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

New Neighborhood Slow Streets Round announced for 2018 – Deadline is August 24, 2018

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) has just announced the 2018 Neighborhood Slow Streets (NSS) process and is inviting applications. In brief, applications are due August 24, 2018, and there’s a streamlined process this time, especially for areas that submitted last year. We here at WalkUP Roslindale were actively involved in encouraging all parts of our neighborhood to apply for the program in its initial phase and were delighted when the Mt. Hope/Canterbury area garnered a selection. We heartily encourage everyone who applied last year, but didn’t receive the nod (we’re looking at you, LANA, Lower South Street, and the Cornell Street area) to go for it again. As we have said more than once here at WalkUP Roslindale, the program really should go to every neighborhood citywide asap. Be that as it may, as long as we have the current system, everyone who can pull together the requisite focused area and community support should absolutely throw their hat in the ring and see what happens!

And we should take heart from the below images of the installed results over in the Stonybrook area of Jamaica Plain – one of the 2 initial pilot areas for NSS along with the Talbot-Norfolk Triangle in Dorchester. All of these elements – speed humps, diverters, and daylighted crosswalks – would be of use in every single residential neighborhood of this city. Every. Single. One. Anyone interested in applying should feel free to contact us at info@nullwalkuproslindale.org. We will be happy to help your application in any way we can, whether it’s through peer-to-peer technical assistance or anything else we can do. Thanks!

Photo 1 – Crosswalk daylighting.

Photo 2 – Diverter to prevent wrong-way cut-through traffic.

Photo 3 – A recently-installed speed hump (there are several in this area)!!! Would, however, prefer the sign to be located in a way that it didn’t take up sidewalk, but that’s a minor quibble right now.

Major Step Forward for the Gateway Path – Possible Funding from the Commonwealth

The Roslindale Gateway Path — the linchpin of a multiuse off-road trail to connect Roslindale Square with Forest Hills — took a significant step forward earlier this month when our Representative Jeffrey Sánchez, Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, ensured that complete funding for the path was included in the House’s Environmental Bond Bill. You can find the authorization — for $3 million — right there on line 378, page 19 of the bill! Based on our preliminary estimates including the 10% design study, we believe this state funding coupled with city support and cooperation from the MBTA will be sufficient to design and build the entire path, including the Blackwell Path Extension on the Forest Hills/Jamaica Plain side, as well as the Gateway Path starting at the Roslindale MBTA Commuter Rail Station and extending into the Arboretum.

While the bill still needs to get through the Senate and be signed by the Governor, we are delighted by Rep. Sánchez’s leadership on this important sustainability issue. We expect Senator Michael Rush, who represents much of Roslindale in the Senate and serves as Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture, will also go to bat to help see this through.

At this point, we have no immediate action item for path supporters (other than to thank our elected officials when you get a chance!), but we will be keeping a close eye on the bill as it moves through the Senate. We expect the authorization will come up in the Senate some time before the end of July.

WalkUP Roslindale Support Letter for FY2019 Transportation Department Budget – Hearing Tonight

Earlier this spring, the Walsh Administration announced next year’s transportation budget, which included a substantial increase for Vision Zero and walkability. We sent a letter at the time in support of the budget. Tonight (Tuesday, May 22) the City Council holds a hearing on the budget. We encourage everyone to speak up for safe streets and better transit at the hearing:

Boston Transportation Department Budget Hearing
Tuesday, May 22, 5 pm – 7 pm
@ Boston City Hall, 5th Floor, Iannella Chamber
1 City Hall Square, Boston

Last year, hundreds showed up at the BTD Budget Hearing, and it had a direct impact on securing more funding for the Neighborhood Slow Streets program. It’s critical to keep the momentum going in 2018, so please show up and support the proposal!

WalkUP also submitted an additional support letter today in anticipation of the hearing, which we will deliver in person tonight. The full text of the letter is included below.
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Give Washington Street Bus Lane Feedback

Washington Street Bus Lane

Washington Street Bus Lane (Image Courtesy Universal Hub)

We’re now a couple weeks into the Washington Street Dedicated Bus Lane pilot run and all reports are that it is going swimmingly for bus riders, bicyclists, and car drivers alike. The bus commute time from Rozzie Square to Forest Hills has been shortened for many from as long as half an hour or more to just a few minutes, making the bus a much more practical alternative to the commuter rail (which is infrequent and too expensive for many) or individual driving (we’ve already heard several anecdotes about people who have switched to save time and avoid traffic angst).

It’s now time to make sure the City hears feedback from the community about the pilot–if we don’t speak up, there is no guarantee that they will be able to justify continued investment in the resources necessary to keep the morning rush hour bus lane in place permanently, and ultimately to expand to an evening rush hour bus lane as well (when peak outbound traffic is even worse than in the morning).

So please drop a note right now to the Boston Transportation Department at BTD@nullboston.gov with your thoughts about the bus lane. It need not be lengthy–a sentence or two will do–but just let them know what you think. Lots of people are watching and this could be the start of big pro-walking/bike/transit changes in Roslindale and around the City of Boston, and it’s critical we seize the momentum.

Some press coverage below:

American Legion Parkway Bike Tour – Sunday, May 20, 2018 8am-10:30am

Join us in two weeks, Sunday, May 20, 2018 for an easy bicycle tour of the American Legion Parkway green areas. The tour will run from 8am-10:30am and start at the Walgreen’s end of the Stop-n-Shop Plaza on American Legion Highway, near Hyde Park Ave. RSVP to Laura Smeaton (shoplaura@nullmac.com) or Lisa Beatman (lisabeatman@nullyahoo.com, 617-306-1283). More details below or download the PDF flyer.

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