Cyclist Dies in Allston Intersection Everyone Knows is Dangerous

This is a tragedy—more so because no one will make cycling in Boston any safer.

There was another fatal bike accident in Allston last night. Every time a cyclist dies, the response is reactionary as it is predictable: There’s the faction of people who say the streets aren’t safe and another faction who say the cyclists aren’t safe. Then, with a few exceptions, we all forget and move on.

The deceased was a 21-year-old university student, and I feel bad because we’re programmed to feel bad when lives are cut short. I also know it could’ve easily been me. In 2005, I was hit by a taxi while cycling in the same intersection. I got sideswiped when the taxi turned right against red. My shoulder hit first then I rolled onto my back. I can still see the taxi’s old-style Crown Vic headlight in my mind’s eye. I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I lost consciousness for a few minutes. But I got lucky. Last night, the guy who got hit wasn’t so lucky.

Cue the choruses for and against cycling—and then watch nothing happen. The two sides will never understand each other because the thing that non-cyclists don’t understand is this: There’s no amount of careful that’s careful enough to ride a bicycle on any street, anywhere. The same is, of course, true for cars, but cars have crumple zones and airbags while cyclists have flesh and bone. The thing that cyclists don’t understand is that cars are bigger and physics doesn’t care if you have right-of-way.

When we stop dividing up into our tribes and rehashing the same old arguments, there’s one less cyclist and student and person in the city, and there’s just another intersection that everyone knew was dangerous. If history is any guide, nothing will be done to make it more safe—not even spilled blood can make that happen. Instead, there will be another ghost bike that serves as a reminder of what happened. That’s it. And unless something changes, the table is already set for the next tragedy.

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