Christopher John Weigl, 23, passed away suddenly December 6, 2012 as a result of a crash on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. He was riding his bicycle in the morning to attend the his photojournalism class at Boston University, when the driver of a tractor trailer truck made a sudden right-hand turn, resulting in a collision and Christopher’s death.
A lifelong Massachusetts resident and Boston University graduate student, Christopher was born in Framingham and lived most of his life in Southborough, MA.
An avid outdoorsman, Christopher obtained the rank of Eagle Scout at age 14 and remained an active member of Boy Scout Troop 1 till his eighteenth birthday. In addition to scouting, Christopher was an accomplished clarinet player throughout his years of schooling, and played in a variety of ensembles including the Central District Band and Orchestra, MetroWest Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Worcester Youth Symphony Orchestra. After graduating Worcester Academy in 2007, Christopher matriculated to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. Although eventually deciding upon a bachelors in English, photography supplanted music as the central passion of Christopher’s life, and he could often be found shooting campus events for the student paper or the school’s communications department.
By graduation, Christopher had served as both Photography Club President as well as Photography Editor of the Skidmore News. These pursuits were in addition to internships with Panorama Magazine, Emma Dodge Hanson Photography and KCK Photography, as well as a semester abroad in Florence, Italy to take more specialized photography classes.
After graduation, Christopher indulged his love of travel by embarking on a six week trip through Operation Groundswell, a “voluntourism” organization, to find a story and do service projects in Cambodia and Thailand. It was on the little Cambodian island of Koh Rong, where he interviewed locals and uncovered a government takeover of the island, that Christopher found a story and cemented his love for photojournalism. The experience in Southeast Asia seeded the first thoughts of graduate school, and after a year of working at Ritz Camera, driving limousines, building a photography business, and freelance reporting for the weekly Community Advocate, Christopher moved to Brighton to attend Boston University’s Photojournalism Masters Program.
You can see Christopher's work on his photography website HERE.
Fueled by his passion, his love and excitement for his work continued to grow, with new opportunities unfolding seemingly every day. Christopher’s warmth, humor, integrity, love of life and friends, and his way of picturing the world will be missed by all who knew him.
Advocacy on Commonwealth Ave
The incident that took Christopher's life directly led to the advocacy for protected bicycle infrastructure on Comm Ave, right in the heart of the Boston University Charles River Campus. MassBike believes that the crash was entirely preventable, and after the crash we worked with our partners in student groups and with the Vision Zero Coalition to encourage officials at the City of Boston, MassDOT, and Boston University to transform Commonwealth Avenue to make the street safer for all road users.
In 2012, there were no protected bike lanes in the entire City of Boston, and Comm Ave was one of the most popular cycling routes with thousands of bicyclists passing through every day. This was made even more important as this stretch is the center of Boston University, which brings students new to Boston every year to ride their bikes alongside car traffic, buses, delivery trucks, MBTA trolley tracks, and all the dangers associated with a convoluted and busy corridor.
Yet there was the opportunity for this stretch of Comm Ave to be redesigned and rebuilt by the City of Boston and MassDOT as part of the Comm Ave Phase II Project. However, the design of the roadway at that point was to replace the bike lane as a single white line with no physical separation.
In order to drive attention and support to the project, MassBike collaborated with several advocacy organizations to invite Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on a bike ride in 2014 to tour this stretch of Comm Ave and allow the Mayor to experience the dangers from behind the handle bars. Once the Mayor Walsh felt how the street layout leaves riders vulnerable, he directed the Boston Transportation Department to design a new roadway that would inherently mitigate crashes like the ones that took Christopher's life by changing the road layout and providing a protected bicycle lane.
“The ride was good,” Walsh said after the trek. “From a biking perspective, it was certainly eye-opening. I didn’t get the full effect of riding by myself, but coming down Comm Ave, where the cars are there, it really opens your eyes.”
After years of advocacy and a robust public process, a coalition of partners, including BU Bikes student group, WalkBoston, LivableStreets Alliance, the Boston Cyclists Union, local businesses, and Boston University worked with the City of Boston to design the roadway to create separated facilities for cyclists known as a “cycletracks,” shortened the distance for pedestrians to cross Comm Ave, provided raised crossings for pedestrians to reach bus stops, consolidated MBTA Green Line stops, and was at the forefront of innovation for bicycle-signalization, all while maintaining on-street parking and allowing for the flow of general traffic, emergency vehicles, buses, and trucks on Comm Ave, which is also an evacuation route, and Route 20.
The redesign of Comm Ave means that all bike riders, and indeed all road users, can now navigate safely. Thanks to MassDOT and the City of Boston, this is now the gold standard of how we want our streets to operate for generations to come.
We are proud to honor Christopher's legacy through this transformative work.