Crash Incident on the Minuteman Bikeway

John Allen

Elsewhere in this edition is a report on a crash. This Safety article provides perspective on that crash.


First of all: the cyclists involved were fortunate. An incident like this can be much more serious. There was a fatality on the Minuteman rail trail in Lexington a few years ago, when a cyclist merged out from behind pedestrians and touched handlebar ends with an oncoming cyclist.


Ghost bike on the Minuteman Path. A bicyclist died here in the spring of 2019

I see several lessons, based on the report.


* The Minuteman carries every kind of non-motorized traffic, and e-bikes too. Many users lack skill and discipline, like the one who strayed into the Rippers' lane.


* The report doesn't say how fast anyone was going, but the Minuteman is not appropriate for fast riding unless it is empty, and where sight lines are ample. All in all, people who want to ride fast in the Cambridge-Arlington-Lexington corridor would do better to take Massachusetts Avenue.


* This was a wheel-touching crash. Such crashes are best avoided by not drafting, except among people who are skilled at it. The technique to avoid crashing when your front wheel touches the rear wheel of the rider ahead is counterintuitive: steer into that wheel to brace your bicycle against it. All good group-riding instruction teaches this technique. It takes practice and it works sometimes.


* Well, yes, be ready to brake. But braking also can cause a crash t if the cyclist behind runs into you.


* Riding double-file on the Minuteman might possibly be OK if it is very empty, but the rider nearer the center of the path can't quickly swerve right to avoid oncoming traffic.


Now as to resources to improve group riding practice: I recommend the free online CyclingSavvy Club Rider course, which covers all the skills I have described, and more. See this page:


Savvy Club Rider information has the potential to make our rides go more smoothly and to prevent crashes. Notable: the strategy of initiating  group merges from the rear, so a motorist doesn't break into the group.


If enough people take that course, better group riding skills could percolate up from individual riders to the club as a whole.


And I'll have a CyclingSavvy three-part course (online, parking-lot and on-road) scheduled in Waltham in May,


See you there?


Merging strategy that avoids a motorist's breaking up the group: 1) Front rider signals; 2) rear rider negotiates, moves into the new lane then calls for the rest of the group to move; 3) riders relay the call to the front of the group and move to the new lane.