Washington @ Blue Ledge – Flex posts are now on the ground!

We are happy to report that flex posts have gone in the ground at Washington & Blue Ledge. Our sincerest thanks to BTD and PWD for moving the Vision Zero crash response here to this milestone. All that remains is the installation of the pedestrian crossing beacon. A couple of photos taken early on Saturday morning.

View looking north. Unfortunately, recent Comcast utility work has damaged crosswalk and bike lane markings.

View looking north. Unfortunately, recent Comcast utility work has damaged crosswalk and bike lane markings. Flex posts look good, though!

View looking south.

View looking south.

Rally for Safer Streets – City Hall Plaza – September 29, 2016 6pm-7pm

Rally for Safer StreetsWalkUP Roslindale is joining with all of its allies in the Vision Zero Coalition to encourage everyone to turn out for a major Rally for Safer Streets. We will gather at City Hall Plaza on September 29, 2016, from 6pm-7pm to demand meaningful steps toward the Vision Zero goal of truly safe streets. Recent crashes and fatalities in Roslindale illustrate that progress has been much too slow and it’s time to turbocharge the movement. Facebook RSVP here, more details below. Spread the word!
Continue reading

Two Greenway Partner Sites are in Roslindale!

We were a bit busy this past week, so not much time to post, but wanted to make sure folks knew that both the Arboretum Gateway Path and the American Legion Greenway have been selected by LivableStreets Alliance to be Greenway Partner projects! The selections were made public at the Tour de Streets event a week ago Saturday. Links here:

This means LivableStreets Alliance has committed to working with both WalkUP Roslindale and the American Legion Corridor Coalition and helping them move forward. This is great news and we all deeply appreciate the work LivableStreets Alliance is doing all around the region on the interrelated issues of walking, bicycling, and transit connectivity.

Stonybrook Neighborhood Slow Streets — We see what VZB means by the term and we definitely want it now

Readers of this blog may recall that we offered written testimony to the Boston City Council at their hearing on Vision Zero in May of this year —

WalkUP Testimony at City Vision Zero Hearing

— and that a major part of our focus was on the Neighborhood Slow Streets program and the slow pace of its rollout in Stonybrook and Talbot-Norfolk Triangle. Back then, we put it this way:

And we also applaud the concept of Slow Speed Zones outlined in BTD’s December 2015 Vision Zero Boston Action Plan. These zones would combine a lower speed limit in defined areas with the physical interventions needed to really make a difference – curb extensions, refuge islands and medians, raised crosswalks, special crosswalk signals, vehicle speed monitors, narrower vehicle travel lanes, street diets, and separated bicycle lanes/tracks. We are eagerly awaiting the initial roll out of Slow Speed Zones in the Norfolk-Talbot Triangle in Dorchester and the Stonybrook Area in Jamaica Plain this year. That said, we are surprised that there has been so little information shared or made available broadly about the progress on those areas and we have heard nothing definitive to date about the expansion of the Slow Speed Zones to other neighborhoods once the first two have been implemented. This is desperately needed, it should happen as fast as possible once the essential combination of interventions has been decided, and BTD should be planning for this expansion right now – I can safely say that my own neighborhood of Peters Hill will be among those areas seeking designation as soon as the expansion process is made public. Slowing speeds in our neighborhoods will save lives. While we understand capacity constraints, there is no need to wait or take this part of the Vision Zero effort slow. Everyone in Boston deserves to live on a street on which vehicle speeds are safe.

This past Wednesday evening, the public finally saw the plan for Stonybrook at a community meeting held at English High:

stonybrook-plan-2

I was there myself, along with 3 WUR compatriots, and can attest to the strong support this plan had with the people from that community, including the Stonybrook Neighborhood Association. The most critical features of the plan are a 20 mph speed limit, gateways and signs at the entrances to the area announcing it as such, daylighting of crosswalks, and strategically spaced speed humps (wider than speed bumps, much more effective, and much less taxing on vehicles). I should also mention that this is only phase 1 and that phase 2 is intended to include curb extensions and raised crosswalks at key locations. All in all, the recipe makes sense and BTD deserves thanks and praise for putting this together. We will thank and praise them even more if they get this and Talbot-Norfolk Triangle (their meeting comes later this month – we should all go to that one too in order to show our support) done before the year is out.

And, then, dear friends, we should push everyone we know in our city’s government to find more funding and more capacity to roll this set of changes out to every residential neighborhood in Boston as soon as possible. The stated goal is 2 areas per year. It should be 20. There is no reason to wait.

Everyone in every neighborhood deserves to live on a safe street.

UPDATE: Materials from the meeting have now been posted online here, including the full plan of which only a snapshot is provided above.

Trivializing headline and narrative, but read the article – Somerville should be a model for Boston once ImagineBoston 2030’s work is done

Somerville eyes zoning code to match its hip reputation

It’s turning out to be a long process, but what Somerville is proposing and will likely soon adopt is truly nothing less than a radical reform of the rules governing buildings and their uses. And our city should follow suit as soon as ImagineBoston 2030‘s work is done and we are ready to embark on the hard work that will be required to recast our zoning code in a way that fits the city we actually have and love already and the ways in which we want to make it better. I’ve personally blogged here about the fundamental mismatch between even our neighborhood’s relatively new zoning article and the real thing as it exists on the ground. But the graphic in the middle of the article that shows that there are exactly 22 out of Somerville’s almost 12,000 residential lots that are fully conforming to their current zoning code is mind-blowing.

Think about that for a minute — almost the entire urban fabric of Somerville’s existing residential neighborhoods is outlawed.

I very strongly suspect that the results would be almost identical in our neighborhood and you couldn’t build Roslindale or any neighborhood in Boston as it exists today by following the letter of the zoning that is currently in place. Speaking for myself, I love where I live and want the regulations that govern buildings and uses in my neighborhood to reflect a due respect for what we collectively have by making it the rule instead of the exception.

Another pedestrian fatality in our neighborhood — this time at Morton/Canterbury

Intersection of Morton and Canterbury

Intersection of Morton and Canterbury

The crash — single driver crashing into a single pedestrian — happened this past Saturday night at the intersection of Morton Street and Canterbury Street, across from the VFW post, in the area where Roslindale, Mattapan, and Jamaica Plain all meet. Reporting has come in from Universal Hub, the Globe, and the Herald:

The victim has been identified as Johnette Sims, a resident of Dorchester. Our thoughts are with her family. Initial reports indicate that Ms. Sims was struck while in a crosswalk and that the driver, who initially fled the scene, has been arrested and will be charged with operating under the influence.

Recognizing the likely multiple contributing causes — which appear to include drunken driving as well as a street system that, here and just about everywhere, continues to encourage vehicular speeding and an expectation that, despite the presence of crosswalks, pedestrians aren’t supposed to be getting in the way — we will try to stay on top of the state and city’s response — both law enforcement and MassDOT/BTD/DPW — to this latest tragedy. If anyone learns more information beyond what has been reported so far, please let us know in the comments section. We will do the same.

On the twin concepts of making connections and finding like-minded people

One of the more enjoyable aspects of being a part of WalkUP Roslindale has been in making connections to people who live and work in our neighborhood who are amazingly talented and incredibly generous. This has also been rewardingly true across this great city of ours. Case in point: This morning, I had the good fortune to have a little time to spend downtown at the temporary installation of an expanded sidewalk/pedestrian area on Franklin Street near Arch Street that will reportedly become permanent in the very near future. This will be a great improvement and provide a ready and (most importantly) local example for taking key locations of shockingly excess pavement and repurposing them for the enhanced street life that is begging only for a little encouragement to grow and blossom. (My loyal RTUF followers (all 3 of them!) will recall that I blogged over there about this very topic and location in early 2014.) The event also allowed me to connect with Erica Mattison, Dorchester resident and bike/walk advocate of the first order, and the Globe’s Dante Ramos. Dante’s piece is spot-on as usual: Pop-up plaza is a harbinger of streets to come (I hope).

And he even took the picture that Erica posted to her twitter account (your correspondent if on the far right of the photo). And, finally, my own photo taken near the start of the 3-hour installation period:

Resized

I would love suggestions in the comments on places in our own neighborhood where we think the city could productively repurpose excess pavement to better uses. Thanks!

Roslindale’s Visiting Uhü

UHU Coming SoonWhat does your mind conjure when you hear the phrase “tiny house” or “micro-apartment”? As housing prices continue to climb in major cities, Boston has not been spared. Trying to achieve balance between creating enough housing while ensuring affordability is a difficult task, and one that no city has solved perfectly quite yet.

Here in Boston, the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab is seeking answers to those questions with their newly built Urban Housing Unit, or uhü (pronounced “yoo-hoo”) for short. The uhü is a 385 square foot prefab that is fully furnished. It will travel to neighborhoods throughout Boston for the remainder of this year to spark conversation amongst residents about the palatability of smaller space living.

The uhü just arrived in Roslindale at the upper lot of the MBTA commuter rail station on Conway St and installation will be complete tomorrow, August 16th.

WalkUP Roslindale supports creative solutions to our housing crisis, and believes smartly-designed increased density is an important ingredient to a vital, walkable neighborhood. We are happy to see the city start to think “outside the box” on ways to advance housing (or perhaps “inside the box” is more appropriate in this particular case), but we also believe that land use innovation must be linked with transportation innovation and investment lest efforts to build a sustainable, livable city fail or, worse, backfire. If we are going to accommodate micro-apartments like the uhü, it must be in parallel with a strong push for safer walking and biking infrastructure, as well as better transit options in Roslindale and throughout Boston. At this point, Boston’s modest experiments in the transportation realm lag progress in housing, and we’d like to see them catch up. A final critical element to smaller private spaces is richer, vibrant common spaces–including both open space/play space and a variety of walkable commercial/retail amenities.

This is a great opportunity to discuss what implications units like the uhü could have on our city. We encourage Roslindale residents to stop by and chat with team members from the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab to share thoughts.

Events will be held at the uhü on:

  • Thurs, August 18th, 2016 from 5:00pm-8:00p for Family Night
  • Saturday, August 20th, 2016 from 9:00aa-1:00pm during the Roslindale Farmers Market
  • Thurs, August 25th, 2016 from 5:00pm-8:00pm for a community celebration

Spread the word!

UHU Flyer (PDF)

UHU Facebook Page

3 observations about where we stand at Washington@Blue Ledge

  1. The "Double Threat"

    The So-Called “Double Threat”
    (image courtesy Federal Highway Administration)

    Not Random. The reconfiguration at Washington & Blue Ledge is part of the City of Boston’s ongoing effort to implement the Vision Zero Policy adopted about 18 months ago. Under this policy, which several cities have adopted around the US, our city has set a goal of reaching zero deaths among all users of our streets – drivers and passengers in motor vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others in alternative forms of wheeled/motorized transportation – by the year 2030. A major focus of the policy’s implementation is to respond to each crash involving serious injury or death by examining their location and making changes to improve safety. Washington@Blue Ledge is where Roslindale resident Silvia Acosta was killed by a speeding hit-and-run driver while in a crosswalk in mid-January of this year. The reconfiguration that is now under way seeks to reduce motor vehicle speeds and the so-called “double-threat” in the part of the crosswalk that crosses the northbound direction of Washington Street. Reducing vehicle speeds has a huge impact on whether pedestrians survive a motor vehicle crash — your chances of dying increase from

    under 10% at 20 mph, to over 50% at 30 mph, to over 80% at 40 mph. The double-threat is something I’m sure we’ve all experienced, where a crosswalk crosses two lanes in the same direction, the car in one lane stops, while the car in the second lane can’t see the pedestrian for whom the stop is being made, posits that they are stopping for no reason, and goes around them, hitting the pedestrian in the process. This is a big step forward for this intersection.

  2. Not Done. The reconfiguration at this location is not yet done. Boston PWD’s contractor should soon be installing (a) flex posts and bollards to delineate both the painted bump out on the southbound side and the pedestrian median, and (b) a push-button activated flashing beacon signal for the new crosswalk. Those of us who are focused on improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety in our neighborhood are intensely interested in this intersection and will be watching closely in the next few days to make sure these final actions are taken as soon as possible.
  3. Not Adjusted to Overnight. Observations have been made that the new configuration has not yet taken hold and some drivers are still using the new bike lane as if it remains a motor vehicle lane. While unfortunate, this is not surprising. The installation isn’t done yet, and the experience around town is that getting drivers to comply with new roadway configurations takes time and patience. If vehicle speeds are slowing as drivers adjust, see point 1, above. The intent is that the new configuration will reduce vehicle speeds permanently by narrowing the travel lanes and improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

Day 205 @ Washington-Blue Ledge: Just about fully installed!

Vision Zero BostonNo pictures yet, but I went by early this morning and the full reconfiguration/restriping of the intersection at Washington and Blue Ledge is now done. I believe the remaining items to be installed at this point are median strip signs indicating the new crosswalk and the flashing pedestrian sign. Many thanks to BTD/PWD, our municipal elected officials (especially District 5 City Councilor Tim McCarthy, City Council President Michelle Wu, and City Councilor Sal LaMattina, who chairs the Committee on Parks, Recreation, and Transportation that held a hearing on the Vision Zero program in May), and Mayor Walsh for getting this done. We should also recognize the advocacy around Vision Zero Boston generally from WalkBoston, Livable Streets, Boston Cyclists Union, and MassBike, among others. Lots, lots more to do to improve everyone’s safety on our streets all around this great city.