Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Portraits of crash victims Minh-Thi Nguyen and Kim Staley at a Monday vigil at Cambridge City Hall. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Several hundred bicyclists, community members and friends and family took part in a vigil Monday for crash victims Minh-Thi Nguyen, 24, and Kim Staley, 55, who died exactly two weeks apart in Cambridge, both the result of a right turn by a truck in an intersection.

The City Hall vigil was organized by the Cambridge Bicycle Safety group. Many members of the City Council attended and took part in the proceedings before heading into their regular meeting.

Both crashes are still under investigation.

The Rev. Lindsay Popperson of the The First Church of Christ in Marblehead spoke and led emotionally charged remembrances by family and friends of the victims. Nguyen, who went by the nickname “Mint,” was born in Vietnam, attended Princeton and was a physics doctoral candidate at MIT, and was recalled by several classmates and friends for her “adventurous spirit, contagious laughter and unwavering support for friends.” One added the anecdote of being dragged by Nguyen to a Nigerian rap concert; another read her tribute in Nguyen’s native language. A tribute from Staley’s family in Florida was read by Popperson.

While the event stayed focused on the memories of the victims, the matter of safety and road violence was front and center. “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,” vice mayor Marc McGovern said.

Vice mayor Marc McGovern speaks Monday during the vigil. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Stephanie Wasiuk, a biotech worker in Kendall Square, said the death of Nguyen at Hampshire and Portland streets has shaken her. “I bike through the intersection where Minh-Thi was killed. So it’s hitting very close to home for me.”

“It’s surreal,” said Lena Webb, a member of the Somerville Bike Committee. “I went away on a trip two weeks ago and when I left, someone had just been killed in Cambridge by a box truck. And when I came back, someone was killed again by a box truck in Cambridge.” John Adams, the owner of Flat Top Johnny’s pool hall, said he was initially too angry to comment on the crashes directly. “As a Cambridge business owner for 30 years, I strongly support and urge the City Council to take measures for public safety and the safety of vulnerable users, and to do it quickly,” he said.

Hundreds of bicyclists, community members and friends and family attended the Monday vigil. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Councillor Patty Nolan, the swing vote on an April policy order that altered the timeline of bike lane installation, said: “As someone who regularly bikes through the Mount Auburn Street intersection and have cycled through the Portland-Hampshire one as recently as last week, I am devastated by the loss of two cyclists in two weeks. We need to keep building protected bike lanes, and we must do more.” Councillor Paul Toner echoed the need for safety now. “The city has done a lot to create a safe cycling network through our city, and the work is not done. These tragic accidents, unfortunately, occurred at intersections. We need to work to make our intersections safer and work to make trucks safer when driving through our city,” Toner said.

Cambridge Bicycle Safety group organizer Chris Cassa said in a speech, “It’s just incredibly challenging to know that we may not have done enough in the right amount of time, and we need to do whatever we can to prevent something like this from happening.”

After the vigil, state Rep. Michael Connolly said of Nguyen, “She had her whole life ahead of her, and it’s a reminder we have to do more at every level of government.”

There is a crowdfunding effort set up for Nguyen’s family to help defray funeral costs and a page in memory of Kim Staley called Kimberly’s Reef.