Pedestrian Safety Meeting in West Roxbury this Wednesday, February 27

This Wednesday, February 27, 2019, elected officials will hold a public meeting to discuss ways to improve road safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers in West Roxbury. Sponsors of the meeting include City Councilor Matt O’Malley, the Boston Police Department, Senator Mike Rush, Representative Ed Coppinger, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, the Mayor’s Office, and the Boston Transportation Department.

The meeting comes after two pedestrian fatalities in West Roxbury over the last four months, one on Washington Street in November, and one on Centre Street in February. We urge you to speak up this week for traffic calming measures that also make the roads safer for both cyclists and pedestrians. Details of the meeting below; please spread the word:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 7-8:30pm
Boston Lodge of Elks #10
248 Spring St
West Roxbury

Roslindale Bulletin on 20 MPH City Speed Limit

City Speed Limit could Fall to 20mph
Roslindale Bulletin: City Speed Limit could Fall to 20mph
We appreciate how well the Roslindale Bulletin continues to cover WalkUP Roslindale’s core issues. Earlier this month, Christopher Roberson wrote this piece about the Boston City Council’s move to set the default Boston speed limit to 20 mph. This will save lives, as the survivability of a pedestrian-automobile crash is mainly a function of speed: 90% of
pedestrians hit by cars die when struck at 40 mph compared to 5% at 20 mph
.

Our own District 5 City Councilor Tim McCarthy had some nice quotes in the piece:

District 5 Councillor Timothy McCarthy said the last speed limit change was implemented by a transportation commissioner who was from Ludlow, where higher speed limits are more common.

“If you go 20 mph in Ludlow, you probably wouldn’t get out of Ludlow for a few days,” said McCarthy. “But in our area, 20 mph is plenty.”

He said that West Roxbury Police Sgt. Michael O’Hara has done demonstrations in the past to show the actual speed of a vehicle traveling 30 mph relative to a pedestrian. He said O’Hara would ask residents to stand on the side of the road while a he drove by at exactly 30 mph.

“If you’re standing on the edge of the road and a Crown Vic goes by at 30 mph, you might as well be at NASCAR, you’re not getting out of the way,” said McCarthy.

Kudos to Councilor McCarthy for helping push this walkability initiative.

See also this video of the City Council’s Government Operations committee hearing on the initiative from last week.

We should remember that setting a safer speed limit is only a starting point. Most drivers will follow road design more than posted limits, so the ultimate solution must involve safer road design including narrower car lanes and other traffic calming measures (all key aspects of Vision Zero). A recent letter to the editor in the Boston Globe makes this same point. But we need not let these broader infrastructure challenges get in the way of a common-sense first step.

Breaking news (4/27/16 afternoon): From City Councillor Michelle Wu‘s summary of today’s city council meeting:

Speed Limits: We voted unanimously to pass Councilor Baker’s home rule petition to lower the default unposted speed limit from 30mph to 20mph in thickly settled areas and business districts and from 20mph to 15mph in school zones, as well as giving the City the authority to post speed limits without state approval and the requirement for a traffic study. Councilors Baker and Flaherty noted that speeding is one of the top issues councilors hear from residents. The matter now goes to the Mayor for his signature and then the state legislature for approval.

Dante Ramos just nailed it in last Friday’s Globe

We’ve all been following the tragic spike in deaths resulting from car-on-human-being-walking crashes in our city, including our neighborhood, to start this year. As Dante Ramos asserted in an opinion piece in last Friday’s Globe (“If jaywalking is wrong, I don’t want to be right“), the answer to the carnage is not, as one of our state legislators has reportedly proposed, to jack up jaywalking fines. Instead, we need to reorder a badly disordered transportation system and reclaim the right of human beings on foot to safely use and inhabit our streets, intersections, and squares throughout Boston and here in Roslindale. It’s worth quoting from Dante’s piece at length as he talks about how Vision Zero will work here:

Ironically, [Sen.] Chandler’s legislation comes up at the State House just as Boston is embracing Vision Zero — a strategy for eliminating all motor vehicle deaths and serious injuries by 2030.

Heightened law enforcement may be part of the strategy, at least at certain key intersections. But according to Chris Osgood, Boston’s chief of streets, the city will rely more on education and on a deeper analysis of street-level conditions: the physical design of intersections, the timing of traffic and walk signals, the movement patterns of people and vehicles not just at individual intersections but throughout the surrounding blocks.

Of course, the gradual fine-tuning of a city’s overall transportation system may not seem emotionally satisfying to a driver who’s been delayed by a jaywalker. And when you’ve grown up in a world where transportation laws primarily serve cars’ needs, it’s easy to persuade yourself that stiffer jaywalking fines — what Chandler calls “the stick approach” — are for pedestrians’ own good.

Never mind that pedestrian fatality rates are lower in places where jaywalking enforcement is lax than in Los Angeles, where it’s been far more aggressive. Motorists don’t need greater protection from the supposed threat of wayward pedestrians, and, anyway, not every annoyance in life can or should be fixed through tougher laws and stiffer tickets.

Silvia Acosta

About Tuesday’s Pedestrian Death on Washington Street at Blue Ledge Drive

Silvia Acosta
Family photograph of Silvia Acosta (with Mayor Marty Walsh)

Our deepest sympathies go out to the family of Silvia Acosta, a 78 year-old resident of our neighborhood who was tragically struck and killed by a motor vehicle on Washington Street on Tuesday afternoon. Universal Hub has the most complete coverage so far of the crash, which occurred in the section of Washington Street between Walworth and the West Roxbury Parkway. The Herald also has a report.

What’s being reported so far is that the crash happened in the late afternoon (shortly after dark) and that Ms. Acosta was in a crosswalk when she was struck. It is noteworthy that the Suffolk DA’s office is charging the driver, who reportedly left the scene even though she later admitted she knew she had struck someone, with vehicular homicide by reckless operation as well. While it is important that individual drivers be held accountable for their actions, it is usually the case that larger design, infrastructure, and policy decisions play a significant role in these sorts of tragedies, demonstrating (unfortunately) how badly needed a vigorous VisionZero policy and set of actions in our city really are. We’ll follow this story as it unfolds further to see what exactly happened, what lessons can be learned, and what steps can and should be taken going forward to prevent pedestrian deaths around the location of the crash and throughout our neighborhood. And then we’ll do what we can to make sure those steps are taken. Stay tuned.

Washington Street and Blue Ledge Drive, Approximate Location of Impact
Washington Street and Blue Ledge Drive, Approximate Location of Impact