Cambridge to install side-guards on city trucks

Cambridge officials are teaming up with federal transportation safety experts to help prevent serious or deadly crashes involving hulking city vehicles and the cyclists they share the roads with.

Mayor David Maher and City Manager Richard Rossi announced this week a new partnership with Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, to retrofit large city trucks with special side-guards.

“We are stepping up once again to lead the charge to make our streets safer and to mitigate the deadly consequences of common traffic collisions,” Maher said in a statement.

Truck side-guards are typically affixed to the mid-section of a vehicle, and hang low to the ground. If a cyclist or pedestrian makes contact with the guards, they are pushed away from the vehicle rather than pulled beneath it, where they risk being crushed by a truck’s tires.


The most dangerous collisions can occur when a truck driver makes a sharp righthand turn or can’t see a cyclist due to blind spots.

An image of a crushed bicycle posted to social media last year by a city worker helped forge the partnership between Volpe and officials.

An employee from Maher’s office happened to walk by the scene of an accident between a cyclist and a garbage truck. After the cyclist was taken to the hospital, the employee shared a photo of the damaged bike online.

An example of the truck side-guard.
An example of the truck side-guard.City of Cambridge

Shortly after the Volpe team in Cambridge contacted the city to propose a plan to introduce side-guards to the city-owned truck fleet.

“Accidents between trucks and cyclists are unfortunately not out of the ordinary for urban communities in Massachusetts,” said Maher. “What is unique, however, is the speed with which Cambridge was able to engage with the talented folks at Volpe and to help institute a solution for our city in record time.”


Last week, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office announced that crews will begin inspecting all large city-contracted vehicles to ensure that they comply with a similar ordinance in Boston.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.