Bad Bicycle News

I used to be a hardcore daily bike commuter. (By “hardcore,” I mean I commuted 20-30 miles roundtrip every day in Chicago in January.) Lately, I’ve gotten lazy, especially since I now live about thirty seconds by foot from a train station that takes me to a spot about thirty seconds by foot from my job.

Also, since I’m now supporting two people (including my nearly two-year-old daughter), I’m a little more reluctant to get myself killed.

I was reminded of the perils of biking in Boston this afternoon when a 22-year old bicyclist was killed by a dump truck in an area where I used to ride daily:

The bicyclist, a 22-year-old man from Halifax, was riding between two lanes of traffic on Huntington Avenue when he was clipped by a taxicab near Northeastern University at about 2:30 p.m., police said. After being clipped by the cab, the bicyclist was run over by a McCauley and Sons Co. dump truck, police said.

When I was a bike commuter, I was fairly cavalier about this sort of incident. I realize it’s still fairly rare and biking may not be any more dangerous than driving. But we still see these events in Boston fairly regularly. I don’t think it can be fixed fully by better driver education/behavior (or better bicyclist education/behavior). There are just too many streets that are poorly designed and naturally hazardous.

On a related note, Nat mentioned this nasty run-in during a recent Critical Mass in San Francisco (the article is obviously from the driver’s point of view — there may be another angle on this):

Susan Ferrando, her husband, their two children and three preteens had come to San Francisco from Redwood City to celebrate the birthday of Ferrando’s 11-year-old daughter. They went to Japantown, where they enjoyed shopping and taking in the blooming cherry blossoms. Things took a turn for the worse at about 9 p.m., when the family was leaving Japantown — just as the party of about 3,000 bikers was winding down its monthly red-lights-be-damned ride through the city.

Suddenly, Ferrando said, her car was surrounded by hundreds of cyclists.

Not being from San Francisco, Ferrando thought she might have inadvertently crossed paths with a bicycle race and couldn’t figure out why the police, who she had just passed, hadn’t warned her.

Confusion, however, quickly turned to terror, she said, when the swarming cyclists began wildly circling around and then running into the sides of her Toyota van.

Filled with panic, Ferrando said, she started inching forward until coming to a stop at Post and Gough streets, where she was surrounded by bikers on all sides.

A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded the other side.

“It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons,” Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike — shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.

All the while, Ferrando was screaming, “There are children in this car! There are children in this car!”

Update 4/5/2007: the 22-year-old bicyclist had a myspace page.


  1. rajbot Apr 4

    The case for seperated bike lanes.

  2. Anonymous Apr 5

    I appreciate the plight of bicycles in a busy city, and I appreciate the argument for more economical travel, but I think the story you quote describes Critical Mass quite accurately, and I seriously doubt that any other (accurate) angle exists.

  3. P Apr 5

    The bare facts of the story suggest she continued driving even though there were cyclists in her way. Perhaps she got her window smashed as an act of self defence by the cyclists to get her to stop. From reading this one news report you cannot tell. The report says she was “inching forward” but from media reports I’ve read of events I’ve seen there’s just as much chance she was driving headlong at the cyclists.

  4. jldugger Apr 5

    I can’t see how smashing a window and assailing a car is somehow a defense of teaching vechicle drivers how to cooperate with bike traffic. It seems the bikers feel Ferrando should have just waited, rather than “share the road” that I thought embodied the Critical Mass principle. Whether Ferrando hit a cyclist may be in dispute, but the damage to the car is clear and this street justice shouldn’t be tolerated.

    Also, running red lights is bullshit, pure and simple. It only takes one example to demonstrate: what if I decide to run another “Critical Mass” on the same day that happens to cross paths? Critical Mass Collision. I find it ironic that they can ignore traffic laws like that and then expect 911 services to rush to their aid. But if we must be forced to endure this sort of “they can’t arrest us all” mob mentality,
    there’s been some good suggestions. Just hang out by a traffic light and punch anyone running the light — fight mob justice with mob justice. Just come up with a catchy name. Critical Beatdown, maybe, and a website, and I’m sure people will show up.

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