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Critique of
Boston Globe story about
fatal Dana Laird crash

[The Globe story has more background information on Dana Laird than the Herald story, but does not provide nearly as accurate information about the crash itself. The Globe story describes the opening of a car door as "accidental", and does not mention that Laird was riding in a designated bike lane until the second to last paragraph! I have more comments in the footnotes. -- John S. Allen]

Cyclist run over by T bus identified

Tufts grad student was to meet friend

By Gloria Rodriguez, Globe Correspondent, 7/4/2002

The Cambridge cyclist who was crushed to death by an MBTA bus on Tuesday was identified yesterday as Dana Laird, a Tufts University graduate student from Texas.

The 36-year-old woman was cycling north on Massachusetts Avenue from Central Square to meet a friend at her Cambridge apartment. She had plans to go to a Red Sox game with members of the women's chorus she was involved in, friends said. But on the 400 block of Mass. Avenue, the driver of a parked SUV accidentally[1] opened his door as Laird was approaching. She hit the door, lost control of her bike, and fell under the bus.[2]

News of Laird's death shocked friends, who remembered her as an avid athlete who participated in marathons and triathlons and loved to sea kayak. ''Someone like her you would expect to die of old age,'' said Ari Day, who studied with Laird at Tuft's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where she was working on her doctorate in international relations.

Laird, who moved to the area about six years ago, graduated from Princeton University with a degree in theology and had already received a master's degree in international relations from Tufts, friends said. She was a member of the Cambridge Running Club, had run the Boston Marathon a couple of times, and recently completed the Mount Washington Road Race, said Bob Gillon, treasurer of the club. She also volunteered as a Japanese translator for several events, he said. Laird had taken a two-week kayaking tour in Alaska on her own, friends said.

''She was very, very active,'' Gillon said. ''That's the tough part about it.''

MBTA spokesman Brian Pedro said the driver of the bus was not at fault and will not be cited.

''As soon as he realized [what happened], he put the brakes on, but in a split second you couldn't stop a bus that big anyway,'' Pedro said. ''The way it looks now, he didn't do anything wrong.''

The driver of the SUV was cited for opening his door in traffic. He also had an expired registration, Pedro said. His name is not being released because he is not being charged with a crime, Pedro said.

Tim Baldwin, executive director for the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said the accident shows that people need to learn to share the road with each other. Laird was riding in the bike lane.

''There's a conflict with different users,'' Baldwin said. ''They need to be more respectful of each other.''[3]

This story ran on page B5 of the Boston Globe on 7/4/2002.

Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.

1) The word "accidentally" is very poorly chosen. The driver had to reach for the door handle, unlatch the door and push it open -- three intentional actions. A more accurate description would be "carelessly and illegally".

2) Reports of eyewitness accounts, and photographs by Robert Winters, who arrived at the scene after the crash, suggest that Laird may have lost control while trying to avoid the door, but before striking it.

3) The Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition has a policy against the striping of bike lanes in the "door zone." Baldwin reported to me (telephone conversation of July 8, 2002) that the Globe reporter's quote did not reflect the full scope of his comments to her. His quote here certainly does not reflect his statement of July 9.

I called the Globe reporter and spoke briefly with her around 4 PM on July 3. I told her that I would like to discuss the Laird crash with her, and that I had a problem with bike lanes in the "door zone." She told me she was working on deadline but would call me back within the next half-hour. She never did.

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