Public Mourns Bicyclist, Calls for Safety

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Connor Edwards's picture

Local residents, avid cyclists and city officials alike mourned the loss of Bernard “Joe” Lavins in Porter Square on Oct. 5. With their heads bowed in memoriam, they began a familiar healing process from within, but simultaneously acknowledged the inevitable path ahead, moving forward as a community towards recovery. Residents have had enough.

On Oct. 17, a number of safety precautions regarding bike safety were unanimously passed by the City Council, including improved bike lanes and facilities as well as truck route restrictions.

The meeting followed a demonstration in front of City Hall by Protest for Safer Streets. Protesters rode bikes to the rally and wore bright green stickers on their neon clothes with the words “Safe Streets Now.”

Much of the community was engrossed in the subject of bike safety, as more than 44 residents wished to add comments during the meeting, the majority urging strongly for the proposed measures. Stories of near-fatal accidents were told, and community members expressed the urgency of action, as they felt too many people had already been lost due to inadequate safety precautions.

Some could not believe that they were attending a meeting for the second time, the first following the death of Amanda Phillips. Several residents, despite the dangers of cycling in Cambridge, felt they had no other option but to ride their bikes.

They expressed the burdens of car expenses and environmental damage, as well as their means of staying active. No matter what their story, each speaker fought for the protection of the cycling community.
A promise was made to Joe’s widow that because her late husband followed the rules of the road, the city as a whole would strive to do the same.

With safer infrastructure would come more cyclists, therefore promoting a more active and environmentally friendly community, as well as a decrease in traffic. This would prevent accidents caused by drivers opening their doors or pulling unexpected U-turns.

With an emphasized sense of urgency, the “Bike Master Plan” that has been frequently procrastinated by the city is now significantly prioritized since recent events. However, despite the majority vote, the issue is more complicated than it appears, and changes cannot be implemented overnight. Safer infrastructure will be a difficult process due to alternate routes causing accidents on other streets.

Safety should be kept in mind long after any new policies are ratified. Due to complex patterns in traffic, the City Council will not momentarily understand the proper accommodations for cyclists.

Regardless, a shift in perception is indispensable. Automobiles were not the first priority during the construction of Cambridge’s streets, and this factor should be respected. Drivers should see from the perspective of the cyclists and the pedestrians. It is the people who should be protected, and who should always come first.