While we are disappointed that no one will be held accountable for the tragic death of Joe Lavins, we are left outraged and in utter disbelief that the District Attorney’s press release peddles a patently false statement that the road design was not a factor in Joe’s death. It most certainly was. For a public official in charge of improving public safety to make such a statement is irresponsible and dangerous. There is no disputing the fact that in the case of Joe Lavins, and Amanda Phillips, protected bike infrastructure would have saved their lives. Porter and Inman Squares are dangerous by design and it’s long past time that it be redesigned to prioritize safety for people walking and biking.
Cambridge has admirably included protected bike lanes in its redesign of Inman Square, but unfortunately the city’s planned improvements for Porter Square still prioritize vehicle throughput and don’t include any protected lanes entering and exiting the intersection. Furthermore, the rapid installation of a city-wide protected bike network that was promised by the City after thousands signed a petition and which the City Council approved on multiple occasions is all but stalled, with only one project in just the planning stage, even though the city’s own recently released Vision Zero Action Plan commits to three protected bike lanes in fiscal year 2018.
Finally, the District Attorney’s press release unfairly and illogically put the blame completely on the victim, stating both that the fact Lavins did not use his turn signal was a contributing factor and that Lavins was in the truck’s blind spot (so his signalling would not have made a difference). Not using a hand signal should not be a death sentence, and drivers of large trucks on our city streets bear the responsibility for driving safely around and next to vulnerable road users.
Most of all our streets must be designed so that crashes like this involving bicyclists and pedestrians are avoided in the first place.
Since 2015, at least seven bicyclists and pedestrians have been killed in crashes on streets in Cambridge. Emergency responders are called to a crash involving a bicycle and a vehicle almost every other day in Cambridge, and in the last four months alone, a high school teacher crossing Mass Ave in Central Square was struck and killed, and a high school student riding on the street was injured in a hit and run crash. The City must act with greater urgency to build streets that are safe and pleasant for all ages and abilities. We demand more.
Cambridge Bicycle Safety is a volunteer group of Cambridge residents formed after the deaths of three cyclists in two years to call for streets that are safer for everyone, and a city where bicycling is safe and enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities.
For a more in-depth breakdown of issues with the DA’s statement, read this op-ed written by Ken Carlson, Chair of the Somerville Bicycle Committee and member of the Joe Lavins Fund for Bicycle Safety Steering Committee.