Bike racks and sidewalks swelled around Cambridge City Hall on Monday to grieve the two cyclists who were killed in traffic collisions in Cambridge in the last two weeks.

At the afternoon vigil, mourners applauded speakers who were close to 24-year-old Cambridge resident Minh-Thi Nguyen, an MIT graduate student who was killed Friday when a box truck struck her in Kendall Square. But, in a city where 1 in 10 commuters bike to work, a sense of frustration hung in the air toward policymakers amid what many described as a lack of urgency to protect cyclists — especially at intersections. Two months ago, Cambridge City Council voted 5–4 to delay completion of its bike lane construction program to fall 2027.

“We are gathered here today to let our hearts break. We are gathered here to ensure that those who were closest to Minh-Thi and to Kim know that they do not grieve alone,” said the Rev. Lindsay Popperson of the First Church of Christ in Marblehead. “And we are gathered here to make visible the sign of a dawning awareness that we must peacefully coexist on all shared roads for all of us to stay alive.”

Kim Staley, 55, was visiting from Florida and was killed on June 7 while riding a Blue Bike.

On Friday, Nguyen and the truck driver were both traveling in the same direction along Hampshire Street when the driver made a right turn onto Portland Street, striking Nguyen at the intersection, according to the Middlesex district attorney’s office. She died at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Nick Krasnow, Nguyen’s boyfriend, paused as he gripped the microphone and paid homage to Nguyen. A chorus of laughter rang out when Krasnow described his late girlfriend’s “wonderful, insane ideas,” her dinner parties and weekend getaways, her early morning skis and late-night poker games, and her abundant zest for life.

“The depth of the sorrow that we’re feeling right now is full of the life that she shared with us, which I’m so grateful for,” Krasnow said.

A young man in a buttondown looks downtrodden, gripping a microphone while he addresses a crowd.
Krasnow, Nguyen's boyfriend, mourned her loss at Monday’s vigil.
Rebeca Pereira GBH News

Jewish classmates from Nguyen’s undergraduate years recited the Mourner’s Kaddish in her memory, a Vietnamese friend offered condolences to Nguyen’s family in their native language and a smattering of cyclists wore their helmets throughout the ceremony to show their solidarity.

Vice Mayor Marc McGovern also stepped out from under the scaffolding surrounding City Hall to lament Nguyen’s untimely death. “This is not the order of things,” he said. “This is not the way things are supposed to happen.”

Flanked by city councilors and speaking on behalf of Mayor Denise Simmons, who was out of state at the time of the vigil, McGovern said, “It’s not the time for me to make a political speech, but ... we must do everything together that we can to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again in our city.”

A man speaks at a podium with five people behind him.
Vice Mayor Marc McGovern offered condolences to the family and friends of departed cyclist Minh-Thi Nguyen on behalf of local policymakers.
Rebeca Pereira GBH News

Representatives with the advocacy group Cambridge Bicycle Safety said they are working toward that precise end: implementing life-saving bike infrastructure.

Ruthann Rudel joined the organization in 2016, alarmed by the deaths of three local cyclists, and mobilized for the passage of Cambridge’s Cycling Safety Ordinance in 2019. Amendments the following year set an ambitious 2026 deadline for the city to construct 25 miles of a protected bike lane network.

The council recently voted to delay the rollout to November 2027 in a policy order that cited “loss of significant parking.” But Rudel believes the cycling community’s public safety needs are too urgent to put off.

“We are trying to turn that around, we want [pending bike lanes] done within a year, as the City Council has said they are able to do,” Rudel said.

But even under that plan, Rudel said that protective barriers for cyclists are nonexistent at intersections, which can be dangerous as drivers compete for street space. The risk of collision is especially acute in a city like Cambridge, where a record 9% of commuters biked to work during 2022.

A recent report shows that the rate of injuries for cyclists — especially severe injuries — has dropped substantially in the last two decades, but with more people opting to bike, the number of collisions has gone up.

Rudel wants the city to perform an audit of all the intersections that are part of its biking network to identify safety improvements. She floated a number of potential infrastructure solutions, such as staggering signal timing to allow cyclists to pass through intersections ahead of cars or a redesign to transform street corners into street curves that increase visibility for drivers.

“Amanda Phillips was one of the deaths in 2016,” Rudel recalled. “Inman Square is now completely redone using these techniques — it is a very different place to ride than when she died.”

Policies to expand the city’s network of protected bike infrastructure are not without detractors. Building bike lanes requires the city to clear metered and unrestricted parking spaces along main thoroughfares, and many aggrieved business owners fear that foot traffic and cyclists alone won’t keep their establishments afloat.

A city-commissioned survey released earlier this year found no meaningful difference between the employment trends, commercial property rents, and property vacancies on streets where bike lanes have been built, called “treatment” areas,” and streets without bike infrastructure. Still, businesses in treatment areas were more likely to report a loss in revenue than their counterparts on streets without bike lanes.