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Category: Comment Letter

Boston Globe: I took Brookline’s e-scooters for a road test. Here’s what happened

Boston Globe: I took Brookline’s e-scooters for a road test. Here’s what happened

Boston Globe: “I took Brookline’s e-scooters for a road test. Here’s what happened

Is it legal to ride these e-scooters on the sidewalk? Also a bit hazy, according to Brendan Kearney of the pedestrian advocacy group WalkBoston.

Posted April 12, 2019

Extra reading:

There are currently 8 bills before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation that deal with scooters & micro-mobility devices. We testified before the committee on March 28th: “At the most fundamental level, we believe that in areas of the Commonwealth where there is more than occasional sidewalk use by pedestrians, motorized scooters should be accommodated on-street or in separated bike/scooter lanes where they will not conflict with people who are walking on the sidewalk.” Read our full testimony.

WalkBoston testimony on traffic calming in Somerville

WalkBoston testimony on traffic calming in Somerville

Below is a written version of WalkBoston’s comments on traffic calming in Somerville, which Adi Nochur delivered verbally at the Council hearing on Wednesday, April 3.

April 3, 2019
Somerville City Council
City Hall
93 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA 02143

RE: WalkBoston comments on traffic calming in Somerville

To the Somerville City Council,

My name is Adi Nochur and I am testifying before you as an East Somerville resident and a member of Somerville’s Vision Zero Task Force. I am also commenting as a Project Manager at WalkBoston, a statewide pedestrian advocacy organization. WalkBoston is a signatory to the traffic calming petition that spurred today’s Council hearing.

I want to briefly comment on three issues, as follows:

  1. Speed Limits: WalkBoston supports efforts to reduce speed limits on residential streets in Somerville to 20 miles per hour. Achieving this goal is a fundamental issue of roadway design. WalkBoston also supports state legislative efforts to align speed limits on MassDOT and DCR roadways with local speed limits (H.3092/S.2042). As an illustrative example, we know high traffic speeds are an ongoing concern on Route 16/Alewife Brook Parkway.
  2. Equitable Enforcement: Data gathering is critical to ensure equity in traffic enforcement. Concerns over racial profiling are front and center in the current state legislative debate over hands-free/distracted driving legislation and local enforcement efforts also need to demonstrate sensitivity to these issues. State legislation that would enable automated enforcement (S.1376) can be part of a potential solution here.
  3. Concurrent Signalization: WalkBoston supports concurrent pedestrian signalization with a leading pedestrian interval at most signalized intersections. Our stance on this issue is further detailed in a letter we submitted to Mayor Curtatone on March 29, which is included as an attachment to these comments.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues. WalkBoston looks forward to continuing to work with the City Council to help Somerville achieve its Vision Zero goals.

Sincerely,
Adi Nochur
Project Manager

Cc: Mayor Joe Curtatone
Brad Rawson, Director of Transportation and Infrastructure

Letter to Mayor Curtatone about signal timing & LPIs

Letter to Mayor Curtatone about signal timing & LPIs

Mayor Joe Curtatone
Somerville City Hall
93 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA 02143

March 29, 2019

Dear Mayor Curtatone,

We wanted to reach out to you regarding recent signal changes on Beacon Street where exclusively phased pedestrian signals have been converted to concurrent phasing.

We appreciate that both City staff and residents are concerned about pedestrian safety and are pressing for more protections for people on foot. You said it yourself in the Somerville Times in 2015: “When you plan for people, you get walkable neighborhoods that create vibrant communities, with faces you recognize of people walking, pushing strollers and biking.”

LivableStreets and WalkBoston have advocated for years to move to concurrent phasing with leading pedestrian intervals (LPI). We ask that you please support the continued implementation of an overall policy of concurrent with LPI pedestrian signal phasing in Somerville, with limited exceptions applied in locations with (1) high volumes of seniors or children, (2) very high turning movements (250+/hour), or locations where data show a special need for exclusive signals.

We recommend:

  • The Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI) be lengthened to give pedestrians a longer head start.
  • No Turns on Red signs be installed to restrict motor vehicles from turning during the LPI.
  • The concurrent walk signal phases should be automatic and not require a button. This is one of the key benefits of a concurrent signal. The shorter wait times for pedestrians are also shown to reduce the number of pedestrians who cross the street against the light.

At the intersection of Beacon Street & Park Street, 100% of vehicles coming from Park are turning. The City should consider whether an exclusive WALK signal is needed for pedestrians to cross Beacon Street or whether the volumes are low enough that a concurrent signal for the Park Street green phase (for pedestrians crossing Beacon) would be appropriate. There could still be a concurrent phase during the Beacon Street green (for pedestrians crossing Park Street or Scott Street) depending on the turning volumes.

At the intersection of Beacon Street & Washington Street, you might look at the signal timing adopted this week in Central Square, Cambridge. A right red arrow is now displayed during an extended LPI  (a “Super LPI”) which eventually turns to a flashing yellow arrow to remind drivers that they must yield to pedestrians and do not have an exclusive turn.

The reasons for, and benefits of, concurrent phasing and LPI are well presented in the brief by the City of Cambridge which implements LPI/concurrent phasing at almost every signalized intersection. There is also some fairly well documented research on LPI safety that is shared by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). Jeff Speck in his recent book Walkable City Rules says, “Keep signals simple: most intersections should be concurrent and quick.” (Rule 74, page 176).

It should be noted that while concurrent phasing with LPI is generally safer and more convenient for people walking than exclusive phasing, there are exceptions. Older residents, people with mobility challenges, and small children in particular may feel more at risk. In most cases, when exclusive phasing is used, it is often near schools or senior centers, or locations with high volumes of turning cars (such as Inman Street at Mass Ave in Cambridge).

With the ongoing construction detours around Union Square there is presently the potential for increased vehicle volumes through these intersections and Somerville could consider combining concurrent and exclusive phasing to get the benefits of both for the duration of the detours.

Another option that could be tried is a push-button activated exclusive phase (noted by signage) that could serve the needs of people who feel uncomfortable crossing during a concurrent phase. Automatic concurrent phases would be retained during the balance of the time.

Sincerely,

Brendan Kearney
Communications Director, WalkBoston

Adi Nochur, Somerville Resident & Vision Zero Task Force Member
Project Manager, WalkBoston

Stacy Thompson
Executive Director, Livable Streets Alliance

Mark Chase, Somerville Resident
Urban Transportation Planner

Jim McGinnis, Union Square Resident

Jon Ramos, West Somerville Resident

Charles Denison, Somerville homeowner Ward 5

Steven Nutter, Somerville Resident Ward 4

Alex Epstein, Somerville Resident Ward 6 & Vision Zero Task Force Member

Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

March 28, 2019

Joint Committee on Transportation
Joseph A. Boncore, Senate Chair
State House, Room 112
Boston, MA 02133

Joint Committee on Transportation
William Straus, House Chair
State House, Room 134
Boston, MA 02133

Re: Comments on H3126/S2069 An Act Relative to Mobile Carry Devices

Dear Chairman Boncore and Chairman Straus,

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ main pedestrian advocacy organization, working to make walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and more vibrant communities. LivableStreets Alliance advocates for innovative and equitable transportation solutions that create safe, affordable and convenient options for everyone in Metro Boston.  We write to provide the Committee with our comments on H3126/S2069, “An act relative to mobile carry devices.”

If we are to continue to build more livable cities and towns across Massachusetts, we must ensure the sidewalks are made for people of all ages and abilities. A 90-lb device that can carry up to 45-lbs of goods traveling at 12.5 miles per hour does not belong on the sidewalk, and instead should be in the street.

At a high level, we are also concerned that these regulations could open the door to the privatization of the public way: our sidewalks. The most sought-after space in our cities is at the curb. Cities on the West Coast continue to grapple with transportation technology issues a few months in advance of us, including the testing of autonomous delivery robots. The latest example we’ve heard from Walk San Francisco includes a proposal from a tech food delivery company to use robots to continuously operate on a sidewalk route to pick up multiple orders from a store and deliver them 2-3 blocks away to a waiting delivery driver in a car.

This legislation leaves many questions:

  • The language “primarily for transporting personal property,” and “primarily designed to remain within 25 ft of personal property owner” both indicate that there would be other uses.
  • “Personal property owner is actively monitoring navigation and operation” seems to indicate that a device could operate autonomously or via remote control as long as it was under the auspices of the owner. There are rigorous testing and reporting requirements for autonomous vehicles to use streets in the city of Boston; autonomous vehicles should not be allowed on sidewalks without similar care and attention.
  • The language “a mobile carrying device has the rights and obligations applicable to a pedestrian” will give more legal protection in a crosswalk to a 90-lb device than to a person using a bike or scooter.

We appreciate the opportunity to comment, and would be happy to work with any proponent to offer feedback.

Thank you,

Brendan Kearney
Communications Director, WalkBoston

Stacy Thompson
Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance

Re: Comments on H3073/S2049 An Act relative to micro-mobility and motorized scooters

Re: Comments on H3073/S2049 An Act relative to micro-mobility and motorized scooters

March 28, 2019

Joint Committee on Transportation
Joseph A. Boncore, Senate Chair
State House, Room 112
Boston, MA 02133

Joint Committee on Transportation
William Straus, House Chair
State House, Room 134
Boston, MA 02133

Re: Comments on H3073/S2049 An Act relative to micro-mobility and motorized scooters

Dear Chairman Boncore and Chairman Straus,

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ main pedestrian advocacy organization, working to make walking safer and easier in Massachusetts to encourage better health, a cleaner environment and more vibrant communities. We write to provide the Committee with our comments on H3073/S2049 An Act relative to micro-mobility and motorized scooters.

We understand the need for state legislation to guide the roll out of scooters in Massachusetts and support the efforts of MassDOT, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), and a number of the state’s municipalities to provide a statewide framework for these new mobility devices. We also believe that scooters may positively add to mobility options for Massachusetts’ residents.

  • At the most fundamental level, we believe that in areas of the Commonwealth where there is more than occasional sidewalk use by pedestrians, motorized scooters should be accommodated on-street or in separated bike/scooter lanes where they will not conflict with people who are walking on the sidewalk.
  • As reporting is beginning to emerge from cities where scooters have been operating the number of pedestrian injuries attributed to scooters on sidewalks is significant, with 8% of “scooter” injuries in Los Angeles being pedestrians who were hit by scooters or tripped over scooters on sidewalks.
  • After many years of work to meet the requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) we are only beginning to approach an accessible sidewalk system. WalkBoston is very concerned that allowing the use of scooters on sidewalks will result in scooters blocking sidewalks and curb ramps. We recommend that municipal regulations require scooters to be locked to appropriate bike racks or corrals, as other communities around the country have started to consider.

Our comments are focused on H3073/S2049 because this is a comprehensive bill that has been drawn up with the active participation of the agencies noted above.

  1. We are pleased that the bill limits scooters to a speed of 15 miles per hour, although this will be very fast if it is happening on a sidewalk where pedestrians are walking at 2-3 miles per hour.
  2. We are pleased that the bill requires scooters to have front and rear lights and turn signals.
  3. As currently drafted the act would allow motorized scooters on all shared use paths operated by MassDOT or the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) including such places as the Southwest Corridor, the Esplanade, the Mass Ave and Longfellow Bridge sidewalks, and the Cape Cod Rail Trail. We do not believe that these heavily used paths that double as linear parks with significant numbers of young children, people with disabilities and seniors should be used by motorized scooters unless they are operated at a significantly lower speed (5 mph).

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important piece of transportation safety legislation.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Carol Steinberg
WalkBoston Board Member
Wheelchair user and 9-year member of the MA Architectural Access Board