Scary Moments Campaign Aims to Spread Awareness of Biking Dangers

bikeA bicyclist is squeezed between a car lane and the sidewalk. Photo by Stacey King.

“I was in an unprotected bike lane while wearing a helmet, reflective jacket, and front and back lights,” a bicyclist recounts of a trip through Central Square. “I was hit by a car that stopped in the street and opened their passenger door into the unprotected bike lane. I was briefly knocked out from the impact and didn’t know where I was after the incident. I injured my hand, and for a month it hurt to work or pick up my daughter … I still bike to work most days but am afraid I will get hit again.”

“I was doored on Mass. Ave. in Harvard Square,” another writes. “The door pushed me over into the car travel lane (I was on the section where the bike lane disappears) and I remembered that a truck was behind me. All I could think about was being run over by the truck. Luckily, that did not happen, but I was quite shaken and badly bruised. The driver of the car was also shaken … That driver has to live with the memory of pushing me over and I live with the memory of being pushed over.”

These stories are part of the Scary Moments campaign by Cambridge Bicycle Safety, a volunteer group that advocates for a network of separated bike lanes on streets with significant bike traffic.

The project intends to raise awareness of the dangers of biking on streets that are not adapted for multiple modes of transit.

“Everyone has their own story about a near miss, or a crash,” member Mark Boswell says. “There are so many that we decided to collect them and publicize them to remind people that there’s a long way to go for safety.”

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Photo from 2015 Cambridge Bicycle Plan.

“This whole Scary Moments Project came out of the statistic that there’s 160 bicycle crashes each year in Cambridge,” member Annie Tuan adds. “That’s a staggering number when you think about it—that’s almost one every other day. And also we know that there’s plenty more that don’t get reported.”

But the members think the stories illuminate that the danger isn’t the fault of individual bicyclists, or even of drivers.

“It does indicate to me that it’s not us being bad bicyclists,” member Eugenia Huh says. “It’s that the streets are unsafe. It’s that the infrastructure isn’t there.”

The city recently unveiled its Vision Zero action plan for how it aims to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. Cambridge Bicycle Safety approves of the plan’s goals, according to several of its members, but worries about effective implementation. Tuan says that lowering speed limits in the city’s busiest squares is an important step, for example, but points out that drivers might not follow those limits without infrastructure changes like raised intersections.

To read all of the scary moments or to submit your own, visit the Cambridge Bicycle Safety website.

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