It is now 148 days since Roslindale resident Silvia Acosta was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking in a crosswalk near the intersection of Washington Street with Blue Ledge Avenue. To date, the city’s sole response has been to place a vehicle speed monitoring sign on the northbound side of the street. And that’s it, for what is supposed to be a high-profile Vision Zero “rapid response” project. WalkUP has been following this closely and we’ve heard many times that plans were close to final, that changes were imminent, and still nothing. How much longer does the city expect our neighborhood to wait for policy to turn into real action?
It took longer than it should have given the level of community support, but many community partners, starting with RVMS but including Street Ops, the offices of councilors McCarthy and Wu, Boston Transportation Department, the BSA Foundation, RozzieBikes, and your own WalkUP Rozzie, have finally succeeded in placing a bike corral next to the parklet at Fornax. The ribbon-cutting was yesterday and we had an excellent turnout. RVMS Executive Director Christina DiLisio made the point that several thousand dollars have been raised and is now available for more bike infrastructure in the square generally, so hopefully this is just a sign of much more to come.
It’s been a crazy week, but I am glad to have a few minutes to commend to WalkUP Rozzie Nation a rather perceptive opinion piece by Dante Ramos in last Sunday’s Globe. In “Give Boston better zoning – just not yet,” Dante works in a St. Augustine reference while describing the interesting extended transition period that we are now seeing as far as regulation of development goes around here. My top two money quotes:
First, as to the widespread nature of the disconnect between the city we’ve been zoned for and the one we actually have:
From West Roxbury to the harbor, in reasonable cases and in potentially problematic ones, developers are seeking relief from land-use rules and other limits. Existing zoning in Boston was designed to be restrictive — partly out of fears of new development and partly to give the city leverage over builders — but the current rules haven’t always kept up with the times.
And second, how we find a way forward while new, better regulations are formulated in the midst of a massive building boom generated, for the first time in decades, not just by a kind of real estate musical chairs but by real population growth:
Until the city has more workable land-use rules, it needs a clearer, more explicit theory to justify the exceptions that it grants. Personally, I’d argue that, in deciding how much leeway to grant developers, the city should be dovish on height and density, assiduous about promoting attractive design and climate-change readiness, and hawkish about lively street life, retail diversity, and the public realm. (That’s especially true in the Seaport — where there are lots of sit-down restaurants but almost nowhere to buy a pack of gum or a pair of jeans.)
I think I like Dante’s formulation (and he’s right about the Seaport), but with the major caveat that I think the de facto development policy is to be found in Housing a Changing City, the housing forecast that the city’s Department of Neighborhood Development released in the fall of 2014. In that report, it was made abundantly clear that housing production had to speed up – a lot – if the city was to build the 53,000 new units by 2030 needed to keep some kind of pace with the rather new phenomenon of significant population growth in Boston. I think it’s accurate to say that the Walsh Administration has taken that imperative very seriously and has acted on it and will be acting on it for some time to come.
They’ve been a bit crazy, truth be told, as follows:
- “Le Green T est arrivé!!!” For those of us in Peters Hill, the arrival of Green T to the intersection of Walter and South a week ago Thursday means that we now have a community front porch. By all accounts, including their own, the Green T folks were genuinely surprised at the immediate response of our neighborhood to having somewhere to enjoy good coffee, smoothies, and sandwiches in a well-crafted space open to the street. But there you have it. Yours truly (Matt) was patient zero of this particular viral event – I was there promptly at 5:30 am on opening day and I was not disappointed – a tasty latte and a flaky croissant and off we went. The first 4 days were supposed to be a soft opening, but soft it most certainly was not. We have been desperate for something like this, and we were not to be denied the pleasure IMMEDIATELY. It has become an instant focal point over here, the place that fills in the blank for “Meet me at ________ for coffee.” I personally live 2 blocks down and will attest that foot traffic has picked up significantly since the shop opened. Sarah Kurpiel Lee: We most certainly need bike parking asap. Please identify the appropriate location.
- Open Streets? In my own capacity as president of the WalkBoston board of directors, I was caught up in the debate over the possibility of open streets in Boston after the Mayor’s twitter chat last Wednesday raised the issue. Due to various conflicts (the ED was traveling and the communications director had a command performance), I ended up on the local news urging that Newbury Street (and various other streets in town) be considered for temporary, one-day closure this summer along the lines of what recently happened in Paris with the Champs-Élysées and has been happening on Memorial Drive in Cambridge since the 1970s. You can see the piece here. For the record, I think the folks they found on the street said it most directly and effectively. It’s just a good idea. Plain and simple.
- And then there is Vision Zero Boston. I attended the City Council hearing last Monday, but couldn’t stay, so our written comments had to stand as our testimony, as has been reported separately on this webpage. A WalkUP group followed up at the Mayor’s Roslindale coffee our by stressing to his honor how concerned we were about the slow pace of Vision Zero implementation, especially as it applied to Washington at Blue Ledge. It appears that the rapid response at this location may turn into something of a test case for what needs to be done going forward at that location and many, many others around town. As we said in the comment letter, everyone in this city deserves to feel safe on the street on which they live. Everyone. No exceptions. Old, young, rich, poor, all ethnicities. It is one very meaningful way to measure a city’s fairness in dealing with its citizens. And as the post from earlier in the week said, we will need to stay on the city’s various actors (mainly BTD, but also PWD and the BRA) on these issues. The right thing won’t happen by sitting back and waiting for it.
This time at Belgrade Avenue and Walworth Street (near Fallon Field), this morning around 7 am. Only report so far is on Keep Roslindale Quirky’s Facebook page (reproduced below for those without access). The report indicates that an ambulance was on the scene. More needs to be done to put an end to this wave of car on walker crashes. The city’s Vision Zero ramp up this spring can’t come soon enough.
We don’t yet know exactly which corner the crash occurred or any other circumstances, although one after-the-fact eye witness reports it may have been near the auto body shop on the back right corner in the image below. Here’s the general area, which, unlike several other recent pedestrian crashes, at least has crosswalks and signals albeit poorly designed (and hence dangerous) due to the odd angles of the crossings:
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.
Here’s WalkBoston’s brief announcement at the EventBrite page:
In 2016, WalkBoston is rolling out free, beginner advocacy trainings called “Ped 101” – and we’d love you to come! Our office is located at 45 School Street, Boston, MA 02108 in Old City Hall. Sessions are small group conversation over lunch or drinks and are hosted in our conference room – so please make sure to sign up in advance!
This session is helpful if you’re interested in learning about:
- walkability, urbanism & the associated lingo (what’s a “tight turning radius”?),
- making neighborhoods safer for people walking & running, and
- how you can advocate for change in your own community.
- SIGN UP BY GOING: 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.
I have fielded more than one note that I left the Arboretum Gateway Path off the top-of-mind list for WUR’s 2015 roundup. This is an accurate critique and so: mea culpa. The AGP was a major initiative in 2015 and, I strongly suspect, will be a major initiative this year and going forward until it’s done. In brief: We love this idea of a new Arboretum gateway and path at the Roslindale commuter rail station that would provide an alternate ped/bike path to the South/Archdale bridge area, where it would link to an extension of the existing Blackwell/Bussey Brook path (and on to Forest Hills and the Southwest Corridor path) and allow for a new, more welcoming entrance to the Arboretum at Archdale as well. We are furthermore delighted at the receptive potential partners we’ve found in our own City and State government, the Arnold Arboretum, the Arboretum Park Conservancy, RVMS, Livable Streets, and our friends at Tufts University’s environmental program who are currently conducting an initial feasibility analysis for the path. It’s also been a great way to connect early with our friends at Rozzie Bikes.
So — as we head into 2016, expect the Arboretum Gateway Path to be something we continue to talk about and organize around, a lot.
OK. That’s a bit more than this really is. I’ll point out the 3 things that seemed most significant to me this year and others can give their views in the comments if they see fit:
- WalkUP Roslindale was formed! This happened in the late spring when Adam Kessel and I met for lunch and then decided to run with the idea of a collaborative organization made up of people who live and/or work in Roslindale to carry forward the idea of making ours the most walkable neighborhood in the city. Our most active collaborator on this has been Steve Gag but there have been many others — if you take a look at the signers on the Taft Hill Park comment letter, you’ll get a sense who has been most involved to date.
- WalkUP Roslindale helped shine a light on East Roslindale. The fight to raise the level of expectation for the natural, public, and private realms in this part of our neighborhood is only just beginning. But the folks over there are dedicated and they know what they’re after. We’re happy to have connected with them and look forward to continuing to support their efforts in 2016.
- WalkUP Roslindale conducted a Walk Audit in Roslindale Square. This was a collaboration with WalkBoston and we did it late in the year. December 5 to be exact. We will have more to say about what the walk audit revealed (when it’s done, we’ll post it in full) and what look like the short, medium, and long term steps we can take to improve walkability in our neighborhood’s center.