Our go-getter friends at Roslindale Village Main Street have gone public with their emerging plans to make streetscape improvements to the block of Poplar Street that abuts Adams Park in the heart of Roslindale Square. They have teamed up with our other friends at Patronicity to seek $25,000 in crowdfunding to match $25,000 in funds from MassDevelopment and a further $5,000 from the Boston Main Streets Foundation. Take a few minutes to visit the Revitalizing Poplar Street page on Patronicity, and if you like the concept and the direction they’re headed in, make whatever investment you can in a better public realm for our neighborhood!
REMINDER: After a super turnout for “The Human Scale” that netted $80 in proceeds to our friends at RVMS, we would LOVE to see you for the third installment of our monthly film series at the Rozzie Square Theater on Basile Street two weeks from tomorrow, November 1, 2018, at 7 pm. As a last echo of Halloween, we’ll be showing the cult classic “Night of the Living Dead.” This George Romero offering, shot in black and white almost three decades after the arrival of technicolor, is the zombie movie by which all zombie movies are measured. As always, please come by the multiple bus lines that run through the square every day, come by Blue Bike (we have that now!), come by the Needham Line, walk, bike, or, if you must, go ahead and drive, and note that the suggested donation is $5 per person. We hope you’re coming for us, Barbara! We can’t wait!!!
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!!!
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:
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.
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!!!
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:
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.]
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.]
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-way stop signs along _________ and relevant locations throughout ________.
Additional posting of Speed Board Signs on high traffic roads throughout _________ for feedback to reduce speeds.
Blinking Pedestrian Crossing signs at high traffic areas like we have on _____________.
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.
Road Diets on ___________, one lane from ____________, and speed humps in appropriate locations.
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.]
More delineators in high traffic areas reminding drivers to stop for pedestrians; paint in the roads advising drivers to slow, yield and stop.
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.]
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.]
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!!!
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:
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. 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!
Check out the full announcement, Mayor Walsh announces transformative investments. There are quotes from the Mayor, State Rep. Russell Holmes, Roslindale’s own City Councilor at Large Michelle Wu, Sam Tyler from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, and BTD Commissioner Gina Fiandaca. There is also what I view to be the money quote from Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, as follows:
“To manage our region’s growth, to address climate change, and to increase equity, we know we need to transform our transportation system. Building off the Go Boston 2030 plan, this set of investments is a major step towards that goal. It increases investment in the basics of our streets, such as well-timed traffic signals, smooth roads and good sidewalks, and it builds out a team that can help more people get around our city by bus, bike, car or foot.”
As can be seen, this really is a big step forward and worth the attention it’s getting. The additional funding, proposed to be generated by increasing the penalties associated with a carefully constructed list of major parking and traffic violations, is significant. (And we here at WalkUP Roslindale are excited to see the Roslindale Gateway Path cited as a key GreenLink eligible for some of the new capital funding.) But even more significant is what much of the new funding is intended to be spent on – “building out a team that can help more people get around our city by bus, bike, car or foot” – a team that includes:
6 new staff to form a “Transit Team” led by a “transit coordinator” that will plan, facilitate, implement, and maintain bus improvements like the Washington Street pilot in several more corridors across the city;
One new traffic signal engineer to manage and re-time traffic signals to increase safety, and reduce traffic congestion and related vehicle emissions;
Two new traffic signal mechanics to keep signals working as designed;
Two new planners and two new engineers to focus on designing and implementing key Vision Zero programs, such as Neighborhood Slow Streets, and efforts to make quick improvements to some of Boston’s most challenging intersections; and
Up to four new maintenance & operations personnel to ensure that infrastructure added to improve street safety, such as pedestrian delineators and flex posts, are kept in a state of good repair.
All of that new dedicated staff should be music to anyone’s ears who was concerned that the combination of Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030 were more ambitious undertakings than BTD had staff or resources to implement. It is now clear that the Mayor and his administration intend to make good on the promise the policy and plan embody. He and they are to be applauded and thanked for taking this important step. We here at WalkUP Roslindale look forward to supporting the budget request before the City Council and then doing everything we can to help the Mayor and BTD implement both Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030 in our neighborhood. We recommend that you do the same!