Dr. Anita Kurmann

On August 7, 2015, Anita Kurmann was cycling on Massachusetts Avenue in Boston and was killed by a truck making a turn onto Beacon Street.
This week Boston Police cleared the driver of wrongdoing.
The thing is, that if Dr. Kurmann did nothing wrong, and the driver did nothing wrong, then the rules of the road are not adequate.
It seems to me very reasonable to ask for sets of rules for bicyclists and drivers, such that if both parties follow the rules, then no one is killed.  Boston Police may be correct and the driver was not at fault, but if they are then the rules are wrong.  Where is the effort to fix the rules?  Where are the BPD recommendations for drivers and cyclists and the city?
Maybe its as simple as not driving 40′ tractor trailers on city streets without flagmen and escorts.
In view of the power imbalance between motor vehicles and bicycles, in my view, if a motor vehicle hits a cyclist while the cyclist is in a legal spot, then the driver of the motor vehicle is at fault.  This is similar to the rules about rear end collisions.  If you smash into the back of a car, you are at fault.  Either you weren’t paying attention or you were tailgating to start with. Full stop.
I’m a little sensitive to these issues because I used to commute 36 miles a day into Cambridge and I’ve had my share of idiot drivers.

Bike Safey

I wrote this for the Wayland E News.  I’m putting a copy here as well.
I’ve been biking to work. In Cambridge. Not that often, because I am not one of these spandex bikers, but a middle aged, somewhat overweight, t-shirt biker.
I just wanted to mention a few things that would help me survive the week.
I am eagerly awaiting a paved Wayland Rail Trail from the town Library through to Weston, but in the meantime, I bike along route 20. The problem is that few roads in Wayland are bike friendly, but you can help!
(About that rail trail, please see Wayland Rail Trail and check out the Minuteman Bike Trail from Lexington to Alewife or the Charles River Bike Path )
For my fellow residents:

  • Take a look at the street in front of your house or other property.
  • Keep the shoulders clear of debris, sand, leaves, sticks, broken glass, etc.
  • Try and deal with the poison ivy that loves the edges of roads. I am so allergic to that stuff that I don’t dare ride right at the edge.
  • If you have a sidewalk, please keep it clear. In addition to the debris, it is hard to navigate around those mailboxes and trash cans.

For our public works folks:

  • When we do have sidewalks, they tend to be pretty awful, and unusable for bicycles. The paving isn’t up to street standards, and is broken by roots, holes. etc.
  • The sidewalks tend to fill up with leaves, fallen branches, and so forth, which make them unusable.
  • Guy wires cross from utility poles at just the right hight to clothesline a tall guy like me. Of course they are invisible at dusk!
  • Many road corners lack curb cuts, so you can’t actually get on or off the sidewalk anyway.

Without sidewalks, I have to ride in the street. That is fine, but…

  • The shoulders are, um, badly paved: potholes, jagged gaps in the top paving, bumpy drains
  • The shoulders collect sand, which is like ice for bicycles, you can’t steer on sand.
  • On Route 20, there is an unfortunate amount of broken glass.

Maybe we could street sweep more than once a year?
And that paving on Pelham Island Road is nasty, but that is a topic for a different letter.
For Drivers:
Most drivers are actually pretty awesome with bicyclists, Thank you! However:

  • Look at that right side mirror once in a while. When you are caught in traffic, I will be passing you at my astounding 12 miles an hour or whatever. I’ll be coming up on your right.
  • Don’t keep so far to the right that there isn’t room for me! The lanes are actually fairly wide and the shoulder is often very narrow.

For my part, I signal, I don’t run red lights, and I really try to watch where I am going and to be aware of my surroundings, but not every cyclist (especially the kids) will follow the rules. Treat them with suspicion and when possible, give extra space when passing a cyclist, just in case they have no idea you are there and swerve to miss a stick or pothole.


Important safety tip!  Do not try to bicycle on ice.  It doesn’t annoy the ice, but it doesn’t work, either.
Another tip!  If the road is wet on a North facing slope, and it is 39 degrees, there’s a good chance there is ice underneath.
And another! If you notice ice on the puddles in the gutters, there might be more ahead.
I had my first wipeout this morning, on the hill from Sudbury north into Maynard, on 27.  I think I scared the driver behind me.  One second everything is fine and the next, with no apparent transition, the bike and I are sliding sideways down the road.  No harm done, but I will be more vigilant!

Drain Grates

I thought these were all removed in the previous century!
The problem with these is that the slots run along the riding direction, and are just wide enough to catch a road bike tire. If your front wheel is unlucky, it will wedge into a slot and stop dead. You will not stop, but according to Newton’s first law, continue moving forward over the handlebars and onto the street.
I noticed this one on the driveway in front of the Wayland Middle School.
If the thing is square, at least it could be put in so the slots run across the road instead of along it.
Update, (March 2009)
I could be in serious trouble now.
Is a story about a man in the UK arrested and held for two days as a terrorist for photographing a sewer grate.

Bicycle commuting notes – Sidewalks

In May 2007, I started occasional commuting from my home in Wayland, MA to the offices of SiCortex in Maynard. This is just about nine miles each way.  In 2007 I ran up about 1000 miles on my 30 year old Nishiki Olympic. I think I am on pace to do a bit better in 2008.
I’m not very fast.  When I started it took almost an hour to get to work.  On the way home the read derailleur cable broke, leaving me stuck in 9th gear (of 10), so it also took a long time to get home.  My colleague David shook his head at the condition of my bike, with its steel rims and puncture proof (heavy) tires, and talked me into some upgrades.  With new alloy rims and new tires (and getting in better shape) I can now get to work in a little under 40 minutes and home in about 35.  The elevation gain is near zero, since I am on the Sudbury river in Wayland, and the office is on the Assabet river in Maynard.  The Sudbury and Assabet merge in Maynard.  If anything, Maynard must be at a lower elevation, but something about the topography makes it seem like more uphill going in, and more downhill coming back.  There is definitely a high point in the middle, at Sudbury Center.
It was really this commuting that pushed me into starting this blog.  I would spend the trip composing elaborate letters to the editor of the local paper, often about the poor conditions for cycling.  This week I finally took a bunch of photos along my route, and I am ready to start ranting.
Continue reading “Bicycle commuting notes – Sidewalks”