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Council to study ways to make Boston streets safer for pedestrians: Speed humps on main streets, lowering the speed limit, even devices that would slow speeding cars

City councilors today agreed with a move by Councilor Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, Downtown) to look at doing way more to keep pedstrians alive - the day after a man in a wheelchair died under the wheels of a concrete truck on Frontage Road and the week after a 4-year-old girl died under the wheels of a pickup behind the Children's Museum.

Flynn said the city's current "safety surge" program, in which BTD installs speed humps and takes other measures to slow drivers on side streets just isn't enough, and the proof is in the continued death and mayhem on our streets. "It's one of most critical issues we face in the city of Boston," he said.

He said the city should look at not just speeding up installation of the speed humps, but look at putting them on the wider roads even in key shopping areas where people speed and said that if it were up to him, the citywide speed limit would drop from the current 25 m.p.h to just 15 m.p.h. He said the city needs to eliminate its current practice of building traffic signals that allow drivers to take turns even as pedestrians are trying to cross an intersection. This "concurrent" travel is "a recipe for disaster," he said.

And he said Boston needs to look into systems that would include installations of governors in vehicles that would work with street-wide sensors to slow the vehicles should their drivers try to speed.

Other councilors agreed Boston needs to do more.

Councilor John FitzGerald, who has a four-year-old child himself, said the death of Gracie Gancheva outside the Children's Museum was a parents' worst nightmare. "The worst part about it is they're so preventable," he said. Council President Ruthzee Louijeune agreed, recalling last year's death of 4-year-old Ivan Pierre, killed on Wood Avenue in Hyde Park by a driver who then sped away.

Councilor Liz Breadon (Allston/Brighton) said her district is now bedeviled by Waze-fueled cut-through drivers. "Tens of thousands of cars come through our neighborhood at a very fast clip every day" in their driver's lust to avoid traffic on the turnpike, she said. She added Allston/Brighton has a unique problem: The neighborhoods have been promised extensive road-safety improvements by developers of thousands of housing units - but those only go in after the projects have gotten their certificates of occupancy.

Councilor Ben Weber (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury), said statistics show that pedestrian fatalities in Europe decreased 80% in Europe between 1990 and 2020, while going up 25% in the US over the past ten years.

"This is a problem we can solve," he said.

Both Councilors Tania Fernandes Anderson (Roxbury) and Sharon Durkan (Mission Hill, Fenway, Back Bay, Beacon Hill) praised Mayor Wu and BTD's commitment to improving pedestrian safety. Durkan, however, said there are currently limits to what the city can do because of a shortage of both engineers to re-design roadways and to build all the speed humps.

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Comments

I feel weird agreeing with Ed Flynn! Twice as many pedestrian deaths as homicides this year -- and while both numbers are relatively low, I'd love to see us invest even a fraction of the resources in traffic calming and enforcement as we do on crime prevention.

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How about BPD enforce traffic laws?

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Its beneath them, they can't be everywhere at once and they sure as hell aren't going to be ticketing off duty friends

Replace em with traffic cameras and lets move past this BS. Frees BPD up to ticket cyclists, win win.

Mike from Woburn won't be happy but oh well

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That's why we need streets that passively prevent speeding and noxious behavior.

I'd love to see both, honestly.

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Because they can't be everywhere and what does it matter if they catch a driver committing a traffic infraction that leads to fatality? Ticket or no ticket, the pedestrian is still dead or severely injured. Preemptive measures need to be taken.

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Magoo sez that speed “humps” are actually speed “bumps”. Speed “humps” are what Magoo and Mrs. Magoo do when Magoo and Mrs. Magoo are feeling frisky but Magoo and Mrs. Magoo are pressed for time. Magoo.

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…. are quite the pair!

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London has an incredibly similar street grid to Boston and they have had a lot of success with Low Traffic Neighborhoods (LTNs) which use modal filters to allow residential vehicular access but not automobile through traffic, while enabling pedestrian and bicycle through connections. This basically eliminates rat running and makes neighborhood streets safe to walk, bike, or even for kids to play on.

They have so many benefits: “A 2022 study studied three LTNs in Islington Borough between July 2019 and February 2021. It found that LTNs had reduced the level of nitrogen dioxide by 5.7% on internal sites, and by 8.9% on boundary sites”

“Two LTNs were introduced in London between 2015-2019, after extensive consultation and with significant engineering improvements. Within the LTN areas, the numbers of injuries, and the risk of injury per trip, reduced by about 70% for walkers, cyclists, and car occupants.”

“After 3 years of implementation, a study found an 18% decrease in street crime in LTN areas. A larger reduction was found for violent crimes and sexual assaults. Only a single subcategory for crime saw an increase – bicycle theft.”

“LTNs see more walking, cycling and improved perceptions of the local cycling environment.[22]
People in LTNs are becoming less likely to own a car and more likely to reduce their car usage.”

Do it!

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  • How do they enforce the entry limitations?
  • What about people who don't live in the LTN but are visiting someone there, making a delivery, providing a needed service (plumbers, visiting healthcare providers, etc.)?
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In a lot of European cities, I've seen bollards that can be lowered by a remote control. Seems to do the job well.

There have been cars on the streets of Boston for more than a century. What's changed that this is now a problem worthy of the city council's attention, when it never has been in the past?

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It has been a problem for decades. And many have been pushing them to care. Those efforts have broken through and these deaths can’t be ignored anymore.

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Up 17% in Boston 2017-2021, per https://www.mass.gov/info-details/pedestrian-and-bicyclists-safety

Up about 20% across the US 2019-2022, per https://www.ghsa.org/resources/Pedestrians23, and up about 100% since 2010 (click on the report pdf and see page 4).

And see https://www.npr.org/2023/06/26/1184034017/us-pedestrian-deaths-high-traf...

When preventable deaths skyrocket, thoughtful communities try to figure out why they're happening and then adopt measures to keep people alive. Even though I too like to drive quickly, and don't like driving on speedbumps.

I think the council should take seriously the argument at https://www.noahpinion.blog/p/at-least-five-interesting-things-7fa (section 2) that distracting smartphones might be a big part of the problem, rather than just pointing at vehicle height, weight, and speed.

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It's been a problem, but I think it's far worse now that ~50% of drivers are looking at their phones, with just occasional glances at the road ahead of them. Would be nice to see some enforcement of the law against this (and maybe an increased penalty of permanent license revocation on first offense).

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Listening to the radio isn't nearly as distracting as texting while driving.

Combine that with the difference between the bloated American SUVs of today and the modest sedans people drove last century, and you can account for the change.

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Really absurd that you can watch Netflix on a Tesla screen from what I've seen.

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Various news outlets reported last summer on the significant increase in pedestrian deaths throughout the US "in recent years". Report linked below gives state by state statistics for 2022.

https://www.ghsa.org/resources/Pedestrians23

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That's why its a problem.

It isn't a sudden problem, either - driving became a sacred method of murder and mayhem many years ago. We are just undoing that.

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Did you read past the headline to the part where pedestrian fatalities are rising sharply as entitled drivers plow through neighborhoods not giving a single F who may be in their path? Guessing not.

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The bike lobby has her by the short hairs

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We prefer to be called the Sinister Bike Cabal, thank you.

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Speed and red light cameras.

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There is not just one answer.

But this is a very easy and affordable way to slow many scofflaws down.

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Cameras don't profile.

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.

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Unless you're talking about recording the profile of cars that run red lights.

The cameras should be placed in intersessions and roads that have a history of people being injured with the goal of reducing the injuries.

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Just no. This penalizes the vehicle owner, not the operator. When this can actually penalize the vehicle operator, and them only then it will be a decent idea.

Past efforts have claimed that vehicle owners can go and protest tickets and somehow prove that they weren't operating the vehicle during the infraction. This means that a person has to take time off of work, pay court fees, and will likely be in a tougher financial position since many people now live paycheck to paycheck.

Past efforts have also put the problem in the home of a family where one member might have earned the camera ticket. In homes where money is tight this can lead to more incidents of domestic violence.

This idea is just bad.

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in about 12 seconds. You, the owner of the vehicle recorded blowing a red light, want to argue that you weren't driving it at the time? Great, that's an affirmative defense, and to argue it in court, you need to submit an affidavit telling us who was driving your car at the time. What's that, you don't want to? Tough cookies, kid, that's the cost of lending out your car to your idiot friend who doesn't want to stop at red lights. Pay the fine, or throw the actual offender under the bus. Them's the breaks.

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Because you didn’t read the post.

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Someone borrows my car, parks it like an asshole, gets a ticket from the city - that ticket is tied to the car, not the operator. Should we stop enforcing parking laws since they're unfairly targeting vehicle owners?

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A parking ticket isn't a moving violation that will cause a rise in vehicular insurance. I actually used to park in front of fire hydrants because the cost of the parking ticket was less than the cost of parking near the old Boston Garden. Insurance was never impacted. Was it an asshole thing to do? Of course it was. The likelihood of a fire breaking out, and me having windows broken for BFD to run a hose was extremely low. That was younger me who was a higher insurance risk and the collection of parking tickets that I earned never caused a meteoric rise in insurance the way that my eventual single car accident did...single meaning I was going way too fast and was the only car damaged in said accident.

Two of the biggest issues that couples fight over are sex and money. Employing a draconian idea like camera traffic enforcement will add fuel to one of these two contentious topics, possibly leading to increased domestic violence.

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… because domestic violence.

Get a grip.

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When are they going to stop studying and get to work on it?

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Tbh with some of the ideas being given in this some more study is warranted. They should be looking at established best practices from the Netherlands, Copenhagen, London, and Paris.

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to ticket any of the cars in my neighborhood for street cleaning today.

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Conor McGrath was killed in 2018, I don't expect these clowns to do anything now.

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15MPH is ridiculous when the 25MPH limit, which is almost reasonable, is already completely unenforced.

Let's try enforcing the laws we have. When is the last time you saw BPD doing traffic enforcement? The only times I've ever seen anybody pulled over (and, if I'm being honest, got popped once myself) was when the driver was unlucky enough to let 'er rip without seeing the cops right behind them.

Stick a few patrols on some of those cut-through streets, tell the details to cite drivers (I've seen people blow through no-right-on-reds right in front of me while a detail cop stood there like a cigar store Indian), ENFORCE THE LAWS WE HAVE FIRST.

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Let’s try designing streets that correspond to our desired speed limits so that people cannot physically or cannot comfortably speed so enforcement isn’t necessary. This is a core part of what the Dutch do and why so many fewer people die on their streets.

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The Netherlands also assumes that a driver did something wrong if they crash into someone or something not a car. The burden of proof is on the driver.

While we can't realistically do that, we can implement tougher penalties and remove driving privileges for those who can't seem to grow up and behave themselves.

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There was a no turn on red sign at the intersection of summer and east first street in southie for a short period and then it was removed. I’m not sure who stepped in to remove it, but I would guess councilor Flynn would have known about it. Removing the restriction makes that intersection considerably more dangerous for pedestrians.

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…. Washington and Essex, also in Flynn’s district, about 5 years ago. It may as well be invisible. It’s routinely ignored. To make things even worse, many drivers do not bother to signal they are turning as they race to the Expressway.

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….just this morning at the intersection of the Essex raceway and Atlantic.

Will anything ever be done about these extra dangerous intersections?

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Severely restrict parking on every street in the city and the number of cars will decrease.

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...but this is a topic that hits close to home. Do we know if meetings/hearings would be in person, or virtual, or both? Would the public have a chance to attend or weigh in?

I'm ashamed to say I don't have a lot of knowledge about how this works in Boston. Perhaps our host or a commenter here could offer a primer and/or some tips?

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Usually a City Councilor, in this case Ed Flynn, will request a hearing. The Council President (Ruthzee) will then assign the hearing to the proper Committee. That Committee Chair will then schedule the hearing (Committees are chaired by City Councilors).

In most hearings they take feedback from relevant city departments, experts, community groups, and then the public. I'm not sure if they are back to being fully in person or if hybrid is still an option as it was last year. That said, if you can't make it, you can send written comments to the Committee Chair. They will then add those comments to the record.

The piece I'm missing is how you can get alerted as to the specific hearing's date and time. In this case, I would reach out to Flynn's office (since he requested the hearing) and ask them to tell you when the hearing is going to occur.

https://www.boston.gov/departments/city-council#committees

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That's very helpful. If I find any useful information I'll try to post it here and/or XTwitter Threads.

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I remember the first time I noticed, while crossing at a crosswalk, that oncoming cars had a green light to turn left right into my path. I was floored. (Yes, I know they should know better, look, and not proceed, but green-lighting them is just crazy). Allowing right turns on red is a problem at these intersections, too. Really, if you have a walk signal, all vehicles should have red lights all around. There should be no question of any car crossing your path.

And yeah, I guess the longer red lights may cause traffic backups. Which brings us back to the Too Many Cars idea, I guess?

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“Really, if you have a walk signal, all vehicles should have red lights all around”
If a driver has a green they just go. Aren’t even thinking they might encounter a pedestrian.

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Not a day goes by that I don't come close to hitting someone through no fault of my own. Too many faces in phones. Too many kids just crossing against the light. Too many folks simply not paying attention to their surroundings.

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…. if you’re nearly hitting people. Slow down before you do.

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