As Rt. 16 is a Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) roadway, and falls under the jurisdiction of Massachusetts State Police (MSP), their officers from the Medford barracks along with personnel from the Medford Fire Department (MFD) responded.
The initial MSP news release indicated that the accident occurred “on Route 16 at Interstate 93 (I-93)”. Since Rt. 16 roughly parallels I-93 for over a half mile and passes under it at two points there were many possible locations. This led to much speculation in conversations and on social media.
Some interpreted the vaguely described location to mean it had occurred on Rt. 16 near the end of the bike path that runs between I-93 and the Mystic River. Others assumed it was where the Rt. 16 offramp feeds into Main Street just south of the Craddock Bridge. We even saw comments in an online forum where the poster was certain that it had occurred where the Exit 32 offramp from I-93 feeds into the rotary at Salem Street, which is not Rt.16, but is in fact Rt. 60.
Because the crash is currently under investigation by the MSP, little additional information has been released to the public so far. It is not the responsibility of, nor would it be appropriate for the Medford Bicycle Advisory Commission (MBAC) to investigate accidents or to assign blame on factors that contributed to their cause. Instead, our role is to share with you what we have learned so that you can make informed decisions about where, when and how you choose to ride.
Here are our findings:
Where did the crash happen?
Based on accounts from people who witnessed the emergency response, and debris found on and beside the roadway that was consistent with the vehicles involved, we believe the crash occurred on the eastbound side of Rt. 16, near the exit from the Condon Shell parking lot.
We do not know the positions or paths of the vehicles, how visible the riders were to each other or if they were following the rules of the road. These are areas where we hope the MSP investigation will provide more clarity.
The speed limit is 30 mph and the lanes are wide enough for a motor vehicle operator to safely pass a cyclist on their right. When traffic is heavy, it often moves at a stop-and-go pace, but when lighter, motorists can be anxious to get up to speed in preparation for merging onto I-93 and sometimes go faster than they should.
On it’s route through Medford, Rt. 16 primarily follows the Mystic River and all its twists and turns. We noted that there is a line of trees, as well as a number of signs quite close to the road as it curves around the parking lot. These conditions reduce lines of sight for motorists giving them less time to react to what they see ahead.
The road also has an east-west orientation, so glare can sometimes be a hazard. This is especially true in the spring and fall when sunset and sunrise often occur during rush hours.
Massachusetts law considers bicycles to be vehicles, so you are allowed to ride your bike on all the same roads on which people drive. There are a few exceptions, like Interstates, but it is certainly permissible to ride on Rt. 16.
That said, we don’t think you should use the law as your only guide. Every cyclist needs to use their road-smarts, pay attention to their surroundings and choose a route that they feel safe riding.
Alternatives to Rt. 16 in that area include:
- High Street, which will take you to and from Medford Square
- South Street, which is one way eastbound
- Summer Street, which is one way westbound, then continue on West Street
- There is a very nice path that runs through the park from Winthrop Street to the parking lot. Do ride slowly as you will be sharing it with dog walkers, children and sometimes geese. Be prepared to use the sidewalk between the parking lot and Main Street.
Winthrop Street and Main Street are the two roads that cross Rt. 16 in that area.
Winthrop Street has a traffic signal and you can walk your bike across on the crosswalk, or proceed as a vehicle by riding across when you have the green light. Do be mindful of motor vehicles turning right. We generally position ourselves in line with traffic, in the left lane, when waiting for the light to avoid this hazard.
Main Street also has traffic signals and crosswalks before and after it passes under Rt. 16, however a car did crash into the light pole in front of the police station last week, so we’re not sure if it is currently working. Take great care riding through the underpass, there are often large potholes and they are especially hard to see at night.
There are two crosswalks between Winthrop and Main with pedestrian operated signals where you can walk your bike across. One is at St. Joseph’s and the other is at the John D. Hand footbridge where you can cross the river to get to the center of Medford Square. When the walk signal lights up, be absolutely certain that traffic has come to a full stop before you cross. We strongly recommend that you emphasize this with children before they press the signal button, at this and any other crossing.
OK, I have a better idea of how to navigate that area now, but you didn’t tell me much about the crash
Many of the exact details are unknown, but we hope that more will be learned from the MSP investigation. Our objective is to use the findings to inform the advice we give to cyclists, motorists and the city on making our roads safer.
We have also been in touch with other cycling organizations, and the friends and family of Moe Zeidan to organize an observance to mark this terrible tragedy. It will take place on Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 at 5:00 p.m., in the park between the Condon Shell and the parking lot. The Somerville Bicycle Committee will lead a bicycle procession to the gathering, leaving from Powderhouse Park at 4:30 p.m.
Details and updates can be found on our Facebook event page.
To learn more about him we recommend reading this story from Tufts Medical School about his life as a medical student.
Regardless of the causes of this particular crash, we should all take pause to reflect on what we, as individuals, can do to prevent such things from happening.
As cyclists who ride on the same roads as cars and trucks, we must:
- observe the rules of the road
- use lights and reflective gear when riding at night
As motorists, we must:
- concentrate on the road, not our phones
- be aware of any bicycles or other vehicles whether they are ahead, behind or alongside us
As community members, we must:
- look critically at the streets in our city
- ask if they are safe and really work for everyone who uses them
- learn about, and support new ideas for traffic calming, designing shared-use paths and implementing cutting-edge safety technologies
If we neglect these things, the costs are enormous.
—Bruce Kulik and Patrick Bibbins