Boston is a walking city?



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    Couldn't disagree with this sentiment more. Boston is an excellent city to walk around. If you think you wait a lot walking, try driving.

    The person who posted this is either clueless, or willfully misleading. Either way, it's simply not true.


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    Every time I try to drive down Tremont to Essex street I wonder if it's actually a pedestrian walkway.

    Not to mention Harvard square, where traffic is actually dictated by pedestrians, not lights.

    Right, because Boston has no

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    Right, because Boston has no streets with pedestrian signals that remain red even when there is no conflicting car traffic. Or traffic islands with no pedestrian signals at all.

    Sure, Boston is a walker's paradise compared to much of the country. But many intersections still leave a lot to be desired.

    Also Agreed

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    Although not in Boston, the blinking yellow to red pedestrian crossings on 16 in Cambridge are basically a way to lure pedestrians into the street to their untimely deaths.

    Every time my father visits, he makes a point to notice every single crosswalk where a) the button actually works, and b) you get a full stop for pedestrians.

    So yes, for an out of towner, it's not the best. Residents, on the other hand, seem to be fine wandering into the streets while looking at their cell phones.

    Blinking yellow pedestrian crossings on Route 16?

    All of the button-controlled pedestrian crossings on or around the Route 16 Fresh Pond rotaries show ordinary red-yellow-green lights to car traffic, not blinking yellow. They also respond quite fast to the pushbuttons.

    I guess Cambridge is fine

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    I thought they had the lousy flashing yellows as well, but if you keep going down 16, the one by St. Paul's Cemetery was clearly designed to provide more bodies for the cemetery, and I'm pretty sure that 95% of drivers don't even know that there is one before the 38 overpass in Medford.

    For those of you who were confused:

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    For those other Bostonians out there who were puzzled by this cartoon let me try to de-code it: I think that the joke is supposed to be that the crossing signals do not work, which is preventing the pedestrians from crossing the street for some reason. The joke is that in other places, or so I have been told, people use the cross signals attached to street light posts as a strict arbiter of when they should or should not cross the street. Thus, you see, she is making the joke that because the crossing signals apparently do not work in Boston (someone who has looked at one of these recently please confirm this for me) the people are prevented from crossing the street. This is some sort of out of town humor, or perhaps an ironic jest directed at those who look at the walk signals. Its really quite funny when you put yourself in the shoes of someone from say, California (if that is even possible without drugs), who would instinctually be prevented by their upbringing from crossing the street when the crossing signals do not work or someone is driving in the roadway.

    You've hit the nail on the head.

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    As someone who grew up in the burbs of Boston, and have now lived in the city for 6 years, I have to admit, I rarely obey the cross signals even if they ARE working. It's actually quite funny how conditioned most Bostonians are. If you're crossing the street and no car is coming - you go. Sometimes even if a car is coming...

    I always find it hilarious when my friends from NYC or Chicago come and visit because they're so used to waiting for the walk signal. They'd be 5 blocks behind me if they waited for the signal at every block. We always end up having a conversation about it. They'll poke fun at me, and the culture of how Bostonians won't wait, but hey, we all have places to get to!

    Be Advised

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    Jaywalk in just about any Canadian city save Montreal or any US city north of SFO and east of the Rockies and you will be fined and, maybe, jailed if you argue about it.

    Ditto for some cities in Europe as well.

    NYC, Chicago, California

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    I don't know where your friends are from in NYC, but I can assure you that nobody in that city that I know or have seen will wait for the walk signal like you describe.

    New Yorkers and Bostonians share the view that the streets belong to the people and they should not be restricted from walking there. And that is the correct view, that is the way the streets were designed originally.

    The whole idea that people should be kept out of the streets was only introduced by the 1930s as a way to promote car ownership. It's a fundamentally anti-city policy. It's why our so-called "squares" are mostly cruel jokes, places where automobile traffic overwhelms city life, instead of being a gathering space for people (with few exceptions). If you look at old pictures you'll see people walking all over the place, not being hemmed into the narrow sidewalks, threatened by fast moving vehicles. It's really quite astonishing how radical the change has been.

    I don't recall Chicago having a much different attitude from NYC, but I am not as familiar with it. In SF, you could walk fairly freely, and the cycles were short as someone else mentioned. The rest of the Bay Area was nasty car hell where you'd click a walk button and wait 5 minutes for the cycle to finally come around to you.

    Missed his point

    I think you are completely missed his point and talking about your own thing. Go back to New York and walk around. People do wait at the walk signals. While it is true both New Yorkers and Bostonians view the streets as for people first and thus acceptable to cross against the signal, you are completely misinterpreting the commenter you are replying to push an argument that he said nothing about at all

    I'm sure you did saw that people ignored the walk signal. But at a much lesser degree than Boston. I just went to NYC a few weeks ago and walk around (and another trip a two weeks before that trip). I noticed that when I immediate began to cross when the last car pass and New Yorkers wait for the signals for the street to turn red then walk signal to turn say walk. People actually pay attention to the walk signal. It is taken as advisory and if there no cars long enough, then people will walk. Yet, they do pay attention to the signals and wait a bit before crossing.

    Bostonians don't pay attention to the signals at all. Some may press the button in hope to get a red as traffic won't let up, but no one listens to the signal

    A good reason is because many or most don't work at all. NYC signals work (at least in Manhattan).

    That article point out the problem with Boston. How our walk singals suck and how it hurts us as a city.

    And going by the sound of your argument. It sounds like you are arguing that walks signals doesn't matter at all. That NYC and Boston are the same in street culture. That is false. As I mentioned earlier, people in NYC do pay attention to the Walk Signals. The big secret to the difference is they lights actually turn to walk. Boston needs to do something about that and NYC is a good example. Hell, Cambridge and its squares works pretty well with its system and gathers people just fine to my knowledge. There's no need to go back to 1925 with right to walk everywhere.

    The problem is walk signals in Boston suck (as the articulated in the linked article). Not your argument we need to go back to 1925. NYC or even Cambridge is a fine model for a better Boston for pedestrians.

    NYC peds

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    I think folks in NYC typically obey the walk signs more than Bostonians because the streets are so much wider and the better timing of the lights let the traffic move faster. Boston pedestrians frequently "thread the needle" through traffic because in many cases it's never more than two lanes -- and if it is you can bet some of the other lanes have double-parked cars impeding traffic anyways -- and the traffic can't get much speed up anyways before it hits the next red light or some other impediment.

    Not having a real grid pattern in Boston means we can't time the lights as well as they do in much of Manhattan. I'm always amazed how it seems almost timed from block to block for my pace so that when I get to the corner it seems like the light is always ready to change in my favor.

    The funny part is when a Bostonian is jaywalking, shrewdly timing his/her advance to avoid being rundown and the people on the curb (must be out-of-towners) just blindly follow without looking, thinking that the light must have changed. And then you hear behind you the honking of an irate driver, screaming out the window at the fanny-packed jackass who just wandered off the curb into traffic against the light.

    You need to get away from Times Square

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    I know NYC really well. I was born there, for one thing. I visit my family on a regular basis.

    I can say with absolute certainty that New Yorkers do not wait for the walk signal if they can safely get across the street. They may wait for the cars to go by (maybe). But, the moment the last car passes, people will cross behind it. You can generally pick out the tourists by looking at the folks waiting on the curb.

    Boston and NYC share this attitude, and I think it's great. The two cities also share a good ranking on the Pedestrian Danger Index by T4America. Boston is the safest, NYC is 3rd safest.

    I agree with you that Boston pedestrian signals suck and that NYC does them better, FWIW. I think it's made less of a problem because people don't care about them. Just like in NYC.

    It isn't instinct or

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    It isn't instinct or upbringing that keeps Californians from crossing against the signal, it's the vigorously enforced laws and meaningful fines against jay-walking, something I discovered on my first day there.

    On the other hand, California drivers will religiously stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, even on busy multi-lane roads, AND WILL ACTUALLY WAIT FOR THEM TO GET ACROSS THE STREET BEFORE PROCEEDING, as the laws that require them to do so are similarly enforced.

    Yeah, I know you were making a joke but the joke here in Boston is traffic law enforcement.

    Not in my experience

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    At least in the Bay Area, I recall crossing El Camino Real was a real pain when I spent some time living along there. I remember one particular occasion where the person in the middle lane was kind enough to stop at the crosswalk, but the cars kept rushing past on either side, and we looked at each other and shrugged. Crossing multi-lane roads at an unsignalized crosswalk is a tough synchronization issue when you can't be sure that all lanes will stop for you.

    Maybe it's different in LA.

    yup, LA

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    In the five years i lived there I never had trouble crossing any of the big blvds or even PCH. The downside was a jay-walking ticket in Santa Monica hours off the plane on my first visit. This was 90s so maybe things have changed..

    Point of Further Clarification

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    You have raised a good point of common missunderstanding regarding traffic law enforcement in Boston that bares clarification for those unacustomed to our Town. Many people think that the so called pedestrian "tresspass in the roadway" is an offense on which Boston has become lax over the centuries and that Boston is a City governed by the rule "driver beware." Rest assured, the rights of drivers to pass freely on the roadway are well enforced in Boston. If you stroll the city, you will find many civic minded drivers vigerously enforcing vehicular access to the thoroufair through well accepted customs such as: driving through red lights to keep pedestrians on their toes, honking at pedestrians to remind them "whose boss," driving slowly through crowds of pedestrians who are taking too long to cross the street at cross walks, and shaming slack pedestrians through loud tirades and epithets dictated at them from moving automobiles. Indeed, some of our most truly civic minded citizens occastionally drive on the sidewalk to show pedestrians how it feels when "the shoe is on the other foot." Do not worry visitors to Boston, you may rest assured that we run a tight ship when it comes to law and order.

    Isn't Boston traffic a free for all?

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    I cross when I believe I will not be hit. That is the sole criteria because so many drivers ignore basic traffic laws. Perhaps there is a an epidemic of eye disease that prevents drivers from seeing red, so many are now blowing past red lights. Walk signals are so short that even a person who stands at a corner can not reach the other corner before the countdown begins. Then there are the bicyclists, skaters and generally clueless cell addicts who travel on sidewalks as though they were chaotic characters in a video game. Walking through Boston is an adventure.

    Since navigating Boston streets is turning into a real version of video games the logical step would be to legalize carrying .22s out in public. That would seriously increase any game that Boston has.

    The alternative would be to use San Francisco's signal system. Red lights, walk lights, etc. all have short durations. No long waits, vehicular and pedestrian traffic moves quickly, people get to where they are going without waiting several minutes to cross an intersection. Or is that too rational for Boston?

    How about walking in the street

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    to avoid those sidewalk hogs in places like Charles St on Beacon Hill? This is how we rolled growing up in the city of my youth. Crowded sidewalks/slow walking people = walk in the street, especially if the street is narrow. But it annoys and seems to frighten non-Bostonians from more strict law and order regions of the country.

    Another irritant is the said sidewalk hogs get pissy when you try to legitimately pass them, as if you're being rude and overly aggressive.

    That's how they were designed

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    The streets in old places like Beacon Hill were intended to be used by people, not exclusively by vehicles. It makes a lot more sense that way.