Our first day in Boston. We got up early. Packed out bags. Had a quick bit to eat. Got the car. Drove to the John W. McCormack State Office Building, home to the Attorney General’s Office. Pádraig was going to meet the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Bureau. When he got there, he met him, and a handful of other attorneys, victim support unit and First Assistant Attorney General.
The meeting lasted an hour. Pádraig and us learned that what is ‘usually done’ is not necessarily done. When a driver hits and almost kills a cyclist and leaves him with catastrophic brain injuries, what is usually done is: the driver is tested for substances, his mobile phone is examined, and his car is impounded. Evidence is secured. On State Highways, State Police is called. – None of this happened following Pádraig’s accident. Instead, Pádraig was tested for substances in the hospital, his mobile phone and bicycle were impounded and examined. The driver got his car fixed that same afternoon.
Here is an extract from the official “Commonwealth of Massachusetts – Sharing the Road – A User’s Manual for Public Ways”, pages 108-109 (https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/01/01/Drivers_Manual.pdf, consulted 26 June 2018)
As a motorist in the presence of bicycles:
• Do Not Cut-Off After Passing: When passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction that is on your right, you must not return to the right until you have safely passed the overtaken bicycle. (Chap. 89, Sec. 2)
• Do Not Squeeze Bicycles in a Narrow Lane: If a lane is too narrow to pass a bicycle at a safe distance, be PATIENT until you can safely use an adjacent lane or WAIT until it is safe to pass in the lane you share. (Chap. 89, Sec. 2) You should stay at least three feet away when passing.
• Be aware that bicyclists Do Not Always Have to Signal Turns! Bicyclists must signal their intent by either hand to stop or turn. However, the signal does not have to be continuous or be made at all if both hands are needed for the bicycle’s safe operation. (Chap. 85, Sec. 11B)
There is no shadow of a doubt that the driver in Pádraig’s accident did not take the necessary caution.
There was a doubt in the mind of the Attorney General’s Office attorneys that what the driver did and, subsequently, the police was a criminal offence. So they decided that they could not prosecute.
In the USA, in Brewster, the Police is only answerable to the local mayor or the equivalent of City Council. There is no non-local oversight.
To me, this is the Wild West.
I felt outraged. I did not ask Pádraig how he felt about the meeting.
We drove to Brewster and visited Cape Cod Hospital where one of the nurses who had looked after him five years ago showed him his room and the sign we had sent to them as a small ‘thank you’. I don’t think anybody then had expected to see Pádraig back in the hospital for a visit.
Later in the afternoon, we went to see the family who put us up in Brewster while Pádraig was in hospital and we had a really lovely get-together with them. Pádraig met them for the first time. And he was delighted!