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BU Student Struck by Car on Comm Ave

Was headed to T, sustained leg injuries

A BU student was struck by an SUV as she crossed the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and St. Paul Street at about 2 p.m. Wednesday, sustaining serious leg injuries. The 20-year-old woman was headed for an inbound Green Line trolley when the blue PT Cruiser struck her. The male driver stopped immediately, got out of the car, and stayed with the injured woman until she was taken to Brigham and Women’s Hospital by Boston EMS. Police received multiple 911 calls, BU Police Department Captain Robert Molloy says, and emergency vehicles were at the scene within minutes. The incident is being investigated by Boston Police. No charges have been filed.

“It looked like this girl was running to catch the T when the blue car struck her,” says passerby Brooke Singman (COM’14), who saw the accident and stayed with, and tried to comfort, the injured woman until the ambulance arrived. “The car wasn’t going so fast,” according to Singman. “She fell to the ground and kept crying not to tell her mom.” She was by herself “so I offered to go to the hospital with her, so they gave me her phone and her glasses, but then they left without me.”

The driver of the MBTA trolley also got out to offer help, as did people from Student Health Services, which is at the corner of Comm Ave and Buick Street. Molloy describes the woman as conscious, but with serious leg injuries.

BU Police dispatched three officers to the scene, which slowed inbound traffic for just under an hour. “We’re always concerned about pedestrians crossing at these busy intersections, and encourage people to always be aware of traffic on Comm Ave, whether the light is green or not,” Molloy says.

The unidentified student remains at Brigham & Women’s Hospital where she is listed in stable condition.

44 Comments
Susan Seligson, Senior Writer for BU Today and Bostonia
Susan Seligson

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

44 Comments on BU Student Struck by Car on Comm Ave

  • Anonymous on 04.23.2014 at 10:01 pm

    Has BU ever considered constructing bridges over the street? Just an idea.

    • Daniel Gorelik on 04.23.2014 at 10:52 pm

      That’s an awful idea. A street should be a place for everyone, be it cars, pedestrians, or bicycles. In particular, in Boston, like in many European cities, and unlike in many American cities, the car is not king and pedestrians and bicycles are welcome.

      Constructing a bridge would go in the opposite direction of the very fabric of this beloved city by segregating the street space and establishing that the road is a place where pedestrians aren’t welcome.

      • Jay on 04.24.2014 at 8:22 am

        I think you’ve missed the point.

        It would be nice to keep the street space integrated but how about some constructive criticism on how to improve the safety of pedestrians in these busy areas. The pedestrian bridges thought is a perfectly valid solution towards helping with safety.

        Or how about better signage? For both the vehicular and pedestrian traffic? Will increased signage affect our sensibilities, as well?

        Stationed police vehicles? Expensive but effective. But, not conducive to a college environment.

        And, no telling drivers to drive safer is not the answer. There will always be accidents. Hence, the term accident. Telling them they are not “king” is also as useless. How to we engender greater respect toward safety?

        • Anonymous on 04.24.2014 at 3:52 pm

          I usually like the idea of bridges, but have you guys seen Commonwealth Ave? I go to school here, and there’s literally a light every couple dozen meters where students can cross. If someone is that desperate to get to the Green Line MBTA before it leaves, they’re *still* not going to use that bridge.

          Worse even, you’d have to build the bridge to go above the electric wires over the Green Line. Jay’s right though, we need to consider pedestrian safety, and I believe the answer starts with Boston’s ineffective pedestrian walk lights.

      • BUE on 04.24.2014 at 8:34 am

        I agree with Daniel Gorelik. Constructing bridges over streets? This isn’t some suburban wasteland — this is a thriving city with intense pedestrian traffic. Bridges over streets are for drivers’ benefit. It is inconvenient to walk a long ramp or stairs to keep out of the way of speeding cars. I’m not suggesting that this driver was doing anything wrong here, the pedestrian may have darted out suddenly for all I know, but keep cars a respectable pace and all can learn to co-exist just fine.

      • Concerned Driver on 04.24.2014 at 8:47 am

        “On” the road (sidewalks, street-side cafes, crosswalks, the median-strip trolley stops) and “IN” the street (where this woman was struck) are two entirely different things. Walking IN the street is an awful idea, always, and isn’t required to preserve the pedestrian fabric of a city. Although a pedestrian “bridge” (or tunnel?) would apparently not have prevented this particular calamity, offering pedestrians ways to having to share space with moving automobiles is not an awful idea.

      • Steve M on 04.24.2014 at 2:35 pm

        I suggested bridges over Comm Ave a few years ago and people thought I was nuts. One of the problems I came to realize was the trolley cabling may get in the way but it should be looked at because one accident a year is too much and we have several around campus every year.

        • Anonymous on 04.24.2014 at 7:25 pm

          You don’t have to build the bridge over the trolley line… you can merely build one bridge from one side of comm ave to the trolley line and one bridge on the other side of the trolley line to comm ave.

    • John on 04.24.2014 at 8:17 am

      Wow thats a pretty bad idea.

    • Kitty on 04.24.2014 at 12:20 pm

      Hello! The student who was hit was clearly running to catch the T, so bridges, crosswalks, slower driving — you’ll note from the article that witnesses said the driver wasn’t going fast — are irrelevant so long as pedestrians run into the street against all signage and signals. Catch a T vs Get hit by a moving vehicle? Sometimes we just miss the train.

  • Anonymous on 04.24.2014 at 5:30 am

    One of the many amnesties of a BU student is jaywalking. Hell, if I jaywalked back home the amount I do in one semester at BU, it would exceed my tuition bill (which is helluva lot).

    But honestly students shouldn’t take this amnesty for granted. As much as it is the driver’s blame, students should be aware of the proximity at which the car is approaching you. I think one way to increase student safety is to heavily enforce speeding to a minimal. I mean I see people in sports cars with ridiculously loud mufflers going 60 wanting precious, yet fleeting attention.

    blah blah blah blah

    • To Anonymous on 04.24.2014 at 11:51 am

      So nice of you to assign the blame on the driver. A car going 30mph needs 75 feet to stop. If a student suddenly runs in front of a car and the car is closer than stopping distance, there’s not much a driver can do: attempting to swerve requires not braking so can potentially result in a worse outcome if the driver makes a wrong guess which way the student will go.

    • P on 05.07.2014 at 11:23 am

      I cycle down Commonwealth ave a LOT, and I have trouble exceeding the speed limit on my crappy alumnium hybrid. I can say that I have never really felt threatened by a car in my 2 years of near-daily trips through BU campus. Here are the real threats to myself, on a rickety, slow bicycle:

      1. Students that don’t follow crosswalks or even look to see if anyone is coming

      And that’s it! Every single one of dozens near-misses or forced swerves into traffic has been caused by BU’s stupid addiction to jaywalking. You need to start teaching your freshmen what most people learn at age 6: “Look both ways before you cross the street”.

      I should also mention that I never, EVER run into these problems anywhere else in the city, including going down Huntington ave through northeastern.

  • The BU Green Way on 04.24.2014 at 5:47 am

    I saw a student get hit by car crossing Comm Ave when I was an undergrad. She flew through the air like rag doll. I too have wondered why BU and the city cannot come up with solution to solve this chronic problem. The are other sections were Comm Ave and trolley go under ground certainly so this is possible and it would create a beautiful common greenway for BU student and the rest of the city to enjoy.

    • David on 04.24.2014 at 12:07 pm

      While your idea is beautiful as a concept, it would require many millions of dollars. Putting aside questions of flooding, which is a concern when digging underground alongside the river, you have extensive utilities underground which would have to be rerouted for several miles, you would have service disruptions, shuttle service, issues with making new underground stations and access points to replace the many many stops you would be removing, and all of the new infrastructure. Your idea could easily cost over 100 million, easily. Is this how the University should be spending what cash it has each year, rather than passing savings to students, revamping old buildings, or hiring quality faculty? Is this something you think a bankrupt city agency could fund?

      A lovely idea, but impractical.

      • The BU Green Way on 04.25.2014 at 3:52 pm

        The city would benefit too and therefore it could be approached by BU to pick up a substantial portion of the tab; provided of course the tax payers could be sold on the idea of recapturing another green space in Boston.

  • Jack Chan on 04.24.2014 at 6:40 am

    Everybody should require to take a risk management class after accepted to BU. Why would anybody want to risk the rest of their life to save a few minutes?

  • Anonymous on 04.24.2014 at 6:48 am

    Dear Students: I know that what I’m about to say will cause a rash of “we don’t know what really happened” comments, but as someone who drives that intersection all the time, I think we know exactly what happened. This is a multi-use intersection. People, please take off the headphones and look at the ‘don’t walk’ signs and STOP! I don’t care if you jaywalk when there’s no danger, but so many of you just step right into traffic, taking your life into your hands and trusting people like me to watch out for you. (Don’t be so trusting!) Please understand that often times drivers are just as late, or stressed, or pissed off at something as you are. And we’ve often been waiting through multiple light cycles because students won’t stop, compounding the problem. It’s about taking our turns, all of us. (Yes, I walk that intersection too…) This is a completely avoidable accident, but pedestrians have to take responsibility. I truly respect students (and I am one) and think you’re all pretty brilliant and busy…but not invincible. Please be courteous and careful.

  • Grad on 04.24.2014 at 6:55 am

    The problem is that students and pedestrians in general tend to think that cars will just stop regardless of whether or not they have the right of way and run across the street to catch a train. Often times without even looking. I’ve seen many students not even stop as they run to catch a train and almost cause serious accidents because cars don’t anticipate and shouldn’t anticipate that individuals will just run out into traffic to catch a train. The details of the article aren’t very clear in this specific situation but it sounds as though this was probably the case. I’ve even seen students go so far as to walk through traffic and put their hand up as if to say “stop” even though they don’t have the right of way. Not smart.

  • Anonymous on 04.24.2014 at 7:38 am

    I saw this happen.

    • Well then... on 04.24.2014 at 11:03 am

      Here’s hoping you told the police that, and not just the BU Today comments section.

  • Dylan on 04.24.2014 at 8:07 am

    With all due respect to students, they really need to begin obeying the signals. If there is a red/orange hand at the crosswalk, do not cross. Students think that as long as the lanes of traffic are clear, they can cross. People are often also pre-occupied by the notion of missing the T, which runs every 10 minutes, or have headphones in and aren’t paying attention. Slow down and pay attention.

    • JT Terrier on 04.24.2014 at 10:39 am

      Yup, nailed it.

      No idea what happened in this case ….but I drive through there all the time and it is non-stop jaywalkers and folks darting across the street when they see a break in traffic – wait for the lights people and get off the phone!!!

      This doesn’t exonerate any speeding or light crashing motorist…. pedestrians and motorists alike have to abide by the rules ….simples!!

      • Jonathan on 04.24.2014 at 8:19 pm

        I’m a student at BU and guilty of crossing against the light hundreds of times. I don’t know if that’s what the young lady did and it certainly wouldn’t diminish the sympathy I feel for both her and the driver. However, I have seen too many close calls on Comm. Ave. where the students were either not paying attention or just plain taking a stupid risk. Ticketing for jaywalking doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, except for there really are times when no cars are coming but the ped crossing sign still says “stop”. Perhaps there is a middle ground.

  • Anonymous on 04.24.2014 at 8:36 am

    I certainly hope the injured woman makes a healthy and speedy recovery. I can’t imagine how horrific this all might have been.

    But as callous as it may sound, I’m surprised accidents like this are not happening more often. I can’t begin to recount how many times I flinch away because it looks like someone is going to get hit. I agree that cars shouldn’t be king, but people are running around with the assumption that cars will see them and stop. Especially the texters. I wish people were just a little more concerned with being observant with their surroundings and less so on making it to the next meeting.

    Again, speedy recovery to her and others who sustain such injuries.

    • Maureen on 04.24.2014 at 11:42 am

      I just pray she’s doing ok. As a mom, it broke my heart she was concerned that her mother would be upset. Hoping for a full and speedy recovery!!! So nice to hear how many tried to help . :)

  • peter smith on 04.24.2014 at 9:11 am

    Speed-bumps, or maybe divert Comm Ave. traffic to Storrow!

    • JT Terrier on 04.24.2014 at 10:40 am

      really?

  • Al on 04.24.2014 at 9:22 am

    These students all got into BU so should have the common sense (that’d be nice) to stop, look both ways and then cross. I know that the cars are also likely to blame but come on. Take a second and look at what is going on around you. I am sure they are not rushing to class and if they are, get to where you need to be on time instead of putting yourself or others at risk. Common sense people.

  • J.B. on 04.24.2014 at 9:32 am

    Commonwealth Avenue is one big, long, straight road running through campus. There are portions of it where you can probably see at least a quarter-mile or more in each direction. Where this accident occurred, you can see at least several hundred yards in both directions.

    Look. Both. Ways. Before. Crossing. The. Street.

    You don’t need to spend millions on pedestrian bridges. You don’t need billions of dollars in construction costs to sink the T underground the entire length of its run through campus. Stop trying to find ways to protect people from themselves.

    Instead, you need to take responsibility for your own safety, like an adult. Look both ways when you cross the street, pay attention to the traffic lights, and keep looking around you the entire way across the street, checking in both directions. Spatial awareness, spatial awareness, spatial awareness.

    I’ve been on campus eighteen years, and it seems like at least once a year, someone’s hit on Comm Ave trying to cross the street or get to the T. Accidents happen, everyone makes mistakes, and it is not always the pedestrian’s fault, but you HAVE to take an active role in ensuring your own personal safety.

    • LarryO on 04.24.2014 at 2:47 pm

      Bravo J.B.! Street Crossing 101 – Look both ways!

      Pedestrians tend to pay more attention when crossing Comm Ave., but loose all common sense when it comes to the cross streets. I am a commuter to/from BU and a frequent pedestrian in the West/Central campus area. People cross St.Paul, Buick, and Amory Streets all day without looking, or caring, what the traffic and walking lights indicate.

      The single worst one for me as a driver is University Road between BU Academy and the GSU. No pedestrian lights at all! Many *hundreds* of pedestrians per hour walk right into the cross traffic coming from Carlton Street, which has the green light right-of-way.

  • pj on 04.24.2014 at 9:42 am

    I don’t know all of the details of this incident, but I do also witness speeding drivers as well as students playing Frogger across Comm Ave on a daily basis. The city and BU would be wise to consider bold alternative solutions such as this one:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/3028153/safer-crossing

    Share the road–slow down and look around!

  • student on 04.24.2014 at 9:56 am

    It’s a rare occurrence that accidents like this one happen. We don’t need to re-address the construction of streets, the pursuit of speeders, or the adherence to the crossing signals. People always need to look when crossing the street and drivers always need to be alert. It’s an unfortunate reality, but accidents are going to happen.

    I hope this student has a quick recovery and I wish her the best. I am glad to hear so many people stopped to help. Good job Good Samaritans and good job to all first responders involved.

  • Annonymous on 04.24.2014 at 10:27 am

    This has been a dangerous and difficult intersection to navigate for pedestrians, cars and bicyclists. As a driver I do my best to be aware of bicyclists and pedestrians that might dart in front of my car as I try to carefully cross 4 car lanes, 2 bike lanes (where bicyclists unpredictably may not follow the rules of the road),2 parking lanes (which obstruct my view to bicycle traffic) and 2 T lines (which you don’t want to be stuck on when the light changes and the opposite side of the road is now barreling through their green light – this scenario puts the driver at risk), pedestrians either not paying attention to the light signal or just taking a chance running in the street with oncoming traffic and s traffic signal allowing all way car traffic (which is just ridiculous) in a very short window of time. Occasionally, if I find myself stuck in the middle I may honk my horn just so pedestrians and bicyclists I can’t see are aware that a car is coming. As a pedestrian on that corner I find myself walking across the street without the walk signal because the lights and walk signs are very poorly coordinated and if you wait for them you will be waiting a very long time to cross. We all need to share the road but it would be helpful if we could all follow the rules of the road, if the city would implement a better traffic plan and perhaps place a traffic cop on both sides of Comm ave at that intersection we could improve safety while improving traffic flow. This is not the first time someone has been injured or worse, killed, at this intersection. Both BU and the city of Boston should take action to make the entire BU area safe for all commuters regardless of mode of transport. I think pedestrian bridges are definitely worth exploring. It does not take away from Boston’s pedestrian nature. Speed bumps are not the answer on Comm Ave as it is a major thoroughfare. Storrow drive is already highly trafficked and again Comm ave is a main artery in the city. Closing it down to make a pedestrian mall really isn’t a solution and would only exacerbate Boston’s traffic problems. Either way, something needs to be done because no one deserves to be injured or killed for just trying to get from point A to point B and no one should have to live with the guilt of harming someone simply because they were trying to safely and quickly get from point A to point B. This not an us against them situation. This is a failure of the university and city to create a safe and sensible traffic design.

  • Sara on 04.24.2014 at 10:36 am

    I do recognize that this may not apply to this particular case…I think a helpful thing would be to incorporate turning lights on the busy streets. For example, across the BU Bridge (turning on to Essex ST from Comm Ave) pedestrians need to dart across the street even when they have the walk signal because cars will often turn to make the light. I’m most worried about turning cars when crossing the street, especially if my vision is blocked by a parked car/trailer truck. The logistics/mechanics of turning lights may not be easily attainable or possible, but the idea has crossed my mind more than a few times.

    Lights that I think are problematic in the BU area are:

    – BU West cross walk/traffic light – Immediately after the pedestrian crossing signal changes the traffic light does as well (there is no pause/red-orange hand between the walking signal and the light changing). Also, the cars that turn on to Amory Street from Comm Ave. will turn when people have the crossing signal. Again, a turning signal may not work in this area, but perhaps removing that one parking space closest to the walk way might help people see walkers/drivers.

    – BU Central: This next one may just be a peeve of mine…but the pedestrian crossing at BU Central comes too infrequently for that area. Often people will crowd that small space on the train platform (don’t get hit by that on coming train!) waiting for the light OR people will just run across the street because the light is taking too long.

    Anyway, just my thoughts. We all just need to keep it safe out there.

  • Anonymous on 04.24.2014 at 11:05 am

    First off, let’s be thankful that this girl is going to be ok. This could have been a lot worse.

    But as some of the previous comments have mentioned, this isn’t a problem with the street or the intersection. This is a problem with the people. I have used Comm Ave as a motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian. The lack of respect for the “rules of the road” is appalling. We live in a society that is based on rules that are in place to protect everyone. Yet cars run red lights, pedestrians cross (sometimes without looking) without any regard for the traffic signal telling them not to, and the cyclists, well, they need to remember that they need to follow the same rules as the cars do if they want to share the road.

    The point is, events such as these could be avoided if everyone just slowed down a bit and did what they’re supposed to. Which is more of a delay to you: missing the next train or bus, or a trip to the hospital? That’s what it boils down to. Please, everyone can learn from this incident and take the steps to be safer into your own hands. The blame can’t be places on the cars, or the T, or the cyclists, or the pedestrians. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. Let’s remember that and BE responsible.

    This is a city street, a state highway, and an active trolley line. Don’t forget that.

  • SR on 04.24.2014 at 11:45 am

    I’m surprised this isn’t happening weekly. When I moved here I was shocked at the traffic situation–that includes cars, bikes, pedestrians and street signals.

    Too often the street signals are confusing or don’t clearly work, and just as often students walk in front of oncoming traffic like they’re entitled to go wherever they want whenever they want. They look so incredibly stupid, it’s remarkable.

    One of the worst intersections is at Comm Ave and University Rd. Almost without fail, students will jam up that intersection by continuing to walk through it–even when other students are patiently waiting for the cars which have right of way to pass through–and almost get hit by drivers ripping through that twisty intersection.

    It’s so stupid.

  • AP on 04.24.2014 at 1:10 pm

    I went to BU and lived in the area for another six years. There are two problems with this situation.

    1) The lights don’t reflect average user experience: they are red when there’s no traffic and green when speeding cars are zooming at the crosswalk. They don’t allow enough time to get from one side of the street to the other, or they don’t sync up leaving people stranded on the T platform. The signs turn to Don’t Walk so quickly that people learn to ignore them. On the cross streets (University Road, BU Bridge, Buick, Agganis, Babcock) there’s no consistency in the signals. You can cross four consecutive roads and have four different configurations of the signals.

    2) BU students hail from all 50 states and 100 countries. In the US, a significant number of states have “pedestrian right of way” laws. In California, for example, a pedestrian is assumed to have the right of way even if they step into the street mid-block; a collision would be deemed the motorist’s fault, even if the pedestrian stepped out six inches in front of the car. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, cars have the right of way and a pedestrian is legally considered at fault unless they were in the crosswalk in a marked intersection with WALK sign on. (Yup, if you’re crossing, say, Bay State Road at Raleigh Street by Myles and a car going 90 hits you, it’s your fault, because there’s no crosswalk there.)

    Boston should change the lights so they make sense to pedestrians, which would increase compliance. Meanwhile, BU should emphasize to students the motor vehicle law in Massachusetts gives the cars the legal right to run them over. We got a lecture at orientation “don’t run in front of cars”, but emphasizing the difference in the law is key.

    • kitty on 04.24.2014 at 2:04 pm

      ….and in the meantime, until the City and Commonwealth make roadway and traffic pattern design budgetary priorities, why not do what we’re all supposed to do: Cross only with the pedestrian signal or –when there isn’t one– only after stopping and looking; don’t run lights; don’t ride bicycles the wrong way on one-way streets, on sidewalks, or against traffic lights, and be mindful of the conditions around us.

      This is not a University responsibility; BU doesn’t own or control the roadways and the people and vehicles using them. BU tries to educate its students, but no one can make anyone see anything until they are ready to see it.

      There are many, many similarly busy streets, roads and intersections in Boston and in the world. It amazes me that, year after year, some members of our community inveigh against the university for not “fixing” or “caring about” the problems endemic to urban roadways.

      • Jay on 04.24.2014 at 10:10 pm

        “This is not a University responsibility; BU doesn’t own or control the roadways and the people and vehicles using them.”

        No this is a cop out. Same as saying it’s “policy”. BU has major pull with the city and can easily take the lead in improving the situation without having to take liability.

        I’m certain they care. This is the BU campus.

    • Didn't know that... on 04.24.2014 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks for the update about MA right of way laws. I’m from NJ where the pedestrian right of way situation is exactly like what you described in CA and assumed this was the case in Mass. as well.

  • ANTON hartanto on 06.14.2015 at 7:45 am

    Thanks for the update about MA right of way laws.The point is, events such as these could be avoided if everyone just slowed down a bit and did what they’re supposed to. Which is more of a delay to you: missing the next train or bus, or a trip to the hospital? That’s what it boils down to. Please, everyone can learn from this incident and take the steps to be safer into your own hands. The blame can’t be places on the cars, or the T, or the cyclists, or the pedestrians. Everyone is responsible for their own actions. Let’s remember that and BE responsible.

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