Here are the stakes for the FY2018 Boston Vision Zero Budget

Take 5 minutes to:

  1. Read this article in the Herald: Battle for safer streets: Nine pedestrians hit in Boston in 1 day.
  2. View this local TV news piece from WCVB: Steps being taken in Boston to curb pedestrian crashes.

Here’s the upshot: Policy and aspirations in this city around walking and cycling and safer streets for all are not being met with resources. When the Herald takes note and publishes a front page article on the 9 pedestrian crashes that occurred on a single day last week and then local tv devotes as much time as they just have to the same issue, it begins to feel like the time may finally have come to really do what needs to be done to make our streets safer and better for all users. The municipal fiscal year starts every July 1. The FY2018 budget will be developed and approved in the next handful of months. The Vision Zero line item in the current FY2017 budget is $3.1 Million for a city of about 670,000 people. As the TV piece indicates, that’s woefully inadequate. On a per capita basis, it’s on the order of a third of NYC’s vision zero budget and 1/25th of San Francisco’s. Let that sink in. More to come on this.

Child hit by car on Metropolitan Avenue in Roslindale

On this World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (according to the World Health Organization, 1.2 million people killed every year by traffic violence and 50 million injured), we are dismayed to report another serious pedestrian crash in our neighborhood. On Friday, a nine-year old boy was hit by a car shortly after stepping off his school bus at the intersection of Metropolitan Ave and Kittredge Street. The most informative media report comes from WCVB: Boy recovering after being hit by car in Roslindale. We extend our sympathy to the boy and his family, and wish him the speediest possible recovery.

Although it looks like the child will recover, we must remember it is predictable and indeed certain that crashes like this will happen again and again until and unless we do more than pay lip service to Vision Zero Boston. A quick look at the intersection, which is in the middle of a slope just past a peak limiting line-of-sight visibility, reveals a stark absence of critical infrastructure to protect people on foot: no crosswalk, no traffic calming, no curb bump-outs, not even a stop sign on the main street in a densely settled area with chronic speeding problems. There are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of intersections like this in Roslindale alone, and the fact that people keep getting hit and occasionally killed by cars in them is a reminder that these incidents are crashes, not accidents.

Intersection of Metropolitan Ave and Kittredge Street

Intersection of Metropolitan Ave and Kittredge Street

It’s time to demand more. We can’t just wait for someone to be seriously or fatally injured on a one-off basis to take a look at specific street crossings, and then spend a year patching up that one spot. Sign the Vision Zero Petition, speak to your neighbors, and tell your elected leaders and appointed bureaucrats at every possible opportunity that it’s time to proactively address road safety across the entire city. There are plenty of successful examples to follow, but at the rate we’re going now it will be a century or more before we realize the core Vision Zero principle: No loss of life is acceptable.

Washington @ Blue Ledge – Finally done!

I wasn’t able to take pictures, but I did verify this morning that the flashing pedestrian beacon has finally been installed at the reconfigured crosswalk at Washington and Blue Ledge. In addition, the lane striping that had been torn up by recent utility work has also been restored. While I have, at times, expressed frustration with the pace of the response to the tragedy at this location, the end result here is definitely a substantial improvement from a pedestrian safety perspective.

Thanks again to the city’s transportation and public works departments, and their consultants and contractors, for developing a plan, taking on this installation, and getting it done.

We can only hope that we don’t have to do any more rapid responses in Roslindale and elsewhere in the city. Instead, it would be great to step up the effort to turn Vision Zero from policy to reality — to take the lessons learned about planning and process here and apply them to all of the many, many places around our neighborhood where we know dangerous pedestrian and bicycle conditions exist.

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.

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!

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.

201 Days and Counting: An update on the rapid response at Washington & Blue Ledge

Smaller photo

We last reported on this important location a couple of weeks ago, when construction notices went up and we were eager to see the thoughtful plan that BTD had prepared become a reality. Now, as we hit 210 days and counting, we are still at the stage where nothing has happened within the street to physically address the crash that killed one of our neighbors. As you can see from the photo, the last two weeks brought wheelchair-accessible ramps at 2 corners where a new crosswalk is to go, and bases for the poles that will hold the crosswalk flashing beacon equipment. All of the construction signs and cones/barrels have been moved out and we are again wondering exactly how much longer this will have to wait. I asked this question of PWD on Friday via Twitter, and informed that their contractor “is scheduling remaining work” and they will “update when the schedule is available.” I think we can all agree that we hope the work is done very, very soon – in other words, in a matter of days. We are now well over six months since this tragedy occurred, and this response has been painfully slow in arriving.

4 Minutes for Walkability — What is it, how is it achieved, and what’s it good for?

If you have time to click on this link at grist:

The key to fighting climate change and mortality? Walkable cities.

read the intro, and then watch the short video — I believe that’s a 4 minute time commitment in total — you’ll find it worth your while. An excellent summary of what makes a place walkable, how it’s achieved, and what it’s good for. Enjoy and then get out there and get to it!