MIT, students, Cambridge try to do something about pedestrian safety along Memorial Drive

The Tech reports on growing outrage over the way pedestrians can be mowed down along the river road.



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They should improve and widen

They should improve and widen the sidewalks as well. On the river side the sidewalks are dilapidated and unfortunately due to the speed on memorial drive, the only safe way to ride a bicycle is on this path and peds regularlly walk abreast which is dangerous and cyclists traveling in the opposite direction are given very little room to navigate.

Yes and

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If the cyclists have to ride on the sidewalks, pedestrians are at risk.

Thus, a recommendation to look at the bigger picture was made. We all have to use the roads and sidewalks and deserve to do so safely. Take your blinders off.

Cyclists already are

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Cyclists already are permitted to ride on sidewalks in most parts of the city. So... take your blinders off. Educate yourself on the law before you post ignorant comments.

Try again

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I didn't say they weren't allowed on the sidewalks, I said if they have to be on the sidewalks (the bicyclists), everyone is at risk and everyone deserves to be there safely.

My point: it's not just pedestrian safety, but for the safety of the cyclists, too, you knee-jerkian.

The rutted dirt area is

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The rutted dirt area is supposed to be the bike path. I know people who've gotten lots of flats from riding there. All my efforts to talk to DOT about paving that area have been met with no response. If that was paved, there'd be a sidewalk for pedestrians, a paved bike path for bikes, and then the travel lanes for cars. They did this on the Cambridge Parkway with success, why can't they do it on Mem Drive?

"The rutted dirt area is

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"The rutted dirt area is supposed to be the bike path."

No it's not. It's an informal dirt path that developed because people used it, but nobody in charge said it's supposed to be anything except grass.

Wrong and Wrong

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the bike path is the paved area - the problem is it isn't wide enough for both cyclists and pedestrians. and it's managed by DCR (which has somewhat of a dark history - especially regarding their urban paths and the people who use them), not the DOT.

You mean on the Paul Dudley

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You mean on the Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path? It's a bike path. It's supposed to be used for cycling. Side walks are not.

Flashing Signals and Sight Lines

I have to cross Mem Drive many times each day for work. As a driver, I know it's next to impossible to see if there's anyone in the crosswalk by the drawbridge on the south side of the Longfellow. I've often thought putting one of those flashing signals at or before the curve would be a huge help. As a pedestrian, I know to trust no one and typically have to wait for traffic to clear before I can cross. Even with State Police detail cars in the area, motorists won't stop for pedestrians in these crosswalks.

I have to agree with the article. Even though I want to (and legally should) stop, one look in my rear view tells me that I'm going to get rear ended if I do the right thing. I've also witnessed a handful of accidents at the location noted above because people did stop.

As for the bikes on the sidewalk, it drives me a little bonkers that when I'm walking I have to check behind me constantly to make sure I'm not going to get mowed down. I'm usually of the school that if it's a sidewalk, then you don't ride your bike on it, but I think those sidewalks are actually considered part of the bike path.

I know that the sidewalk access is going to improve where Mem Drive goes under the Longfellow, but that only addresses one part of the problem.

I always avoid riding on

I always avoid riding on sidewalks except on memorial drive and it do it regretfully. The speed limit of memorial drive is unsafe for cyclists and there is no other option other than crossing the river or going into Cambridge. Both are indirect routes.


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I'm just kinda aghast at the idea of there once having not been a light at the intersection with Mass Ave.


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I was there. You have good reason to be aghast.

Crazy to have only crosswalks on a road with that high speed

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Definitely need to do something about it - traffic signals are a must.

That said, I was surprised to read "Accidents at the crosswalk and along all of Memorial Drive are considered to be due to insufficient traffic regulations, unsafe driving, and jaywalking by those launching the petition." I didn't know that petitioner jaywalking could cause such serious problems.

Get rid of the underpass at

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Get rid of the underpass at Mass Ave. This would remove the issue the article brings up about people speeding up in the tunnel and then coming out of the dark where the adjustment makes it harder to see pedestrians. It would also slow this area down, since the underpass encourages speeding, and would free up some lanes on the sides of the intersection that wouldn't be needed that could be returned to parkland. Getting rid of the median strip and shifting the lanes so that land can be expanded park along the river would make a shorter crossing for pedestrians, separated space for bicycles and pedestrians, and having the east and west lanes closer together without a median has been shown to make drivers slow down a little and pay more attention.


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I think there is an underpass for Commonwealth Ave under Mass Ave on the Boston side. Didn't they recently change that from a 2 vehicle lane tunnel to one plus a bike lane (both directions)? Could this be done here (Cambridge side) to slow traffic?

And maybe some of those pedestrian warning flashing signs you see at parking garage exits - the ones warning that a vehicle is coming (sensors in the tunnel)? Or, conversely, a crosswalk signal plus inside the tunnel a 'Red Signal Ahead' warning sign when it is, in fact, red.

Throwing ideas out there. Running them up the flagpole to see who salutes. :)

Yes, the Comm Ave underpass

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Yes, the Comm Ave underpass has a painted bike lane on the left, that runs along the median. Something similar could be down with Mem Drive, but it makes more sense and is safer to pave a proper bike lane on/over the dirt path or nearby. Bikers would have to wait at the Mass Ave light, but that's a small price to pay for a comfortable ride.

Comm Ave has a bike lane

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Comm Ave has a bike lane along each side of the central median from Charlesgate to the Public Garden. Therefore it makes a lot of sense to stripe bike lanes through the underpass of Mass Ave: the bikes are already riding there.

I don't think that makes as much sense for Memorial Drive, barring some massive redesign. Instead, the Paul Dudley White multiuse bike-and-pedestrian path already exists along the river. The main problem with it is that it is not well-maintained and it is not wide enough to handle the volume of use it gets. That's because Mass DCR does not care about anything but highways. They just repaved a long section of Memorial Drive, but the Paul Dudley White path in the actual parkland is buckling, decrepit, and falling into pieces.

The right solution is for DCR to shape up and start actually taking their mission seriously: conserving and supporting the parkland, and helping people use it. So for the Paul Dudley White path, that means fixing and widening the multiuse path so that it is large enough for all the people who want to use it. And it means fixing all the intersections so that you don't have to play frogger just to connect from one segment of the path to the other. And making sure that it's all accessible to people with disabilities.

Sadly, I think the only way this is going to happen is if Charlie Baker decides to clean house at DCR. Which he should: if DCR thinks of itself as merely a highway department, well, we already have one of those. They've made themselves redundant.

I disagree

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I have to disagree with you on the commentary that DCR thinks of itself as just a highway department.

I don't know their monetary situation (probably could be found online). I do know, from personal experience (and yes, you don't know me from Job) that they do spend money on things other than highways. They have an extensive listing of buildings, recreation centers, parks, pools, skating rinks, ponds, parkways, golf courses, campgrounds, etc that they have to maintain. I've seen some of the decision making in process regarding spending and I don't envy them the processes that are in place.

parkways are horrible

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speed limit goes between 25 and 30, very narrow lanes and crazy curves, yet people regularly drag race between lights - going 40-50 mph - during rush hour, your average speed through there (including time at lights) is maybe 10-15 mph... it's insane - there should be more pedestrian crossings, more things that encourage slow people down - you aren't saving any time gunning it between red lights. cars do weird things to people's brains.


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Parkways were engineered before the rise of the automobile. A lot of them sit in that middle ground between arterial and the, now-extinct, joy-riding configuration. They are, assuredly, very dangerous roads for both drivers, bikers, and pedestrians.


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They're so fun on a motorcycle - feeling the Gs in the curves.

But yeah, scary, too. People drive beyond their ability to stay in their lanes - not good.

I lost an acquaintance who was doing something stupid at night on the Jamaicaway.

Let's go Euro style and put

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Let's go Euro style and put in big honking "zebra crosswalks" such as:

No really it's such a busy road I'm amazed something else hasn't been done about this before. It's a state road, right? So who's responsibility is it?

I'd actually think pedestrian tunnels or bridges would be best here - let's just get people off the street unless its at a stop light.

And I'd agree with overhauling the paths. They should be like the Esplanade on the other side, but my guess is that was done by DCR?

more flashing light crossings, better lighting...

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and make the BU bridge rotary a regular intersection (would solve the evening back-up issue too)... plus - that "bike path" is horrible - not wide enough. Cambridge/MIT is probably one of the few places where we might see a reasonable solution to memorial drive... I get the feeling we're going to be waiting a long time before we see any fix to the parkways...

People are too lazy

They tend not to use pedestrian bridges and many rather risk their life than have to climb up and down two flights of stairs.

Putting pedestrian bridges where they would get use is one thing, but putting them where they don't is a waste. One example of such wasted money is on Rt. 2 by the Cambridge-Arlington line in the area of the bowling alley and hotel. That pedestrian bridge (to nowhere) got built around 1977 or 1978 after a pedestrian got killed crossing Rt. 2 there. I wonder if any pedestrians have used that bridge since.

Students at the architecture school (bicycle school?) would object strenuously to pedestrian bridges. Just not aesthetically pleasing - they would prefer to cripple vehicular (except for bicycle) traffic.

Check your internet connection, Markk!

They tend not to use pedestrian bridges and many rather risk their life than have to climb up and down two flights of stairs.

Curiously, the part of your post where you cite any actual facts to back up this assertion seems to have been truncated.

Mea Culpa

I had pre-ADA pedestrian bridges in mind, such as the never used one I cited over Rt. 2.

Those bridges were too easy and inexpensive to provide. Now they need long ramps or elevators.

Anybody know why bicycles require reflectors but not wheelchairs and other mobility aids which might be used outdoors?

Ped Bridges

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Students at the architecture school (bicycle school?) would object strenuously to pedestrian bridges. Just not aesthetically pleasing - they would prefer to cripple vehicular (except for bicycle) traffic.

I disagree with you. There are some amazing pedestrian bridges out there: (link to google images of pedestrian bridges)

The difficulty is finding the space to make them accessible. You either do ramps at 1:12 slope which include 2 levels of handrails and need landings every 30' (30" of rise), or you do 1:20 and can call it a sloped walk. That's a lot of real estate to take over.

they have to make sense where they're located

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agreed that it's not that they're not aesthetically pleasing - it's the distances required to cross the roadways - let's take the ped bridge over by the trader joes - mem drive is maybe 50 feet wide at that point - but that bridge requires you to walk about 1/4 mile out of your way just to cross the street. They should have left that light at the end of magazine instead of redoing the bridge. plus, that fence they put up along the path there is extremely dangerous to cyclists - especially in the dark.

If it were a continuation of a path that crosses a busy roadway, then yeah, ped bridge or tunnel instead of crosswalk - but if it's at the end of an intersection like that location - then it should be a signaled crosswalk.

Students at the architecture

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Students at the architecture school (bicycle school?) would object strenuously to pedestrian bridges. Just not aesthetically pleasing - they would prefer to cripple vehicular (except for bicycle) traffic.

ZOMG architects design some footbridges! SCHOOL PROJECT!

Seriously there are some smaht kids over at MIT - school should put together proposals for the state/city.

Better lighting needed

The area needs more and brighter streetlights to see pedestrians better. Recently, Cambridge replaced overhead lights in North Cambridge with LED. To me, it looks like there was a drop in lumens, though hard to tell because both the color and dispersion of light changed. Time is needed to collect street safety data on LED vs. conventional street lighting to know if one or the other is safer. I think its harder to see pedestrians crossing with LED lighting, perhaps mainly from the removal of diffusers from luminaries.

High intensity pedestrian activated crosswalk lights are what makes crosswalks much safer. For those choosing to jaywalk, reflective details on clothes, sneakers, and backpacks are life savers.


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Recently, Cambridge replaced overhead lights in North Cambridge with LED. To me, it looks like there was a drop in lumens, though hard to tell because both the color and dispersion of light changed.

There is more to the discussion for LED vs what they were before. The watt level specification may have been different which is not a product of LED. Meaning, I don't think you can blame LED for the lower light level. I have clients tell me the LED site lighting installed at their lots are too bright.

More glare from LEDs

What can be perceived as "too bright" is more likely a higher light color temperature and/or increased glare resulting from not having a diffuser. Another difference are differing color spectrum of various types. LEDs have narrow energy bands. Summed together, they more or less equal white.

I did not specify Watts, but Lumens, the light intensity. Watts should be a little lower for LEDs than sodium and mercury vapor bulbs.

For seeing pedestrians, drivers rely on both positive and negative illumination. Positive illumination is the pedestrian being lit. Negative is being a shadow against a lit background, often black pavement. If the illuminated pavement isn't seen well then contrast with the pedestrian is poor.

Then again, pedestrians could wear light colored clothing and/or retroreflective materials making street lighting less critical, even if just a cap or hat

I'm disappointed by the

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I'm disappointed by the article's factual errors and incorrect terminology.

"However, since most of the resulting changes were unlit crosswalks,
In 2000, many zebra crossings were painted and traffic lights put in for the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Memorial Drive"

MIT paid the state to install traffic lights at the crosswalks at Endicott and Wadsworth Streets in 2002. Unfortunately they programmed them on a pretimed cycle, instead of using pedestrian pushbuttons and vehicle detectors. So pedestrians have to wait around for the light to change, even when the Don't Walk has been on for a long time and there are no cars coming.

The Mass Ave/Mem Drive light wasn't installed until 2004.

"crosswalks...consist only of painted stripes called 'zebra stripes.'" -- If you're trying to say that these crosswalks should have traffic lights, please say so.

"Bravard and Craig suggest reflective flashers, walk lights, and indicators" -- I have no idea what "walk light" or "indicator" is supposed to mean.

"Charles also recommends 'a dedicated pedestrian walking light where it stops the traffic' or a motion-activated light, which he said has been successfully implemented on Binney Street." Again, if you're trying to describe a crosswalk with a traffic light, please say so.

And the motion-activated flashing yellow warning lights on Binney Street by the movie theater have never worked properly. Cambridge gave up on maintaining the motion detector, and just leaves it flashing at all times (which isn't necessarily a bad solution).