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Cambridge Cyclist Killed After Striking Open Door of Parked Car

Amanda Phillips of Cambridge, a 27-year-old bicyclist was killed on Thursday, June 23, 2016 after she was hit by a truck while riding her bicycle through Inman Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The crash is still under investigation.

In a statement made last Friday, Massachusetts State Police stated that a preliminary reconstruction of the crash indicated that Phillips had maneuvered from the sidewalk to the open roadway where she struck the open door of a parked jeep as a person prepared to get out. The impact then pushed the cyclist into traffic where she collided with a landscaping truck.

The crash occurred at around 12:17 p.m. at the intersection of Hampshire and Cambridge streets, in Cambridge’s Inman Square. Inman Square is an exceptionally busy four-way intersection often packed with cars, pedestrians, MBTA buses, and bikers. Following the accident, Phillips was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.

Phillips, a full time barista at Diesel Cafe in Somerville, had graduated from Harvard University.  She was currently a student at the MGH Institute of Health Professions and friends stated that she planned on pursuing a career in health care.

The Spokesman for the State Police, Dave Procopio told reporters that “investigators were still looking into the circumstances surrounding Phillips’s contact with the landscaping truck.

Cyclists often refer to a driver abruptly opening a vehicle door into the path of a cyclist as “dooring”. In many states, including Massachusetts, laws exist to prevent bicyclists from being “doored.”

Under the MA Bike Law, motorists and their passengers are required to check for oncoming bicyclists before opening their doors.  Violation of the statute is punishable by a $100 fine. The law is one of many changes and additions that were made to existing MA Bike Laws following the enactment of the “Bicyclist Safety Bill” in 2009.

In a letter sent to the Middlesex District Attorneys office Monday, Richard Fries, the executive director of the bikesMassachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike), called for criminal charges against the drivers of the truck and jeep that killed the Cambridge cyclist.

“Opening a car door into a cyclist without first looking is negligent and a violation of law. … When a driver does so and the victim dies, that is negligent homicide or manslaughter,” wrote Fries. “Likewise, when a driver runs into a cyclist and hits her from behind, if the cyclist dies, that is negligent homicide or manslaughter.”

According to the Boston Cyclist Safety Report, dooring crashes accounted for 14 percent of the total bicycle accidents in Massachusetts. The risks associated with riding are often heightened in urban areas such as Cambridge and Boston.

Jack Albert, a deputy police superintendent, stated the Inman Square is one of the busiest intersections in Cambridge. The executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, Becca Wolfson stated that these kinds of tragedies call for major changes. She further stated, that “We’re all mortal and [bicycling] because we love it, because we have to. We need streets that are designed for people. We need more protected bike lanes.”

In recent years, there has been a shift to promote bicycle safety.   Just one day prior to this tragic accident, Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking, & Transportation Department had held a public hearing on the dangers of this intersection and proposed changes to make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Many of the proposed modifications to the intersection included: compacting the intersections to reduce exposure time for bikes, expand the current open spaces, construct new traffic signals, create more crossing opportunities and reduce length of wait time for pedestrian crossing.

Police have stated that the investigation and full reconstruction report would take several weeks. Once complete the District Attorney and Cambridge police will then decide if any charges should be filed.