Pedestrian Safety Meeting in West Roxbury this Wednesday, February 27

This Wednesday, February 27, 2019, elected officials will hold a public meeting to discuss ways to improve road safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers in West Roxbury. Sponsors of the meeting include City Councilor Matt O’Malley, the Boston Police Department, Senator Mike Rush, Representative Ed Coppinger, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, the Mayor’s Office, and the Boston Transportation Department.

The meeting comes after two pedestrian fatalities in West Roxbury over the last four months, one on Washington Street in November, and one on Centre Street in February. We urge you to speak up this week for traffic calming measures that also make the roads safer for both cyclists and pedestrians. Details of the meeting below; please spread the word:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 7-8:30pm
Boston Lodge of Elks #10
248 Spring St
West Roxbury

Child hit by car on Metropolitan Avenue in Roslindale

On this World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (according to the World Health Organization, 1.2 million people killed every year by traffic violence and 50 million injured), we are dismayed to report another serious pedestrian crash in our neighborhood. On Friday, a nine-year old boy was hit by a car shortly after stepping off his school bus at the intersection of Metropolitan Ave and Kittredge Street. The most informative media report comes from WCVB: Boy recovering after being hit by car in Roslindale. We extend our sympathy to the boy and his family, and wish him the speediest possible recovery.

Although it looks like the child will recover, we must remember it is predictable and indeed certain that crashes like this will happen again and again until and unless we do more than pay lip service to Vision Zero Boston. A quick look at the intersection, which is in the middle of a slope just past a peak limiting line-of-sight visibility, reveals a stark absence of critical infrastructure to protect people on foot: no crosswalk, no traffic calming, no curb bump-outs, not even a stop sign on the main street in a densely settled area with chronic speeding problems. There are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of intersections like this in Roslindale alone, and the fact that people keep getting hit and occasionally killed by cars in them is a reminder that these incidents are crashes, not accidents.

Intersection of Metropolitan Ave and Kittredge Street
Intersection of Metropolitan Ave and Kittredge Street

It’s time to demand more. We can’t just wait for someone to be seriously or fatally injured on a one-off basis to take a look at specific street crossings, and then spend a year patching up that one spot. Sign the Vision Zero Petition, speak to your neighbors, and tell your elected leaders and appointed bureaucrats at every possible opportunity that it’s time to proactively address road safety across the entire city. There are plenty of successful examples to follow, but at the rate we’re going now it will be a century or more before we realize the core Vision Zero principle: No loss of life is acceptable.

Roslindale Bulletin on 20 MPH City Speed Limit

City Speed Limit could Fall to 20mph
Roslindale Bulletin: City Speed Limit could Fall to 20mph
We appreciate how well the Roslindale Bulletin continues to cover WalkUP Roslindale’s core issues. Earlier this month, Christopher Roberson wrote this piece about the Boston City Council’s move to set the default Boston speed limit to 20 mph. This will save lives, as the survivability of a pedestrian-automobile crash is mainly a function of speed: 90% of
pedestrians hit by cars die when struck at 40 mph compared to 5% at 20 mph

Our own District 5 City Councilor Tim McCarthy had some nice quotes in the piece:

District 5 Councillor Timothy McCarthy said the last speed limit change was implemented by a transportation commissioner who was from Ludlow, where higher speed limits are more common.

“If you go 20 mph in Ludlow, you probably wouldn’t get out of Ludlow for a few days,” said McCarthy. “But in our area, 20 mph is plenty.”

He said that West Roxbury Police Sgt. Michael O’Hara has done demonstrations in the past to show the actual speed of a vehicle traveling 30 mph relative to a pedestrian. He said O’Hara would ask residents to stand on the side of the road while a he drove by at exactly 30 mph.

“If you’re standing on the edge of the road and a Crown Vic goes by at 30 mph, you might as well be at NASCAR, you’re not getting out of the way,” said McCarthy.

Kudos to Councilor McCarthy for helping push this walkability initiative.

See also this video of the City Council’s Government Operations committee hearing on the initiative from last week.

We should remember that setting a safer speed limit is only a starting point. Most drivers will follow road design more than posted limits, so the ultimate solution must involve safer road design including narrower car lanes and other traffic calming measures (all key aspects of Vision Zero). A recent letter to the editor in the Boston Globe makes this same point. But we need not let these broader infrastructure challenges get in the way of a common-sense first step.

Breaking news (4/27/16 afternoon): From City Councillor Michelle Wu‘s summary of today’s city council meeting:

Speed Limits: We voted unanimously to pass Councilor Baker’s home rule petition to lower the default unposted speed limit from 30mph to 20mph in thickly settled areas and business districts and from 20mph to 15mph in school zones, as well as giving the City the authority to post speed limits without state approval and the requirement for a traffic study. Councilors Baker and Flaherty noted that speeding is one of the top issues councilors hear from residents. The matter now goes to the Mayor for his signature and then the state legislature for approval.

Dante Ramos just nailed it in last Friday’s Globe

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.

Mother and Baby Struck by Car in Roxbury

WalkBoston recently sounded the alarm that serious (and fatal) pedestrian incidents are fast becoming a near-weekly occurrence in Boston. The latest such event occurred last night in Roxbury, where a mother and her baby were struck by a car at the intersection of Humboldt Ave and Humboldt Court. Our local CBS affiliate reports on two sisters coming to a quick rescue and performing CPR on the 5-month-old victim. We have scant information on details of the crash and the fate of the pedestrians remains unknown. We can only hope they both survive and make a full recovery. Update 6pm: we were devastated to learn via the Boston Globe that the baby has died.

That said, we would urge the media not just to cover the “human-interest” aspect of these tragic incidents, but also highlight potential root causes so that we don’t have to keep re-living the same sad story. Poor infrastructure and bad design decisions in particular are recurring themes–for far too long, Boston’s professional traffic engineers have prioritized fast and unimpeded traffic flow over other needs, including the very real risks to human lives of car-centric streets. Again, we don’t know the details of this incident, but a quick look at the intersection where the crash occurred shows (1) a long stretch of street with no crosswalks [despite a bus stop across the street]; (2) extremely wide travel lanes; (3) in a densely-settled area, a certain recipe for predictable harm to pedestrians. Once ago, it’s time to move into action on Vision Zero.

Humboldt Ave and Humboldt Court
Intersection of Humboldt Ave and Humboldt Court in Roxbury
See also this update on Universal Hub.

Further update: The Boston Globe article also suggests speed was a factor, again this is not surprising given the wide lanes:

Residents on Friday said the car that allegedly hit the woman and her child was speeding: one woman who declined to give her name said she heard it whipping down the street before she heard the crash.

Additional details from WHDH.

Late January WalkUP News

Rozzie BulletinWe are fortunate to have neighborhood-level professional journalists at the Roslindale Bulletin covering important local issues; even more so now that the entire paper is available online. In late January, the Bulletin reported several stories that should be of interest to the WalkUP community. Highlights below: Read More

Third Pedestrian Incident in Rozzie in Two Weeks

Firth and Washington Street
Firth and Washington Street

We were yet again saddened to hear of another car hitting a pedestrian in Roslindale; this is the third such incident in about two weeks (Blue Ledge Drive / Hyde Park Ave). The latest occurred at the intersection of Firth Road and Washington Street. Thus far the only reporting we’ve found was this brief description on Twitter:

pedestrian hit by a car in intersection of Firth & Washington in Roslindale- she was on the ground but alert- tons of traffic.

While the City has a formal action response plan for any pedestrian incident involving a fatality, non-fatal incidents don’t necessarily result in anything more than a statistic. Yet these non-fatal incidents are often equally indicative of poor road design creating dangerous conditions.

The important thing to remember is most of these incidents are preventable and not merely the result of poor judgment by a driver (or pedestrian). Cities that take Vision Zero seriously have seen dramatic results–in Sweden, pedestrian fatalities have dropped 50% in the past five years; we’ve also seen a 43% reduction in traffic fatalities in Minnesota, a 48% reduction in Utah, and a 40% decrease in Washington State (source: Vision Zero: Learning from Sweden’s Successes). Thus far, the City of Boston’s Vision Zero aspirational plan hits all the right notes, but we’ve yet to see real changes “on the ground.” These recent incidents in Roslindale are powerful reminders that immediate action is urgently needed.

We wish the victim of the latest incident a quick recovery. If anyone has more details, please leave them in the comments here.

Pedestrian Hit by Car at Hyde Park Ave

Site of the Crash at Hyde Park Ave and Arlington Street
Site of the Crash at Hyde Park Ave and Arlington Street (image courtesy Google Maps)

We learned with dismay of another recent serious pedestrian incident in our neighborhood, this one at the intersection of Hyde Park Ave and Arlington Street. As is frequently the case, it appears that poor street design was a contributing (perhaps primary) factor, and excessive speed resulted in more serious injuries. If the city gets serious about Vision Zero, we should see fewer and fewer of these tragedies.

Full text of the article from the Roslindale Bulletin below; props to the Bulletin for now posting the entire weekly paper online:

Pedestrian injured crossing Hyde Park Ave.

A pedestrian was hit by a car on Saturday, Jan. 19, at approximately 5:45 p.m.

Neighbors said when it happened they heard a smash and a scream. They said the ambulance and police showed up to the scene, as well as, the Boston Fire Department.

But such an accident is something that neighbors would say is not surprising, considering how fast the cars tend to speed through that intersection.

Nijha Middleton, who has been living on that intersection of Hyde Park Avenue and Arlington Street for three years, was home during the time of the accident that night.

When she looked out the window, she said she saw a woman lying in the middle of the street, and the girl who witnessed it screamed and called 911 standing on the sidewalk. Then she said she saw police and ambulances attend and family members running to the stricken woman.

“It looked really bad,” she said, explaining that the it took the EMTs awhile to put the victim in the ambulance.

According to the police report, the pedestrian has no lifethreatening injuries and the investigation is still ongoing.

Middleton said that such accidents is likely to happen at that intersection because of the speeding cars, lack of speed limit signs and lights, and having no crossing guard.

“People are such in a rush, they never really want to stop, so it makes it difficult to cross the street,” she said. She often walks on that intersection herself and said that almost every other morning she’s scared to cross the street.

“Maybe there needs to be a point that they have to put a stopping light, so everyone can stop rushing,” she said.

In light of this and other recent incidents in the neighborhood, WalkUP Roslindale member Alan Wright sent the following letter to the editor, which may appear in an upcoming edition of the paper. Thanks to Alan for highlighting the underlying factors and mentioning WalkUP’s efforts to push for change:

Dear Editor,

Thank you for reporting on the injury of a pedestrian who was crossing Hyde Park Avenue.  This is the 3rd such incident in the past two weeks with two pedestrians killed when struck by dangerous drivers – one in Roslindale and another in Dorchester.  It is important to note that these were not accidents, as was reported, for the pedestrians were not accidentally in the cross walks, but crashes in which drivers drove their vehicles recklessly. While the City of Boston has begun an important effort to improve pedestrian safety with the Vision Zero project much work needs to be done.  In Roslindale an effort is underway by the citizen group WalkUP Rozzie to get the City to make changes now.  For too long our streets have been designed for the benefit of motorists.  Simple changes such as speed humps and sidewalk extensions can slow traffic and provide more protection to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Alan Wright