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Commuting by Bike — Worth the Risk?

A local cyclist talks about how she stays safe on the road, in the wake of several serious accidents.

Somerville resident Amanda King, 32, bikes 16 miles roundtrip to work in Waltham, on average three times a week during the summer. While she knows the risks of riding the roads, taking safety precautions and not being complacent is how she says she stays safe.

“When I first started biking, I thought, how can I possibly bike on the road—I’m going to get killed,” she said. “Now, I’m not as worried about it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not very wise to the dangers.”

When it comes to safety, King rides her bike wearing a helmet and fluorescent-colored vest. She mounts blinking lights on her helmet and the front and back of her bike. She “signals like a lunatic” to drivers, never runs red lights and stays as far to the right as possible, she said.

“I wear the most ridiculous outfit,” King said. “You couldn’t find more flashing lights.”

Whether cyclists take such precautions or not, accidents between cars and bikes can—and do—still occur. In Weston on Aug. 27, did not yield. The woman landed on the hood of the car and broke her wrist.

Two serious accidents—one fatal—have also happened in recent days. In Wellesley, Alexander Motsenigos, 41, was struck by a truck and killed Aug. 24 while biking along Weston Road. And a 12-year-old Foxborough boy was seriously injured on Aug. 27 while biking when a landscaping truck hit him.

Incidents involving bicyclists are , too, although no serious crashes have occured this summer.

In July, the received a $3,000 grant from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in town.

King, who has worked at Bentley University in Waltham since 2009 and is director of sustainability and a special adviser to the president, said she’s had just one close call while biking her route to work, along the Minuteman Bikeway and Route 60 and Trapelo Road in Belmont.

One pitch-black November night, a car pulled out of side street in Belmont, and King said she had to brake hard to avoid colliding with the car.

“I always look to see if I can see drivers’ faces,” King said. “I looked him in the face, but he went anyways. A car going the other way honked and he stopped.”

King says she had been trying to keep on commuting by bike into the fall, but had pushed it too far. She now stops biking when the days go dark during her evening commute.

When King heard about the fatality in Wellesley, she said she thought it looked as though the driver who hit Motsenigos wasn’t paying attention. Police have interviewed the driver, but no charges have been filed. The incident remains under investigation.

“It’s sad,” King said.

But King will continue her commute by bike into the waning days of summer. For her, biking to work provides both physical and environmental rewards, through exercise and a reduction in carbon emissions from her car. Safety, however, is always at the forefront, she said.

“So far so good—I’ve been fine,” she said. “I’m not concerned about it, but I’m not complacent. I don’t take risks.”

 

Bikers: does hearing about serious accidents change your riding habits? What do you do to stay safe? Tell us in the comments.

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