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Comments on Cambridge Common

Comments on Cambridge Common

September 25, 2012

Secretary Richard Sullivan

Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

MEPA Office

100 Cambridge Street

Boston, MA  02114

RE: Environmental Notification Form for Cambridge Common/Flagstaff Park improvements

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the ENF for the Cambridge Common/Flagstaff Park improvements in Harvard Square. We heartily agree with the proposed changes because of the potential improvements they bring for pedestrians. The proposed improvements include:

  • Reconstruct all pathways in bituminous concrete with brick edging, an especially useful sorting of materials that considers the specific needs and comfort of people with wheelchairs or baby carriages and for those with high heels.
  • Re­align formal pathways along informal pedestrian routes through Cambridge Common, which makes sense because they indicate desire lines for missing walkways.
  • Improve pedestrian access to Cambridge Common at entryways, around the Civil War monument, and around the Washington Elm monument – all improvements that appear to be essential for a fully adequate pedestrian network on the Common.
  • Remove excess paving, outdated planters and benches, and unused utility poles; install new street furniture; improve signage and lighting – all improvements have been designed to serve pedestrians better. Planting of new trees is of great interest to pedestrians because of the shade provided and the esthetic improvement they bring to the park.

We do have one specific concern about the design with respect to the new multi-use path planned to be constructed adjacent to the west side of Flagstaff Park. This portion of the project is clearly designed to provide a method for bicyclists to circumvent the tunnel connection for vehicles between the Harvard Square bicycle lanes and northbound Massachusetts Avenue.

The proposed path might seem to be attractive for walkers until it reaches the northernmost portion of Flagstaff Park – the intersection where Cambridge Street, Massachusetts Avenue and the bus tunnel converge. At this location we are worried about pedestrians crossing the multi-street intersection. We suggest that the new path be specifically marked that it is only a bicycle route and that it is NOT a route for pedestrians because of the difficulties and danger at this street crossing. Signs might be posted saying that it is a bicycle route, and is not a walking route. The signs might direct people across the street to the Cambridge Common side for a slightly less direct, but much safer walking route.

If the City is committed to the use of this path by pedestrians, we believe that better provisions are needed to create a safe foot crossing at the intersection. These should include at minimum: larger islands for pedestrian refuge from the heavy traffic; and, signalization that permits the infirm, elderly or other slow walkers to pass safely across the multiple streets. While a cyclist may be able to cross the street in a matter of a few seconds, it is much more difficult for prospective pedestrians to complete the same trip that fast and in a safe manner. Because of the many vehicular lanes passing through the intersection, it is a very complicated intersection to intelligently signalize for pedestrians.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on this project, and we look forward to a significantly improved pedestrian environment around the Cambridge Common.

Sincerely,

Wendy Landman

Executive Director

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