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Vision Zero

Truck Drivers Have Caused Two Deaths In Two Weeks In Cambridge

Both crashes involved trucks making right turns across a separated bike lane, according to preliminary police investigations.

A ghost bike memorial to Darryl Willis, who was killed by a truck driver in Harvard Square on August 18, 2020.

In the span of just two weeks this month, truck drivers have struck and killed two victims who were riding bikes in designated bike lanes in the City of Cambridge.

The killings come on the heels of a contentious Cambridge City Council vote, in April, to delay installations of safer bike lanes on several other streets in the city.

The most recent killing occurred Friday morning, around 8:20 a.m., at the intersection of Hampshire Street and Portland Street near Kendall Square.

After a preliminary investigation, Cambridge police believe that the driver of a box truck and the victim were both traveling eastbound on Hampshire Street when the truck took a right turn onto Portland Street and struck the victim.

The victim was later identified as 24-year-old Minh-Thi Nguyen, a graduate student of experimental physics at MIT.

The perpetrator has not been identified, but Cambridge Police report that they remained at the scene of the crash, and that the investigation is ongoing.

Exactly two weeks earlier, another truck driver killed a bicyclist on Mt. Auburn Street near Harvard Square.

On Friday, June 7, around 4:30 p.m., the operator of another box truck struck and killed 55-year-old Kim Staley of Naples, Florida.

The circumstances of that crash appear to be very similar: police believe that Staley and the truck driver were both traveling east on Mount Auburn Street when the truck driver made a right turn across the separated bike lane onto DeWolfe Street.

A street with flexible post bollards to divide the car lanes (left) from the bike lanes (right). The bikeway has a right-turn lane against the curb next to a lane with straight arrows for through bike traffic. The street is lined with old brick buildings.
The Mount Auburn Street separated bike lane at DeWolfe Street near Harvard Square.

Hampshire Street, which is one of the region's busiest bike routes, and Mount Auburn Street both have flexpost-separated bike lanes. To make a right turn from either street, the truck drivers involved in these crashes would have had to drive across the bike lane.

The intersection of Mt. Auburn and DeWolfe has additional protection from a traffic signal, which theoretically only allows right turns for motor vehicles while bikes have a red light (see photo above).

The intersection of Hampshire and Portland also has a traffic signal, but there is no dedicated phase to separate right-turning motor vehicle traffic from bike traffic.

Vigil scheduled for Monday afternoon

Cambridge Bike Safety is organizing a vigil for the two victims, scheduled for Monday afternoon from 4:45 to 5:30 p.m. on the steps of Cambridge City Hall.

In April, five city councilors – Mayor E. Denise Simmons, along with Councilors Patricia Nolan, Joan Pickett, Ayesha Wilson, and Paul Toner – voted to delay safety projects on several other key streets in Cambridge.

Over the weekend, Cambridge Bike Safety also published a detailed set of recommendations for the city to make its intersections safer.

"This should be a reminder that safety is systemic, and dangers exist throughout the city. If anything, we should be accelerating safety projects, not delaying them," Chris Cassa of Cambridge Bicycle Safety told StreetsblogMASS.

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