Tag: drivers

Downtown Fitchburg Walk Audit

Downtown Fitchburg Walk Audit

As part of its efforts to improve traffic safety and revitalize its economy, the Gateway City of Fitchburg, Massachusetts (population 40,000) is pursuing Complete Streets as a framework to address the needs of all road users (people walking, biking, driving and taking transit). Through this initiative as well as others, the City aims to generate more activity in its post – industrial downtown and surrounding areas. Fitchburg started implementing Complete Streets in September 2016 by replacing one of the two travel lanes along Main Street downtown with a bike lane and wooden and concrete planter boxes. These changes, which will be piloted for a year, have reduced traffic speeds on Main Street and beautified the neighborhood , creating a safer, more attractive and more comfortable environment for residents and visitors alike.

Read the full report here:

Beacon Street Multimodal Improvements Comment Letter-Somerville, MA

Beacon Street Multimodal Improvements Comment Letter-Somerville, MA

May 13, 2014

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Alex Strysky
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

Mark Kolonoski
MassDOT Highway Division
Environmental Services Section
10 Park Plaza, Room 4260
Boston, MA 02116

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification Form for the Beacon Street Multimodal Improvements and Streetscape Enhancement in Somerville, MA

Dear Secretary Sullivan and Mr. Kolonoski:

The Beacon Street project area extends from the bridge abutment at Oxford Street to Dickinson Street, a distance of approximately 1.1 miles. The project is intended to enhance pedestrian and bicycle movements with improved streetscape, wider sidewalks, a new cycle track/bicycle lanes, and new ADA compliant curb ramps. The project goal is to enhance the multimodal connectivity of the Beacon Street Corridor.

We have reviewed this project and offer the following comments:

1. Updated and continuous sidewalks on Beacon Street
The program for complete streets along Beacon Street will result in new cycle tracks and a significant reconstruction of both the street and the sidewalk. Sidewalks are to be updated and rebuilt to correct current deficiencies, including substandard slopes and lack of ramps at intersections. A sidewalk will be added to the south side of Beacon Street in a location where no sidewalk now exists. Adherence to this plan is essential for the safety and convenience of all users of the sidewalk.

The proposed sidewalks will replace the existing 10’-11’ wide sidewalks with new ones of substantially the same width. Retention of this dimension as a minimum is extremely important because some space within the sidewalk will accommodate other uses, such as trees. In only one portion of Beacon Street, where there are space constraints due to an existing stonewall, will the 10’-11’ width be precluded; we note
that no trees are planned for the sidewalk in this section.

2. Cycle tracks and bike lanes
Cycle tracks are proposed between Oxford Street and Museum Street, bike lanes between Museum Street and Park/Scott Streets, cycle tracks between Park/Scott Streets and Washington Street and bike lanes between Washington Street and the Cambridge City line. On the north side of the street, the alignments of the cycle tracks and bike lanes are end-to-end, resulting in a virtually straight path for the full length of
the project.

On the south side of the street the cycle tracks and bike lanes do not quite line up. The transitions between cycle tracks and bike lanes at the intersection of Beacon Street/Museum Street and Park Street/Washington Street are angled to accommodate the needed connections between cycle tracks and bike lanes. These intersections have crosswalks where pedestrians will cross near the bike routes. Since separate traffic signals for bicycles are not included in the project, WalkBoston is concerned that walkers may not be aware that bicycles are approaching at these intersections and need to be especially careful because these diversions might distract the cyclists or the
motorists. We request that special signage and/or pavement markings be provided to alert walkers, bicyclists and drivers of these shifts in alignment and the need to be aware of movements by others.

3. Separation of cycle tracks and sidewalks
In several locations, the proposed cycle tracks are immediately adjacent and at the same grade as the sidewalk. In effect the cycle track will be located on an extension of the sidewalk. A pronounced and clear separation between bicyclists and walkers is needed to deter cyclists from using the sidewalk to bypass slower moving bikes. The
starting and stopping of cycle tracks and bike lanes may be confusing and lead to cyclists using the sidewalks to avoid merging into traffic or worrying about people opening car doors directly in front of them.

Since all 208 of the street trees included this project are to be planted within the width of the sidewalk, we assume that they will help to separate the cycle track from walkers. Other street furniture such as the existing utility and lighting poles, or new benches, trash containers, bollards or signs might also help. The precise location of each element should be carefully considered, as they have the potential to interfere with pedestrian or bicycle movements.

4. Placement of trees
Although the sidewalks are 10 feet wide in nearly all locations along Beacon Street, some of that width – perhaps up to 5 feet – will be lost due to the planting of 208 trees directly in the sidewalk. All of the proposed new trees should be placed in long narrow tree pits (we have seen tree pits that are 2’ wide by 6’-8’ long). More typical 4-foot square tree pits that intrude into the sidewalk should not be used. Irrespective of the shape of the tree pit, tree grates and or special permeable but sturdy filler (similar to that used in some South End locations) should be explored. This is important for the safety of walkers, as is the long-term maintenance of the tree pits so that they do not pose tripping hazards for walkers or for the visually-impaired.

5. Traffic signals at crosswalks and mid-block
New traffic signal equipment and signal timing at the intersections of Beacon Street with Park/Scott and Washington Streets are planned. In addition, two High-Intensity Activated crossWalK (HAWK) pedestrian signals on mast arms are planned for pedestrian crossings at the Sacramento Street intersection and at the Buckingham/Cooney intersection. The project thus appears to have signals of some sort at intervals of about ¼ mile; however, in the portion of Beacon Street between Sacramento Street and the rail overpass at Somerville Avenue, the intersections with Oxford and Prentiss Streets have no traffic signals. With no signals to slow traffic these mid-block crossings may be difficult for pedestrians. Signage or other warnings may be essential to inform drivers and cyclists of the crosswalks.

6. Crosswalk paving
The proposed use of concrete pavers at crosswalks has been cited by one of our members as a hazard for nearly all walkers, and we agree. For all crosswalks on Beacon Street, the customary white reflective thermoplastic strips should be used. Pavers have low visibility and are uneven, making it harder for wheelchairs, seniors, and people pushing strollers or grocery carts.

7. Pedestrian signal phasing
At existing signal locations the exclusive pedestrian phase will be replaced with concurrent pedestrian phasing. For all new signals, a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) is proposed to allow pedestrians to enter the crosswalk before vehicles approaching the intersection have a green signal indication. It will be important to coordinate the LPI at each signalized intersection with any preferential treatment given to bicycles at the same location, to avoid potential conflicts.

8. Signage
There is a need for sidewalk and cycle track signs that make it clear to walkers, bicyclists and drivers how the cycle tracks function. In particular, since all the street’s users will be unfamiliar with cycle tracks it will be important to let pedestrians know what to expect in bicycle movements adjacent to them. Signs should advise bicycles to stay within the cycle tracks and avoid using the sidewalks. Signs should advise walkers of approaching bicycle traffic,places to wait before crossing the street, and to not walk in the cycle tracks. Specific notice should be given to cyclists and pedestrians of potential conflicts at intersections, where turning bicycles, vehicles and pedestrians present many different movements.

9. Lighting
New street lighting has not been proposed, and cyclists may be ‘invisible’ to walkers and drivers. The City should explore the need for additional lighting, especially at intersections where so many different movements will be taking place. In addition, as part of the introduction of the cycle track, the City should explore the opportunity to market and enforce state laws requiring bicycles to carry white front lights on bicycles visible that are visible from 500 feet. WalkBoston has received comments from a number of our older members that they find it impossible to see bicyclists approaching at night if they do not use head lights, and with the addition of a sidewalk level cycle track they are very nervous about crossing the track at intersections.

10. Driveways
A great number of private driveways will be accommodated with this design, with each rebuilt to cross both sidewalk and bicycle facilities. The north side of the street has 43 driveways and the south side has 30. Most of the driveways are narrow, and will involve drivers who will back out to reach Beacon Street. Drivers backing vehicles into the street may have obstructions that limit abilities to see approaching walkers, runners or cyclists.

11. Speed control
Speeds on local streets that are primarily residential such as Beacon Street should be strictly regulated. The current 30-mph limit should not be raised. It should be made lower with advisory signs if possible. Reminder signs should be posted at intervals along the route to warn drivers not to go faster.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project. Please feel free to contact us if you should have questions.


Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Comments on DCR Back Bay Fens Crosswalk Improvements

Comments on DCR Back Bay Fens Crosswalk Improvements

March 12, 2014

Commissioner Jack Murray
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114

Attn: Office of Public Outreach

Dear Commissioner Murray:

WalkBoston has reviewed the DCR’s Back Bay Fens Crosswalk Improvements presentation and attended the public meeting held earlier this month. We are very pleased that DCR will undertake improvements for pedestrian safety.

We offer several detailed comments on the intersection of the Fenway and Forsyth Way and the Fenway and the Fenway Service Road from Forsyth Way.

Comments on the options proposed for the intersection of the Fenway and Forsyth Way
• At this intersection, a raised crosswalk is by far the most attractive proposed improvement. Raised crosswalks never fail to slow traffic, and can be designed to have modest impacts on street drainage facilities. A raised crosswalk at this location would have the effect of slowing Fenway traffic through both of the Fenway intersections that
are to be improved.
• A clearly marked ‘stop’ line should be installed on the pavement far enough in advance of the crosswalk to allow motorists and pedestrians to see each other and pass safely through the crossing. This is very important to reduce the risk of a car in the right or left lane stopping for a pedestrian and a car in the adjacent lane continuing through the
crosswalk (the so called ‘double threat” situation).
• Warning signs alerting motorists that pedestrians and bicycles will be crossing should be added on either side of the roadway, together with arrows indicating the exact location of the crossings. The warning sign proposed for the median of the Fenway will also advise drivers of the precise location of the pedestrian crossing.
• In addition to the warning signs, we think the proposed pair of Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons attached to the warning signs on each side of the road is appropriate. They are highly visible and not easily ignored. A Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon is another option to warn drivers of pedestrian street crossings, but, as it would partially bridge the street with several signal heads, it would be intrusive in the green expanses of the Fenway and no more effective than the Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon.
• The new sidewalk that is proposed for the east side of the Fenway is important for pedestrian safety and should be included in all options.
• Tighter corner radii will help to slow turning vehicles as they exits the Fenway onto Forsyth Way. At a minimum, paint or bollards should be used to tighten the curve.

Possible significant change to the intersection of the Fenway and Forsyth Way
The design presented as Alternative 3 attempts to respond to the walking desire lines that exist at this intersection. However, the alignment of the crosswalk passing through the traffic island seems quite complex and unusually situated. We think it would be advisable to have a straighter alignment for this crosswalk, following the route pedestrians really want in heading for the bridge over the Muddy River inside the Fens.

A more far-reaching option for improving the crosswalk design would be to remove the short section of Forsyth Way that connects to the Fenway, and have cars making the Forsyth Way/Fenway connection use the Fenway Service Road. Closing this portion of Forsyth Way
retrieves both the traffic island and the street right-of-way as parkland, and greatly improves potential options for a crosswalk. This new parkland affords additional options to design a connection between the Fenway and the Southwest Corridor Park, as suggested by Professor Peter Furth. The short portion of Forsyth Way between the Fenway and the Fenway Service Road could become one-way away from the Fenway, and could both be narrowed and still include parking on both sides of the street. This modest change in the street system would add parkland, simplify pedestrian and vehicle travel and allow the creation of a safer “T” intersection.

Comments on the options proposed for the intersection of the Fenway and the Fenway Service Road
• For this intersection WalkBoston prefers Alternative 4, which includes two crosswalks on the Fenway. This alternative connects closely with the existing pedestrian paths on both sides of the Fenway and directly fits with observed pedestrian desire lines.
• A raised crosswalk at this location does not appear to be necessary if one is provided at the Forsyth Way intersection with the Fenway (which effectively slows traffic as it approaches the Fenway Service Road intersection).
• The intersection should be treated the same as the Forsyth Way intersection, with a ‘stop’ line to facilitate visibility of pedestrians, signs to warn drivers of the crossings on both sides of the intersection and in the median, and a pair of Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons attached to the warning signs on either side of the road.
• The proposed new sidewalk along the Fenway and the bump-outs for pedestrians at the intersection are welcome and very significant improvements included in the proposal for the intersection.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the design options. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with any questions and we would be happy to meet with you about our design suggestion.


Robert Sloane
Senior Project Manager

Patrice Kish, DCR
Julie Crockford, Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Jessica Mortell, Toole Design

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