This past Saturday, our Executive Director Richard Fries embarked on the 2018 Perambulation, the start of a New Year’s Resolution to ride every bike path in Massachusetts. Turns out, there are thousands of miles of paths! This was to be the start of quite the adventure. To launch this effort on the Cape Cod’s Shining Sea Path, America’s first rail-to-trail project, seemed appropriate. So off to the Cape we went.
Packed in tight while sitting down for coffee before the ride, our group picked up on a conversation commenting on current events. Within seconds we all realized the subject. They were talking about the tragic death of a surgeon killed while bicycling in Boston by a large truck and our video that had been released earlier that week entitled 16 seconds.
We've heard it once and we'll hear it again. We expected to hear the victim blamed in this incident. But we were surprised. They all lamented how many times they had been threatened or startled by reckless drivers operating large trucks. A common problem on narrow roads of the Bay State.
Had MassBike simply written a letter or filed a report or cited some data in dealing with this case, our voices would never have reached beyond some shelf. No news coverage. No social media. No viral conversation, such as this one unfurling nearly 100 miles from the site of the crash. But we used video in our appeal for justice. Sometimes it's better to show them then to tell them.
We felt from the day of the crash that this particular incident warranted charges or - at a minimum - a citation against the driver. We needed to do more. After more than a dozen attempts to secure an audience with the Boston Police, we finally chose to go public with our video presentation. The turnout of the media for this event proved overwhelming. All the major network television affiliates covered the story. The Boston Globe put it on the front of its Metro section; The Boston Herald went with a full front page photo. The story continues to spread globally via such podcasts as the Paceline, the Outspoken Cyclist, and Streetsblog.
While our short term goal was to get the Boston Police to reopen the case, our secondary goal was to foster a dialogue to improve crash response protocol and improve law enforcement training around bicycle issues. But the longer goal was just what we accomplished. We wanted to alter the mainstream culture and conversation. Moving the cultural needle is a small part of what we do as an organization but one of the most important to progressing safety on our roadways for all bicyclists.