By Pamela Fourtounis, Noelle Fallacara and Yasmine Ghanem
BU News Service
A version of this story ran in the Cambridge Chronicle.
CAMBRIDGE — In the wake of the Sept. 6 hit-and-run that killed 80-year-old Romelia Gallardo just outside her home in Cambridgeport’s Lyndon B. Johnson Apartments, some seniors say they are more concerned about safety threats from bicycles than from cars.
Following a Sept. 16 “Meet Your Neighbor Day” event at the building, several senior citizens said they feel left out of the conversation when it comes to transportation and safety.
Marian Freeman was Gallardo’s friend and also a resident of the building. She thinks the incident highlights a bigger issue of senior citizens and their mobility around the community.
“We have plenty of life to live and they don’t even care,” Freeman said, referring to what she feels is the community’s disregard for seniors. “That lady hit someone and went to her work interview afterwards. I want to see people care about transportation issues and the effect it has on senior citizens.”
Concern over cyclists
In 2014, Governing magazine ranked Cambridge as the country’s most walkable city. But with the recent hit-and-run, some seniors like Freeman are worried. Seniors who spoke with the Chronicle at the LBJ Apartments said their fears are driven by a perception that cyclists often run red lights and disregard traffic laws. In addition, some said it is harder for them to see when a bike is approaching, as compared to a car.
Cambridge city Councilor Denise Simmons said she is actively listening to the senior citizen community, whom she meets with on a monthly basis, to ensure the safety of everybody in the community.
Simmons noted that she is disturbed that three collisions have occurred in the community in the last year. One cyclist left an elderly woman with a broken hip, she said in an interview after the Sept. 16 gathering.
“I’m not anti-cycling, just pro-pedestrian. We don’t want our seniors to feel like they can’t get out,” Simmons said in an interview in her office.
Simmons said the city needs to take a harder look at how it can make sure all vehicles, including Bird and Lime motorized scooters, and pedestrians interact safely on the city’s roads, and not limit the discussion to bicycles and cars.
In December 2016, the City Council decreased Cambridge’s speed limit to 25 mph, and then in March 2018, reduced it to 20 mph in all major squares. The council’s Transportation and Public Utilities Committee is discussing reducing the speed limit further, to 20 mph on residential streets citywide.
Police: we police cyclists, too
Carol Hill, a senior citizen in Cambridge, works for the Cambridge Department of Human Services and is active in the community. Hill —who also attended the gathering— told the Chronicle and Simmons that the seniors at LBJ Apartments should gather signatures for a petition to send to the district attorney in regards to the hit-and-run. She said that many of her neighbors feel the repercussions were not strong enough. They want to send a message that creating a safe environment for seniors is imperative.
“It’s all about being more aware and caring about the safety of the senior citizens here,” Hill said.
The Cambridge Police Department said that officers are doing all they can to reduce crashes involving both cars and bicycles.
CPD officers regularly patrol “on foot and bicycles,” said Jeremy Warnick, communications director for CPD, in a phone interview on Sept. 24, “talking to all roadway users to make sure they know of violations that they may not know they could be committing.”