By Michael Coughlin Jr.
In a press conference at Thetford Evans Playground in Mattapan on Monday, May 22, Mayor Michelle Wu unveiled the City of Boston’s Safety Surge, an initiative to make city streets safer for everyone.
As part of this initiative, the city is committing to installing speed humps, redesigning intersections, and updating traffic signal guidelines throughout all neighborhoods to enhance street safety.
“We are looking to having safer streets all across Boston. Not just here around one park as beautiful and as treasured a space as it is but every single neighborhood. We want to make sure our streets are safer for drivers, for cyclists, for pedestrians, and everyone who needs to get around,” said Wu.
“Our streets should be a source of connection, not a threat to our safety, and we want to make sure that we’re not rationing that safety in limited areas across the city following when major incidents and injuries happen, but we want to be proactive, preventive and really work with communities at a much broader scale and much more accelerated pace to make this happen.”
In terms of speed humps – the initiative will lead to the construction of 10 speed hump zones per year. These speed humps can be driven over safely at 20-25 MPH. It should be noted that, per the city’s website, major arteries and roads that carry an MBTA bus route will not be included in this portion of the initiative.
Residents can visit https://www.boston.gov/making-neighborhood-streets-safer to view which streets are on the docket to receive speed humps over the next three years.
As for the intersections portion of the Safety Surge – this component will make it so the city designs 25-30 non-signalized intersections per year.
Regarding intersections, Boston’s Chief of Streets, Jascha Franklin-Hodge, said, “Each year, we will design safer intersections using street safety tools that will allow for better sightlines, slower speeds, clear crossings, and defined spaces for all.”
These safety tools include things like curb extensions, pedestrian warning signs, and much more which can be found at https://www.boston.gov/departments/transportation/street-safety-toolkit.
Finally, the signals aspect of the initiative includes updates to the city’s Traffic Signals Operations Design Policy.
These updates include an increase in the use of pedestrian head starts – meaning pedestrians will get the walk sign before drivers can proceed, an increase in no turn on red areas, and an increase in the use of “auto recall,” which gives pedestrians the walk sign automatically without hitting a button.
The city plans to update at least 50 intersections a year with these new updates to the Traffic Signals Operations Design Policy.
The city is also doing major corridor projects in areas the city’s website says have a “history of excessive speeds and crashes that have resulted in death and injury.” These areas include Blue Hill Avenue, Centre Street in West Roxbury, Cummins Highway in Mattapan, and Tremont Street in the South End.
“The streets we build must reflect our belief that everyone, regardless of their age or ability, should have the freedom to travel safely and without fear,” said Franklin-Hodge.
“The City of Boston is putting that idea into action in asphalt, in concrete, in paint, in flex posts, and signs and signals as we work toward a future where no family ever has to experience tragedy or trauma on our streets.”
In terms of how the city is balancing safety and traffic – considering Boston’s traffic was ranked the fourth worst in the entire world in 2022 by INRIX – a transportation analytics company – Wu said, “Traffic is one of Boston’s biggest concerns.”
“We’re building housing; we’re investing in our schools; we’re adding new jobs people have to be able to get around to where they need to go. As our city grows, it won’t work if the only way you can get around is driving a car,” she continued.
Wu alluded to the idea that the changes made through the new Safety Surge would make other forms of transportation more viable before saying there is also a need to continue pressuring the MBTA.
“It can’t be an either-or conversation about whether people can reliably get to work or whether they can be protected and safe as they’re walking around their communities. We need to do both; we know we can,” said Wu.
For more information on the Safety Surge and all its components, you can visit https://www.boston.gov/transportation/safety-surge.
“I want to thank all of our residents across each and every neighborhood for your advocacy and looking forward to continuing that with the specific changes that we’ll be making in the weeks to come,” said Wu.