WalkUP Roslindale is always on the lookout for opportunities to join forces with our friends at Rozzie Bikes and Roslindale Village Main Street to improve the walkability, vitality, and livability of our neighborhood. This week, we put together a letter to the Public Works Commission to raise the urgent need to improve paving conditions on Washington Street in Roslindale. The full letter appears below, and is also available in PDF form. Let’s hope we see improvements in this critical and highly-trafficked corridor this year. Demand more! Continue reading
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.
- 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.
- 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.
We were yet again saddened to hear of another car hitting a pedestrian in Roslindale; this is the third such incident in about two weeks (Blue Ledge Drive / Hyde Park Ave). The latest occurred at the intersection of Firth Road and Washington Street. Thus far the only reporting we’ve found was this brief description on Twitter:
pedestrian hit by a car in intersection of Firth & Washington in Roslindale- she was on the ground but alert- tons of traffic.
While the City has a formal action response plan for any pedestrian incident involving a fatality, non-fatal incidents don’t necessarily result in anything more than a statistic. Yet these non-fatal incidents are often equally indicative of poor road design creating dangerous conditions.
The important thing to remember is most of these incidents are preventable and not merely the result of poor judgment by a driver (or pedestrian). Cities that take Vision Zero seriously have seen dramatic results–in Sweden, pedestrian fatalities have dropped 50% in the past five years; we’ve also seen a 43% reduction in traffic fatalities in Minnesota, a 48% reduction in Utah, and a 40% decrease in Washington State (source: Vision Zero: Learning from Sweden’s Successes). Thus far, the City of Boston’s Vision Zero aspirational plan hits all the right notes, but we’ve yet to see real changes “on the ground.” These recent incidents in Roslindale are powerful reminders that immediate action is urgently needed.
We wish the victim of the latest incident a quick recovery. If anyone has more details, please leave them in the comments here.
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.
We envision a sea change for pedestrian safety in and around Roslindale: traffic calming, narrower automobile travel lanes, woonerfs, pedestrianized-street parties, reliable enforcement of speed limits, curb extensions, chokers, road diets, pedestrian zones, chicanes–they should all be in the mix and implemented where appropriate. We should be leading, not trailing, in rolling out these best practices, because we are ideally situated to be the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. We share the dream of Vision Zero and need to hold the City’s feet to the fire to make it real.
None of these changes are likely to come quickly, though. In our neighborhood, the streets surrounding Adams Park are especially bad but also have fantastic potential. While we’re putting in the long-term work to achieve Vision Zero, we should, in the meantime, at least get some crosswalks that are not an embarrassment to the community. Check out these two recent photos from the already problematically-wide intersection at Poplar, Washington, and Corinth. Roslindale deserves better.
Universal Hub reports on a potentially deadly hit-and-run against a pedestrian on Washington Street not far from Rozzie Square late Thursday night. While it’s important that BPD bring the perpetrator to justice, we should also take this opportunity to fix the pedestrian environment. Washington Street brings a large volume of pass-through traffic through the village, and features large stretches of road without crosswalks; crosswalks with poor visibility; gridlocked traffic at busy times; and dangerously high-speed traffic (including drag racing) at others. There’s a lot more to say on this topic, but for now let’s just start a conversation about a new vision for the area stretching from Turtle Pond all the way up to the Forest Hills, while we also hope the victim makes a full recovery.