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Cyclist killed in Back Bay memorialized, mourned

More than 100 people gathered at a Back Bay intersection Thursday night to celebrate the life of a woman recently killed while riding her bicycle there, calling for safer streets for both cyclists and drivers.

Those attending left a symbolic ghost bike at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street, where 38-year-old Anita Kurmann was killed Aug. 7 when a flatbed truck struck her bike.

Ghost bikes are bicycles painted white and chained to a pole to serve as a memorial to cyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles.

More than two dozen ghost bikes have dotted Boston streets to mark spots where cyclists have been killed since the late 1990s, according to organizers of the event to honor Kurmann, an endocrine surgeon who worked at laboratories at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University.


Hundreds of ghost bikes have been placed at deadly crash sites across the country, organizers said.

In addition to the dedication of the ghost bike at an intersection known to be treacherous for cyclists, Thursday's event included prayers, poetry, a moment of silence, and remembrances of Kurmann, a native of Switzerland who came to Boston about three years ago.

Organizers also read a letter from Dr. Darrell Kotton, who worked with Kurmann at BU's Center for Regenerative Medicine.

Kotton wrote that Kurmann was not only an accomplished researcher but also "humble, soft-spoken, kind, and felt the most joy when celebrating the success of her colleagues." He said, "Anita was close to many of us, and the shock and grief we felt at this loss is overwhelming."

Dr. Pamela Collins, an official with the local Swiss Consulate, echoed that sentiment during brief remarks to those in attendance, who were shielded from traffic by Boston, State, and Transit police officers on bicycles.

A symbolic ghost bike was left at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street, where Anita Kurmann was killed.Jim David/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

"This is a really, really tragic loss" for the local cycling and medical communities, Collins said. "We want to express . . . our sincere condolences to everyone who is mourning right now."


Collins left a bouquet of flowers in a basket attached to the front handlebars of the ghost bike.

Kurmann was fatally struck by the truck as it made a right turn onto Beacon Street from Massachusetts Avenue. The driver of the truck did not stop, but police later located him.

To date, no charges have been filed in the case, but Boston police say the investigation remains open. Authorities have not identified the truck driver.

Kurmann's death highlighted the dangers of the busy Back Bay intersection for cyclists and pedestrians and prompted many to leave flowers and other mementos at the site in the days following the crash.

That makeshift memorial remained standing on Thursday night.

Boston police Captain John Danilecki, one of the officers who monitored the event on his bicycle, also addressed the crowd, saying the intersection where Kurmann died was identified in 2012 as one of 10 "hot spots" in the city for cyclists.

He said Boston has since spent millions on bike lanes and other upgrades to improve safety, but "it's a work in progress."

"I urge all of you . . . to be vocal about what we need as bicyclists," Danilecki told the crowd, many of whom cycled to the event and kept their helmets on throughout.

After the speakers concluded their remarks, the attendees blessed the ghost bike by placing their hands on it.


Each person who touched the bike was encouraged to recite a blessing that said in part, "May all who look on this ghost bike remember Anita and travel with care."

Many cyclists who attended the dedication did not know Kurmann personally but said they wanted to pay their respects and show solidarity with their fellow riders.

"I've seen a lot of tragic [occurrences] on the roads," said Angel Ocasio, 58, who bikes daily from Jamaica Plain to his job downtown.

"I constantly have to be aware [while cycling] of people opening doors, double parking," he said, adding that more bike lanes and increased awareness from drivers would improve safety. "Motorists, they don't see cyclists as part of the road. . . . Awareness, that's the major thing."

Another cyclist, Jasmine Guinta, 32, of Brighton, also said drivers should be more cognizant of bikes.

"Drivers don't always think to look for bikes," she said.

Guinta also offered a word of advice to everyone using the road, regardless of their method of transportation: "Look for cars, look for bikes, look for pedestrians."

More than 100 people gathered at the Back Bay intersection Thursday night.Jim David/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Steve Annear and Laura Crimaldi of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.