Councilor wants improved traffic safety

District 6 Councilor Matt O’Malley is pushing for various traffic-calming measures, including “virtual” speed bumps and glowing crosswalks. Following an order filed by O’Malley, the City Council’s Committee on City, Neighborhood Services and Veterans Affairs will hold a hearing Feb. 21 at City Hall on how to improve traffic safety.

“The issue of traffic and speeding in Boston is the most frequent issue I’m called about,” said O’Malley.

The councilor added that he represents a unique district in that it has many well-traveled parkways, such as Jamaicaway and VFW. He cited the June 2011 death of Francis McInerney, a teenage pedestrian who was killed crossing the VFW, as an example for the need of increased safety measures.

Some traffic-safety measures have already come to the Jamaicaway. Last year, crosswalks and a set of traffic lights were added where Eliot Street connects with the Jamaicaway.

O’Malley hopes to gather officials from local and state transportation departments, the Boston Police Department, the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation and concerned residents for the Feb. 21 hearing.

“I think it is important to convene all the stakeholders and find out what’s working and what’s not working,” said O’Malley. “This is to figure out in reality what steps can we take.”

Michael Halle, a member of the JP Traffic and Parking Committee, has not spoken with the councilor, but agreed with him on the importance of having a hearing.

“I think it’s really a wonderful opportunity to take a look at how traffic flows through our neighborhoods, especially Jamaica Plain,” said Halle. “The more we can look at ways to encourage good-driving habits, the more we can accomplish” improving traffic safety.

O’Malley noted that there is new technology available to slow drivers down, such as solar-powered speed signs and thermal-plastic decals displaying virtual speed bumps. Those decals would have optical-illusion designs that work by fooling drivers into seeing speed bumps that are not there.

He said actual speed bumps are also effective, but understands they can wreak havoc on emergency vehicles. O’Malley mentioned speed humps, which are low-raised ridges, as alternatives.

The councilor would also like to see the police department increase enforcement through tickets and speed traps. While recognizing the department is already stretched thin, O’Malley wants the BPD to step up its visibility. He noted one way it could do this is to bring back the practice of having police cadets stationed at crosswalks.

According to O’Malley, another area crosswalks could be improved is to install lights underneath them. The illuminated crosswalks would grab drivers’ attention much like the yield signs posted in the middle of crosswalks in some other neighborhoods currently do, said O’Malley.

Installing signs displaying “Don’t block the box” at four-way intersections is another traffic measure O’Malley wants implemented. He noted vehicles too often fail to make it through an intersection before the light turns red, becoming stuck in the middle and creating a traffic jam.
“I think we Bostonians have a bad reputation for being aggressive and fast drivers,” said O’Malley. “Some do fit that role, but the vast majority of us are conscientious drivers. I want to make Boston safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.”

Asked if he ever encounters the aggressive and fast drivers, O’Malley responded, “I live on the Jamaicaway. I live it every single day.”


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