The JP Observer addressed the problem of traffic blocking intersections during rush hours in Jamaica Plain in March, asking for enforcement of laws that say drivers cannot pull into an intersection where traffic in front is stopped, even if their light is green.
Not much appears to have changed since then, except some big X’s were painted in intersections in Forest Hills as part of the state’s massive Casey Arborway reconstruction project.
Traffic blocking the locally notorious intersection of Williams and Forest Hills streets across from Franklin Park in the Stonybrook neighborhood was highlighted in that March column.
In September it was the scene of a gridlock-fueled incident I will never forget.
I was in a line of about seven vehicles on Williams waiting to turn right onto Forest Hills Street. The problem, as usual at evening rush hour: cars and trucks heading out of town blocked the intersection when the light was green for them, so only very few, if any, cars from Williams could make it through when they got green. After about 10 minutes, I was third or fourth in line with about five cars now behind me.
All of a sudden a low-slung black sports car came up from behind and zipped past us on the left, where no cars happened to be parked. The sports car drove right into the intersection box and stopped next to but also a little in front of the first car in our line. Now the sports car blocked the intersection along with the vehicles from the other direction.
I had noticed a man walking a German shepherd on a leash on the sidewalk next to my car a few minutes before. I could see that he and the dog were now in the intersection, heading toward the pedestrian entrance to Franklin Park. Staring at the offending sports car, the dog walker came to a halt in the middle of Forest Hills Street.
“You can’t do that!” he yelled, pointing toward the windshield. “I’m going to report you!” He took out his cell phone, walked over and started taking pictures of the rear license plate.
The intersection is at a dip in Forest Hills Street that forms a sort of square amphitheater, I noticed for the first time, and more than a dozen of us in nearby automobiles instantly became an audience.
The driver’s window of the sports car went down. A man’s voice inside shouted “You…” followed by a nasty description. The door opened, and the man got out. The pedestrian and the driver were face to face fewer than 12 feet from each other, cars all around.
Then I saw the driver reach down with his right hand. I got ready to throw my car into park and duck behind the dashboard. I imagined everyone else was frightened, too.
I forgot, I guess, that we were in largely peace-loving Jamaica Plain and in Stonybrook, a famously friendly sub-neighborhood. What happened next was so fast and unexpected, it took a few minutes for me to absorb afterwards.
The angry driver yanked his right hand out of his pocket and aimed. The tennis ball he threw with force grazed the arm of the pedestrian, bounced onto the road, hit the sidewalk and rolled into the park. The driver got back in his car and slammed the door.
The pedestrian picked up the leash where he’d dropped it. The German shepherd was still sitting in the intersection where it had been watching everything, wagging its tail across the asphalt.
Dog walker and dog entered the park. The sports car moved out of the intersection on his way. The rest of us on Williams Street continued to wait.
Sandra Storey is founder and former publisher and editor of the Jamaica Plain Gazette.