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Boston’s ‘Vision Zero’ Task Force Aims to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents

On June 21, two pedestrians were struck by a vehicle on Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue. Fortunately, the injuries were not life threatening. But the accident reconfirmed the need to tackle the growing problem of accidents involving pedestrians. In response to the rise in accidents, Boston’s Vision Zero effort is currently underway. Vision Zero aims to reduce to zero accidents involving motor vehicle collisions with pedestrians and bicyclists. Contact a Boston Personal Injury Lawyer Today.

Vision Zero plans to make design improvements to several roadways, but one corridor in particular, from the Massachusetts Avenue to Beacon Street, hones in on the spot of last week’s accident. At a meeting last week, city planners unveiled improvements that can be made quickly, leaving the longer-term improvements for a later date.

According to Charlotte Fleetwood, a City transportation planner, Vision Zero wants to focus on protecting the most vulnerable. “We want to understand why crashes are happening,” said Fleetwood. “We want to focus on the most vulnerable uses – the walkers and bikers. If you make the streets safer for the most vulnerable, it is safer for everyone. Pedestrian and cyclist accidents are on the rise. We had four pedestrians killed in January. Whatever the reason, that’s unacceptable.”

Massachusetts Avenue is of Special Concern

In Mayor Martin Walsh’s own words, walking and cycling on Boston’s streets “should not be a test of courage.” Unfortunately, the increase in accidents tells otherwise. Mass Ave seems to be a particularly dangerous area for pedestrians, which is the main reason Vision Zero’s task force has chosen Mass Ave as a starting point. According to residents, dangerous situations are exceedingly common along the corridor. Poorly-timed lights, heavy traffic, and impatient drivers only exacerbate the problem. “First of all, speed matters,” Fleetwood said. “One major goal is to reduce speed on the street.” According to Fleetwood, the risk of an accident at 20 mph is 18 percent, but it jumps to 77 percent at 40 mph. That’s a major difference.

Proposed improvements include creating a protected bike lane running from Huntington Avenue to Beacon Street, improving pedestrian crossings in various locations, and “daylighting” which refers to the process of building a kind of “bumper” on curbs to prevent cars from parking there. In certain locations, such as at the corner of St. Botolph and St. Stephen Streets, pedestrians who are crossing may not be visible due to parked cars at that corner.

“The changes we want to make are rapid changes,” Fleetwood said. “We want to focus on quickly, with things like markings, signal timing, flex posts, and speed radar signs.” VIsion Zero’s task force includes the Boston Fire Department, Boston Police, Boston Transportation, the Bicyclists Union, WalkBoston, and Boston EMS, among others.

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