Another Bike Tragedy, Many Broken Hearts

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“This one sure hits close to home,” a former classmate wrote on Facebook, posting the BU Today story about the photojournalism grad student that was killed yesterday morning on Commonwealth Ave. in a bike-meets-tractor-trailer tragedy.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Maybe it’s because I too once was a photojournalism grad student at BU. Maybe it’s because I’ve been bike commuting more. Maybe it’s because I was snoozing on the T past that spot this morning minutes before the accident. Maybe it’s because I have friends who have been in serious bike accidents. Maybe it’s because I spent about 45 minutes looking at Christopher Weigl’s website and his awesome work this afternoon and watching his classmate’s video profile of him.

The little criss-crossing connections and commonalities, even something as small and distant as the fact that Weigl was a Skidmore alum like my husband, struck a chord today when I learned about the 23-year-old’s death.

And the whole thing just sucks.

This marks the fifth cyclist death this year in Boston, and coincidentally on the same day that city officials were convening to discuss bike safety. How’s that for irony.

And amidst the suckiness of the loss of one with so much potential is a bit of a blame game going on. Some say drivers are terrible and don’t respect cyclists. Some say cyclists don’t respect the rules of the road and act dangerously.

What can be done to have safer biking in the city? I don’t think it’s just more bike lanes and I don’t think it’s just better driver awareness or just smarter cycling. As others have commented, both drivers and cyclists need to work together on this.

In the Atlantic, Cities writer Eric Jaffe features activist and cross-country explorer of the hazards of cycling in the US, Em Baker. Baker tells Jaffe, “No cyclist wants to be hit by a car. No motorist wants to hit a cyclist. It’s a nightmare for both parties and nobody wins. So why does it happen?”

With more people partaking in alternate forms of transportation like biking, myself included, it does make you ask, “Could that have been me?” Could that mildly stupid left turn have wound up much worse? I know I technically stopped at the red light,  but did I really look before moving through it?

We learn defensive driving when we get our licenses (or just want reduced insurance rates), but what about defensive riding? Or are we too cool for that?

Cue Mom-esque moment: Helmets. Helmets, helmets, helmets. And maybe it might not have made a difference today. But why take that chance tomorrow?

I’ve been super excited for Les Miserables to come out – like get goosebumps all over just thinking about it. And in reflecting on Christopher Weigl’s death today, with my T puttering past the scene of the accident on my way home, the song “One Day More” comes into my head.

Peddle safely, fellow cyclists.