After fatal bike crash, Cambridge seeks fast fixes to Inman Square
The death of Amanda Phillips was a stark reminder for Cambridge officials and the Greater Boston bike community this month of the dangerous and confusing road configurations that make up the city’s bustling Inman Square.
The city had already been planning improvements to the five-way intersection where pedestrians, cyclists, MBTA buses, and drivers coalesce during congested rush-hour commutes.
But following last week’s crash that killed Phillips, a 27-year-old barista at Somerville’s Diesel Cafe, officials have made a push to expedite those upgrades.
During a Monday night meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to call on City Manager Richard Rossi to fast-track plans to redesign and rebuild the square, making it safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
“It’s really shaken all of us, whether we bike, whether we walk, whether we drive in the city,” said Councillor Jan Devereux, who cosponsored the policy order with Councillors Nadeem Mazen and Dennis Carlone.
“I think this is, in a sense, a turning point for us as a council to summon the political will,” Devereux added.
The crash that killed Phillips remains under investigation.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan’s office said this week that preliminary details indicate that Phillips entered Cambridge Street from the sidewalk and then made contact with a Jeep’s open door. Ryan’s office said the door was open, according to witnesses, prior to Phillips merging onto the street.
The impact pushed Phillips off of her bicycle, and into the path of a landscaping truck, investigators said.
Even before those initial details were released, Richard Fries, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, demanded Ryan’s office bring charges against both the driver of the Jeep and the landscaping truck.
But Ryan’s office said it’s too early to decide whether anybody will face charges.
“As with all fatal motor vehicle collisions, this investigation could take several months to conclude,” Ryan spokeswoman Meghan Kelly said in a statement.
The city Traffic, Parking, and Transportation department had held a public hearing to share preliminary design plans for the square the night before the crash.
Aside from the council’s request to speed the plan along, members made several other requests aimed at improving bike safety.
Councilors asked Rossi to work with safety officials to establish a timetable and budget to install protected bike lanes on Hampshire and Cambridge Streets, and launch a public campaign about the dangers of “dooring,” a term used to describe what happens when drivers suddenly open a vehicle’s door into a cyclist’s path.
Members also want to require all city contractors driving large trucks to install side guards that will prevent cyclists from getting pulled under a vehicle’s wheels.
Lastly, the council requested a plaza honoring Phillips and other cyclists killed on the road be part of the redesign.
Rossi said he would “go full bore” in his efforts to fulfill the council’s proposals.
“We have been a leader in this whole region for developing bike facilities, and really trying to recognize the change in transportation modes,” he said.
Monday’s meeting came two days before a vigil was held for Phillips at the site of the fatal crash.
On Wednesday night, more than 100 people, many on bikes, lit candles and placed flowers in front of a “ghost bike,” which was painted white and locked to a pole in remembrance of Phillips.
The gathering was led by Reverend Laura Everett, an avid cyclist, who said Phillips’ death would not pass by unnoticed.
“Part of what is so profound at ghost bike vigils,” Everett said on Twitter, after the event, “[is] people show up in solidarity to grieve a person they never met.”