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We need more safety for cyclists


Monday, August 06, 2018

The tragic death of Michael Stennes, the bicycle rider visiting Gill during a weekend bicycle ride this past Saturday, is ongoing evidence of the importance of passing and enforcing laws intended to reduce fatalities on our Massachusetts roadways. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Michael, who died unnecessarily on Massachusetts roadways.

Michael was a loving father, a scientist, an engineer, an athlete, a helpful neighbor, and a volunteer in his community. His family, friends and community mourn his tragic death.

We encourage drivers to be vigilant in their awareness of others on the road. Legal use of the road by bicycles is a right, and we encourage readers to contact their state representatives to pass omnibus Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities (read the bill here). We are not certain of the reasons for this crash, and we respect the work of the investigators, who will no doubt provide a thorough analysis of this incident. However, we do know the driver, a 23-year-old Montague man, has been cited by Gill police for negligent operation of a motor vehicle, failure to yield and unlicensed operation.

Nearly all pedestrian and bicyclist traffic fatalities are avoidable. The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) has a mission of making bicycle use safer and more accessible for all people in the commonwealth. We are working on legislation, education, policy, and engineering changes to make our roads safer for all users, with the goal to reduce traffic fatalities to zero. Additionally, MassBike works to promote proper education for cyclists using roadways, and for drivers to be aware of cyclist behavior just the same. The Massachusetts State Senate has approved An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities requiring vehicles to leave a minimum of at least 3 feet of clearance if passing a bicycle, pedestrian, tow-truck driver, state trooper writing tickets, and other vulnerable folks on our roads. The bill also allows a driver to cross the yellow line when passing a bicycle rider and requires the state to develop a standard analysis tool to be used in bicycle/pedestrian traffic crashes throughout all municipalities.

However, this bill needs to pass through the House of Representatives before it becomes a law. There are current bicycle and vehicle laws in place. Regarding motor vehicles, Law Chap. 90, Sec 14 states “When turning left at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway, you must yield the right of way to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, including a bicycle, if it is in the intersection or close enough to be an immediate hazard.”

We sincerely encourage all road users to continue to understand that operation of motor vehicles is an inherently dangerous privilege and all should be responsible and accountable for the rules of the road. And we encourage everyone to contact their local representative to ensure passage of An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities, which needs to pass through the Massachusetts House of Representatives by July 31. We must not accept tragic and unnecessary fatalities in our streets, and we must strive for a world where all users of the road — bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers alike — can make it home safe.

Alden Booth, Kate Dollard,
Millie Rossman, Alex Weck,
and Gary Briere

Pioneer Valley Chapter Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition Massbike ​​​​​​