Safety first

The front page of the Arlington Advocate for February 24 has a story on pedestrian safety and proposed improvements for Mass. Ave. The photo caption at the start of the story (not in the online edition) says it all:

While a back and forth about vehicles and bike lanes has dominated the Mass. Ave. Corridor Project debate, little has been said about proposed improvements for pedestrians.

Indeed, the Advocate has been late to this feast, choosing to cover the conflict rather than the issues.

I can’t fault the paper’s news sense: there’s been very little actual news lately and the controversy, with its colorful cast of characters, is more entertaining than boring old functional design reports and the like.

Still there’s no denying that a lot of hysteria about bicycles has driven the news coverage, and its nice to see our local paper-of-record dig in and spend a little ink on the proposed changes and the rationale behind them: pedestrian safety.

A mock-up of the view north from the Marathon St. crosswalk shows many of the safety features of the proposed design. The crosswalk has been plagued with pedestrian injuries. The photo, courtesy of the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition, ran in the Arlington Advocate on Feb. 24. Click for close-up.

Concern for safety has driven the Town’s planning from the beginning.

The design seeks to shorten crossing distances that are dangerously long with sidewalk bump-outs and pedestrian islands, both depicted in the photo, and to make other safety improvements.

The new lane configuration eliminates an entire class of pedestrian crashes from the outbound side of the street.

Disclosure: I am one of five people interviewed for the story, though I don’t say much. From the opponents to the rebuild, Mark Kaepplein doubts some of the measures, while Donna Janis warns, apparently with a straight face, against the terrible risk to pedestrians from “unsafe numbers of bicycles that [will] have migrated off of the Minuteman Bikeway.” Perhaps she was misquoted.

Eric Berger, who says he has spent $60,000 so far opposing the rebuild, was not quoted at all. However, the same issue of the Advocate published yet another of his columns reminding us all that the present situation on Mass. Ave. is perfectly satisfactory to him, thank you very much. (Safety? A “red herring,” he says.)

I’m pleased to note that both Mark and Donna have shared their comments on this blog, giving The Word on the Street a quorum of the five quoted in the story. (Phil Goff, also quoted, has also commented here.)

I have expressed my own doubts about the limits of this redesign, but in my view these safety improvements are meaningful and will reduce the severity and number of pedestrian crashes on Mass. Ave.

The new design will not change things much for cyclists or drivers, but to the extent the change inconveniences anyone, it is worth it for the safety improvement alone.

2 comments so far

  1. Mark Kaepplein on

    Adam, I too wish coverage of plans, issues, and alternatives were better. Its a lot of information that few have patience for, unfortunately. People do deserve more details than what has been given in Powerpoint slide shows without doing lots of independant research like a few have. I don’t think reporters have had the time either. The FST guy at the last public meeting who read the slides obviously also didn’t know more than what he read on ther also.

    I think all this contributes to construction projects having been a long standing way to gorge tax dollars. Few of the general public will be informed enough to strongly object.

    Concerning the picture, I see a flush median and a somewhat raised (traversable?) median. Is this what is in the plan at last revision? Its been back and forth. Cobblestones here and in the center are bad for the lifespan of public vehicles: MBTA buses, fire engines, ladder trucks, ambulances etc.

    • Adam Auster on

      The photoshopped photo as I understand it reflects the Town’s plan for a flush traversable median and two raised pedestrian refuge islands, one at Marathon St.

      Obviously it may not be accurate in every respect, but it is a fair illustration of what is proposed. There’s another pedestrian island at Orvis Rd.

      You can see the drawings yourself on the Town’s web page for the project.

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