A Northeastern student pushing herself to beat her mile time on a morning jog pauses for a moment at the corner of Huntington Avenue and Forsyth Street. A bicycle painted completely in white from its tires to the basket hanging on the front-a ghost bike-is a striking sight along one of the busiest roads in Boston. Kelsey Rennebohm was 28-years-old when she was hit and killed by an MBTA bus while riding her bike in that very spot two years ago. The ghost bike was placed in her honor by a local advocacy group, but Kelsey Rennebohm is hardly alone. A new Boston Bike Crash Map sheds light on the most dangerous spots for bikers in Boston by displaying accident data over a map of the city.
The project was organized and funded in part by the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) using data compiled by the Boston Police department. Working with the BPD, the Boston Cyclists’ Union, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s office, Harvard Injury Control Research Center doctoral student and BARI Fellow Dahianna Lopez poured over raw data to construct an interactive map that Bostonians could use to plan a safer ride.
The map features different layers and overlays to filter accidents to specific locations and view the frequency of crashes along their regular biking route. Road segments can be color-coded based on accident frequency to help riders avoid problem areas. Using data from over 1,800 recorded accidents, several such problem areas become increasingly visible to the viewer. A stretch of Commonwealth Avenue between the student-heavy Fenway neighborhood and equally collegiate-dominated Allston is speckled with large green dots, signifying a high rate of bike crashes in that concentrated area. Commonwealth Ave is notoriously congested, especially along the stretch of road winding through Boston University and its 30,000 undergraduate students. The route is a common one for students living in Allston and Brighton to use when riding into the city, and was not built to accommodate both drivers and cyclists, according to a Boston.com article on the subject.
Another dangerous spot appears on Massachusetts Avenue, cutting through Back Bay. The busy street has traffic at a standstill during rush hour as frustrated drivers try to wrestle though the gridlock to get across the bridges over the Charles River and on to their homes. Like Commonwealth Ave, Massachusetts Ave runs through several neighborhoods heavily populated by college students. The long street runs by Leslie College outside of Porter Square, past Harvard University, MIT in Kendall Square, Berkeley College of Music, and Northeastern University as it makes its way through the city. Drivers-both agitated and careless-fail to look out for bicyclists and the result is often tragic.
The data also shows some of the most common causes for bike crashes in the city. A large portion of accidents (20%) are caused by “dooring” or when a rider is hit by a driver opening his or her car door in their path. Another leading cause is the Green Line tracks that are set into the pavement. According to Boston.com, riders get their tires stuck in the grooves and are in an especially vulnerable spot for oncoming traffic. Data from the map shows that the area around South Huntington Ave and Heath Street on the E-Branch is an especially troublesome spot.
City officials and advocates alike have been trying for years to find a solution to make the roads safer for both drivers and bicyclists, but they just can’t seem to see eye-to-eye. Bike lanes have been installed on many streets in the Boston area with mixed results. Some advocates suggest cycle tracks, which are physically separated from cars by a barrier, but drivers are strongly opposed to the structures because they take up space on already-congested roads and can occupy precious parking spots. In a centuries-old city, whose roads were built for streetcars and horse-drawn carriages and not for flashy SUVs and bikes, both drivers and riders need to be aware of their surroundings. It just might save a life, maybe even your own.
Even with recent improvements to bicycle safety, the bike crash map proves that bikers and drivers still have issues safely sharing the road. Car accidents involving bicycles are becoming more frequent as the number of riders increases. Recovery from these incidents can be difficult, both physically and financially. Injuries sustained in bike accident can be extremely painful and life-altering. Victims may not be able to return to work, or in the worst case, family members must mourn the loss of a loved one. If you or a loved one has been hit by a motor vehicle while riding a bike, Altman & Altman would like to help. Our dedicated attorneys have decades of experience successful handling pedestrian accident cases and are available to help around the clock. You should contact a Boston Injury Lawyer right away to find out whether to proceed with this route.
To read the full Boston.com report, click here