Ask MassBike: Crash On The Esplanade

42-21548197We get a lot of questions here at MassBike, and we like to think we also give some pretty good answers. We realized that sharing these questions and answers on our website would be a valuable resource to others looking for the same information.

We got this question from Farzad about a crash he had on the esplanade.

hello massbike,

i’m a cyclist living in cambridge and i use the paul dudley white bike path along the charles to get to work. i’ve noticed that the city seems to plow the path but does not salt it, and, as a result, the path becomes a sheet of ice in the winter. i’m upset because on my way to work on friday i hit a huge patch of ice as i tried to go around a runner by the longfellow bridge, and i hit the ground hard and badly fractured my clavicle. i go back in two weeks for more x-rays to determine whether i’ll need surgery. i’m writing to get your help in determining what my rights are, if i have a case. thank you so much for your advocacy and for helping make MA a better place for cyclists!


Hello Farzad

Yikes! I hope you heal up fast, I have broken a collar bone before, and while painful doesn’t always need surgery. Good luck with the recovery.

The bike path on the Esplanade is maintained and plowed by the DCR, not the City of Boston. We would guess that the DCR probably limits or prohibits the use of salt and deicing agents on the Esplanade due to the proximity to the river and risk of contamination from runoff, however we do not know for sure.

For information about how the DCR clears the bike path in the winter, we recommend contacting Samantha Overton, Director of Urban Parks and Recreation

Unfortunately MassBike is unable to give legal advice. For legal advice, we recommend consulting a lawyer. We recommend Andrew Fischer of Jason & Fischer, 617-423-7904, is very good, other lawyers also handle bicycle cases.

Hope this helps

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6 Responses to Ask MassBike: Crash On The Esplanade

  1. Andy January 11, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    Very sorry to hear about this accident. Broken collar bones are definitely not cool. I can’t offer a legal opinion as to the case at hand but would like to respectfully offer a common sense opinion. It sounds as if Farzad was aware of the state of things prior to his crash – i.e. plowed but unsalted paths and that the crash resulted from an attempt to pass when it was not safe to do so. It definitely sucks that the paths are not completely clear but this is not an uncommon occurrence in winter even on high traffic roads. Riding in the winter certainly can be more hazardous than at other times and therefore accidents are more likely to happen. So please be careful and expect the unexpected when riding in winter conditions (more so than usual that is :).

  2. John Allen January 17, 2010 at 7:39 am #

    I have fallen a few times due to ice, as well. And broken a collarbone (though in the summer — it can happen then too –). May you heal quickly.

    If you wish to ride when surfaces are slippery, you might consider getting studded snow tires. The ones I hear the best reports on are made by Innova, in Finland. They are expensive, and will slow you down a bit when riding on pavement, but they make ice and packed snow more manageable.
    You might also consider a different route. Streets are crowned (slightly higher in the middle, so meltwater drains off to the curb). Most paths are not. They are not salted either. Expense isn’t the only reason: ss they pass through parkland and mostly don’t have drains, salting would kill the vegetation.
    So, in cold weather, avoid riding on paths, or take a lot of extra care. If you are uncomfortable with riding on streets, you might consider signing up for one of Massbike’s Bicycle Driver Training courses.

  3. Ken Cheeseman January 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    I fully concur with the advise given by other members- especially with regards to studded snow tires and taking to the streets if the path has too many hazards.

    I, too, use the same path on my daily commute year round. I have a bike dedicated to winter riding with studded tires and despite pretty good efforts being made to plow the path often end up taking a streets route, which eventually takes me down Commonwealth Avenue.

    The Boston Bike Map is a good resource for planning an alternative route.

    My sympathies on your injury and I wish you a healthy recovery and safe riding year round in the future.

  4. Ken Cheeseman January 22, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    oops meant to include this link:

    This is Doug Mink’s Path reports for winter riders.

  5. Ray March 6, 2010 at 3:03 pm #

    John Allen is correct about studded tires but mentioned the incorrect brand name.

    The Innova brand offers a much cheaper and poorly made Chinese-made tire.
    Good for about one season if the studs manage to stay in the tread.

    Nokian (Suomi of Finland), Schwalbe, and Kenda all make studded tires with carbide studs, which are the ones you want.
    Nokian even provides replacement studs and a tool to install them should you want to repair any missing studs. I’ve lost one in about 4 years.

    I’ve three years and at least 2000 miles in my Nokian Hakkapelita 106s (700c) and they are still going strong. They are heavy and handle poorly, (especially on painted lines) but are effective on black ice and icy rutted tracks such as found on many trails and paths.

    You still need to ride conservatively, especially on turns and rutted ice, unless perhaps you get the especially bristling MTB versions.
    You need to check if you bicycle has the frame clearance to fit these tires.

    I find the studded tires equally valuable for street riding, the freeze-thaw cycle makes for a lot of ice at the roadway edges and small lumps of ice easily divert a front tire. Get a pair, or it you can afford only one, mount it on the front wheel.

    Studded Tires from Peter White
    He does not mention the Kenda tires which are fairly recently available.
    Any decent bike shop should be able to order these for you.
    If not, find another shop soon.

    I think the Boston Bike map is weak for exploring(lack of named streets and incomplete marking of streets), although I LOVE the Eastern MA, Central MA, and Western MA Rubel’s maps. The suggested routes are nice, but it is a bad map to take if exploring or if getting lost.
    Rand McNally local maps and even the Arrow maps have street listings with coordinate grid locations which makes exploring the city easier.

    That is IF you can find street signs.

  6. Joe Cook September 1, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    The courts consider bike paths to be a recreational use of land which gives the owners of the paths protection under the Recreational Use Statute. The Sandler case, 19 Mass. 334 (1995) makes it clear that bicyclists have just about zero chance of recovering against a city, town or the Commonwealth.