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

    Speed = Death
    Speed = Death
    (100 kph = 60mph; 50 kph = 30mph)
    (image courtesy Helsinki City Planning Department, see Slow Down Save Lives for details)

    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.

2 thoughts to “3 observations about where we stand at Washington@Blue Ledge”

  1. I applaud the work of the City and the various advocates, and, in particular, of WalkUP in continuing to monitor the situation and advocate to make our streets safer. I have a few thoughts about the current configuration (which I don’t think will be affected by the work described as “not done” above):

    (1) I’m not sure whether the merge northbound is handled as well as it can be, from a placement and signage point of view. When I observed it on Wednesday (a couple of weeks after installation) it seems that people are merging well after the West Roxbury Parkway intersection, as they’re getting ready to speed up and cruise downhill. Did we consider eliminating the lane *before* the intersection, by making the right lane “right turn only” and blocking it off either physically or at least painting it out after the right turn slip lane? If that were done, by the time drivers made it through the intersection, it would be clearer that there is only one lane.

    (2) At some point (Beechland Street?) the bike lane disappears and the road becomes two lanes again, until the Walworth/Beech intersection. I assume that this is because of the volume of traffic turning left onto Walworth, but how about marking the left lane “left turn only” at that point? Otherwise, the two northbound lanes (currently both of which allow northbound “straight” traffic) need to merge a second time in 1500 feet, causing additional stress for the drivers.

    (3) I hope that our “close watching” of the improvements includes monitoring the compliance at the crosswalk beacon. My sense from observing the one at the Harvest Coop is that compliance is way less than it would be with a proper crosswalk signal that actually turned red. Is there research comparing compliance rates between plain crosswalks, crosswalks with RRFBs and crosswalks with full signals? Was a “real” crosswalk signal considered and rejected for some reason?

    1. David: Thanks for your comment. Thoughtful as always. We will watch the beacon closely and follow up on the rationale behind beacon vs. full signal. – Matt

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