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Key changes needed to drive safety message home to motorists

Researchers from MIT who worked with visiting scientist Kanako Miura gathered Monday at the site where she was fatally struck while bicycling, at the intersection of Beacon Street and Charlesgate West in Boston.
Researchers from MIT who worked with visiting scientist Kanako Miura gathered Monday at the site where she was fatally struck while bicycling, at the intersection of Beacon Street and Charlesgate West in Boston.Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe

Just 11 days ago I organized Boston’s first Ride of Silence, a cycling procession to honor cyclists killed in collisions with motor vehicles. We had one simple message for drivers: Share the road.

We were honored by the presence of nearly a dozen bike officers from the Boston, Brookline, and Boston University police departments, and the City of Boston supplied a four-person motorcycle escort. We're grateful for the support.

Unfortunately, our efforts are still akin to building a sand castle below the high-tide line, as evidenced by the most recent fatal collision ("Visibility at issue in fatal crash with cyclist," Page A1, May 21). Hundreds of thousands of cars per day come through Boston. Drivers are on the phone, looking at a map, or distracted by construction and road maintenance. Their attention is diverted.

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Well-meaning people, including some in the media, are distracted, too, focusing on helmet use or whether cyclists as a class stop at red lights or roll through stop signs. We get killed and injured by cars and trucks when we obey all the laws.

There are a few real changes that would help us deliver the share-the-road message. First, the presumption of fault and burden of proof should be on the driver in every vehicle-bicycle collision. Appropriate criminal charges should be filed as a matter of course.

Second, Boston and surrounding communities should follow Brookline's lead and prohibit the use of cellphones except with hands-free devices.

Third, city and state leaders should work local media to create an awareness campaign to run on prime-time TV and drive-time radio.

Until key paradigms are changed, this carnage will continue.

Joel A. Feingold
Brookline