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.
No 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.
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.
I understand from a conversation I had late yesterday with Charlotte Fleetwood, BTD’s Vision Zero Coordinator, that the expectation is that the full set of safety improvements for Washington @ Blue Ledge will be installed by the middle of July. To be completely clear, Charlotte did not guarantee installation by July 15, but I’m going to use that date as the target.
So, 30 days and counting down, or 155 days and counting up.