Councillors seek hard look at stronger traffic safety measures

Several Boston city councillors are pushing for more stringent action on traffic measures in the wake of a pedestrian’s death and another’s injuries at Summer and Melcher streets near the Fort Point Channel early this month.

Councillor Ed Flynn wants to see the citywide speed limit reduced to 20 mph from 25 mph. He also has joined Councillors Frank Baker and Kim Janey in calling for an update on the progress of the city’s goal of seeing zero serious or fatal accidents in Boston by 2030, an initiative known colloquially as “Vision Zero.” 

The speed limit was reduced to 25 mph from 30 mph just two years ago, but Flynn said the city needs to take further action. “Speed is a problem in our city,” he said. “Vehicles are driving too fast—25 miles per hour throughout a neighborhood in Boston is extremely fast and that needs to be reduced. I think we also need to make infrastructure improvements; basically put the road on the diet.”

The pedestrian killed in the late evening of Sept. 12 was a woman between 20 and 30 years old, according to Boston Police. The second pedestrian, a man, was hospitalized but not seriously injured. The driver remained at the scene and police are still investigating the case.

“We need to make sure that our sidewalks, our roads have the right kind of visibility, that we have traffic lights where we need them, flashing beacon stop signs, etc.,” said Janey. “Because there’s no reason why we should have the number of crashes that we have when we’re talking about vehicle-to-vehicle or pedestrians being hit by vehicles and cyclists by buses.

Flynn noted that city officials are “moving closer to a 20- mph speed limit,” with a focus on a potential compromise option that would lower limits around schools and senior housing developments. Flynn and Baker said they’ve been meeting with officials in the Boston Transportation Department to discuss that idea as well as other Vision Zero safety measures.

Baker said he hopes that sometime this fall or in the spring residents in his Dorchester district will start to see Vision Zero measures being added to their streets. He is a particular fan of using speed humps and raised crosswalks to slow down speeding drivers and give pedestrians improved sightlines.

“Of course, I’d like to see more happening in a sort of parochial, selfish way,” he said. “I’d like to see more happening in District 3 in those side streets … that are calling out for something like speed humps.”

“Bumping out” sidewalks—or extending the ends of sidewalks where pedestrians can cross—is one of the “dieting” options Flynn and Baker have pushed for in the past. Those measures, including raised crosswalks, speed humps, or flashing signals for crossing pedestrians where appropriate are all ideas Flynn said are necessary to achieve Vision Zero.

For his part, Flynn is hoping a hearing will be held within the next two months. “I’m going to continue to work closely with the mayor and with my colleagues in city government to make sure that pedestrian safety always remains a top priority for us, he said. “This is an issue that impacts everyone.”