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‘We Cannot Go Backward on Bike Safety’: More Than 200 Gather at City Hall to Mourn Killed Cyclists

The back-to-back deaths have left the city reeling and introduced renewed attention to a yearslong debate about cyclist safety on Cambridge streets.
The back-to-back deaths have left the city reeling and introduced renewed attention to a yearslong debate about cyclist safety on Cambridge streets. By Elyse C. Goncalves
By Matan H. Josephy and Tilly R. Robinson, Crimson Staff Writers

More than 200 people attended a vigil outside Cambridge City Hall Monday evening to mourn the deaths of two Cambridge cyclists killed in traffic collisions this month and call for expanded bicycle safety infrastructure across the city.

The back-to-back deaths have left the city reeling and introduced renewed attention to a yearslong debate about cyclist safety on Cambridge streets. Many attendees at the vigil had arrived via bike, sporting helmets and fluorescent vests.

Some carried bouquets to place on an altar at the base of the City Hall steps.

A series of speakers shared words of remembrance for the two women: 55-year-old Florida resident Kim Staley, who was killed June 7, and 24-year-old Cambridge resident and MIT graduate student Min-Thi Nguyen, who was killed Friday.

Nguyen’s boyfriend — Harvard Chemistry Ph.D. student Nicholas “Nick” Krasnow — said Nguyen built both communities and deep personal relationships with those she knew.

“The depth of the sorrow that we’re feeling right now is full of the life that she shared with us,” Krasnow said.

MIT Ph.D. student Hudson Loughlin, who met Nguyen when they were undergraduates at Princeton and studied alongside her in MIT’s physics department, recalled her as a brilliant scholar and a dedicated friend.

“As a scientist, she was so successful that she was once rejected from a national fellowship for the country’s top Ph.D. students because they thought her resume had to be fake,” Loughlin recounted. “No one could have possibly accomplished as much as she had at such a young age.”

Nguyen studied quantum engineering and recently won a National Science Foundation graduate fellowship to support her research.

Loughlin said Nguyen — known among her friends for planning ski trips and dinner gatherings — had both a “contagious love for adventure” and a “witty sense of humor.”

“Her metric for a good day was whether or not she had laughed hard enough to shed a tear,” he said. “It feels unimaginable that someone so young and so full of life could have been killed so tragically.”

Staley’s family, who live in Florida, were not able to attend the vigil. But the Rev. Lindsay Popperson, who led the vigil, read a statement shared by Staley’s family and friends.

“If you gave Kim Staley an ounce of friendship, you received a pound of kindness,” Popperson read. She said that Staley, who worked as a consultant, was also a “leader in her community” and a “loving and devoted mother.”

Popperson quoted a response Staley once gave in an interview with Naples City Lifestyle: “The trait I most admire is my desire to help others and to be a positive light in the world.”

“These women changed the world and changed our lives, whether or not we knew them,” Popperson said. “We are here today to ensure their memory continues to live on by being here on the steps of Cambridge City Hall. In the hour before their weekly City Council meetings, we show those who have the power to make change that we are grieving, that we are hurting.”

Throughout the vigil, listeners bowed their heads, hugged, and fought back tears.

Itamar Turner-Trauring, a volunteer with Cambridge Bicycle Safety, held a bouquet of white flowers for the altar. He said he showed up to support the victims’ families and advocate for safer infrastructure.

“I just don’t want this to happen again,” said Turner-Trauring.

The second crash, he added, happened along the route his daughter takes when she bikes to school.

Cambridge resident Scott D. Cody attended the vigil with three of his four children, all of whom are learning to ride their bikes. Cody said he didn’t know the two women who had been killed, but he said their deaths made him worry for his own family.

“It’s absolutely terrifying to imagine my kids going through that,” he said. “What if they lost me? Or what if I lost one of them?”

As Cody passed packets of applesauce to his children, he added that he hoped Cambridge would extend its network of separated bike lanes and create protected intersections.

Chris A. Cassa, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a volunteer at Cambridge Bicycle Safety, said the deaths of Nguyen and Staley were “systemic issues.”

“People are talking about individual intersections and daylighting signals and these specific incidents, but these are just two little pieces of a systemic issue,” he said in an interview after the vigil. “These things can happen anywhere.”

Both collisions involved box trucks making right turns at intersections, commonalities that have led local advocates to push for new infrastructure and regulatory interventions. Neither truck was equipped with side guards, devices designed to prevent cyclists or pedestrians from being swept under the vehicle in the event of a crash.

At their meeting the previous week, the City Council unanimously voted to request safety audits of intersections where collisions have resulted in serious injuries.

Several elected officials — including Cambridge City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05, several City Council members, and Massachusetts State Representative Michael L. Connolly — joined the vigil as well.

Cambridge Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern told attendees that he was shocked by the deaths — particularly of Nguyen, who was the same age as McGovern’s son.

“This is not the order of things. This is not the way things were supposed to happen,” McGovern said. “It’s not the time for me to make a political speech, but I will say this: We must do everything together that we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again in our city.”

In an interview, Connolly — who represents East Cambridge, where Nguyen was killed — said he thought the city should swiftly move forward with its installation of a planned network of separated bike lanes. In a controversial April vote, the City Council delayed the deadline to finish constructing lanes by more than a year — a decision Connolly criticized at the time.

Connolly pointed to a 2023 Massachusetts law that requires trucks that are owned by or contract with the state government to be equipped with safety devices including convex mirrors, which improve visibility for drivers, and side guards.

Further requirements would be difficult to impose because of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which prevents states from regulating trade across state lines, but Connolly said he hopes to find “creative ways” to increase truck drivers’ adoption of safety devices.

“We cannot go backward on bike safety,” Connolly said. “We have to continue pushing forward to make our roads safer for all users.”

—Staff writer Matan H. Josephy can be reached at matan.josephy@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @matanjosephy.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

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