Looking back at 2015 – The WalkUP Roslindale Year in Review

OK. That’s a bit more than this really is. I’ll point out the 3 things that seemed most significant to me this year and others can give their views in the comments if they see fit:

  1. WalkUP Roslindale was formed! This happened in the late spring when Adam Kessel and I met for lunch and then decided to run with the idea of a collaborative organization made up of people who live and/or work in Roslindale to carry forward the idea of making ours the most walkable neighborhood in the city. Our most active collaborator on this has been Steve Gag but there have been many others — if you take a look at the signers on the Taft Hill Park comment letter, you’ll get a sense who has been most involved to date.
  2. WalkUP Roslindale helped shine a light on East Roslindale. The fight to raise the level of expectation for the natural, public, and private realms in this part of our neighborhood is only just beginning. But the folks over there are dedicated and they know what they’re after. We’re happy to have connected with them and look forward to continuing to support their efforts in 2016.
  3. WalkUP Roslindale conducted a Walk Audit in Roslindale Square. This was a collaboration with WalkBoston and we did it late in the year. December 5 to be exact. We will have more to say about what the walk audit revealed (when it’s done, we’ll post it in full) and what look like the short, medium, and long term steps we can take to improve walkability in our neighborhood’s center.

We can learn a couple of things from New York

Going in reverse order from when these things came over the transom:

POINT THE FIRST

“25 keeps us all alive!” — To be clear, I do not believe this is really the slogan, but I was in New York over the past weekend and snapped this picture:

IMAG0008

You’re reading the sign right. New York has had a city-wide 25 mph speed limit for more than a year now. The world has not ended and their economy has not crashed, but traffic fatalities of all kinds of down year over year: 241 this year against 269 last year. The new Boston Vision Zero Action Plan is finally pointing us in this direction. But let’s be honest: it is long, long past time for our city to take the same kind of step — let’s make 2016 the year it happens.

POINT THE SECOND

Why 9 or 10 is better than 12. I commend to everyone the following article from Rob Steuteville over at Better Cities & Towns about how the humble Williamsburg Bridge’s rehabilitation back during your correspondent’s youthful years in the big city led to some of the first research into why narrower vehicle travel lanes are safer than wider ones. Worth a read: The New Science of Traffic Engineering. Challenging a misguided orthodoxy only sticks when you gather the data to show why that orthodoxy is wrong.

East Roslindale Greenbelt Issues in the News

We enthusiastically support the Rozzie Urban Wild protection campaign, an effort spearheaded by WalkUP members and East Roslindale/Mt. Hope-Canterbury neighborhood residents Lisa Beatman and Rick Yoder. Back in November, the West Roxbury/Roslindale Bulletin highlighted the systemic disregard for Greenbelt protection along American Legion Highway. More recently, the Bulletin ran another piece, detailing the potential for the area to be turned into a vibrant greenspace. Check out both stories, and kudos to Lisa and Rick for keeping the spotlight on this important initiative!

Taft Hill Park Proposal Takes a Step Forward

20 Taft Hill Rendering

20 Taft Hill Rendering

We blogged about the proposal for 19 new residential units on Taft Hill Park (directly adjacent to the city’s public parking lot) a couple of months ago, shortly before the BRA’s public meeting on the developer’s small project review application. And we followed that up with a letter during the comment period. Just this week, small project review concluded with the BRA Board’s approval at their meeting on Thursday, along with five other projects indicative of the current pace of development in Boston. In WalkUP Roslindale’s view, this is the right result. In our comment letter, we expressed overall support for the location and the thoughtful way the developer was taking advantage of the highly transit-accessible and walkable location, while offering our suggestions on certain aspects of the developer’s proposal. The next step for the proposal will be to proceed with the process for obtaining the zoning relief (specifically, variances) needed under the zoning code. This will likely mean another community meeting and then the required hearing before the Board of Appeal. We will continue to follow the proposal and how our suggestions are ultimately responded to. Look for updates here as this proposal continues to work its way through the review and approval process.

Boston’s Vision Zero Action Plan and sharing the Arboretum Gateway Path with our friends at LivableStreets’ 10-in-1 Street Talk

As part of our effort to spread the word and gather more support for the Arboretum Gateway Path concept, I was excited to have the opportunity to do a 7 minute presentation at LivableStreets Alliance’s 10-in-1 Street Talk last Wednesday night at the Old South Meeting House downtown. This is the 10th anniversary for these talks, and they’re a great way to connect with folks who have similar interests and advocating for making our streets and public places better and safer for everyone. LivableStreets has posted some photos from the event on their facebook page. I’ll share the video of the whole thing as soon as I see it posted in a public forum, but I was most struck during the evening by the presentation from Mark Chase of Somerville Neighborways. You should check out the images on the website, especially the concept of stressing the importance and local ownership of key intersections with resident-organized and applied graphics painted directly on the pavement. Pretty impressive and something that we should look into doing here in Roslindale – I have my own thoughts on where, and I’m sure others in our neighborhood do as well.

The evening got off to a great start with the semi-surprise of the Mayor’s announcement of the city’s Vision Zero Action Plan in a short video, which was followed by reinforcing remarks from BTD Commissioner Gina Fiandaca. Chief of Streets Chris Osgood was also personally in attendance to emphasize the importance of the announcement. The whole action plan is worth looking at and taking part in as it moves forward. But I would say that among the most interesting  and important early action items is the institution of neighborhood slow speed zones in the Talbot-Norfolk triangle near Codman Square in Dorchester and between Washington Street and Franklin Park in Jamaica Plain’s Stonybrook section. My own understanding is that this is mainly a matter of lowering the speed limit from 30 to 20 mph and highlighting that fact with signage and enhanced crosswalk treatments and related measures. Bottom line: The pilots are a great idea, long past due, yet fundamentally every residential area in the city should get the same treatment, as soon as the city can get the standard package set next spring and summer through the pilots and then roll them out. The data on vehicle speed vs. fatality rates for pedestrians are uniform on pointing to the shift from 30 to 20 pm as being absolutely essential. If we can get actual vehicle speeds to that lower level on our neighborhood streets, we will have accomplished something of real and lasting value.

Healy Playground – Public Meeting – Monday 12/14/15 6:30pm at Archdale Community Center

Healy PlaygroundQuality parks and playgrounds are another essential element to our WalkUP vision. There’s an opportunity next week to make your voice heard and show the city that we care about better facilities in Roslindale. Attend this meeting about planned improvements to Healy Playground (the playground at 160 Florence Street, off of Washington Street). Details:

Time: Monday, December 14, 2015 6:30pm-8pm
Location: BCYF Archdale Community Center, 125 Brookway Road
Contcat: Cathy Baker-Eclipse at Boston Parks and Recreation Department, 617-961-3058, Cathy.Baker-Eclipse@nullboston.gov

See also this full-page flyer for the event.

Spread the word!

Walk Audit Complete

This past weekend, an intrepid group of about two dozen Roslindale walkers itemized the many ways in which the square’s pedestrian environment should be improved, with the help of our friends at WalkBoston. The event was a great success. Stay tuned for a full report and action plan in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please check out this slideshow that was presented to the group before the walk in the 2 Belgrade Ave (former Select Cafe) space; also see WalkBoston’s latest e-news bulletin for their report on the audit. The bulletin also includes lots of other useful information, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.

Walk Audit Group

Some of the Rozzie Square Walk Audit participants gathered in Select Cafe space