East Boston Demonstration Day with Caminatas Seguras

East Boston Demonstration Day with Caminatas Seguras

On October 3rd, the staff of WalkMassachusetts organized a demonstration day in East Boston with members of Caminatas Seguras, a walking group for residents that is convened and facilitated by GreenRoots, an environmental justice organization operating in Chelsea and East Boston. This demonstration day was a civic engagement opportunity for residents to make temporary improvements to the transportation infrastructure in their community. 

The goal of demonstration days was to offer residents and other stakeholders an opportunity to understand what type of transportation changes would best impact the experience for pedestrians and other road users. During the demonstration day, participants were able to convene at Our Garden (293 Border St.), a community garden managed by Eastie Farm and adjacent to the Mario Umana Academy, which hosts the East Boston Harborside Community Center. The meeting location abutted key corridors that run through East Boston that are heavily trafficked by pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. 

Members of Caminatas Seguras connected with WalkMassachusetts staff to identify and plan interventions at key intersections along Meridian Street. The participants identified the intersections of Lexington and Meridian Streets along with Eutaw Street and Meridian Street on Eagle Hill due to their frequent use by young people and families to access the schools in the area, such as the Umana Academy and O’Donnell Elementary School.

Caminatas participants gather at Our Garden near the Mario Umana Academy in East Boston.

The interventions were conducted along the two intersections, and members of Caminatas Seguras made observations and collected data at both locations. In their data collection, they counted the number of road users, which included pedestrians, vehicles, and bikers traveling through the area. Participants also collected the speed of vehicles moving through their intersections using a handheld radar speed detector. Additionally, participants engaged passerby and held conversations with individuals moving through the area to collect feedback on the road user experience.

These conversations were particularly illuminating as this demonstration day came in the wake of a community meeting of the proposed vision for East Boston, which is articulated in PLAN: East Boston. The PLAN presents recommendations for rezoning in the neighborhood, which could impact the design of the public realm. The demonstration day provided participants with the opportunity to engage their neighbors and bring awareness to the release of the initial draft, which was generated by the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA). Participants used this demonstration day to solicit feedback and encourage residents to share their opinions during the feedback period, which is open until October 27th, 2023. 

Camintas Seguras participants encourage passing neighbors to share thoughts on how to make Meridian Street safer for all.

One of the implemented interventions included a simulated curb extension to the existing intersection of Eutaw Street and Meridian Street. The participants used traffic cones and high-visibility vests while conducting their demonstrations and making observations. The objective of this intervention was to decrease the length needed for pedestrians to cross the intersection.

Demonstration day participants simulate a curb extension through the use of high visibility cones.

The demonstration day proved to be successful as participants identified some of the key challenges that are found along the short section of Meridian Street where interventions were implemented and data was collected. Using pedestrian experiences as qualitative data within the public realm proves to be an effective tool to shape neighborhoods as they undergo change. Camintas Seguras participants hope to use this experience to continue to bring awareness to the pedestrian hazards that are in the built environment. This experience for participants and neighbors demonstrates that with collective organizing and data collection, feedback can be generated to transform streets like Meridian Street and make them safer for all. Caminatas Seguras will continue to work with WalkMassachusetts to advocate for key transportation changes and to share their insights with local decision-makers.

Camintas Seguras participants share a photo at the end of the demonstration day in East Boston.

This demonstration day is part of a larger program called Connecting Kids and Families to Parks and Open Spaces which is funded by Boston Children’s Hospital and in partnership with GreenRoots. Thank you for your support!

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