As the state's annual Bike Week got underway, bicyclists around the state today were mourning the death of a 21-year-old bicyclist who was killed in a collision in Newton Monday.
Andrew David Von Guerard, a Colorado man who recently had worked at a local coffee shop, was killed Monday when he apparently ran a red light at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Homer Street around 5:15 pm, Newton police said yesterday. He was not wearing a helmet, police said.
Von Guerard, was a barista at Taste Coffee House in Newtonville, and was also completing a degree in Political Science by taking online courses from Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Co., according to his sister, Joy Von Guerard.
"He was such an amazing guy, smart and funny," Von Guerard said today. "He loved history. Yesterday he went to Bunker Hill. We were all so excited for him to come home in August. He was a great brother, and a great uncle to my daughter Leila."
At Taste, employees were planning a candlelight vigil tonight.
"Andy was a one-of-a-kind person. He was happy go lucky, and didn't have a bad bone in his body. He taught me to live in the moment, whether he was skiing or riding his bike or just sitting and enjoying a cup of espresso with me," said Nikolas Krankl, Andrew Von Guerard's boss at Taste.
Police said the accident occurred when the bicyclist failed to stop for a solid red light at the intersection as he was traveling east on Commonwealth. A 2007 Honda SUV driven by a 48-year-old Newton woman was traveling northbound on Homer Street when it was struck on the left side by the bicyclist, police said.
The accident took place on the first day of Bay State Bike Week. Bicyclists are planning to gather Wednesday for a previously scheduled "Ride of Silence" to draw attention to bicyclists who have been killed or injured in the last year.
"This year already felt different to me, because in previous years you didn't have so many fatalities so close together," said David Watson, executive director of MassBike. "But now, after Eric Hunt's April 7 death on Huntington Avenue and another death right at the beginning of Bike Week, I think it's going to be even more powerful."
Eric Michael Hunt, age 22, was killed by an MBTA bus on April 7 while riding his bike on Huntington Avenue, near where the road bends to become South Huntington.
The next day, a 37-year-old man on his bicycle was hit by a car and seriously injured at the edge of Boston Common.
"There are hundreds of bike-related injuries reported every year, and probably many more that are never reported," Watson said. "While we can never eliminate the danger inherent in using a particular mode of transportation, there are ways we can change both the designs of our roads and the culture of those who use them to make the streets safer for bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians."
The ride will begin at 7 p.m. Wednesday, departing from Seven Hills Park in Somerville behind the Davis Square MBTA station. Bicyclists will make their way through Cambridge to Boston, and stop at the Charles Street entrance to Boston Common.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who spent Sunday riding the streets of Newton on his bicycle while leading the Bike Newton Rally and Ride, said he was saddened by Von Guerand's death.
"My heart goes out to the family, and my thoughts are with them," Warren said. "This is a tragedy."
Allan Roberts, Newton resident, complained about the safety of biking in Newton.
"I think it's really unfortunate, but it really shows that biking in Newton is still not safe. They are always talking about making this a more bike friendly town, and how they are going to improve biking, but it still hasn't happened,'' Roberts said in an interview.
The accident occurred a few steps from Newton City Hall. Warren said he is developing a transportation advisory committee, which would examine all issues effecting Newton transportation, including bicycle safety.
"We want to look at the issue from an holistic viewpoint, and address all issues at once - parking, driving, traffic, pedestrian rights, and public transportation, as well as biking," Warren said. "This way we can identify what people want and draft a concrete timetable for making changes."
Lois Levin, head of Bike Newton, said her organization was ready to help the mayor's office in their efforts.
"These kinds of incidents knock us all back on our heels. We hope this tragedy will show the powers that be that something needs to be done. This isn't the first bicycle death in Newton," Levin said. "We've offered to help the administration set up summit meetings, to help everyone learn about what bicyclists need on the road."
Sarah Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.