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How did safety for pedestrians in crosswalks on Centre Street in West Roxbury and safety for bicycle riders become a partisan issue?

How did safety become partisan?

I saw this posted on social media and it had a distinctly UniversalHub feel to it. It has everything -- a fine collection of local reporting by UniversalHub, a traffic accident in which a pedestrian was killed crossing Centre Street in West Roxbury, an effort to design Centre Street so that it is systematically safer for pedestrians and cyclists, a reactionary response from some members of the community including conspiracy theories, and an embrace of the plan by other members.

UniversalHub has been writing articles about each development which begain four years before Marilyn Wentworth's death on Feb 6, 2019, the day after she was hit by a car crossing Centre Street. "In 2015, a West Roxbury man suffered a traumatic brain injury at Center and Hastings streets when one driver stopped for him to let him walk across but another did not and slammed into him."

The question comes down to whether West Roxbury wants Centre Street to be a four lane highway from St Theresa's to Holy Name or whether the street can be designed so that it's safe for pedestrians to cross and cyclists to ride. Here's the social media post which seems to make street design for safety for pedestrians and cyclists a partisan issue.IMAGE(https://www.universalhub.com/files/images/2020/Capture%20louis%20Murray%20No%20Bikelanes.png)

Feb 5, 2019: Pedestrian hit, seriously injured in West Roxbury

Feb 6, 2019: UPDATE, 1:45 p.m.: City Councilor Matt O'Malley reports the woman died.
Feb 6, 2019: Northeastern researchers proposed steps two years ago to make Centre Street in West Roxbury safer for pedestrians
Feb 7, 2019: Expect to see more cops, signs on Centre Street in West Roxbury; meeting planned on complete road redesign

Feb 27, 2019: Out of a family's anguish, a call to narrow Centre Street in West Roxbury

Jun 20, 2019: City of Boston: Centre Street Safety Improvements Presentation, pdf

Jun 29, 2019: Making Centre Street safer from Holy Name to Weld Street in West Roxbury
Jun 29, 2019: City proposes reducing Centre Street in West Roxbury to three lanes, adding dedicated lanes for bicyclists

Oct 15, 2019: West Roxbury against the world: Somebody paying to advertise alleged threat to neighborhood from bicycle conspiracy
Oct 18, 2019: West Roxbury against the world: Mailers not enough, somebody now flyering neighborhood with Centre Street conspiracy theory

Sep 16, 2019 Op-ed: West Roxbury parents call for changes to make Centre Street in West Roxbury safer

Nov 19, 2019: City will study other possible ways to keep pedestrians from getting mowed down on West Roxbury's Centre Street besides reducing lanes
Nov 20, 2019: StreetsblogMASS: Walsh Administration Capitulates to Motorists, Delays West Roxbury Safety Proposal

Systematic safety principles of street design: "The Principles Behind Vision Zero". Concept and narration by Peter Furth. Filming and editing by Mark Wagenbuur.

Feb 10, 2020: And finally if partisanship is the pro and con organizing principle, why isn't City of Boston moving forward with the best version of the road diet plan for motor vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists? Because in the City of Boston Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump 81-14.


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The death of a resident crossing Centre St last year, who by the way was not the first resident to be killed trying to cross Centre St, made people ask, What can we do to make the street safer for everyone? To answer that question problem solvers asked other important questions such as, when does severe injury or death result from collisions between cars, pedestrians and cyclists?

Drivers who hit bicyclists and pedestrians don't sustain the vast majority of the injuries, the cyclists and pedestrians do. Human beings aren't built to sustain injuries resulting from collisions with cars going fast. The rate of speed of the car at the time of the collision is a very important factor in the injury sustained. City of Boston cited statistics about the speed of cars and the liklihood of severe or fatal injury in collisions. There is a 17% chance of severe or fatal injury being struck by a car going 20mph, 30% chance being struck by a car going 25 mph, and 47% being struck by a car going 30 mph.

Two design principles of safe streets are 1) limit the likilhood of collisions between cars, cyclists and pedestrians and 2) reduce the speed of cars involved in collisions to rates that allows cyclists and pedestrians to survive them.

The speed limit in Boston is 25 mph but for many drivers that is the exception and not the rule. Enforcement works when enforcement occurs but street design works even when enforcement falls off. Street design is a critical factor in speed abatement and speed is a critical factor in the extent of injury up to and including death when collisions occurs.

Center St is West Roxbury neighborhood's main street. It has a dual purposes, people go there to run errands and people take it to go somehere else. When people take it to go sommewhere else they often like to go as fast as conditions allow. They appreciate that is is designed like parkway, two lanes each direction. When they go by car to shop aconvenient parking space is the goal.

Centre has four lanes, is undivided, and has two more lanes allocated for on-street parking. There is a lot of off street parking, often one or two blocks away. Cyclists share a lane with cars and are at severe risk in collisions with cars. Pedestrians are at risk because when cars in the near lane stop for them to cross, the cars in the next lane can't see them crossing and often continue until it is too late to stop to avoid the collision.

Let's fix Centre St in West Roxbury so it accomodates safe travel and makes our main street feel more like a neighborhood and less like a parkway.

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