Greater Boston’s Cycling Advocates Launch Joe Lavins Fund for Bicycle Safety

joe lavins fundThe "ghost bike" in Porter Square memorializing cyclist Joe Lavins. Photo courtesy of the Somerville Bicycle Committee.

In response to the tragic October death of cyclist Joe Lavins, who was killed after being struck by a tractor trailer as he biked through Porter Square, bike safety advocates have launched the Joe Lavins Fund for Bicycle Safety.

Ken Carlson of the Somerville Bicycle Committee says that advocates have been working to create the fund since they heard about the crash. Lavins was a colleague and friend of Carlson’s; he was also a bike commuter and was himself a bicycle safety advocate.

The Joe Lavins Fund for Bicycle Safety unites members of the Somerville Bicycle Committee, the Boston Cyclists Union, MassBike, Bike Safe Boston and the LivableStreets Alliance in a show of solidarity that spans the bike and pedestrian advocacy community. According to Carlson, these organizations have been working together more and more in recent years, and this joint fundraising and advocacy initiative is only the latest in ongoing efforts to increase communication between the groups.

“We wanted the money raised in this fund to be available to any not-for-profit organization that’s doing work that could fulfill the mission and goals of the fund,” Carlson explains. “We want the best brains on this … I think we have to collaborate to get these types of goals achieved. It requires a lot of voices and a lot of muscle and a lot of hard work.”

Lavins is one of several cyclists who have been killed by large vehicles over the last 18 months. Amanda Phillips died after she was doored and then hit by a landscaping truck in Inman Square this June, and Anita Kurmann was struck and killed by a turning flat-bed truck in Boston last August.

“Half of the fatalities that have struck cyclists in the last several years have been at the hands of large trucks and tractor trailers,” Carlson says. “We know that cyclists particularly are vulnerable to crashes with large vehicles.”

The main focus of the fund will be in getting training materials to drivers of large vehicles, teaching them how to best be on the lookout for cyclists and pedestrians.

“We’ve heard from people in the Teamsters and other trucking organizations that they want this material, that they want videos that they can show the drivers of their trucks to educate them on how to behave in urban environments,” Carlson says. “These are people, they don’t want to hurt anybody else.”

Carlson also points to simple changes that aren’t currently mandated—including truck sideboards and crossover mirrors like those often seen on school buses—that can greatly reduce the number of collisions and fatalities. The fund will support advocacy efforts to encourage city governments and the state to adopt stricter safety requirements for large vehicles and will work with private companies to encourage the installation of side guards and crossover mirrors on their vehicles.

In addition, the fund will support safety education for those who bike how to stay safe around large vehicles.

“It’s not good for anybody when these types of crashes happen,” Carlson says, adding that the safest facilities for cyclists are still protected bike lanes. “It’s devastating, I’m sure, for the driver of the truck who ran over Joe.”

To Carlson, it comes down to a simple question: How much is a life worth? He points to Lavins, a physician and pharmaceutical researcher who helped bring life-changing drugs onto the market, as well as Kurmann (a surgeon at Beth Israel) and Phillips (a nursing student and researcher) as examples of people who could have gone on to save lives themselves were they not killed on their bicycles. If these efforts can save even one person, he says, then they’ll have been worth it.

“What else would Joe have done if he was not killed in the prime of his research life?” Carlson asks.

You can learn more about the Joe Lavins Fund for Bicycle Safety and donate here