Aaron Short of StreetsblogUSA came out earlier this week with an excellent piece on 5 best practice tips for Vision Zero as it is being implemented in Montgomery County, Maryland – the massive suburban county to DC’s north and northwest. It’s worth a read and some consideration below.
By way of brief background, Vision Zero, which originated in Sweden in the 1990s, is a comprehensive street and road safety regime that typically targets a future date by which policy, budget, and street and road design, construction, and management will result in zero deaths or serious injuries from traffic on all modes (personal vehicle, transit, walking, cycling, and other modes of travel). The City of Boston adopted Vision Zero in 2014 and set the year 2030 as the target date by which we will reach zero deaths or serious injuries. As we continue to work on the policy here in the city and in Roslindale, it is worth continuing to consider all aspects of Vision Zero and how other jurisdictions are going about implementing it, which brings us back to the article.
The article is framed as an interview with David Anspacher, the Transportation Supervisor within the county’s Planning Department. In the interview, Anspacher highlights 5 best practice tips that we might use as a mental scorecard for what we’ve been doing in Boston:
Speed and Street/Road Design – The county started with lowering the speed limit, as almost the first action, and then has proceeded, as a general policy, with making street and road design changes – narrowing lanes, installing medians and bollards, expanding shoulders and walking/cycling facilities.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Features – The county has just come out with a county-wide master bicycle facilities plan and is soon to come out with a master pedestrian facilities plan. Of interest in Montgomery County’s approach is that they see these augmented network plans as key pieces of making the county’s transit facilities more accessible.
Land Use and Density – Changes in the built environment take time to occur, but moving more homes, shops, and jobs closer to each other and to transit contributes over the long run to a safer travel network of roads and streets as more folks are able to walk, bike, take transit, or use other modes for more trips.
Change the Culture – This tip has to do with decades of transportation engineering practices that have favored driving alone over all other modes and the need to work with existing staff within a transportation agency to accept the new approach to street and road safety.
Collaborative Partnerships – To paraphrase and give this tip a bit of a gloss. Street and road safety advocates aren’t special interest folks who just need to be placated and then put on the sideline. They should be viewed as long-term partners, especially around education and outreach for developing and implementing the policy. We even get some recognition for this as it’s been practiced here in Roslindale on the northbound Washington Street bus lane!
WalkUP Roslindale is a proud member of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition. The Coalition has been doing great work following the City budget process with respect to safe streets. We’ve reproduced below an announcement about an important transportation budget hearing this Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Please show up if you can!
Faster implementation and more focus on
improving safety along arterial corridors, which are
disproportionately dangerous for all modes.
A permanent, full-time, Boston Police Department
data analyst to clean up crash report data, investigate
trends, and work closely with the Transportation Department, Boston
EMS, and MassDOT to ensure Boston’s crash data is properly
Clear organizational structures that will help establish
how projects are managed and executed, and better integration
of operations and policies between the Public Works and Transportation
In past years, hundreds of you have shown up for the
Boston Transportation Department Budget Hearings, and it has had a
direct impact on securing more funding benefiting Vision
Zero. Can we count on you to keep the momentum going in
2019? Speak up to support safe streets!
For more details about the proposed Transportation
Department budget and what we’re advocating for, read on below.
The Mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20)
includes a $4 million investment in Boston’s Walkable Streets and $2
million in bike infrastructure, which will be funded through strategic
changes to the City’s current parking meter rates. Join us at
Boston City Hall to comment in support
of the City Council approving this budget proposal and to call for
more support and faster action.
Within this budget, Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition
members are working on several specific issues. For more information
and talking points about the following aspects of the budget, see
Though some safety improvements still remain to roll out in Roslindale Square, especially regarding the relocation of certain bus stops, the final condition has come into clear focus recently with the installation of flexposts to help delineate and reinforce the paint that was put down by our friends at BTD in the late spring/summer. Now that the dust is partially settling, this seems like a good time to explain what has been installed and why.
The “tl;dr” version is that these improvements reduce the likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities caused by cars driving through the square. They also make it more pleasant and fun to walk around, which is key to WalkUP’s mission! The longer version below:
This is traffic calming, because speed kills. To protect everyone using our streets, the most effective thing we can do is to slow the speed of the motor vehicles using them, so that everyone can be and feel safer. For everyone not in a vehicle, the speed we really want to get the motor vehicles to is about 20 mph. Because once you get motor vehicles going over 20 mph, things get ugly real fast. This chart illustrates why:
This is why slowing vehicle speeds is such an important part of the city’s Vision Zero program that aims to eliminate fatal and serious traffic crashes on Boston’s streets by 2030.
2. The fundamental basis of traffic calming. The way to slow vehicle speeds is two-fold: First, set the speed limit to the speed you want motor vehicles to go. While a citywide 25 mph default speed limit isn’t perfect, it is clearly better than the 30 mph limit we previously had for decades. Second, redesign every street to provide the physical and visual cues needed for drivers of motor vehicles to slow down and meet that speed limit. Note that we didn’t mention enforcement here. That’s because we can’t really rely on close enforcement long-term in any location (BPD has a lot on its hands) and enforcement carries with it its own concerns about equity. An analogy that is often made in this context is to the incredible strides in airline safety that have occurred over the last couple of decades, to the point where you can count on one hand the number of fatalities on U.S. commercial airlines in that period. This success has come largely from treating every single crash as worthy of investigation and analysis and then making systemic changes based on the conclusions drawn every time. We know slower vehicle speeds will lead to fewer fatal and serious crashes. Everything we do to slow vehicles makes us all safer.
3. The physical and visual cues needed are fairly straightforward. They are, in fact, now on the ground in the square. They include:
“street diets” to reduce the amount of undifferentiated asphalt that decades of auto-centric transportation management have left us, while simultaneously shortening the distance that pedestrians need to cross a street and tightening turns at intersections so that drivers have to slow down to take them. Reducing the number of lanes that crosswalks have to cross also reduces the “double-threat” of a car driver stopping for a crossing pedestrian in one lane, blocking the view of that pedestrian from the adjacent lane, and the car driver in the adjacent lane crashing into the pedestrian. The idea here is that we’re dealing with city streets, not interstate highways;
“crosswalk daylighting” to allow drivers to see pedestrians and pedestrians to see drivers. This is done by prohibiting parking within 10 to 15 feet of the crosswalk on the approaching side; and
flexposts to physically reinforce these improvements. Flexposts have been around a long time, but have recently become the go-to way to provide inexpensive yet fast, effective safety improvements. Note that they can be driven over by emergency vehicles if necessary.
Finally, an additional measure that the current plans do not do enough to implement is real, protected cycling infrastructure to further reduce the priority given to motor vehicles and provide meaningful alternatives to those wanting to travel by bicycle. In-street bicycle lanes are present on parts of Washington, South, and Corinth, but they quickly devolve to sharrows, which may (unfortunately) do more harm that good. Much more is needed.
Earlier this spring, the Walsh Administration announced next year’s transportation budget, which included a substantial increase for Vision Zero and walkability. We sent a letter at the time in support of the budget. Tonight (Tuesday, May 22) the City Council holds a hearing on the budget. We encourage everyone to speak up for safe streets and better transit at the hearing:
Boston Transportation Department Budget Hearing Tuesday, May 22, 5 pm – 7 pm @ Boston City Hall, 5th Floor, Iannella Chamber 1 City Hall Square, Boston
Last year, hundreds showed up at the BTD Budget Hearing, and it had a direct impact on securing more funding for the Neighborhood Slow Streets program. It’s critical to keep the momentum going in 2018, so please show up and support the proposal!
As part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero Boston initiative, Boston Public Works will make some significant pedestrian infrastructure improvements in the village this coming week, beginning Tuesday, April 24. We are extremely excited to be officially entering “Phase I” of this process, and appreciate the City’s efforts in engaging with WalkUP and the community at large to help advance our vision of making Roslindale the most walkable neighborhood in Boston. The safety upgrades we will see this week were set in motion, at least in part, by our neighborhood Walk Audit back in 2015.
We expect most of this work to happen late and overnight. While this may be a short-term noise hardship for those living nearby, it means the work will be done much faster — with cooperative weather and no unpleasant surprises, hopefully in less than a week. We support the City’s decision to get this work done quickly, which will allow us to enjoy the benefits quite soon and also minimize daytime impact on village businesses. Earplugs can be purchased at Sullivan’s Pharmacy for pennies a pair!
Part of this “Phase I” effort also involves improving the locations of the village bus stops and installing flexposts to better protect “daylighted” areas. For various logistical reasons, these steps will roll out as “Phase I(b)” — not this coming week, but (we hope) in the very near future. Stay tuned for more info on this front.
Check out the full announcement, Mayor Walsh announces transformative investments. There are quotes from the Mayor, State Rep. Russell Holmes, Roslindale’s own City Councilor at Large Michelle Wu, Sam Tyler from the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, and BTD Commissioner Gina Fiandaca. There is also what I view to be the money quote from Chief of Streets Chris Osgood, as follows:
“To manage our region’s growth, to address climate change, and to increase equity, we know we need to transform our transportation system. Building off the Go Boston 2030 plan, this set of investments is a major step towards that goal. It increases investment in the basics of our streets, such as well-timed traffic signals, smooth roads and good sidewalks, and it builds out a team that can help more people get around our city by bus, bike, car or foot.”
As can be seen, this really is a big step forward and worth the attention it’s getting. The additional funding, proposed to be generated by increasing the penalties associated with a carefully constructed list of major parking and traffic violations, is significant. (And we here at WalkUP Roslindale are excited to see the Roslindale Gateway Path cited as a key GreenLink eligible for some of the new capital funding.) But even more significant is what much of the new funding is intended to be spent on – “building out a team that can help more people get around our city by bus, bike, car or foot” – a team that includes:
6 new staff to form a “Transit Team” led by a “transit coordinator” that will plan, facilitate, implement, and maintain bus improvements like the Washington Street pilot in several more corridors across the city;
One new traffic signal engineer to manage and re-time traffic signals to increase safety, and reduce traffic congestion and related vehicle emissions;
Two new traffic signal mechanics to keep signals working as designed;
Two new planners and two new engineers to focus on designing and implementing key Vision Zero programs, such as Neighborhood Slow Streets, and efforts to make quick improvements to some of Boston’s most challenging intersections; and
Up to four new maintenance & operations personnel to ensure that infrastructure added to improve street safety, such as pedestrian delineators and flex posts, are kept in a state of good repair.
All of that new dedicated staff should be music to anyone’s ears who was concerned that the combination of Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030 were more ambitious undertakings than BTD had staff or resources to implement. It is now clear that the Mayor and his administration intend to make good on the promise the policy and plan embody. He and they are to be applauded and thanked for taking this important step. We here at WalkUP Roslindale look forward to supporting the budget request before the City Council and then doing everything we can to help the Mayor and BTD implement both Vision Zero and Go Boston 2030 in our neighborhood. We recommend that you do the same!
Powerful video here on a well-attended march to protest traffic violence from Brooklyn, where 2 young children were killed last week while walking in a crosswalk with their mothers by a reckless driver with a long history of moving violations, including speeding in school zones, though this crash occurred at a regular crosswalk. Considering what has happened in our city and region recently, we need to consider, seriously and candidly, whether we are doing enough to stop traffic violence and protect everyone on our streets – every senior, every child, every person with mobility issues, and, really, every single one of us – who isn’t in a motor vehicle. I’m afraid that the answer is no. We must do more and we most do it more quickly. I’m with the commenter who says they don’t want safety changes to wait until the next tragedy. We need them everywhere now. Now. NOW.
Two personal notes: (1) Park Slope, where the most recent tragedy occurred, happens to be the neighborhood I grew up in; and (2) folks who have worked with LivableStreets Alliance over the last couple of years will recognize Nidhi Gulati, who recently relocated to NY, at about the 4:00 mark in the video.
WalkUP Roslindale is a proud member of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition, which seeks to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from car crashes in the Commonwealth. We encourage everyone to join us for World Day of Remembrance this Sunday, November 19, 2017. This will be a day of actions to remember those who have been injured or lost to traffic violence, and to demand safe streets for everyone in our communities.
World Day of Remembrance is an annual event taking place in cities around the world. In Massachusetts, we gather each year on the steps of the state house in Boston, to show our legislators that traffic fatalities are still unacceptably high, and we need more cities and towns to commit to ending traffic violence now.
We know that crashes are not accidents – they’re the tragic, preventable results of inadequate planning, policy, and unsafe behavior. While people make mistakes; our streets must be designed so those mistakes are not fatal. Please join us to ensure that these lives are not forgotten and to demand safe streets for all.
Please join us for any or all of the following memorial actions:
12pm – Join us and dozens of others for the Ride for Remembrance, gathering at 12:00 pm in Copley Square. The group will depart at 12:15 pm for a one-hour ride, passing the sites where people have been killed walking and biking over the past year, remembering them and committing to action so their deaths were not in vain. The ride will end at Beacon and Charles in time to join the walk to the State House.
1:30pm – Join the Memorial Walk and Vigil, gathering at 1:30 pm on the Boston Common at the corner of Beacon Street and Charles Street for a walk to the steps of the State House.
2pm – Gather on the steps of the State House for the Memorial Vigil. We’ll be joined by city and state officials, family and friends of people who have been killed or injured in traffic crashes, and other residents and advocates, to call on our elected leaders to do more to put an end to these preventable crashes.
3pm – Warm up with refreshments at a post-vigil gathering at CIC Boston, just a few blocks away at 50 Milk Street.
World Day of Remembrance
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Several activities taking place between 12:00 and 5:00 pm
@ Copley Square, Boston Common, Massachusetts State House, and CIC Boston
Please wear yellow in remembrance of those we’ve lost due to traffic violence.
Help us spread the word via social media by using the following hashtags before and during the event: #WDR2017 #CrashNotAccident #SafetyOverSpeed
#VisionZero and RSVP and spread the word on Facebook.
WalkUP Roslindale is an enthusiastic member of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition. The Coalition is largely comprised of tax-exempt non-profit organizations or informal associations like WalkUP Roslindale, and does not endorse candidates. We do, however, want to find out where candidates stand on key walking, biking, and transit issues, and to that end distributed a survey to all official candidates in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Springfield, and Lynn to give them a chance to weigh in. The results were made public today.
Rozzie residents should be particularly interested to see the survey results for the Boston Mayoral Candidates, the City Council At Large Candidates, as well as for District 4, District 5, and District 6, all of which at least touch on our neighborhood. If you like your candidates’ responses, let them know–and if they didn’t respond, or you see room for improvement, let them know that as well. With elections coming up soon on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, it’s time to start paying attention!