system needs an overhaul. As I was driving around in a larger than necessary truck pulling a trailer the other day I noticed one of those cute European style vans with the words “Last mile delivery” painted on its side. It’s not my intention to promote that particular company , but certainly the concept of using the right tool/vehicle for the job is my intention.

    2. More than 3 months after the fatality, the left side of the bike lane that was reported as wavy and likely to have channeled Christopher Weigl dangerously close to the door zone, still have not been rectified.

    A cyclist who is hyper-vigilant to the danger of a door being opened in their face does not have sufficient awareness of what a dangerously creative truck driver might do.

  6. Very sad that the city has not improved the pavement in this corridor.

    A car is supposed to make a turn from the lane closest to that direction unless otherwise posted. Truck laws may be slightly different, since it is true that the truck’s position would have been “as far to the right as practicable” in order to make the turn. Trucks cannot see very well in that situation, so even if they wait for a red light so traffic clears, it’s still a recipe for disaster. Aside from smaller trucks, either a flag person (expensive/impractical), more mirrors, or the mirrors that London has been installing on poles at intersections would prevent such incidents.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/16/boris-cycling-traffic-light-mirrors

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