As a Boston car-bicycle accident lawyer, I know all too well that bicyclists are always exposed to risks when riding on Massachusetts roads. There is always the threat of injury and death from motorists who, for whatever the reason, are unable to share the road with a cyclist, and the poor cyclist ends up as an accident victim or a fatality.
If you’ve driven around Massachusetts lately – or around the country – you may have seen the haunting “makeshift memorials” to killed cyclists that have unexpectedly sprung up. They are called “ghost bike street memorials.” The typical one looks like an older model of a bike, and is painted completely white, tires and all – a stark contrast to its surroundings — and is chained to a tree or to a lamppost, as if to signify that their owner will someday return to ride it. The truth is, the bike’s owner has been killed in a Massachusetts bicycle-car accident. Usually, surrounding the white bicycle are flowers, flags, handwritten notes, and a small plaque to memorialize the killed victim.
Working behind the scenes of these makeshift memorials are people who are affiliated with www.ghostbikes.org. According to their website, Ghost Bikes are memorials for bicyclists who are killed or hit while riding a bicycle on the street. These memorials serve as reminders of the tragedy that took place on an otherwise anonymous street, and serve to showcase cyclists’ right to safe travel. This isn’t a local phenomenon: Ghost Bikes lists 26 countries where they are located, including Poland, Austria, Ukraine and New Zealand. The first ghost bikes were created in 2003 in St. Louis, Missouri. Right now there exist more than 500 ghost bike memorials that have been created in more than 180 locations throughout the world.
It is estimated that at least 700 bicyclists are killed in traffic accidents in the USA annually. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 51,000 pedal-cyclists were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2009; 17% (or about 8,000) of the pedal-cyclists who were injured were 14 years old and younger. We all need to do something about these horrible statistics. Think about it. When you are driving in your car, do you exercise more caution when you see a cyclist? Do you slow down? Do you know who has the right of way? What if you are going to make a right-hand turn and are in the way of a cyclist who is continuing straight – who gets to go first? How can we all be more courteous to each other on the road? With “road rage” so ever-present, how can we possibly learn to be more patient, and less frustrated, when sharing the road with a cyclist? Where do you even go to learn how to be a safer driver, as far as cyclists are concerned?
One place to start might be the Bikes Belong Foundation. According to their website, their credo is that there needs to be mutual respect among motorists and cyclists. We need to slow down in traffic. We need to provide safe places where cyclists can ride. We need to create communities where people of all ages can enjoy bicycling without fear that they will be hit by a car. These issues affect health, safety, and quality of life.
In Boston, perhaps we can all benefit from Boston Bikes. It is part of Mayor Menino’s vision for a vibrant and healthy city that benefits everyone who lives here. Boston Bikes wants to make Boston a preeminent bicycling city by creating safe and inviting conditions for all visitors and residents It focuses on improvements in five areas: Engineering, Enforcement, Education, Encouragement, and Evaluation. In the meantime, if you’re a driver, try to be more patient with cyclists you share the road with. If you’re a cyclist, try to be more patient with drivers as well. Don’t drive or bike aggressively. Look out for the other guy. And maybe, sometimes use a specified bike path for your enjoyment.
And if you – or someone you love – has been injured in a bicycle/car accident, make sure to speak with an experienced Massachusetts bicycle-car accident lawyer. Amke sure they can prove that they have handled many of these particular types of cases, as they an become complicated.