A group of concerned residents on Boylston St. in JP have banded together to try and address traffic and safety problems on their street, as they believe that the current situation poses serious safety risks to the neighborhood.
Jeremy Menchik, one of residents who spearheaded the group, led a community meeting along with his neighbor Sarah McKeon on September 16, which drew in a crowd of other concerned residents. McKeon said the goal of the meeting was to build more community and discuss the traffic and safety concerns that people may have. Along with the neighbors, in attendance was William Moose, a transportation planner for the Boston Transportation Department, Mayor’s Office Neighborhood Liaison Enrique Pepen, and City Councilor Matt O’Malley.
After discussing in small breakout groups, residents presented their concerns to the larger group. One mother said she saw a car flip on Boylston St. one morning, just as her kids were leaving the house to go to school. Several issues were with the way the street itself is laid out—
Menchik said that the street narrows towards the end so people lose room to maneuver. He suggested bump outs as a possible way to incentivize cars to “treat a road like a neighborhood road,” he said.
“You have a sort of varying width of the right of way,” Moose said, adding that there are a “variety of options you could potentially look at,” including a chicane—an artificial turn that would create a staggering of how cars park on the street in order to get moving vehicles to slow down. He said bumpouts at intersections would narrow the right of way at intersections where people are most likely to be crossing the street.
Another resident commented that these particular solutions might not be the best ones for cyclists, and suggested a separated bike lane with posts, which would also narrow the road but make it accessible for bike riders.
A resident on the corner of St. Peter and Boylston said that on St. Peter St., which is a single lane two-way street, she said that she does not see a stop sign at that intersection, and there is not a lot of visibility due to parked cars. Additionally, she said that she sees a lot of people going the wrong way on Boylston St., which others confirmed. Someone else mentioned that there are a lot of noisy cars on the street, and wondered if this is something that is enforced by the police.
John Doherty of the Boston Police Department said that they don’t usually look for loud cars, but rather focus on “more high priority violations” such as speeding and running stop signs.
Speeding was a top priority for a lot of residents at this meeting, as there are a lot of children in the area. Menchik said that there are no crosswalks on Burr and Adelaide Streets and up to Belmore Terrace—“that’s shocking because of the kids who walk up Boylston to go to the Curley,” he said. “In an ideal world, there would be crosswalks with stop signs but at least crosswalks would be good.”
Moose saids that there is a difference between a speed bump and a speed hump. A hump is flatter and tabled on top. “Bumps are much more aggressive,” he said, and the city doesn’t typically install those. “Neighborhood Slow Streets is the only program that installs these right now,” he said.
He said that crosswalks can typically be done following something called a warrant, in which the number of pedestrians can be counted to see if a crosswalk is warranted in a certain area. “This is something we can look at, certainly,” he told the residents.
“The crosswalks alone—while I think it’s great to have them— if you have a speeding issue,” the crosswalk doesn’t do much to help, he said. He added that stop signs are not typically used as speed control elements, but rather more intended as a traffic flow management tool when a lot of cars are coming and need to take turns passing through the intersection.
Moose also talked about a contraflow bike lane, which would be a protected lane that can help bikes travel safely against the flow of traffic on Boylston St., which is a one way street. “I think Boylston makes a lot of sense [for this type of lane] because there aren’t a lot of alternatives,” he said.
“Volume is something we could look at, but we would probably be looking more at controlling speed,” he said. He said they want to make it safer to bike and to walk while managing the car traffic.
McKeon asked if there were limitations placed on arterial streets. Doherty said that the police department enforces “what the community wants. We enforce laws.”
Moose said that in terms of the width of the street, the bigger issue is fire trucks. When designing streets, the city must think about balancing the desires of emergency services with the day-to-day needs of the street.
“Streets have functional classifications,” Moose said. “Arterial streets do not get speed humps.” He said he doesn’t know if Boylston is an arterial street, but “if so, there are other solutions that could accomplish the same goal.”
“Pedestrian safety is the biggest issue I’ve been working on,” said City Councilor Matt O’Malley. He said that speed humps present a challenge for snow plows in the winter, but virtual speed bumps—paint on roads that can slow down cars—could be an option, as are speed slots, which are divots in the road that catch a car’s wheels. “Parked cars on both sides act as a deterrent as well,” he said.
O’Malley said that he thinks Boylston St. could be a good candidate for the Boston Neighborhood Slow Streets program. He said he could not guarantee it will happen, but he said he will work with officials to push for it.
JP resident Christine Poff said that a study might be helpful to see where cars are coming from. “I’m an advocate of widening the sidewalks,” she added. “I walk in the street because the sidewalk is too crowded.”
At the end of the meeting, Menchik recapped all of the potential solutions discussed during the meeting, and said there will be further conversation with the Boston Transportation Department and Matt O’Malley’s office. O’Malley also said that he can donate 6-10 “Please Slow Down Boston” signs that were used in West Roxbury after a pedestrian was hit and killed in February.
“There is a real safety crisis,” Menchick said, and it “needs to be addressed.”