Two Crashes Draw Increased Attention to Suburban Bike Accommodations

Second Lincoln Fatality, Waltham Collision Showcase Poor Bike Conditions

News of the first crash on Wednesday, Aug. 17, came in the morning. Normally that would have filled up our caseload for the day here at MassBike.

But in pursuing details about the crash, we learned of a second crash on the same day. This one proved fatal.

Both involved large motor vehicles, a pickup truck and an SUV.

The first victim was Sean Kavanaugh, 61, of Carlisle. He frequently rode and commuted in and around Metro Boston. He frequently joined group rides with the Monsters, a group anchored in neighboring Concord.  

He has been a longstanding Pan Mass Challenge rider, raising tens of thousands of dollars as a member of the Flames team. His page from that charity event is posted here.

Reports indicate that as he rode eastbound and downhill along Trapelo Road in Waltham on Wednesday, Aug. 17, a negligent driver of a westbound pickup truck suddenly turned left and struck this husband and father of three broadside. The impact moved him roughly 20 feet before he came to rest beneath the vehicle. The driver, as yet unnamed, stayed at the scene. The office of Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan stated that the driver would be charged, but has yet to specify what those charges would be.  

Much of those charges depended on whether Kavanaugh would survive such a violent trauma. Medical teams rushed him to Lahey Burlington where he remained with a fractured skull and multiple left leg fractures. Latest reports indicate he has not suffered spinal injuries. Although his condition had improved he remained in the intensive care unit there.

As MassBike pursued information on Kavanaugh, reports came in on a second vehicle crash involving a Mark Himelfarb, 57, of Westford. This event occurred on Virginia Road, a popular bicycle route in Lincoln, near the Hanscom Air Field. Unconfirmed reports indicate the eastbound cyclist rode uphill from the airfield towards a 90-degree left turn to Old Bedford Road. There is no intersection, just a left turn from Virginia Road on to Old Bedford Road. The speed limit on the road is just 25 mph. An SUV reportedly struck the cyclist near that turn, which has a stop sign for westbound traffic on Old Bedford Road. MassBike has not been able to determine which direction the SUV traveled.

The SUV struck the bicycle and rider with sufficient force to kill him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Although the driver remained at the scene and police impounded the vehicle, no charges have been filed as of this writing.

A father of two, Himelfarb worked at iRobot and had planned to join his son for a lunchtime ride. He never arrived for that ride.  

His obituary is published here.

Earlier this year another crash involving a motor vehicle killed a cyclist in Lincoln. Eugene Thornberg of Wayland died along Route 126 of injuries sustained on June 16. No charges were filed against that driver. The speed limit along that stretch is posted at 30 mph.

Family and friends of Thornberg will be hosting a ghost bike installation ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 10. While the Town of Lincoln will allow the ceremony to happen, officials will not allow the ghost bike to remain in place permanently.

All three of these crashes were along routes popular for commuting, training and touring cyclists. There are no bicycle lanes or markings in any of the three routes.

MassBike will continue to seek more information on these tragedies.

Showing 6 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • Mark Kaepplein
    William Dotson was killed crossing the street on a sunny day on March 23, 2015. Since then the identity of the Woburn driver who hit him has still been kept secret by Middlesex DA Marian Ryan and Arlington police chief Fred Ryan for the past 18 months. The driver was only recently charged, and had a magistrate hearing without results made public just recently. When asked Chief Ryan why she hasn’t been named, he claimed it was protected information under HIPAA!

    Yet, when Paul Giragosian struck and killed a woman at night outside of a dark sidewalk, Ryan and Ryan rushed to name and charge him. Likewise, other drivers have also been named prior to arraignment. Giragosian was cleared of all charges, though hampered from getting his driving license back.

    I hope MassBike can help put pressure on police and DAs to come up with consistent policy and more timely action.
  • Mark Duchart
    As someone that rides this road almost daily I can tell you lunch time on this road can be chaotic. I avoid the times between 11am and 1pm for this very reason. People racing to get back to work or worse, waze using it as a bi-pass when RT 2 is congested, I get passed by cars doing 60+ coming into Hanscomb, and if their late to get back to work at one of the offices along the Virginia they continue that speed to that very intersection which has a stop sign and right turn only. Very few people stop at the sign, instead turn hard and charge down the hill where again they can be going 50-60 as they pass you, scary. I will tell you I am 1 of maybe 1000 cyclists I’ve seen that actually stops at both signs, the one coming into Hanscomb and the one on Virginia. We demand more lanes, 3 ft distance, equal access etc but most cyclists I see don’t obey the traffic laws that are in place for all. In the past week I have seen:

    6 riders blowing through a red light in Lexington
    10+ riders blow through stop signs in Concord, Lincoln, and Lexington
    10+ taking a right on red when sign clearly states no turn on red
    Group rides taking up a full lane of traffic, talking, chatting, while cars are waiting to pass, this maybe legal but it sure pisses the drivers off, so much so they seem to see how close they can get their cars without actually hitting them.

    So is it a wonder why some drivers are so callus because they see this behavior every day in the previous mentioned towns which has so many cyclists on its roads.

    I am STRONG believer in punishment for drivers who hurt or kill cyclists and sadly you never seem to see it. But maybe we own some of this by not OBEYING the laws and by law enforcement not citing bad cycling behavior. Yes it sucks to come to stop at a stop sign on a hill and un-clip or wait for a light to turn green, but we can’t have it both ways, expecting laws to be passed for drivers that support cyclists then seeing cyclist disregard the basic traffic laws the cars must comply with. I believe a campaign to support proper cycling behavior would go a long in getting laws passed and prosecution of drivers who kill or injure cyclists. Right now they are just plain POed watching cyclists continue to break the law…
  • Ken Mostello
    Roads need to be engineered for safe use by both cyclists and motor vehicles. That means having marked cycling lanes, appropriate signage, and reasonable separation between motor vehicles and bikes. It also means educating drivers and cyclists on the rules of the road. As a cyclist, I’d also like a source to inform me of what roads should be considered hazardous and avoided.
  • Peter Herman
  • Deborah Neisel-Sanders
    I live near there and many is the sunny Saturday when I am whizzing to keep up with traffic along the narrow, winding, tightly tree-lined roads and swerving across double-lines to avoid so many cyclists. This area – Lincoln, Lexington, Concord, Waltham – is prime cycling country. It desperately needs a comprehensive roads system overhaul to more safely accommodate ALL the different types of traffic that use those roads.
  • Alan Wright
    Part of the problem is the lack of charges against negligent drivers. This is a failure of the District Attorneys to either file charges or obtain grand jury indictments. The truck driver that killed a cyclist in Wellesley a few years ago was not indicted due to a failure of the DA to get the jury to indict despite the clear negligence of the driver. Likewise, Suffolk County DA Conley has failed to indict the truck driver that killed Anita Kurman over one year ago. The bicycling community needs to make this an issue in the DA re-election campaigns.