BU student killed in crash on Commonwealth Ave. in Allston; fifth biker killed in Boston this year
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff
A 23-year-old bicyclist was killed on Commonwealth Avenue in Allston today when he collided with a tractor-trailer as the vehicle was making a turn onto Saint Paul Street, witnesses and Boston police said. He was the fifth bicyclist killed in a crash in Boston this year.
The crash, which took place around 8:36 a.m. near Boston University’s Agganis Arena, is under investigation by the Boston police fatal accident reconstruction team and Suffolk County prosecutors. No charges or citations have been issued.
Late today, the bicyclist was identified as Christopher Weigl, a graduate student at BU”s College of Communication, where faculty and students spent today mourning the death of one of their own, a clarinet-playing Eagle Scout eager to tell human stories with his camera.
“He was a terrific young man who would have made a spectacular photojournalist,’’ said Mitchell Zuckoff, a Boston University professor who worked closely with Weigl, who was in the first semester of the BU graduate program in photojournalism.
Zuckoff, a former Boston Globe reporter, said Weigl sent him a paper just last night. “He was incredibly well-liked. He had all the tools you would ever hope for when thinking about hiring a journalist,’’ Zuckoff said.
As a class exercise, Zuckoff requires graduate students to write their own obituaries. In his self-obituary, Zuckoff said, Weigl recounted chancing upon a small community during an overseas trip that was then suffering a bout of repression from the country’s central government.
“It reinforced his belief that he wanted to be a photojournalist. He wanted to tell the human stories. He was someone who really cared deeply about people and storytelling,” Zuckoff said. “It wasn’t about him. He wanted to tell human stories. It wasn’t an ego-driven piece of work. He just wanted to do good work.’’
Zuckoff said Weigl was an avid outdoorsman who spoke proudly of having been an Eagle Scout and would often show up in class carrying his bicycle helmet.
According to BU, Weigl grew up in Southborough, was a graduate of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and had traveled extensively before deciding to get his master’s degree. Weigl had his own website where he featured many of his photographs.
Fellow student Sarah Ganzhorn did a multimedia profile of Weigl, which was posted on the Vimeo video-sharing site.
Last month another BU student, Chung-Wei “Victor” Yang, was killed when he came into contact with an MBTA bus while he was riding through the intersection of Brighton and Harvard avenues in Brighton. Police did not cite the bus driver.
Today’s crash took place on a main thoroughfare, where the Menino administration has established a painted lane for bicyclists as part of a campaign to encourage bike riding in the city.
Stanley Brown, who works at the CVS store at the intersection, said he noticed the tractor-trailer making a right turn onto Saint Paul from the far left lane of Commonwealth and then saw the bicyclist racing down the avenue at a high rate of speed.
He said the bicyclist then hit the truck.
“It was a loud enough impact that I heard it’’ inside the store, he said.
Brown said it was immediately clear to him that the bicyclist had been killed.
He said the truck driver got out of his vehicle, walked to the passenger side of the cab where he looked briefly at the bicyclist and then returned to his cab. He appeared shaken up, but did not show any obvious sign of intoxication or impairment, Brown said.
The driver works for Ross Express, a Connecticut-based company.
Arriving public safety workers covered Weigl’s body with a plastic tarp. Some three hours after the crash, his body remained underneath the vehicle.
Marc Taylor, a Department of Transportation employee, stared at the scene today and wondered how the crash could have taken place. “How could they miss [seeing] each other?’’ he asked.
Dot Joyce, spokeswoman for Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, said city transportation officials will investigate the circumstances of the crash. “We are certainly looking at any intersection that may have had a serious accident and making sure that those intersections are safe,” said Joyce. “We are analyzing every cycling accident in the city of Boston, where it happened, how it happened.”
The area where the cyclist was killed today has marked bike lanes, she said.
“We continue to educate cyclists and drivers and pedestrians about sharing the road and being respectful and responsible as they commute through our city,” Joyce said. “We all work as a team. We all have an interest in keeping people safe and promoting safe cycling throughout our city.”
The area around the 900 block of Commonwealth Avenue was closed while police investigated. The accidepnt happend right on the city’s border with Brookline, with the buildings on one side of the street in Boston and on the other in Brookline.
Brown, the CVS employee, said he often rode his bike on the avenue.
“If you are down on Commonwealth Avenue, you know what kind of street it is,’’ he said. “You have to be aware of your surroundings. Some cyclists only look at what’s ahead.’’
City Councilor Charles Yancey called for a moment of silence at a hearing today at noon in City Hall to remember Weigl and “express our condolences.” The Council was holding a previously scheduled hearing to explore improvements to biking infrastructure in Boston.
City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, citing a string of recent fatal bike accidents, said more data needs to be collected on them so that problem areas could be identified and steps could be taken to prevent them.
“That which gets measured gets done,” she said.
“It is a very heavily traveled cyclist corridor,” Carter said. “It’s a major spine for our transportation network as whole.”
The road is often clogged with pedestrians, bicyclists, motor vehicles, and MBTA Green Line trolleys, he said.
From Jan. 1 to Nov. 13 of this year, there have been 579 bicycle-related incidents in the city that required EMS response, Carter said. That number includes minor incidents, such as a bicyclist falling off a bike, to more serious accidents involving motor vehicles.
During that same time period in 2011, there were 548 bicycle-related incidents that required EMS response, he said.
Although the number of incidents has increased about 5 percent from last year, Carter said it is difficult to say whether the statistics point to a decline in cyclist safety or can simply be attributed to more bicyclists on the roadway.
From 2011 to 2012, the city saw a 31 percent increase in bicyclists on the streets, he said.
“You’re seeing more bikes and about the same number of accidents,” Carter said.
He said communication is the key to safety among cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians.
Bicyclists and motorists should signal turns and pedestrians should look before crossing the street, he said.
Carter added that everyone on the road should slow down.
“Take a second and stop,” he said. “Just wait. Don’t try to squeeze through that yellow light.”