WalkUP Roslindale recently had occasion to reiterate our support for the Boston Transportation Department’s proposed set of initial safety improvements for the set of blocks between Washington Street and Sycamore Street. We look forward to their implementation this fall. The full text of the letter is as follows:
25 September 2023
Boston Transportation Department
1 City Hall Square Suite 721
Boston, MA 02201
Dear Nathan and Sarah,
We are writing to you today to reiterate WalkUP Roslindale’s support for, and the importance of, the safety modifications proposed for Poplar St in Roslindale, including speed humps, increased pedestrian crossings, and a contraflow bicycle lane.
WalkUP Roslindale consists of Roslindale residents and business owners. We live in all areas of Roslindale, some are lucky to work in Roslindale, we all shop in Roslindale, and we all enjoy other services provided by Roslindale Village and its associated businesses.
Poplar St, from Roslindale Village through Sycamore St to Canterbury St, is a crucial passage east out of the Square, but also west – up to Sycamore St – towards the square. It provides an alternative to traveling on Cummins Highway, for both cyclists and drivers of vehicles.
Cummins Highway is a street of substantial width and includes 3 sets of stop lights (as compared to none on Poplar St until Canterbury St), as well as the large hill of Mount Hope. These combined factors encourage vehicles to travel with excessive speed, and to regularly jump through the lights.
Traveling by bicycle on Cummins Highway into or out of the square as it is presently configured is not a safe or pleasant or easy experience: the speed of vehicles, the deteriorating state of bicycle lanes, the vehicular doors opening into bicycle lanes (especially by the post office) and the steep hill that is Mount Hope, all combine to rule out Cummins Highway as a safe or sensible place to ride a bicycle.
Although Poplar St is narrow (compared to Cummins Highway) due to vehicular parking on both sides of the street on several blocks, it is still used frequently by both vehicular and bicycle traffic. However, the lack of stop lights often encourages vehicles to move with excessive speed, despite the narrowness of the road, regardless of other road users. This makes travel along Poplar St for vehicles difficult and generally unsafe for bicycles.
It should also be noted, that not only do vehicles travel above the 25 mph limit on Poplar St, but they are also regularly observed by residents to be driving the WRONG WAY down the one-way section of Poplar St, immediately adjacent to the square.
WalkUP Roslindale therefore welcomes the changes proposed by the Boston Transportation Department for Poplar St, and encourages them to apply these changes as soon as possible and then to extend similar changes to other similar streets and other one-way systems throughout Roslindale and the City, to increase safety for all street users, and to encourage those who are able to ride their bicycles in an effort to make more efficient use of our streets and, at the same time, combat climate change.
The department’s proposals are well-proven to increase safety for all users of the street by reducing vehicular traveling speed, and the addition of a one-way contra-flow bicycle lane – while we would prefer a full two way protected contra-flow bicycle lane – is a welcome addition.
- Reduction of vehicular travel speed on streets is directly related to increasing the safety on streets (for example see the USDOT Federal Highway Administration statements1). The addition of speed humps along Poplar St is an excellent, passive method by which to control vehicular speed and well in line with citywide efforts to install hundreds of speed humps every year starting in 2023.
- Addition of the contra-flow bicycle lane will provide current cyclists an option to travel on Poplar St all the way to Roslindale Village without having to travel on Cummins Highway. This will eliminate the risks from the currently unsafe configuration of Cummins (vehicular speed; vehicular doors opening into bicycle lane) as well as the necessity of tackling Mount Hope. In general, providing cyclists safe options to travel around Roslindale and the City of Boston more broadly will encourage more people who are able to cycle to their nearer destinations: cycling not only actively (through exercise) and passively (through reduced tailpipe emissions) increases the overall health of residents, but also, by being a zero carbon emitting mode of transport, is an active way to participate in our ongoing battle against climate change. An excellent example of how cities, large and small, can encourage more cyclists is found in the transformation of the City of London where cycling is now the primary mode of transportation2.
We realize that street modifications to increase street safety for all street users can cause consternation for short periods as street users become accustomed to them: new street patterns; altered parking distribution; decreased speed of vehicles and increased bicycle use.
However, we believe that the majority of residents and non-residents would agree that saving just one life by reducing vehicular speed, or by aiding future generations by providing safe bicycle infrastructure to promote overall public health and to assist in our battle against climate change, is a positive modification, for which it is worth going 50 feet further to our personal motor vehicles.
WalkUP Roslindale Board of Directors
About WalkUP Roslindale
WalkUP Roslindale, which takes its name from the international movement to foster “Walkable Urban Places,” is a collaborative group of residents and business owners dedicated to making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. We advocate for a dynamic, livable streetscape and we support positive changes to our public and private built environment that strengthen walkability and other forms of active mobility as means toward better personal and public health, safety, social capital, economic development, and environmental sustainability. We are led by a board of directors comprised of residents and business owners and have nearly 1,000 additional supporters. More information about WalkUP Roslindale and our initiatives can be found at www.walkuproslindale.org. We recognize that no single group of people can be said to speak for our entire neighborhood – instead, please take these comments as representing the collective support of our board members resulting from our mission and principles.
- Speed Management is Key to Road Safety by Guan Xu, Abdul Zineddin, Randolph Atkins, and Sarah Abel https://highways.dot.gov/public-roads/winter-2022/05
- Report from the Environment Department of the City of London Corporation https://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/s182953/TMO_Review_Stage_2_End_of_Review_Committee_Report_PT_March_2023_V1.pdf