Why Are So Many Cyclists Dying on the Street?

bike and carPhoto via Thinkstock

Something has shifted. All summer, cyclists and drivers got along pretty well. There was the occasional dust-up, but all in all, it wasn’t a horrible time to be a cyclist in Boston. Sometime recently—I’m going to say Thursday, Sept. 13—everything changed. Maybe it has something to do with drivers hurrying around in shorter days, or that twilight now tails the end of the evening commute and cyclists are less visible, or maybe it’s that the goodwill against cyclists has run out. Because it’s a battle out there again.

On Friday, a 63-year-old cyclist was struck and killed by an alleged drunkard at 12:30 a.m. on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester. It’s a wide, straight road that’s easy to exceed the 30 mph speed limit, and there’s often a statie there to enforce the law. Unfortunately for Doan Bui, the road wasn’t wide enough or straight enough to keep him safe from a driver in a pick-up truck. Bui was pronounced dead at the scene. No ghost bike went up, no nothing. And the cars continue to zoom by on Morrissey.

Yesterday, a young woman was hit and dragged to her death by a tractor trailer in Southie. There were tons of eyewitnesses. Read their accounts if you have the stomach for it.

And in Wellesley, motorists apparently are now free to mow down cyclists without legal consequence, after 41-year-old family man Alexander Motsenigos was killed by a driver who then left the scene. Police interviewed the driver, but no charges have been filed.

People die in cars every day, but those accidents are less frequent on city streets where it’s hard to get up enough of a head of steam to overwhelm airbags and crumple zones and the one million other safety features that cars have to keep us from killing each other. In cities, it’s the cyclists who get hurt, or killed, or sneered at, or cursed, or bluff rammed, or deliberately cornered against the curb at 3 mph, like happened to me this very morning.

But I’m just one guy. Others are probably starting to notice this shift, too. We can’t do much, but we can make sure a ghost bike for Doan Bui gets installed on Morrissey Boulevard at Malibu Beach. And maybe the advocacy groups can do some sort of guerrilla signage at Huntington Ave. and Forsyth Street, where grad student Kelsey Rennebohm was struck and killed back in June. She was the third cyclist to die in that intersection.

Because until cyclists stop quietly taking our hits on the street, nothing is ever going to change.