Another Pedestrian Tragedy in the City of Boston

Local news reports on a terrible tragedy this past weekend in Mattapan, where an eight-year-old girl was killed and a twelve-year-old boy seriously injured by a hit-and-run motorist who was later arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident. Recall we had a similarly serious incident in Rozzie just a couple of weeks back (that driver has since been identified and charged). We don’t know the families or more details than have been made publicly available, but it’s an awful occurrence. We offer our condolences to the one family and wishes for a speedy recovery to the other.

One point in the article bears emphasis here:

Neighbors said speeding is a constant problem on West Selden Street.

“Literally I’ve been in my house and cars have gone by so fast that my house shakes,” said Dee Phillips, who lives on the street.

It’s easy and natural to blame bad drivers — and some in the comments on the above-linked article callously assert irresponsible parenting — but fundamentally these tragedies are a statistically predictable result of the decisions we collectively make about our urban environment, starting with street design, but also including enforcement as well as culture and community norms. Put simply: speed kills.

My first post-college job back in the 1990s was at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a think-tank in Chicago that researches and advocates for smarter transportation and land-use policies, as well as environmentally sustainable economic development. We were trained not to call car crashes “accidents” in public statements; rather they should just be called “crashes.” The reason: although any particular crash might seem accidental in its details, in the aggregate the phenomenon is the predictable and foreseeable result of policies involving our streets. And while any single crash may or may not have been avoided through better design decisions, there are well-known proven techniques that will greatly reduce the number of such crashes. All it takes is a determination that we won’t tolerate a certain baseline level of death and serious injury as the “cost of doing business.” This is exactly the point of the Vision Zero InitiativeNo Loss of Life is Acceptable. We embrace this vision, and you should too.

2 thoughts to “Another Pedestrian Tragedy in the City of Boston”

  1. Dear neighbors,
    With Healy Field being renovated and Firth Rd. being repaved, we can start making Roslindale more walkable by getting stop signs and crosswalks at Firth Rd. and Florence St. in both directions. This will help Sumner and Irving school children cross safely when walking to school and also when using the field before, during and after school. My car-free neighbor reports that with increasing summer pedestrian traffic, there have been a few close calls already and that its hard to cross “even when… standing right under the pedestrian crossing sign…and pointing at it. There are also numerous disabled and elderly folk who are out more with the nice weather, and they definitely have trouble crossing the street.” Christine Galatis from the Mayor’s Office and Counselor McCarthy both promised to get this done last fall. No word on this from either of them in a recent follow up email. Anyone interested in joining me in either making stop signs or painting the street?

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