Sunday, February 17, 2019

Paula Sharaga

So yesterday morning I received an e-mail telling me that a classmate had been killed in a bicycle accident.

For some coincidence, Paula Sharaga and I were in many classes together in high school. Some of my best buds from high school and I never once sat in the same room.  Kenny, Gary, Elaine, John--I guess that can come with the territory when a class is over 700. But Paula and I were regularly in the same room.

She had been biking at a very difficult intersection in Boston. I lived near there for the first five years I was in Boston in two separate dwellings so I know the spot.  If you were on Brookline Avenue behind Fenway Park and drove (or biked) south, away from kenmore square, you would within a mile come to a confluence of roads where Brookline Avenue joins Boylston Street and Park Drive.  It is a mess. In order to continue onto Brookline Avenue, you actually have to make a right and go around something akin to a rotary and then make another right in order to get to the other part of Brookline.   I don't even like to drive to this area because while it is convoluted even for me a three decade veteran of the region, people who are new to the area can become confused at the intersection. I am not sure of the particulars but somewhere near that junction Paula was hit by a cement truck.  She was taken to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead.

About fifteen years ago we met for coffee near the library where she worked.  I'd seen her once in Boston, and she had come to our 25th high school reunion.  It was an enjoyable hour catching up on this and that.  She was a dedicated member of the community, an activist working towards various important goals.  In high school she was a very good and serious student, though someone with a good sense of humor, and she had this great distinctive laugh that I am not sure words can describe.  We said we would get together again and both meant it, but that was the last time I saw her except for facebook postings.

Boston has become a city with many bicyclists.  I think it is very hazardous to be a bicyclist in the city even if you are an expert on a bike. Motorists do not see you.  In what would be humorous except for the horrific nature of events like this one, the city has painted bike lines on roadways.  It is laughable because you can paint what you want, but if there is not enough space for a vehicle and a biker on a road, then the line is meaningless. Why not paint a lane and call it an airplane landing zone.  On many streets there just is not enough room for both cars and bikes, let alone the problems of motorists not seeing the bikers.  The worst is the stretch from MIT to Harvard on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge.  A relatively narrow place for cars where they have a dedicated bike lane that bikers can't be reasonably expected to stay within, and motorists cannot be reasonably expected to stay away from.

 I have done all sorts of adventurous things in my time around the track. Taken hikes on challenging paths, climbed up mountains when it has not been the easiest thing to gain purchase.  My brother and I did a hike in Glacier National Park that, if we knew what we were getting into when we started, we would have stayed at the rest area and drank beer.  But I will not, as in never except in an absolute emergency, ride a bike in a city like Boston.  Helmet Shmelmet. You can't be safe.

Paula Sharaga was a sweet smart dear woman.  We, citizens of this here earth, have lost someone special.

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