Ruth Daniloff

The bicyclist who hit me and sped off

By Ruth Daniloff
July 16, 2011

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LAST FALL, I stepped onto a pedestrian crossing in Cambridge. I had the right of way, and noted that the street light displayed I had 35 seconds to cross. I came to a few minutes later, sprawled on the side of the street, surrounded by sympathetic onlookers. Someone tried to help me to my feet, but I was in agonizing pain.

“The cyclist left,’’ someone said. “He said you had walked into him.’’ I went by ambulance to the hospital, where I spent a week with a broken hip and other injuries, followed by a week in a rehabilitation center. My first surgery failed and had to be redone. Six months ago, I had to have a hip replacement. At 75, I am still recovering.

Medical personnel agree that accidents between cyclists and pedestrians have increased, often because cyclists run stop lights or ignore one-way street signs.

Many cyclists I see ride head down, spandex-clad behinds in the air, taking short cuts between cars, and mounting sidewalks as if they own them. Still others ride at night without tail lights.

Don’t get me wrong. Bicycles are ecologically correct, and I am for them. Throughout my life I have ridden bikes. As a teenager, my most prized possession was a blue Raleigh bike with drop down handlebars. Bicycles are also good exercise, and they reduce carbon emissions. Still, the announcement that Boston will launch a bike-sharing program fills me with fear. The idea of bicycle kiosks cluttering the sidewalks and parking lots strikes me as an invitation to chaos. I pity the police, not to mention the pedestrians.

Boston police will target 10 “high crash’’ points and will issue citations to motorists and cyclists. It’s a good start, and long overdue.

But if Boston is to become a bicycle mecca, we need to protect pedestrians, reduce the number of cars, and oblige cyclists to carry insurance. Cyclists should be fined for not wearing helmets, for cycling at night without lights, and for ignoring the rules of the road.

And if by chance, a cyclist downs an elderly person on a pedestrian walkway, he or she should stop.

And at least apologize.

I’m still waiting for my apology.

Ruth Daniloff is a freelance journalist based in Cambridge. .