Fixes set for deadly Back Bay intersection

Bike accident spurs action at Mass. Ave., Beacon Street

Jami King and her husband, Landis Masnor, delivered flowers to the memorial where Anita Kurmann was fatally struck by a tractor trailer earlier this month.
Jami King and her husband, Landis Masnor, delivered flowers to the memorial where Anita Kurmann was fatally struck by a tractor trailer earlier this month.

A protected bike lane, signs calling for turning motorists to yield to pedestrians and cyclists, and optimized traffic signals are some of the improvements coming to the Boston intersection where a bicyclist was killed this month.

The intersection at Massachusetts Avenue and Beacon Street has been repaved, new striping will be applied, and flexible posts protecting the bike lane on Massachusetts Avenue will be installed starting this week, said Vineet Gupta, director of planning for the city’s Transportation Department.

“Our goal is to make it safe for everyone at that intersection,” Gupta said.


The intersection had been a place of concern for the city, but after the death of 38-year-old cyclist Anita Kurmann on Aug. 7, it became a more urgent priority, Gupta said. The improvements are part of a long-term comprehensive examination of the Massachusetts Avenue corridor, from the Charles River to Melnea Cass Boulevard, he said.

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“A majority of the bicyclists, a big majority of the bicyclists are on Massachusetts Avenue coming from Cambridge, going to Boston,” he said.

Bike boxes, which are marked by green paint and allow cyclists to rest at traffic lights behind the crosswalk but in front of motorists, will be installed for cyclists headed southbound on Massachusetts Avenue and will be reinstalled for those traveling on Beacon Street.

To calm traffic, motorists headed south on Massachusetts Avenue will no longer be allowed to make a right turn on red. Markings indicating which lanes are for turning and which are for motorists going straight will be added for Massachusetts Avenue traffic.

The city is also trimming trees to improve visibility along Beacon Street and optimizing traffic signal timing to improve pedestrian safety, Gupta said.


The project will also move a bus stop at the intersection 1½ blocks south on Massachusetts Avenue, close to Marlborough Street, Gupta said.

The intersection can be dangerous for bicyclists coming to Boston from Cambridge on Massachusetts Avenue, and the changes to that section of the street are a positive development, said Ari Ofsevit, a cyclist and transportation planner who lives in Cambridge and estimates he bikes through that intersection two to three times per week.

Ofsevit said it is progress that the city didn’t need to conduct a traffic study before it implemented changes to the intersection, which was known to be dangerous before Kurmann’s bike was struck by a flatbed truck, killing her.

“It’s heartening to see that they’re moving forward with that, in a quick time frame,” Ofsevit said.

He said he hopes the city will continue to examine the area, including Beacon Street, which is three lanes in one direction, a configuration that encourages motorists to treat it more like a highway, he said.


“We really need a proactive approach,” he said.

Jill Terreri Ramos can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @jillterreri.