Can Boston drivers be tamed?
City Councilor Matt O'Malley thinks so. O'Malley, who reps JP, West Roxbury and a bit of Roslindale, is calling for a hearing to consider ways to force Boston drivers to stop being such Massholes, including speed humps, speed slots (which are like speed humps, but with grooves that let emergency vehicles avoid jostling when driving somewhere at ramming speed), new medians and signs warning motorists speeds are monitored by radar, like the ones New Yorkers learned decades ago to ignore. A little more enforcement by BPD wouldn't hurt, either, O'Malley says.
"I want the term 'Boston Driver' to become synonymous with safety and civility," O'Malley says in a statement. O'Malley's predecessor, John Tobin, waged a similar campaign - complete with lawn signs - to little effect.
O'Malley said the techniques have worked in other cities to "calm" traffic in residential areas. Bostonians who want to see for themselves need only take a quick jaunt across the Charles into Dedham at Spring Street, then turn right at Needham Street to drive over a "speed table" (like a speed hump, only longer) and through a "roundabout" (like a rotary, only smaller).
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They're big. They're dumb. They make you slow down if you don't want dings.
Bollards. Lots of Bollards.
I'd like to see the crash data on those
two roundabouts and the speed humps in Dedham. I'm sure it brings the speed down, but I'm not so sure it reduces crashes.
On the other hand, pedestrian crashes is another category that might be effected.
Whenever you bring speed down
You reduce severity of crashes, so even if there are still the same # of crashes it would be a net win.
And as you say, Pedestrians and bikers are a lot safer when overall speed comes down (partly because cars can stop in time to avoid accidents, and partly because the impact is less on someone without airbags.
Good luck with that
Much as I would love to see more civility among Boston drivers -- having driven in other parts of the country where basic courtesy, the use of turn signals, and a general lack of Death Race 2000 desperation to "win" on the road make driving so much more safe and pleasurable -- I see zero chance of this kind of program working.
Masshole driving with a chip on your shoulder and your middle finger ready to unfurl is a culture, a way of life ingrained into us as kids riding in back seats and as teens taking our first spin on a learner's permit (pronounced perMIT). Courtesy is perceived as a sign of weakness, yielding to someone merging a clue that you must be culled from the herd and run down. A million bollards won't undo that.
Better enforcement, pricier citations, and associated insurance penalties? Those have a chance of having some effect. We respond to being smacked on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.
My sister summed it up best...
when she moved here from Pa. a few years ago and noticed a lack of turn signals and a lot of hard, sudden turns: "It's like they don't want to give up the element of surprise."
Driving here is absolutely bizarre. Either the drivers want to kill you by driving as erratically as possible or want to teach everybody a lesson by going as slowly as they can in the left lane. I was convinced that cars were sold in Mass. with turn signals as an expensive option.
It's part of the reason my license doesn't get much of a workout. Public transportation and the bike when I'm inside 128 -- not for any environmental or ideological reasons, but just to avoid driving as much as I can -- Amtrak beyond the T's reach, and the car reserved for trips beyond the Northeast Corridor.
You think the worst offenders
You think the worst offenders actually drive with insurance? Hell no, they just keep switching their plates with other peoples' in the South Bay parking lot every weekend!
It's a God given right in Massachusetts to drive through this state as if one was escaping a convoy ambush in Fallujah!
Pedestrians are just suckers too poor or stupid to own cars. Hell if they get hit the universal state insurance will take care of them!
It's not like the state allows legions of habitual drunk drivers to keep their licenses or has various politicians with questionable driving records or crash incidents either!
Those damn pedestrians jaywalk and bikes don't always stop at red lights or stop signs, so why should I?!
Eliminate the insurance surcharge and watch citations go up
Police have the discretion of issuing a verbal warning, written warning or fine for civil violations. Many hesitate issuing the fine because a $50 ticket may lead to hundreds or thousands of dollars in insurance increases for a relatively minor violation. Few officers want to work as revenue generators for the insurance companies. Eliminate the surcharge and watch the number of fines increase.
But I'm not sure it's going to change behavior either way. Revenues would probably actually go up as people wouldn't bother fighting traffic violations (for fear of insurance raises) and less court/probate time would then be required on such fights.
But people already drive like maniacs with the threat of raising their insurance. Getting/issuing more tickets probably won't be a determining factor.
Also, I find everyone's complaints about Masshole drivers to be overblown. I've traveled quite a bit, and while there are better drivers elsewhere, there's places where it's exponentially worse. Even in ME/NH you have people blowing by you on 95 at 100, something I rarely see here in MA. CT drivers can't drive period. Don't eve get me started on FL or CA.
Oh hell yes, I remember trying to drive there, years ago. The only place I'd ever been, where they have "drunk bumps" down the center strip everywhere. You know, just to remind you that head-on collisions are to be avoided, if you can.
And don't get ME started on Texas...
So you're the one that slams
So you're the one that slams on your breaks to let someone else merge into your (our) lane! That is just stupid, man. The person merging is solely responsible for either accelerating to find a position or to slow down and wait for a position. Stop doing that shit; it makes you look like an idiot.
John Tobin tried to have this
John Tobin tried to have this done too. The city is very resistant to these speed humps etc for some reason.
Massholes + speed humps =
more campaign contributions from auto body shops.
One of the most helpful things would be a "Stay Out of the Box" campaign. It worked in NYC. They painted a box in the busiest intersections and instituted huge fines if drivers entered the box without a place to go, thus blocking the traffic that had the right of way. I know that's the law in MA already, but it's not enforced, and so rush hour driving in Boston invariably means getting stuck for several traffic light rotations and cars pile up in the intersection with no place to go.
Synchronized traffic lights on the main throughways are also must for 21st century city traffic. Something Boston hasn't even done when installing new lights in the RKG.
This would help a lot. Also some reasonable timing at lights. Some lights at small intersection have extremely long light cycles, for example.
I think some enforcement, and some effort to make light cycles and pedestrian cycles consistent throughout the city would go a long way. Everything intersection seems to have it's own rules, timing etc., which confuses/pisses off everyone.
I'm not naive enough to think that this would solve "Boston Driver Syndrome," but it would make things more civilized.
Needs this badly! the intersection is large and people enter just before the light turns red, when traffic is already backed up and then the pedestrians start to cross Harvard ave blocking those cars in the middle of the intersection from moving through. It's a total clusterf*%K
My area needs this badly.
Drivers always block my street, and cause good sized traffic backups.
I guess I'm the only one who goes all "Dukes of Hazzard" on that Needham St speed table?
Only at night, of course. Not when Riverdale School's in session.
The sheer number of grooves carved by cars going too fast over the ones on Winchester street in Brookline are funny as hell. Though really in drivers defense they should paint the approach ramps to those things yellow as they can be hard to spot at night if one doesn't know they're there. The warning hash signs are well off the road and often hidden by parked vans or tree branches.
The MUTCD standard is to mark
The MUTCD standard is to mark big white V's before the speed tables and raised crosswalks. I think Winchester used to have these markings but they wore off. http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/htm/2003/part3/fig3b-30_...
Clark St in Newton
Sports the speed humps because it connects from Center St right to Parker St/Route 9 intersection. They used to use yellow lines and then went for the bif white V's. The one closest to Center they originally put the V's on the wrong side of the road. Finally came around a couple weeks later and blacked those out and put them in correctly.
Always love seeing someone come flying down the street and hit the first one with a big thump and then slow to a crawl. I must say that Newton police cars have some fine shocks/suspension. They can fly over those with hardly a dip.
I once went over the bumps on
I once went over the bumps on Winchester St. in a cab late at night. I lived in the area and knew they were there, so I was begging the cabbie to slow down. He didn't listen to me, and I had to literally assume the crash position about a second before we hit the bump and took off. When we landed a good fifteen feet behind the bump, he turned to me, goes "that was a pretty serious speed bump," and then went over the second one at around three miles per hour. Lesson learned...
It's not that hard, and you don't need annoying things like speed bumps. Just get the cops to actually enforce the law and give tickets not just for speeding, but for running red lights, turning or lane-changing without signaling, following too closely, etc., and get the courts to make citations stick. When folks have to pay fines and higher insurance rates, they'll behave.
Such a simple concept
Plant one cop at the intersection of Comm and Washington, and within a month you could probably fund the MBTA!!
(You might also slow down the cars that come screaming down the hill towards Sutherland. I know that silly sign near Mt. Hood says "Signal Ahead" when ever I see it, but apparently to drivers it says "Welcome to the Neremburg Ring!")
That's exactly it.
"Hey that light is turning red. You won't make it."
"So? They don't pull you over for running reds here."
In Mass I stop at stale reds but not if it's close. In other states I stop at red lights because I know there will be consequences.
highly visible enforcement
highly visible enforcement of those inconvenient "red light means stop" laws would probably do some good too
And red light cameras work wonders- too bad they've been legislated out of existence here.
They have them in MO where my parents live and they've made a huge difference in red running.
More enforcement is needed
This is a state where you can do almost anything in a moving car and get away with it. God help you if your car is parked. It seems that all the enforcement is on vehicles that are stationary and easy to ticket. Sure, if you are driving more than 30 mph over the limit, you probably get snagged. More than 20, probably not. Want to slalom through the traffic on 128 as if you were skiing, go at it - no one will stop you. Want to pass everyone by driving on the shoulder, go for it. Drivers here do things that would never fly in other states. We've done it this way for so long that drivers know that they can get away with all sorts of crap. Step up the enforcement and over the long term, there will be better drivers and more funds in the state and municipal coffers.
That's a perk of living here,
That's a perk of living here, if you want to drive 55 in a 55 zone move to Indianapolis.
Anyone Who Wants Speed Bumps...
should be sat down and forced to read Traffic, by Tom Vanderbilt.
TL;DR version: speed bumps actually make people drive less safely.
Some speed tables that work well
Take a look at Rindge Avenue in Cambridge, near the Peabody School and O'Neill Branch Library. As a pedestrian crossing here, I feel *much* safer now than before the city installed these raised intersections.
People STILL drive like
People STILL drive like maniacs on that street - I'm always extra careful as a driver, because you never know when someone is going to run a stoplight, or drive around a bus into oncoming traffic, etc. I don't know what it was like before the speed tables, but I think they are clearly necessary on Rindge.
Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do
It's not impossible to change people's way of driving, it's actually a little bit surprising and it's already been figured out and implemented how to change people's driving habits, check out the book http://www.amazon.com/Traffic-Drive-What-Says-Abou...
More traffic signs lead to more stress and more accidents
Read this a few weeks ago and was intrigued by what a lot of European cities are starting to do. Turns out our natural need to survive can actually counterbalance with each other if there were a lock of road regulation and signs. Our need to live starts kicking in to make us safer.
I hate speed bumps and artificial means to make a person slow down. They do more damage to cars and really just cause more reckless driving b/c you then have people who are trying to avoid those very things as much as possible without caring to see what or who is on the road.
This article's relevancy...
dies a painful death in any area traffic rotary. The problem isn't that there's too much signage in such places, but none at all. It's kind of typical Mass.: We'll just assume everyone's from here and has the driver's manual memorized cover-to-cover and not provide simple instructions that can avoid a lot of headaches. So obstinate.
This is also based on the false premise that European and Northeast American driving habits resemble each other in any way. They don't. Attempts to apply lessons from a small Belgian town's far more measured driving culture to Northeast bloodsport just invites disaster.
P.S. Your source is Cracked. Just wanted to clarify that.
Many people "learned" to drive before certain laws changed, yet they have never had to pass a new test on the new rules and still assume that they have the right of way ENTERING a rotary and that three cars go through on a stop sign or flashing red.
The bar for driving is very low here to start with, and was lower in the past.
SPEED != SAFETY. Enforce the existing laws!
How many times do police and legislators need to be told this?
You can be driving at 15mph...but if you're staring at your phone (which you're holding in one hand), you're more dangerous than someone with both hands on the wheel, fully focused on the road, doing twice that speed.
Here's how you make driving in MA safer:
Enforce the laws that actually have a safety impact and are widely ignored. In many neighborhoods in Boston, stop lights are mere suggestions. Every single day I see people texting. I've nearly been t-boned by people running red lights several seconds after the light changed, their face lit up in white, staring down at the phone.
Then, make sure those tickets stick. You shouldn't be able to say to some magistrate "oh, well, my grandma is in the hospital and I'm really stressed out..."
So, to that end, give police the video systems they need to record dangerous driving and allow the DA to present the evidence without the police needing to come into court. If there's video of you driving like an asshole, the cop is superfluous, and their time is better spent
guarding a hole in the groundpatrolling.
Oh, and those "traffic calming" devices like speed bumps? Ask a firefighter or ambulance driver what they think of those. Here's a big hint: every speed bump costs a fire or ambulance crew 10+ seconds in response time because they have to brake for it well before the bump, and then accelerate up to speed again..
2009 research in the British Medical Journal
See this 2009 paper in the British Medical Journal as to why speed DOES equal safety:
Agreed on speed
Speeding on non-highway streets is a big problem, just look at Comm Ave. The problem is that streets are built to highway standards. People ignore speed limit signs, so setting it to 20mph or lower won't do any good. Drivers go as fast as they feel safe doing so - and then some. The streets are too damn wide.
I've noticed that when private developers build roads on their valuable real-estate, they tend to make them small and put up 10mph limit signs (even if they are useless). But for some reason, when it comes to public land, the city thinks it is a great idea to build wide roads in residential neighborhoods and then encourage people to speed at 25mph where people live, even though all the evidence says that this is too fast.
But I agree that speed bumps are a bad idea. A band-aid for the original problem, which is that the streets are too damn wide!
Road Diets are better than speed bumps
Drivers tend to go as fast as they feel safe, which isn't the same as what is safe for the people who live in the neighborhood.
"road diets" where the width of too wide roads- either too many lanes or lanes too wide- is decreased by adding such things as bike lanes, pedestrian bump outs, and even street parking have been shown to reduce speed, therefore making everyone on the road who isn't clad in steel and airbags safer.
Bike lanes are so-so for road diets, IMO. Most drivers just treat them as part of the road, so I think they wind up feeling like a larger shoulder and therefore more room to speed.
The real tragedy comes when a road is widened to put a bike lane. That just defeats the purpose of trying to make it safer.
Another nice thing about having residential roads designed for 15mph is that they don't need bike lanes, ever. It seems that 15mph is an easy cruising speed for just about any bicyclist, and then they can use the full lane.
Your study looks at the end result of collisions - and yeah, people are more likely to survive when slammed into by a car going a bit slower.
Also, the study doesn't compensate for increased Euro-NCAP pedestrian safety measures in passenger vehicles, for example.
Also, the study doesn't look purely at casualties where the driver was going the speed limit; it encompasses all casualties. If most of the casualties occured when the vehicle in question was over the speed limit, that's what we call "horse out of the barn" material, and dropping the speed limit another 5-10mph isn't going to do shit.
I don't care if it's slightly more likely for me to survive getting run over by a car. I don't want to get hit in the first fucking place.
Nothing in your study contradicts my statement that someone doing 15mph staring at their phone is more dangerous than someone driving 30mph with both hands on the wheel and paying attention. Speed limits also don't address aggressive driving, inattentive driving, and poor judgement...and that last one is what 99% of "speed related" crashes are. Some idiot taking a turn at 50mph on a road with a speed limit of 30mph and plowing into someone doesn't mean the speed limit is too high.
If speeding were the cause of predominant cause of crashes, we'd see a direct correlation between speed limits in different states and their crash rates, but gosh golly gee, we DON'T. We also don't see higher crash rates on unlimited speed limit highways in Europe, nor do we see higher crash rates on the higher speed US highways out west.
Furthermore, while speed limits have largely remained unchanged: vehicle technology, and even tire technology, have jumped by leaps and bounds from when speed limits were first evaluated and legislated. 25mph is safer than it ever was in terms of stopping distances and handling capabilities.
Look at the complaints that
Look at the complaints that people register on here and elsewhere. How many people really believe that excessive speed is the primary problem on non-highway streets in this town? Almost no one. The real problems are always the same: inattention, poor use of turn signals, and needless aggression. Speed bumps have nothing to do with this. The only remedies that will work are more boots on the ground, and higher fines for breaking the law.
Installing speed bumps is just a cheap way to signal that "we're doing something" without actually making any real impact.
Speedumps and plows?
Which one wins?
I recall many years ago
I recall many years ago reading an article in the globe about academic research about driver behavior that indicated that driver behavior is largely a function of traffic density. The greater the traffic congestion, the greater stress drivers incur.
This stress increases the likelihood that drivers would drive aggressively to minimize the time spent in during an unpleasant drive.
I have no expertise in traffic management other than as a consumer (driver, cyclist, pedestrian), but it makes sense to me. I imagine that good traffic planning balances off neighborhood concerns with avoiding traffic bottlenecks where drivers essentially are little better than live parked as they crawl along spending more time parked, rather than moving - also not a good dynamic for the neighborhood.
Critical Mass Drives
Arrest them all for corking intersections and impeding traffic then ...
How about make public transit more efficient and put in exclusive lanes for buses like in European cities and some US cities, and exclude cars to a limited number of streets.
No, they can't.
When I first moved here I was
When I first moved here I was shocked at the sheer randomness of maneuvers. Crazy u-turns, no turn signals, left turns from the right lane, speed up and slow down (although that might be more of a connecticut thing). Also, in the ordinate number of cars that seem to crash into buildings. It's sheer insanity. My best guess was that since the road layouts are so nuts, people just do what they can to get around. But pedestrians here are as equally insane, walking out in front of emergency vehicles, trucks, whatever, crazy jaywalking, not waiting for the signal. I think in general people here seem pretty entitled, and very angry about that entitlement (especially if someone else seems more entitled than they do). The aggression that's displayed is a whole different category. People are just mean. If they want to change driving behavior, I really think the whole region needs a personality transplant.
Boston pedestrians are oblivious
I am a pedestrian myself, and I agree with you that many pedestrians in Boston are completely oblivious. They walk out into busy streets with no regard to traffic whatsoever. They don't even look. It is beyond me how people can be so obtuse. It is not a safe thing to do, especially with people so frequently driving drunk, texting, putting on makeup,eating with both hands, talking on phones and all the other things selfish drivers do.
Or you can transplant
Or you can transplant yourself out of the region, since enough of us are evidently content enough with our personality
The only thing worse than a Boston driver...
... is a Boston traffic engineer.
It's no wonder people drive aggressively, when hammering the gas is the only way to make more than one traffic light at a time.
Unsynchronized lights, broken loop detectors, illogical pedestrian signals, missing street signs, signs that aren't even close to MUTCD standards -- they're all par for the course in Boston.
And newly-designed areas are no exception. Just take a look around South B^W^W the Innovation District.
I don't know how the BTD's traffic engineering staff sleeps at night.
Yes, yes, and yes. I can
Yes, yes, and yes. I can complain about just about every single light in the financial district, both from a driver's and from a pedestrian's perspective. They are all terrible, inconsistent, and either unsynchronized or synchronized badly.
I assume that the BTD traffic "engineers" are political or nepotism hires. With the number of bright people in this city, there's no way they can be simply hiring the best folks available.
There used to be signs on the MDC parkways
that read "SIGNALS TIMED TO REQUIRE FREQUENT STOPS".
Start by arresting anyone who
Start by arresting anyone who uses their horn illegally (ie, any application that is not to prevent an accident)
You want me to not be able to tap my horn when somebody doesn't go on green after three seconds?
The most frequent use of my horn is to let someone know I don't appreciate them going through a stop sign at 20mph. (corner of Mt Vernon and David Mugar Way in particular).
After years and years of screwed up traffic patterns,
as well as unenforced laws, poorly designed intersections, and tons of drivers who don't give a rat's ass whether or not they endanger people with their antics, as a result of their being no consequences for that kind of behavior, I cannot see the driving habits and behaviors of Boston and Massachusetts drivers being altered any time soon.
The trick is to enforce the laws, make tickets stick by prohibiting the "fixing" of tickets, and to enforce the obeying of signals at intersections as need be, with police at the most troublesome, most poorly-designed intersections, if need be.
Actually, having written
Actually, having written articles about how we drive as a nation, New England in general is pretty good.
Yes, even Boston. Massachusetts isn't number one, per se, but it doesn't suck.
After driving in Mexico City and in Brazil...
driving in Boston is like driving on one of those go-cart tracks that has the middle rail for young kids.
Add China to the list
The oddest thing about Chinese cities is that they have the full trappings of safety, but they are absolutely ignored by everybody. Think wide, brightly painted crosswalks, traffic cops, dedicated bike/scooter lanes, left-turn only lanes, etc. The thing is everybody absolutely ignores all of this and just drives winner take all. If you go into a crosswalk they'll pull in and push you out of the way. The traffic cops whistle and pretend to direct traffic but nobody even looks at them.By the end of my trip I got pretty sick of getting pushed around by the cars as a pedestrian. I tried to make a stand in the crosswalk a few times but they just jam their way through. It's pretty insane and makes Boston look like the midwest.
Cambridge has this stuff
I'm not sure anybody is safer for it. It makes biking harder when they do with the random road shifts (whatever you call what they did on Columbia St near Central) where you play chicken with cars. Then the big speedbumps just cause drivers to zoom up to it, hit the brakes down to a crawl, then zoom away. All of this does nothing. Don't get me started on the ridiculous "No Turn on Red" intersections everywhere. Somerville doesn't have nearly as many of them, and I feel just as safe walking there as I do in Cambridge.