WalkUP Comment Letter on Washington Street Bus Lane

We recently sent an official comment letter to Boston’s Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, expressing our strong gratitude and support for the city’s implementation of a morning inbound bus lane on Washington Street between Roslindale Village and Forest Hills. This improvement has greatly improved the commuter experience for transit-riders and cyclists alike, at extremely low cost. We’d like to see much more of this in and around the City of Boston!

We also took this opportunity to raise a couple of concerns: first, compliance with the morning bus lane has been inconsistent, and a few parked cars blocking buses and bikes ruins the experience for everyone. We need to see better enforcement to insure the lane doesn’t become a half-solution at best. We also want to get the ball rolling on an afternoon/outbound dedicated bus lane, as studies show that the evening outbound rush hour commute encounters more traffic and is slower for bus riders than the morning route was before the bus lane.

Our full letter reproduced below; you can also download a PDF version.

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Fall 2018 Roslindale Walkable Film Series – 10/4 @ 7 pm – “The Human Scale”

REMINDER: We would LOVE to see you for the second installment of our monthly film series at the Rozzie Square Theater on Basile Street a week from this Thursday, October 4, 2018, at 7 pm. This time it’s “The Human Scale” – the urban life-focused documentary about Jan Gehl and his firm’s work around the globe. Come by the multiple bus lines that run through the square every day, come by Blue Bike (we have that now!), come by commuter rail on the Needham Line, walk, bike, or, if you must, go ahead and drive. We can’t wait!!!

You’re welcome to sign up and spread the word from our Facebook Event page as well.

Recent Safety Improvements in Roslindale Square – An Explainer

Flex Posts Around Adams Park

Flex Posts Around Adams Park

Though some safety improvements still remain to roll out in Roslindale Square, especially regarding the relocation of certain bus stops, the final condition has come into clear focus recently with the installation of flexposts to help delineate and reinforce the paint that was put down by our friends at BTD in the late spring/summer. Now that the dust is partially settling, this seems like a good time to explain what has been installed and why.

The “tl;dr” version is that these improvements reduce the likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities caused by cars driving through the square. They also make it more pleasant and fun to walk around, which is key to WalkUP’s mission! The longer version below:

  1. This is traffic calming, because speed kills. To protect everyone using our streets, the most effective thing we can do is to slow the speed of the motor vehicles using them, so that everyone can be and feel safer. For everyone not in a vehicle, the speed we really want to get the motor vehicles to is about 20 mph. Because once you get motor vehicles going over 20 mph, things get ugly real fast. This chart illustrates why:

This is why slowing vehicle speeds is such an important part of the city’s Vision Zero program that aims to eliminate fatal and serious traffic crashes on Boston’s streets by 2030.

2. The fundamental basis of traffic calming. The way to slow vehicle speeds is two-fold: First, set the speed limit to the speed you want motor vehicles to go. While a citywide 25 mph default speed limit isn’t perfect, it is clearly better than the 30 mph limit we previously had for decades. Second, redesign every street to provide the physical and visual cues needed for drivers of motor vehicles to slow down and meet that speed limit. Note that we didn’t mention enforcement here. That’s because we can’t really rely on close enforcement long-term in any location (BPD has a lot on its hands) and enforcement carries with it its own concerns about equity. An analogy that is often made in this context is to the incredible strides in airline safety that have occurred over the last couple of decades, to the point where you can count on one hand the number of fatalities on U.S. commercial airlines in that period. This success has come largely from treating every single crash as worthy of investigation and analysis and then making systemic changes based on the conclusions drawn every time. We know slower vehicle speeds will lead to fewer fatal and serious crashes. Everything we do to slow vehicles makes us all safer.

3. The physical and visual cues needed are fairly straightforward. They are, in fact, now on the ground in the square. They include:

  • street diets” to reduce the amount of undifferentiated asphalt that decades of auto-centric transportation management have left us, while simultaneously shortening the distance that pedestrians need to cross a street and tightening turns at intersections so that drivers have to slow down to take them. Reducing the number of lanes that crosswalks have to cross also reduces the “double-threat” of a car driver stopping for a crossing pedestrian in one lane, blocking the view of that pedestrian from the adjacent lane, and the car driver in the adjacent lane crashing into the pedestrian. The idea here is that we’re dealing with city streets, not interstate highways;
  • crosswalk daylighting” to allow drivers to see pedestrians and pedestrians to see drivers. This is done by prohibiting parking within 10 to 15 feet of the crosswalk on the approaching side; and
  • flexposts to physically reinforce these improvements. Flexposts have been around a long time, but have recently become the go-to way to provide inexpensive yet fast, effective safety improvements. Note that they can be driven over by emergency vehicles if necessary.

Finally, an additional measure that the current plans do not do enough to implement is real, protected cycling infrastructure to further reduce the priority given to motor vehicles and provide meaningful alternatives to those wanting to travel by bicycle. In-street bicycle lanes are present on parts of Washington, South, and Corinth, but they quickly devolve to sharrows, which may (unfortunately) do more harm that good. Much more is needed.

The following photos illustrate the above points:

Crosswalk daylighting on South, at the connection between the municipal parking lot and the area leading to the Village Market.

Flexposts on the curve at South/Poplar help shorten the crossing distance and clarify that this is a single lane approach that widens only after the crosswalk.

Flexposts again delineate the single-lane approach on South, reinforcing the yield required of drivers coming from Washington and once again shortening the crossing distance.

Roslindale Walkable Film Series – Installment #1 – Don’t Think Twice – September 6, 2018

REMINDER: We would LOVE to see you for the initial installment of our monthly film series at the Rozzie Square Theater on Basile Street this Thursday, September 6, 2018, at 7 pm. Come by the multiple bus lines that run through the square every day, come by Blue Bike (we have that now!), come by commuter rail on the Needham Line, walk, bike, or, if you must, go ahead and drive. We can’t wait!!!

Blue Bikes Finally Comes to Roslindale

Our long wait for the arrival of the Blue Bikes (f/k/a Hubway) Bike Sharing system in Roslindale is finally over. The city recently announced the imminent installation of 19 new stations, including five in Roslindale. (We understand a total of 60 new stations will be added throughout the city over the entire year of 2018, and another 30 next spring.) The new Roslindale locations are shown on the map below, including two right in the main street area, one near Archdale, one near Centre and Weld, and one at Belgrade at Walworth.

This is a good start and we expect these bikes will be much-used, especially once a Forest Hills station goes in (delayed, likely subject to construction completion), making for better access to the Orange Line and the Southwest Corridor.

While we applaud the City and Blue Bikes for extending the network further out into neighborhoods like Roslindale, we’re a bit disappointed and surprised to see no station planned at the Commuter Rail which is would be a very logical inter-modal destination. While the other village stations are not far from the Commuter Rail, we suspect that bikeshare right at the station would encourage more people to avoid driving to the T. Another gap in the system is any stations in Eastern Roslindale — down Cummins Highway, Metropolitan Avenue, and Hyde Park Avenue/American Legion Highway. Bike share in this areas could enable many people who are currently poorly served by transit to reach the Orange Line, Commuter Rail, and major bus stops without driving.

Our hope is that the new stations get so much use right off the bat that the City will add these other locations in 2019. If you haven’t joined Blue Bikes yet, now is the time! Note that many employers sponsor a Blue Bikes membership, and income-eligible folks can get a significantly discounted membership.

Tragedy leads to clarity in South Boston…and maybe citywide?

Vision Zero BostonEveryone concerned about traffic violence in Boston, which touches every part of our city, every day, day-in, and day-out, felt incredible sadness at the tragedy late last month in South Boston in which a crash on L Street between reckless drivers resulted in one of them driving onto the curb and killing a 3 year-old boy and injuring his sister. There have been similar tragedies around the city over the years, taking both the young (such as the 5-month old girl killed on Humboldt Street in Roxbury a couple of years ago) and the elderly (such as one of our own neighbors here in Roslindale in 2016) and everyone in between. For whatever reason, perhaps because with Vision Zero as the city’s adopted policy for the last several years, we all have a better collective vocabulary and understanding that these crashes constitute a form of traffic violence that degrades our public spaces and puts us all under threat every time we venture out onto our streets, this tragedy seemed to hit a particularly raw nerve.

And such is that nerve that first-term District 2 City Councilor Ed Flynn has quickly stepped up his game on safe streets to a level that I think every City Councilor will have to match if they aren’t already. Go read “Flynn Recommends 12 Point Safe Streets Plan” over at Caught in Southie and then consider whether the 12 point safe streets plan he is pushing for in that neighborhood deserves to be rolled out, as quickly as humanly possible, to every street in every neighborhood of this city. Below, I have converted the 12 points he raised to a generic list that could be applied anywhere:

  1. A complete traffic study of ________________ and all high traffic roads. [NOTE: This works only if it’s done in the background while proven traffic calming measures are advanced right away, and isn’t ultimately used as a way to force more vehicular traffic through the neighborhoods at higher speeds.]
  2. Reducing the speed limit to 20 MPH throughout all of ____________. [NOTE: Exactly. The recent shift to 25 mph was a compromise. We really should be at 20 mph.]
  3. Speed humps (permanent or temporary to move for plows) and raised crosswalks along _________ and other high traffic roads, near parks and recreation centers where children and seniors gather. [NOTE: Speed humps should be permanent wherever they go. I continue not to see why plowing in Boston is different than the many other snow belt places in North America and really anywhere else that already have speed humps and raised crosswalks.]
  4. 4-way stop signs along _________ and relevant locations throughout ________.
  5. Additional posting of Speed Board Signs on high traffic roads throughout _________ for feedback to reduce speeds.
  6. Blinking Pedestrian Crossing signs at high traffic areas like we have on _____________.
  7. Bumping out our sidewalks at crosswalks on ___________, school zones and elsewhere to shorten crosswalks, make stop signs more visible & narrow our streets to encourage slower speeds.
  8. Road Diets on ___________, one lane from ____________, and speed humps in appropriate locations.
  9. Increased police patrols in order to reduce speed. Increased fines for driving the wrong way on a one-way street and trucks on ____________. [NOTE: It would be good to have more enforcement, but this fight is ultimately about rectifying decades of bad, unsafe street design. Relying on enforcement also raises concerns about profiling of both people of color and immigrants.]
  10. More delineators in high traffic areas reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians; paint in the roads advising drivers to slow, yield and stop.
  11. A Study to determine if _______________ would become safer if they became one-way streets.  [NOTE: I would not support this in my own neighborhood. Narrow two-way streets, also called “Yield Streets,” are perhaps the most effective method of low-tech traffic calming we have.]
  12. Designated time and space for delivery trucks on ________________ to eliminate double parking. [NOTE: Better curb space management needs to be implemented on essentially every street in our city, but especially on major commercial streets.]

 

Roslindale Walkable Film Series – Fall 2018 Edition – Starts September 6 with “Don’t Think Twice”

We’ve done a couple of rounds of film series with various venues in and around the square with varied success. But this upcoming series feels like the eagle may have landed!

Accordingly, we are proud to announce that we are partnering with our new friends and neighbors at ComedySportz Boston and The Rozzie Square Theater to hold a series of films on the first Thursday of the months of September, October, November, and December.

First up will be, perhaps not surprisingly, “Don’t Think Twice,” a movie about improv comedy in a venue primarily devoted to improv comedy! Suggested donation is $5 to help defray the cost of having the theater open for us and all net proceeds will benefit our friends at RVMS. We hope you’ll be able to join us, but don’t be late – The Rozzie Square Theater is an intimate venue with a capacity of 49 seats and we’ll be on a first come, first seated basis!!!

Recap of Roslindale Gateway Path – 25% Meeting on MBTA Portion

We had great turnout and lots of enthusiasm at a community meeting held last week to present the preliminary 25% design of the first portion of the planned Roslindale Gateway Path. The Gateway Path is WalkUP’s signature initiative, supported by a broad coalition of like-minded organizations including Rozzie Bikes and the Livable Streets Alliance. Ultimately, the path will create a new entrance to the Arboretum closer to Roslindale Village (right from the MBTA Commuter Rail station), allow entry to the park from Roslindale without having to surmount a big hill, provide improved access to the park along its route, and connect all the way up to the Forest Hills orange line station and Southwest Corridor Path.

For this meeting, we were focused only on the first portion which will cross over MBTA land. Since this portion requires negotiating land rights (the Arboretum, the City, and the MBTA will be all be involved), we thought it important to complete the process of gathering community feedback on that section first so those negotiations can move forward. Hence, this meeting, which was attended by as many as 50 residents, business owners, city employees, and representatives of our elected officials. Notably represented at the meeting were District City Councilors Tim McCarthy and Matt O’Malley, State Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez, and State Sen. Michael Rush. City-Councilor-at-Large Michelle Wu has also been very supportive of the project.

The presentation was lead by Jen Relstab of the Horsley Witten Group, our design consultant from the start of this effort. Be sure to check out the complete presentation. Following the slideshow, we received ample constructive feedback and questions from the group, ranging from questions about snow and ice; maintenance; policing; wildlife; storm water; trash; and ideas about various surfaces that might be used in different parts of the path. We’re incorporating this feedback and ideas into our next steps, and look forward to returning to the community as the project moves forward. If you have comments in the meantime, feel free to send them to path@nullwalkuproslindale.org.

Some tweets and photos from the event below.

 

 

An important milestone to our south – NY’s Plaza Program Turns 10

There’s an excellent piece linked over at Public Square celebrating the 10th anniversary of the pathbreaking NYC program that has turned excess pavement into plazas at dozens of locations throughout the city. Check it out at “Reflections on 10 years of the NYC plaza program.” It’s a pretty short read and draw your own conclusions, but I was reminded, yet again, of three things about this program:

  1. It really has been wildly successful. If you’ve been to Times Square in the last 5 years, you’ve been treated to the marquee example of the program in the several blocks of pedestrian areas that were inserted into a “square” that had been, for many decades, little more than the meeting of 3 major traffic sewer mains. I grew up in NY and can well attest that it was a shock when I heard that something was finally happening there. The pedestrian experience had been so horrible for so long that I had long since given up any real hope that it would ever change. But change it did. And not even Bill DeBlasio’s 2015 bizarro flirtation with scrapping it in his car-culture-fever to protect New Yorkers and the tourists who flock to Times Square from – gasp – risque costumes could make an impression on a place so instantly loved and vigorously defended.
  2. It has demonstrated the value of tactical urbanism many times over. Tactical urbanism is perhaps the most significant innovation in urban planning and design in this century. Briefly stated, the approach calls for making fast, incremental, light, inexpensive changes in the public realm, observing how they work, adjusting, and then working on long-term interventions based on those results. Here again, Times Square is a worthwhile poster child – the initial intervention there consisted of cones, cheap beach chairs, and movable planters, placed overnight to open up several former blocks of Broadway to pedestrians. Nothing fancy, but people on foot absolutely ate it up. They stood, they sat, they lingered, they chatted. It was instantly amazing.
  3. We here in Boston have lagged, but we are starting to get with this program. As I write this post, the Boston Transportation Department is putting the finishing touches on a TU-based intervention on Franklin Street downtown. You can find pictures and a play-by-play on twitter from Marc Ebuna at Transit Matters. BTD is working on several others and is also getting set to roll out a public-private partnership program very similar to NYC’s in the next few months. More to come!

Community Meeting on July 25, 2018 at Roslindale Community Center for Gateway Path 25% Design of MBTA Section

Please join us on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 at 6pm at the Roslindale Community Center (6 Cummins Highway) to learn about the 25% design study for the Roslindale Gateway Path and provide feedback. This meeting will focus just on the MBTA portion of the design — the section connecting the Roslindale Square Commuter Rail Station into the Arboretum. RSVP appreciated. You can also join the event and invite others from the Facebook event page.

MBTA Portion of Gateway Path

MBTA Portion of Gateway Path