Town of Wellesley Consider Adding Bike Lanes after Cyclist’s Death in 2012

Town officials in Wellesley are considering creating bike lanes to make roads safer for cyclists. The proposed plan comes after a 41-year-old man was struck and killed by a truck while riding his bicycle last year.

“Every time somebody is injured on our roads-particularly when someone dies-the selectmen take it very seriously,” Hans Larsen, executive director of Wellesley said.

“It calls into question, is there something else we need to do? Or is there something we should have done differently? We don’t want this to happen again, and what do we need to do to avoid that?”

The victim, Alexander Motsenigos, was riding his bike on Weston Road near the intersection of Linden Street on the afternoon of August 24, 2012, when he was hit by an 18-wheel truck. The driver of the truck fled the scene and was charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, unsafe overtaking of a bicyclist, and failing to take precautions for the safety of other travelers, but was not indicted.

“Communities need to reassess how all their streets work for people who are choosing different ways to get around,” David Watson, the executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said. “The reality is that many of our roads were really only designed with cars in mind.”

Statistics currently show Wellesley’s streets, in large, as safe for cyclists. In 2012, only five of the 784 car accidents recorded by police involved a cyclist.

According to Larsen, members of the Wellesley community as well as town officials, including former Town Meeting member, Robert Edwards have addressed bike safety issues and expressed interest in creating bike lanes in the town. Edwards, who is an advocate for people with head injuries has already filed a citizens’ petition on the issue.

“I think [Motesenigos’s death] made it more visible of an issue,” Board of Selectmen chairwoman Terri Tsagaris said.

The town will hold a public hearing on bicycle and pedestrian safety Tuesday March 19 at 7:30 pm at Wellesley Town Hall. Larsen said that the decision to move forward with the plan will depend on tomorrow’s discussion and the level of interest within the community.

“There will be trade-offs,” he said. “If we’re going to reserve space for bicycles, that’s going to come at the expense of motorists or somebody.”

Last Tuesday, a small group of town officials including Larsen, Tsagaris, the chief and deputy chief of police, and the town’s traffic consultant, met to discuss the proposal, which is still currently in the very early stages of planning. Watson said the solution to bicycle accidents isn’t as simple as “painting bike lanes on every street” and the Wellesley officials will have to consider not only infrastructure changes, but working on education and outreach.

Wellesley police have most recently applied for a grant from the Massachusetts State Highway Safety Division to pay for more crosswalk enforcement and bicycle safety enforcement.

As we enter into spring and warmer weather, more and more bicyclists and motorcyclists will join the roads. Both cyclists and motor vehicle operators are responsible for following the rules of the road and remaining diligent during travel. Remember that if you are going to ride a bike, to always wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet is the easiest way to prevent traumatic brain injuries should you be involved in a bicycle accident. As a driver, it is your responsibility to share the road and make sure you are paying attention to others riding bicycles. Always remember to look twice. Your actions could save a life.

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