As of yet no charges have been filed in the crash that took the life of 28-year-old Boston College graduate student Kelsey Rennebohm on Friday night, and Boston Police sources familiar with the incident are indicating that they may not be called for.
Eyewitnesses to the crash told the police that Rennebohm appeared to have lost her balance and fallen off her bike from the sidewalk and into the path of a Route 39 MBTA bus, according to Boston Police Department sources familiar with the investigation.
This new information puts a different spin on events for many cyclists who may have assumed that Rennebohm’s injuries were received while riding her bike in the street. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that the instincts of those who are demanding bike lanes on Huntington Avenue are wrong. In fact, the way the accident happened highlights a secondary benefit that bike lanes have for pedestrians—-that of creating a buffer space between moving traffic and people on the sidewalk. It may also, as details unfold, speak to the need to reduce speeds on the street.
Huntington Avenue is one of the most stress-inducing, scary and deadly streets for cyclists. Though overall crash numbers are fewer on it than they are on Massachusetts and Commonwealth avenues (according to the Boston Cyclists Union’s interactive crash map), fatalities happen more often, and this could possibly be related to traffic speed. In April 2010, 22-year-old student Eric Hunt was killed in a collision with an MBTA bus at Huntington and South Huntington Ave, and in April 2007, 22-year-old student Gordon Riker was killed in a collision involving a taxi and a dump truck at the intersection of Huntington and Forsythe Street.
Huntington was reconstructed in the mid-90s in such a way that changes to its cross-section and lane widths are next to impossible. Normally, it would be considered unlikely to be reconstructed any time soon, but with the number of deaths on the street continuing to increase fixing it could rise in importance for the Menino Administration. Mayor Thomas Menino was quoted by several news sources saying that the Transportation Department will be looking at ways to improve the street.
“We have to work out a situation where it’s a much safer roadway to drive and cycle on,” Menino told the Boston Globe on Sunday. “We’re going to look at that very seriously over the next several weeks.”