Gambling with the Wellbeing of Others

By Lauren LeClaire
Communications Coordinator

The roads were a sheet of ice. The morning sunshine - a welcome sight after this historic winter - made the entire road glisten. Caution was the word of the day. I rolled steadily, confident in my knobby tires and Geekhouse cyclo-cross bike. I rode with caution, but not unusual concern along this route, my normal commute from Somerville to downtown Boston. My boyfriend rode right behind me as we chatted about our upcoming week.

We pedaled down North Point Boulevard in Cambridge. Things appeared fine until the intersection with Leighton Street. There an 18-wheeler blew a stop sign to make a left hand turn onto North Point directly in front of us. I hit the brakes and of course, my wheels went right out from under me and I hit the ground. I heard my boyfriend slide out right behind me. For a seasoned racer the fall did not scare me. But the rapid slide across the ice, straight towards the wheels of the truck, terrified me. I scraped at the ice-covered ground trying frantically to slow the slide. As I approached the truck - almost in slow motion - I thought of the recent tragedies in Metro Boston involving trucks. I heard myself saying “Oh my God, I’m next!”

I stopped sliding about 50 feet later, closer to the truck than I would have liked. Then my boyfriend slid into me. Rattled, I quickly got to my feet.

The crash did not astonish me. But what happened next did.

The truck had rounded its turn, without stopping, without rolling down a window to see if we were both OK. The three cars behind us, who had witnessed the scene, stopped briefly, until we were out of the middle of the road. They just slowly drove past us. The half a dozen pedestrians on the sidewalk? They just stared. Not a word was spoken. No voice of concern. No “Are you ok?” Some didn’t even look, and just continued about their business, despite my shrill scream as I hit the ground.

We got back on our bikes, shaken up, but thankfully in one piece and I spent the remainder of my route to work contemplating the utter disregard shown for the wellbeing of other human beings. The truck driver, the motorists passing by, the pedestrians, maybe twelve people all together and none of them said a word.

There’s a lack of accountability. There’s a lack of responsibility. And there’s an enormous lack of compassion. With all of the truck-related incidents we have seen in recent years, there needs to be more education and more enforcement to make the roads safer for all users. We get what we tolerate when it comes to behavior on the road. If a vehicle, bike, or pedestrian breaks a law, when was the last time you saw them get pulled over? For every blown stoplight or ignored sign, how many of those receive citations? We are tolerating the misbehavior that causes Massachusetts to be in the top ten in the country for pedestrian and bicycling fatalities. We cannot continue to tolerate the disregard and disrespect of our neighbors.

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